For all the husbands out there, and all the women who want godly husbands:
We all want good relationships, happy marriages, solid communication skills, and a careless ease in handling conflict. We don’t just want a good marriage. We want the best marriage. But what do newly married couples, or any of us for that matter, know about having “the best marriage?” It is not enough to “try my best” in a covenant relationship. Nothing will make any difference if I do not know, love, and actively pursue a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ to the glory of God. Practical steps do nothing aside from delaying failure with misplace hope and unfounded actions unless your heart has truly changed. Your motivation must be to honor and glorify God in your relationships and marriage first, NOT to have a better marriage, NOT to be a better husband, NOT to “do what you know you should be doing,” NOT to keep your wife from complaining, and certainly NOT to avoid counseling or the help you know you need. Your vision and goals for your marriage should be so high and lofty that they could happen only with God’s intervention and blessing.
So begin by praying. We pray because we can’t accomplish what needs to happen in our own wicked hearts. God wants the glory for your changed heart, restored marriage, and unity with your spouse. Ask God to change your heart, convict you of your sins of laziness, pride, negligence, lack of leadership, and sin with and toward your wife, your family, and God. This needs to be the foundation of all marriage discussions:
Your ability to love and lead your wife comes from God’s love and leading of you first. You must know and love Jesus.
If you want to know how to be saved, read this article by Geoff Ashley.
If you are a Christian and want help with your marriage, but you just want God to fix your wife and your marriage and you are not willing to actively pursue Jesus (not reading the Word, praying, not actively pursuing biblical disciplines, not being held accountable, not in a small group, not consistently being convicted of sin, confessing, repenting, and pursuing holiness) you are lazy. Stop reading this and go do what you know you should be doing. Pursue Jesus. Seriously. Otherwise, any practical advice would just be powerless tools disconnected from the source of all power (God) and you will continue to operate in your own strength, and not God’s. They will give you excuses not to rely on God, and that is all that matters in marriage, or life for that matter. It won’t be long before you fail. Let’s look at the problems before looking to the solution.
Men tend to gravitate toward two extremes when they have marriage problems –
1. You think, “I’m going to try harder, do better, and come up with a plan to improve my marriage. I’m going to be a better husband. I’m going to … I’m going to ….” This is by your own strength, and this won’t work. Your best ideas and intentions got you into this mess, and they are not going to get you out of it. Think about that. You wanted the best marriage, so you put all of your best into making this marriage work, but if you are in the middle of conflict, fighting, disagreement, arguments, despair, or anything less than a godly marriage, you have to see that your best isn’t what makes a good marriage. Your righteousness is like filthy rags, and so is mine.
2. You think, “It’s not that big of a deal. My wife is overreacting. We don’t need help. We are fine. We just need time, space, and it will all die down.” Sometimes, you do just need time to settle down and speak rationally to one another. But if fights, yelling, arguments, insults, and dysfunction are a consistent theme of your marriage, then your marriage is on fire. If this is a cycle of months or years, if you are having the same arguments over and over again, if you keep bringing up past arguments and hurts, if words like “always” and “never” are a part of your vocabulary toward your spouse, you need help. Time and space only make this worse. You and your spouse are wounding each other, and band aid solutions and time will only kill your marriage.
Loving and leading your wife begins with a change in your heart, not your actions. If you are doing outward actions that are not based on inward changes and realities, you will absolutely cause more harm and damage in the long run because you are doing all of this out of your own strength.
The truth we all need to learn and relearn every day is this – Just like the Gospel, the biblical purpose for marriage is not man-centered or needs-centered, but God-centered. Just like the Gospel, the purpose for marriage and all of life is not moral conformity or self-discovery, but the display of the beauty, patience, love, and Gospel of Jesus Christ in our marriage. Marriage between a man and a woman is meant to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church. This is not just an illustration or a helpful metaphor, but it is the essence of all of our marriages (Ephesians 5:31-33). God’s plan for your marriage is literally that the lost would see how you love your wife in such unique and astounding ways that they would be utterly confused, ask questions about why you are so different, and get saved when they hear you say that Jesus is the reason you love and lead your wife in such a uniquely different and devastatingly sacrificial way. It is a tangible, physical representation of a spiritual reality. OK, I think I sufficiently stressed that point, right?
So you must begin here. You cannot move past these truths. All marriage advice from here on out is rooted in the Gospel, and if you don’t have Jesus, you don’t have anything. Next post about practically leading your wife is up soon.