It has come to my attention that there are several Christian couples who are having a hard time getting along as couples and are considering divorce. I understand that a hostile atmosphere–or a cold war–wears on a person, but there are other things to consider, namely, the renown of Christ.
Ideally (and originally), marriage is a picture of God and His people and of Christ and the Church. It’s about the relationship and fellowship that is shared. Divorce messes up that picture and fails to bring glory to His name. We are a part of something much bigger and that is eternal; we must view our marriages and our lives with eternity in mind. We are lights in a dark world to show people what a relationship with God in Christ is like. We want them to want God. Marriage is one of the ways that God brings salvation to the world.
Then there is the individual sanctification of each of you. The process of becoming like Christ is unique for each of us. When you came to Christ, He became your Companion, your Guide, and your God. He has you where you are for a reason: It is the best place for you to become like Him and to shine for Him. The verse that comes to mind is Ephesians 6:13b, “and after you have done everything, to stand.” We are naturally self-centered to the core, which is why we must die daily. Only then will we become like Him as He works through us. Dead people don’t have feelings.
So, how do we deal with the harsh words and hurt feelings and the strife? It begins with giving up our expectations of how things should be. Yes those ideals are valid, but they are goals to be reached together, not weapons to use against your spouse.
The next thing to do is to let go of the past and its painful memories. If God does anything for Your marriage, it will be in the present and future. Live today with tomorrow in view. Who knows? Tomorrow may be eternity! The Imperials sang a song whose refrain is:
“Keep on walkin’, you don’t know how far you’ve come,
Keep on walkin’, for all you know it may be done
the Father might be standin’ up right now
to give the call and end it all,
So keep on walkin’.”
The other thing to do is to throw down your defenses of pride, anger, and even your sense of fairness. Verses like 1 Cor. 13:4-8, Gal. 5:22-23, and Phil. 2:3-5 should be our mantra (see below). Eph. 5:33 speaks of love and respect. There is no clause in there that talks about if it is deserved or about your spouse earning it. We are simply told to do it. So, DO IT!
In all of the trials and heartache, your children and your friends and family will see Christ in you. The Holy Spirit WILL BRING GLORY to Himself. As for us, we have this promise in Hebrews 12:11-13, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms [your relationship with Christ] and weak knees [your response to the Spirit]. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame [your marriage and your spouse] may not be disabled, but rather healed.”
So, BE ENCOURAGED! The Holy Spirit will arm you for battle (Ps. 89:13)–not against your spouse, but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Know that “Christ loves His Bride, the Church, and gave Himself up for us to make us holy, cleansing us with the water through His Word, and will present us to Himself as a radiant Bride, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25 adapted).
Let’s work to that end. Let us be about the Father’s business. Let’s start at home! Start with this: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” Phil. 2:14-16a.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others [your spouse]. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
NOTE: If you are wondering where the title fits in, look at Philippians 2:12-13, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation [work your salvation from the inside to the outside] with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act [gives you the desire and the power] according to his good purpose.”
Another term for “work out” is “strive.” It denotes struggle toward an end. Midwives strive with women in labor; coaches strive with athletes. The Holy Spirit strives with us; spouses strive with spouses. So strive!