Marriage, I have found, is one of the most changing and challenging seasons of life.
At the time of this writing, I’ve been married five years going on six, and each year I learn new aspects of why marriage is so important. It’s not just about me, not just about my feelings, not just about my happiness. It’s not just him, his feelings, or his happiness, either.
Marriage makes us better people and better servants of Jesus, because in the course of it we are learning more and more how our union is meant to reflect deeper spiritual realities. But it’s a daily fight against the selfishness of the carnal nature to live an Ephesians 5 kind of love—the kind where we are each putting the other’s needs first so both are taken care of and we are serving and honoring God in the model of Christ and his bride, the Church.
So, everything the previous generations told you is true: marriage is hard, it’s work, and it’s a lifelong commitment to something bigger than yourself. But the beauty is that God wants marriage to succeed. So you can trust He is in it with you and your spouse, a solid foundation that, when built upon properly, will outlast any of the storms and seasons and challenges of married life.
What is Marriage?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines marriage as “the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.”
However, in the eyes of God, marriage is much more than that. It is a threefold cord of husband, wife, and God, a union of body, heart, and soul between the two parties that should not be severed except under the gravest circumstances, such as when one spouse breaks their vows and becomes abusive. It is a covenant that reflects spiritual realities and therefore should not be undertaken lightly, but with the utmost sincerity and commitment–because when a Christian couple enters into that union they are in essence committing to the responsibility of acting as a reflection of how Christ behaves with the Church and vice versa.
Marriage is enormously important to God—so much so that He used it as an allegory for His relationship with His chosen people, Israel, and now again to explain the way of Christ with the Church.
What Does the Bible Say About Marriage?
Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Proverbs 18:22 – He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.
Colossians 3:18-19 – Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
How Can I Build a Stronger Marriage?
There are many wonderful tools available that help marriages grow stronger, varying from couples’ devotionals and marital exercises to marriage conferences, retreats, and even counseling. Whatever stage your marriage is in—even if you are engaged but not yet married!—it’s important not to just assume the marriage will “take care of itself” as long as no glaring issues arise.
More than perhaps any other relationship, marriage requires maintenance and attention from both parties. It requires active love, emotional and physical intimacy, and a partnership essence between two people with God at the center in order to be truly, deeply, lastingly healthy. Making the marriage a priority, particularly when jobs, children, hobbies, etc. are in the picture, is also essential to keeping the relationship stable and prosperous.
One of the best ways to ensure a healthy marriage is to measure yours and your spouse’s behavior against the standard of Ephesians 5, which lays out the important roles that both husband and wife play in the relationship. This passage beautifully describes not only the unique temporal aspects of the marriage, but also the crucial spiritual realities paralleled and involved.
In short, what God asks of husband and wife in Ephesians 5 is to lay aside the priority of self and take care of one another first. When both parties live in this sacrificial mindset, it reflects the spiritual reality—Christ dying for us, thus we die to ourselves and live for him—and it ensures that both parties are taken care of, because both are prioritizing the needs of the other over their own.
For more information on why the submission/sacrifice interplay in Ephesians is so important, check out our blog “Seeing the Glory of God Through Husbands and Wives.”
If you’re married, what can you do this week to make your marriage a priority through the chaos of life?
If you’re unmarried, take a moment to read passages about Jesus and the Church, such as Ephesians 5. What can you glean about the devoted life of Jesus to his Body from these passages, and what can you do to live more fully for him this week?