Series: Marriage East of Eden, by Rosie Moore.

Some final words about perseverance in marriage!

If married couples shared the truth about their struggles, it would soon become evident that every marriage passes through storms and wildernesses along its journey. The problem is that on the day that we say “I do” at the altar, we often have an idealised view of marriage, thinking it’s the end of all our loneliness and troubles, the ultimate island retreat! We don’t imagine that we could ever be overwhelmed with division, anger, disappointment or despair. We are ill-prepared for manipulative in-laws, childlessness, strong-willed children, chronic illness, tragedy, joblessness, burnout or the effects of sin and abuse. We’re not even prepared for the normal everyday stresses of life, which rock the strongest of marriages. As the years roll on, sometimes it may feel as if our actions don’t really make a difference, because nothing seems to change. But nothing could be further from the truth. Our actions really do matter.

Listen to the advice given to Frodo the hobbit and his unlikely companions on their perilous quest in  The Fellowship of the Ring. It could just as well apply to us on the quest of marriage:

“Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens…All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us….The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet it is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: Small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” (J.R.R Tolkien).

Small hands matter.

Small hands, not distracted eyes, make all the difference in marriage. Ordinary actions in the hidden rooms of our homes matter more than any lofty words we may profess. It matters what we do with the short time that is given us in our marriages.

Ask yourself three simple questions at the end of every day: Did I honour? Did I cherish? Did I thank my spouse today? Small deeds done over a lifetime will make or break our marriages. 

Remember this—If you’re a Christian, the greatest quest in life is to know and grow in the love of the Lord Jesus. It is to imitate our Saviour wherever He’s placed us. He is our Holy Grail, not our spouse or our marriage! And as on every quest, actions speak louder than words. Small actions, done day after day, over a lifetime.

Winston Smith expresses it well:

“True faith is most obvious when it empowers you to action that’s opposite of your emotions. Doing what you feel like doesn’t take faith…In your marriage, you choose to act not just because you feel things but because you’re moved by another relationship that’s more powerful, your relationship with God. The power of that relationship becomes most obvious when it moves you to do what God wants, rather than what you want” (Marriage Matters, p 263).

This is seriously counter-cultural at a time when feelings are on the throne and being true to yourself is the highest good! So, our Christian faith is practised when we are unselfish in the unseen moments of our ordinary marriages, whether or not our actions are affirmed or appreciated by our spouse. Irrespective of whether our actions change our spouse, they will change us. Obedience to God always does.

As I read through the list of faithful believers in Hebrews 11 this week, it struck me that these were men and women of action: Noah built an Ark in obedience to God’s command; Abraham and his family uprooted themselves from civilisation to go to a place they’d never seen; Rahab gave up all the security she ever knew in Jericho to follow the Israelites’ God. None of them would have felt like doing these counter-intuitive things!

These heroes of the faith were ordinary believers who acted in response to God’s promises. They didn’t just speak about their faith, they acted upon it! “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb 11:6). It is our acts of obedience in marriage that prove whether we earnestly seek the Lord. Our willing hands and feet show that Christ matters most to us, not our feelings or circumstances.

Marriage is a longterm farming operation.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians reminds us that our acts of obedience do indeed make a difference, but the difference isn’t always obvious to see from the outset. Marriage is more like the diligent work of a patient farmer, who sows his seed and tends his fields for ages before he finally reaps a harvest. In fact, most of the hard work is done under the ground, invisible to the naked eye.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal 6:7-9).

So, if we hold to a Biblical worldview, marriage is not a Facebook post, but a longterm farming operation! It requires time, effort and grace. It requires us to persevere in doing good to our spouse, even when we are weary. Like a farmer, we cannot control our spouse or all the external stressors of our marriage, but we can trust God to provide manna and water one day at a time. He will see us through the darkest seasons and driest deserts.

The principle of sowing and reaping means that no matter how hard the soil of your marriage, keep moving towards your spouse in faith and obedience. Keep your eyes on the Lord’s promises, the Lord’s love and the Lord’s faithfulness. It’s only His daily grace that can sustain us. Remember that marriage was always intended to draw you closer to the perfect Bridegroom, so fix your hope on Him.

Blessed is the one who perseveres.

As we reach the end of 2020, it’s natural for us to be weary, but we must fight for hope. This year has taught many in Christ’s family that human existence is often hard, dark and fragile, full of brokenness and hidden desperation. The reality is that earthly marriage is not miraculously sheltered from the ‘trials of many kinds’ that are part and parcel of the Christian life, no matter which century or continent we live in. But amidst the persecution of first century Palestine, James reminded believers to cultivate a hopeful mindset towards their trials, as they trusted in Christ:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing…Blessed is the one who remains steadfast under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:2-412).

And so, as we navigate the difficult seasons that test our marriages, let’s see our relationship as a classroom where the Lord is teaching us more about who He is, a crucible in which He is growing Christ’s character in us.

As husbands and wives, let’s stand steadfast together by allowing what we know about God to inform what we feel about our circumstances. And let’s press on in faith together, as we prepare for the day when our Bridegroom will return to claim His Bride (2 Tim 4:8). On that day, all who are in Christ will celebrate the great wedding feast that will never come to an end (Rev 19:7-10). “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.”

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the blessing of marriage. Please help us navigate the challenges we face together and be willing to be honest about our struggles. Help us to honour, cherish and thank our spouse every day.

Lord, give us a hopeful outlook, because of the character and perseverance that trials can produce in our lives. Help us to focus on how we can walk faithfully alongside our spouse and love him/her well, showing the same selfless love that you have poured out on us. Finish the good work you have begun in us.

Father, protect our marriages from the enemy’s schemes to divide us. Give us grace to cherish one another for as long as we live. Fill us with hope to keep trusting in your promises, until the Bridegroom returns to restore all things.

Amen.

It’s been a privilege to share The God Walk with you in 2020. What gems we’ve discovered in God’s Word along the way! If you’ve missed any of the previous devotions in this series, Marriage East of Eden, click on the links below:

  1. Whatever happened to marriage?
  2. Laws for lasting marriage.
  3. Worshipping the idol of blame.
  4. Demolishing the idol of blame.
  5. Redeemed roles.
  6. Husbands, love your wives!
  7. An excellent wife, who can find?
  8. Designer sex! A very good gift indeed.

Useful Books referenced in this series:

Winston Smith, Marriage Matters.

Walton, Jeff and Sarah, Together through the Storms.

Christopher Ash, Marriage and Sex in the Service of God.

Kevin Leman, Sheet Music.

Emerson Eggerichs, Love and Respect.

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