This might be TMI, but I’d like to set the stage for this thought, so bear with me. This morning I woke up and rolled over and looked at my wife, who was also just stirring for the morning, and for whatever reason, this morning, she looked especially beautiful. I thought to myself (as I have thought thousands of times over the last ten years), “What a blessed man am I.” I have a wonderful wife, a beautiful family, and a happy life. I truly am blessed. This is the case every day, even when I take it for granted and do not appreciate it.
Then my thoughts turned to some of my brothers. Other men I know in the church (and out of it) who do not feel this happy. In fact they feel unhappy. If I had to dig, they probably feel rather trapped in their marriage. Miserable in a marriage that they perceive to be (and we might agree actually was) the result of a series of bad choices. What about these brothers? Have they gotten themselves into a position where they are stuck outside of God’s will? Are they doomed to a life of unhappiness? Wouldn’t it be better if they owned up to the mistake, admitted it, and divorced?
Emphatically, wholeheartedly, no.
Brother, your marriage (in whatever state it is currently) is no mistake, no matter how you got there.
“What God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Mark 10:9)
“In Him we have an inheritance, having been predestined according to him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
“God is able to make all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
You are directly in the center of God’s plan for your life: to grow you up, to get you over yourself, and to get your eyes on Him. Your marriage was no accident. God put it together. Your vow may have been rash at the time, and that may have resulted in a lot of real problems, real pain, real struggle. Those problems, pain and struggle might continue for a very long time. But you are not in the middle of a cosmic accident or some weird reality where God is looking down and shrugging His shoulders and shaking His head, helpless to do anything about your situation.
He planned this. For your good. (And hers.)
Get to know this woman God joined you with. Dig into her mind, heart, life. Discover her likes, dislikes, pleasures, interests, dreams, hopes, disappointments. Love her, help her, nurture her, lead her. Help her to flourish, to be whom God has made her to be.
Get over yourself. Get past the little things that bother you. Get past the unmet expectations that have disappointed you. Get past the unmatched preferences. Get past the cooking and cleaning or lack thereof and discover what drives her. Understand where she is coming from and what is holding her up and seek to help. Ask how you can walk along side her and help her understand herself. Help her understand you. You’re probably the problem, at least in her mind. You may also very well be the solution..
The good news about the potentially devastating thought: “she’s not who I thought she was when we got engaged” is that, indeed, she is not who she was when you got engaged, and neither are you. You grow together. God has planned it this way.
Instead of seeing your marriage as a trap caused by your sin or foolishness, or hers, see it as an opportunity from God to get to know Him better, and to become whom He has designed you to be.
And to the men in my life whom I have seen live this out, I am amazed by you. I give glory to God for His grace in your life. It is truly a miracle to behold men who are in a difficult marriage, who are selflessly serving day after day, year after year because they know and live all of the above. You are an inspiration to me.
Finally, in case it needs saying, I’m preaching to myself. All of this applies to me equally as well.
Disclaimer: I fully realize that this is a 30,000 foot view, and is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to marriage. Yes, there are a thousand caveats and special situations. And yes, I’d love your input on all of them. Thanks for thinking through this with me.
There are some amazing books that have helped me forge this view. They explain things way better and more fully. In my opinion, they are the best four (modern) books on marriage that exist. Others are very “practical” with some neat how-to tips but these are foundational. They are the “why?” rather than the “how?”. Read these first.