There’s an epidemic in my personal and professional world of what I’d call bad marriages.
And they all are within the Church.
As a therapist/friend/mentor, I’m grieved at the lack of support for marriages. There are many resources on how to make marriages great–and they’re usually for couples doing well. There’s a void of resources (not just books) and support for marriages that are emotionally damaging, mentally abusive, filled with toxicity, or where one partner wants to work on the marriage and the other one does not.
Do you know marriages like this? I do.
My son is getting married in a few weeks. This post is really not for him, but it is. It’s from a mom who’s responsibility it is to teach about this before the window of opportunity is out of my grasp. Why?
Because most couples love each other on their wedding day.
Then life happens.
And bad marriages happen. And collateral damage happens to both parties and children they have. Whether a marriage ends in divorce or stays toxic, relationships functioning outside of God’s plan are destructive, painful, and hard.
And this is what I’d want any of my three sons to know before they get married:
You’re about to take on the most important role of your life, that of a husband. It’s a heavy responsibility because God’s mandate for you is big. It goes beyond love and a sexual relationship, beyond hoping to be a father in the future or having the house and yard to mow just like your dad.
Being a husband is a high calling in God’s eyes. It one to be revered and respected–not by your bride or anyone else but you. You will receive respect and honor when you model Christ in this role. Respect can’t be demanded just because it’s your title as Husband. That respect and honor comes when you reflect and walk out God’s expectation for you.
Ephesians 5 says husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of the water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
I want you to know what a serious undertaking this thing of marriage is. You are to love your bride as Jesus loves us–His Church, His representation on earth. It’s a sacrificial, unconditional love, one full of mercy and grace. It’s one that protects and pursues. It’s the holiest kind of love outside of God’s love for us.
And God is asking you to love your bride in that way. You can only do it through Him. On your own, you will fail. But as you place Christ as the first priority in your life, you will be able to love her just as beautifully as Christ loves us when the luster fades away and you realize you’re two sinful humans who know every failure about each other.
That’s when criticism, disrespect, indifference and animosity creeps in. Even hate.
Indifference and hate have no room in your marriage. You might wonder how you could ever hate this woman you adore. Let me warn you as a man of God, the enemy wants to destroy you, your marriage, and your family. He hates anything that glorifies Christ. When a man loves his wife in the beautiful, sacrificial way that Christ loves the Church, there’s no greater testimony or witness to Christ or His Church in a fallen world.
I’ve seen the strongest marriages destroyed where hate seeped in. No matter what happens in your marriage, fight for it as Jesus fights for us, His Church. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. When difficulties or strife come to your marriage, intercede for your bride and your family. Present your them before the throne of Christ rather than criticizing or putting her down.
Ephesians says you are the head of your wife as Christ is the head of the Church. This simply means you are to lead. Scripture says men and women are equal and are to mutually submit one to another out of reverence for Christ. Leading does not mean lording over or telling her what to do. You are co-equals, just as we are all equal in God’s eyes within the Church. But in every organization or structure, someone needs to lead. Good leadership takes care of and nurtures those they lead. Poor leadership destroys and causes strife.
You are to lead as Christ leads. A servant leader. A strong leader. A protector. A shepherd.
In all areas of marriage, you are to model Christ.
Lastly, Ephesians says a man is to leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
This is why I’m writing to you.
When you form a covenant with your beautiful bride, you are leaving the protective and nurturing care of our family to create your own.
She is your first responsibility now.
You are to seek her opinion, her advice and counsel before that of me or your dad. We are still here to support both of you and give perspective when asked. But she is who you are to consider as your life partner in all aspects. When you need wisdom as the leader for you family, you’re to seek God and also her counsel. You are to weigh them together. Even in clinging to her, you are to submit yourself in all things first to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and you are to encourage her to do the same, too.
Though you are her leader and protector, you do not take the place of Christ in her life. She, too, is to submit to Him first. If she is convicted about something and you do not agree with her, she is to be obedient to God, not you. You are to treat her as a co-heir and equal sister in Christ. There is nothing that makes her less than or inferior to you. She is your co-equal and life partner. You are to lead, protect, nurture, and provide for her and your family. That does not mean you tell her what to do or have a litany of “you should’s.”
Jesus gives us choice to follow Him or not. He’s a gentleman. He doesn’t force us to follow. Is it the same with your beautiful bride.
Lastly, Ephesians says when you leave and cleave, you are to become one flesh, which is a mystery. If you have been faithful to Christ and have not joined yourselves sexually before marriage (or have defiled your mind or body outside of this intimacy), then you will experience God’s perfect design of a relationship that fits together seamlessly as God planned. The emotional and physical intimacy which happens when a man and wife become one sexually in marriage is a mystery, one which God only reveals to those who walk in these ways.
This intimacy between Christ and HIs church is one of devotion, love, adoration, honor and respect. These characteristics are God’s design for marriage. When you follow HIs precepts as a husband and man of God, you will be a witness to others around you.
Marriage is a witness of God’s covenant with us.When you model Christ in your marriage, you actually model Christ to the world.
This task is the biggest undertaking you will ever experience, but the most important outside of your relationship with Christ.
Love her sacrificially. Protect her always. Provide for her both physically, emotionally and spiritually. But do all of it in submission to God’s authority and with His Spirit equipping you.
And the joy and love He has planned for you will be the greatest pleasure on this earth. I want all of this for you.