By Barbara Rainey
First posted on EverThineHome.com
If a vote were taken on the top cultural issues of our day, divisions and polarization would top the list, along with problems of racism and lack of trust in one another. But to me, one of most distressing trends today is how marriage is losing its value. Increasingly, younger generations view marriage as unnecessary, unrealistic, and even old-fashioned and outdated.
Many would agree with one writer in The Atlantic magazine who called marriage a “wretched institution.” He wrote:
“It spells the end of voluntary affection, of love freely given and joyously received. …
Marriage was not designed as a mechanism for providing friendship, erotic experience, romantic love, personal fulfillment, continuous lay psychotherapy, or recreation.
The Western European family was not designed to carry a lifelong load of highly emotional romantic freight.”
Oh, and did I mention he wrote those words over 60 years ago? I wonder how would he describe the state of the institution today?
But I’m here to say that marriage is not a “wretched institution” … far from it! God created marriage not only to benefit us as individuals, but also to create stability for human society.
Marriage has never been more important. Perhaps now more than ever. No question it’s never been easy, but it’s always been worth it. Polls and studies conducted for decades consistently support the value of marriage to human flourishing, prosperity and stability.
In the first post of this two-part series on marriage, I discussed God’s design for marriage. Here are some additional thoughts about why your marriage matters:
God wants to use your marriage to inspire and help others.
This is the most amazing and perhaps surprising part about marriage!
People long to see marriages that last. Don’t you?
Everyone loves seeing couples honored at church or on the local news who have been married 50, 60 and even 70 years. Why? Because we want that permanence, that endurance, and that lifelong love. Our hearts long to be loved forever in spite of all our flaws and mistakes.
In my book, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife, I wrote this description of what I imagine God thinks about marriage:
So, too, God wants my marriage and yours to inspire wonder in those who are close enough to see the radiant beauty only He can create.
Marriage is so worth fighting for, so worth keeping and enjoying, giving oneself to completely. For God has planted marriage in every culture so that His message of love can be seen in unions of beauty generation after generation.
Our marriages are meant to be statements of wonder to the watching world, statements of the goodness, the power, and the beauty of God. Our fascination with and admiration for a beautifully mature marriage makes us want to know both the couple and the Creator. And that is the eternal purpose for marriage, making Him known.
Marriage is a mystery. And most of us love mysteries because they are intriguing and our hearts long to know more when we are presented with something that can’t be fully known or understood. God is a mystery who wants to be known too.
Your marriage is so important that, even when we can’t do marriage on our own, God through His Spirit gives us the power to make it work. He didn’t have to help us.
In the summer of 2000, my husband, Dennis, was booked to speak at a conference in Europe. Because I’d spent a summer studying French in France, I had long dreamed of taking our kids to see some of the beautiful places I’d fallen in love with as a teenager. So we planned and worked to take our son Samuel and our three youngest daughters with us. First we went to the conference and then at its conclusion we rented two small cars and took off to visit all the sites.
Again in my book, Letters to My Daughters, I described this trip of a lifetime and the lessons we learned from the cathedrals we toured:
One of the most famous cathedrals in Europe, Chartres is breathtaking in its size and beauty. Our tour within its soaring interior gave us a sense of majesty and grandeur and called our hearts to worship the One who is supreme.
Our next stop was Sainte-Chappelle in Paris. Smaller, but more elegant than its famous neighbor, Notre Dame, Sainte-Chappelle is a lapis jewel that sparkles with light flowing from tall, exquisite stained-glass windows that wordlessly speak of God’s work. It was for us—and for any who visit—impossible to stand inside without lifting our eyes heavenward. Majestic cathedrals speak of the grandeur and grace of God, each uniquely proclaiming Christ’s life and the Bible’s story.
At the end of our tours, however, I was left with a great feeling of sadness that many of the magnificent structures, masterpieces of architecture and beauty, are void of the Spirit for whom they were built. For centuries, many have been hollow and lifeless, mere museums, concert halls, and tourist attractions. But when the Spirit of Christ is welcomed within, any church can come back to life.
Marriages are like churches—some are grand in scale like cathedrals, while others more closely resemble a small country parish. The power of any church is not in its size, but in its people who are alive with the life of Christ. My marriage and yours must be filled with the Spirit of Christ, each spouse humbly following His leadership, if we want it to be all it was built to be. Then, like a church spire, our lives and the beauty of our marriage will irresistibly draw others in and point them to God, the Redeemer of our unique marriage story.
Marriage is designed to mirror and reflect our relationship with Jesus to everyone around us. My marriage and yours is full of raw places we’d like to hide, sin we wish to keep secret. But like the woman at the well who had five husbands, when we humbly admit our failures to Him we discover a forgiveness, a grace and a love so unexpected and wonderful we can’t help telling everyone about Him.
God wants us to experience the wonder of repentance and restoration and resurrection in our marriages. If we are willing to risk openness. If we are willing to ask God to give us His genuine love that we do not possess on our own, then we will experience the kind of marriage we longed for when we said, “I do.”
When my marriage feels impossible I remember God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think …” (Ephesians 3:20) and that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 NASB). And that gives me courage to keep moving into the hard things and to keep believing He will rescue us.
And He has rescued us. Every single time.
God waits to help you create beauty in your marriage. If your marriage feels impossible, remember:
He wants you to experience your own inadequacy so you have to depend on Him.
God will create beautiful windows and doorways in the cathedral that is your marriage if you don’t quit.
If you know Jesus as your Savior, He is calling you to believe His vision for marriage, not what the world around us says about His creation. Keep your eyes on Jesus where they belong. Not on others.
If you enjoyed reading this, you also might like some additional posts by Barbara on marriage:
My Heart, Ever His: Prayers for Women (NEW from Barbara Rainey)
As we search for meaning in our world of shallow online relationships and glamorized selfies, many are returning to traditional and liturgical churches. The repeated words, benedictions, and historic hymns connect us to saints who have gone before, giving us a sense of belonging, richness, and transcendence. Written prayers, once cast off as archaic, are now welcomed as guides to tune our hearts to the heart of God.
In My Heart, Ever His Barbara Rainey shares 40 prayers for women. Readers can read and meditate on one prayer throughout the week or read a prayer a day for 40 days as a way to express the longing of our hearts to our Father who loves us even as he sees who we truly are. Like the psalms of David, these prayers are honest, sometimes raw. Barbara uses these transparent expressions of common female experiences to encourage us to surrender to Christ and help us see God as he is, not as we assume him to be. My Heart, Ever His provides a stepping-stone to help you become more transparent with God and discover his welcoming embrace.
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