Marriage is a journey. I had the privilege of watching two dear friends begin that journey on Saturday, and I loved seeing their excitement for the road ahead. As they exchanged their vows and reflected on how God had so perfectly led them together, I saw yet another picture of God’s love for us. The simplicity and humility shown was beautiful, and it pointed to the pure example of Christ, who died for his enemies to make them adopted children of God.
As new marriages are beginning, others I know are marking the first of many anniversaries, allowing me to see couples in a various number of early stages. Not surprisingly, I’m learning a lot by watching those facing the challenges that time brings. Today, I wanted to continue adding to a post I wrote in June. I pray God will encourage and challenge you through these observations.
4. Love stories are not always pretty.
Many people long for a fairy tale marriage like those they’ve seen from Disney. Few are prepared when their stories more closely resemble those from the Brothers Grimm. There seems to be a truth that those closest to you can cause you the most joy as well as the most grief, so it should come as no surprise that spouses can wound immensely as well as love deeply. And because we are all in the process of being sanctified, we can all too easily allow sin to influence the way we love. This shouldn’t discourage those of us who are single from pursuing marriage if the Lord wills, nor should it discourage those who are married from fighting for unity and love through the most bitter of times. Sin still affects all who walk this earth, regardless of their relationship status. Let us rather be challenged to love like Christ with grace and mercy. Let us serve humbly (Philippians 2:1-11). Let us forgive as we have been forgiven (Mathew 6:12, 14-15). Let us love as we have been loved (John 13:34-35). And let us show the world what God is like by our love for one another (Ephesians 5).
5. Love requires surrender.
Part of what made the vows so meaningful this weekend was the fact that they were selfless. The message was not, “Here is what I want from you,” but instead, “Here is what I will give to you.” This points to the lesson I’m learning from my married friends: selfishness and pride have no place in a healthy marriage. When my friends face difficulty and division in their marriages, selfishness and pride are the usual culprits. When my friends experience peace and joy, selflessness and humility are present. Paul pointed to this truth when he wrote that,
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
This is how God loves us: unconditionally. He loved us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). He remains faithful even when we are faithless (Romans 3:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:13). Let us do the same, whether single or married.
6. God is faithful.
I heard parts of the couple’s love story that I hadn’t heard before the wedding, and the story spoke of God’s great faithfulness. As two individuals surrendered themselves to the Lord, laying down their rights to themselves for the sake of their Father’s kingdom, God faithfully led them to each other in his own good timing. Again and again, I’ve watched God work in the hearts of a man and a woman, leading them together and uniting them as only he can do. I’ve also watched again and again as God kept doors closed that his children tried to force open. We cannot outsmart the Lord of creation, but we can completely trust his guiding hand. If he has called you to marriage, he can and will sustain you for it. If he has called you to singleness, he can and will sustain you for it. In all things, trust him, seeking first his kingdom and righteousness, knowing that life is not ultimately about marriage, but about the Lord (Matthew 6:33).
Again, singleness and marriage are only aspects of life, not the substance of life itself. There are far greater concerns in this world than your relationship status. But singleness and marriage are significant aspects, and we must see them rightly, as God sees them. In all things, may we be more aligned with him. In all things, may he increase as we decrease (John 3:30).