Recently my husband and I were part of Paul David Tripp’s marriage conference – Habits of a Healthy Marriage. I honestly wasn’t super excited going into our first evening session; but we’d already committed to going and it would help us check the box for our one marriage conference or seminar a year. I was grateful that the Lord used my achiever mindset to bring me joy through it and challenge me to remember how He’s created marriage.
The framework was perfect – a great mix of teaching and discussion time with your spouse. Sometimes the hardest, but most necessary, part of a conference is getting time to debrief and unpack what you’ve learned. Tripp gave lofty points to meditate on and questions to help get the conversation started.
Whether you’re married, single, or somewhere in between, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start the conversation in regards to checking the pulse of your (future) marriage. I hope you can use these 4 points and questions as a guide to thinking through your view of marriage, how we all bring predispositions, and, most important, how we fit into where God is working!
1. If you ever see the sin, weakness, or failure of your spouse, it’s grace.
In what ways is God trying to use me to be a tool of His rescuing grace for my spouse?
This hit me hard when I thought about it. There’s no reason that I see my husband’s failures or sin, other than to show him the grace of the Lord. I have no grounds of perfection to stand on. I have just as many areas of weakness and, honestly, I don’t have the ability to change him – only the Holy Spirit can do that.
Marriage is a workroom for something bigger than marriage. God wants to use marriage to transform us to be more like Jesus. He wants us to take part in what He’s already doing – both in us and in our spouse. We invest in our spouse because we trust that God does not call us to something that’s not good for us. Notice I didn’t say not hard, I said not good. It is good for us to see our own sin and the need for God to work in a transforming way in our lives. It’s also God’s grace for us to even be able to see our spouse’s sin; therefore we should extend grace and help lean into God in order to know how to take part in His work.
2. We’re all made of seeds and weeds.
Are you protecting weeds when you’ve been given gorgeous seeds?
There are seeds and weeds inside of us all. Seeds are good things God gives us to be able to love people and show His character. These fruits of the Spirit are gifts and not moral things we can achieve.
Weeds are sin areas in our life that are antisocial and destructive for marriage. They are motivated by a selfish heart and keep us focused on our spouse’s weeds instead of our own. Weeds make it easy for us to indulge in the things we want, even though we shouldn’t. At the same time, we see our spouse’s weeds and demand change and action.
Are we praying that God would help us say “no” to things that aren’t of him and “yes” to being sacrificial in loving our spouse? Are we willing to live out the command in Galatians 5:14, even when it’s hard?
“For the entire law is fulfilled in one word:Galatians 5:14
You shall love your neighbor as yourself”
3. Your ability to deal with differences in marriage, with appreciation and grace, is rooted in your worship of God.
Ask yourself — Where do you reject your spouse for choices he didn’t make, or try to recreate him in your own image?
We are different because there is a creator. When we can celebrate God’s glory, we can celebrate the differences of the person we’re with. We all attempt to recreate our spouse in our image. Can you imagine how hurtful it is to be rejected based on choices you didn’t make – your gifts, talents, etc.? (Let me quickly clarify here, this isn’t referring to sin, or the mentality that it’s ok to stay in sin because we’re “made this way.” It’s specifically talking about how God created us each with unique strengths, that are different, to show his creativity and glory.)
God does not call us to uniformity, but he does call us to unity. What do we do when we’re confronted with our differences – do we try to make our spouse into the person we wish they were, through guilt, self-righteousness and comparison? Or do we trust that our savior loves our spouse more than we ever could and has the ability to work on this person, giving us a front-row seat to be part of this process?
4. Contentedness is the soil in which love grows.
Do I rest in my own abilities or in the fact that God is always in it with me?
If your identity and heart rests in the security of being a child of God, you are being filled by him; everything else is a free gift, an overflow of abundance.
It’s hard to be in a relationship with a discontent person – they always criticize, aren’t fast to forgive, and focus on the “what ifs.” Some part of them is finding their identity in something other than the Lord, who is the only one who can provide freedom from approval and acceptance from others. We crave these things only when we don’t believe we already have them from our heavenly father.
God asks you to forgive your spouse – because your forgiveness is based on the forgiveness you were extended through Jesus’ blood. Does it come more naturally to you to judge your spouse rather than forgive them? A humble heart realizes all that was forgiven in us and operates out of that humility to extend mercy and grace. Forgiveness fuels love in marriage. When we operate out of our identity in Jesus it’s hard to miss the ways he’s showing up in our marriage.
Take 10 minutes, this week, to think through these points and questions, journaling about them if that helps. If you’re married, sit down with your spouse to talk through them. Pray for protection over your marriage, a humble heart for the Lord to reveal your areas of weeds, and a desire to see God’s creativity in how He created your spouse.
God’s timing is perfect. He didn’t give us marriage because we’re able but because he’s able. He supplies what we need and he’s in it with us. He wants us to be part of what He’s doing in our spouse’s life. Are we willing to lay aside our differences and be transformed by him together?