The Restore Joy to Your Marriage series was inspired by one line of a YouTube video, “marriage shakes us up and brings out our worst selves.” The truthful statement frustrated me; “Didn’t God design marriage for good? Why would it bring out my worst self?”
In Restore Joy to Your Marriage parts 1-3, I explained how our worst selves emerge from our sinful nature, and I stressed the necessity of overcoming sin and living in Christ. (See part 1, part 2, and part 3).
For the fourth and final post, I am returning to my original question: If God designed marriage for good, why does it reveal our worst?
As contradictory as it may seem, having our worst selves drawn out fits into the mission of marriage.
When our sinful nature rears its ugly head in marriage, we have an opportunity to cast aside previously hidden sin and become more like Jesus. Therefore, marriage plays an important role in the refining process Paul tells us about.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
If you ever wondered how you and your spouse (your exact opposite in every way) ended up married, consider what Timothy Kelly says about the purpose of marriage: “What, then is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creation that God will eventually make us.”
As fire tests and purifies gold, the challenge of living with your spouse, tests and purifies your faith. And our faith needs purifying for the sake of our mission.
The Mission of Marriage
Whether male or female, single or married, all Christians are ambassadors for Christ.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Corinthians 5: 18-20a (emphasis added)
Since we represent Christ, we should reflect His image (Romans 8:29), and continue the work He started here on earth.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Married couples receive an additional responsibility, to imitate the relationship between Christ and the church.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with 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. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.” Ephesians 5:25-30
Any Christian can represent Jesus, but only married couples can demonstrate the relationship between Christ and the church.
I love how Lisa Chan explains the importance of this additional obligation: “The world desperately needs to see an accurate reflection of Christ and the church in our marriages, because this is about God’s glory!”
Did you catch that? Our marriage is for God’s glory! Non-believers should look at Christian marriages and say “Wow! I want to know your Jesus!”
Serving God’s mission does not come naturally; it requires intentional steps every day.
2 Requirements for the Mission of Marriage.
1. Draw Close to God.
If you read part 2 and part 3 of this series, you already know how vital your relationship with God is to your marriage. Francis Chan describes it perfectly:
“Draw close to Him [God] and let your marriage be the overflow of that. When things are right with God, your marriage can actually become what it was designed to be.”
2. Embrace Your Role.
Seek to emulate the relationship of Christ and the church by embracing your individual role within the mission.
Spousal roles deserve their own post (or perhaps their own series), but notice the relationship has two separate roles. Christ and the church cannot be represented by only one person, nor by two people trying to play the same part.
The result of serving God’s mission? Joy! (You were wondering where the “Restore Joy to Your Marriage” part played in all this right?)
Joy comes from being in God’s presence—From being faithful and obedient to God’s will. (Read more about joy here.)
Restoring joy to your marriage means centering your marriage on God. Practically, this looks like going to war against the enemies of your marriage (Satan and your sinful nature), loving your spouse like Christ loved the church, and living out the mission of marriage.
A quick note to those with spouses not walking with God:
Some of you may be thinking, “but my spouse isn’t a believer,” or “my spouse is a believer, but he isn’t walking with God; so how can I live out the mission of marriage?”
If that is you, remember God holds you responsible for your own actions, not those of your spouse. As a Christian, you are still called an ambassador of Christ. So while you cannot change your spouse (only the Holy Spirit convicts); you can demonstrate Christ’s love for him. (And of course, fervently pray for him!)
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.” 1 Peter 3:1
Looking for more on the mission of marriage? I highly recommend You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Lisa and Francis Chan. My view of marriage drastically changed after hearing them speak (watch here) and then reading their book. (Download their app to read for free, or purchase a book and all proceeds go to charity.)