Gospel & Marriage
There is a reason fairy tales don’t show the couple after they ride off into the sunset. It’s because the truth is, happily-ever-after is a grind if it happens at all.
Depressing? Let me bring you into my backstory. I came from a broken home, divorced family, I’m sure you know that old song and dance. My biological father was not involved in my life. So my childhood led me to the conclusion that fathers leave. After graduate school, I was a 26-year-old, single, marriage counselor. Imagine that for a second. Someone with zero marriage experience, with no exposure to a healthy marriage, counseling people whose marriages are hanging by a thread. This led me to the conclusion that all wives must be bitter and all husbands must be oblivious. My career had me devoting myself to helping bring reconciliation to couples when in the reality of my own heart I questioned whether the “ideal marriage” was even achievable. I believed, wholeheartedly, what Paul says to the Corinthians, it must be better to remain single (1 Cor. 7:8).
Marriage was terrifying to me. I feared abandonment far more than I desired a husband. And even if my imaginary future husband didn’t physically leave me, I was afraid I would end up on the counseling couch across from a cardigan and round glasses while I breathed in discontentment, cultivated bitterness, sitting next to my very own Mr. Oblivious.
To be honest, it has been my life’s battle to reorient my own deeply rooted conclusions away from my experience and back to the gospel. Long story short and completely understated, I ended up marrying a wonderful and godly man from my City Group. In the reality of my marriage, I wrestled with a lot of “what ifs.” What if my worst fears come true? My functional hell was the very idea that I would be a bitter, hateful wife and that my husband would grow out of touch with my day-to-day desires and feelings. I cringed at the idea that I could try my best and it wouldn’t matter. In that fear, my functional savior became the ideal marriage.
But this is not the gospel. The gospel, simply put, is the truth about Jesus. And the beauty of it must pierce our individual souls before it penetrates our marriages. The gospel does not reassure us bad things won’t happen. The gospel does not promise the absence of conflict, but it promises the presence of God. And trust me, that is a place of joy. This is a hard caveat because I want you to understand a good marriage is not guaranteed, but a good marriage, rightly defined, is an indicator of rightly oriented loves. If both spouses are seeking to love sacrificially, repenting of sin, walking humbly with the Lord, doing justice and loving kindness (Micah 6:8)—it is hard to imagine that marriage in a tailspin toward destruction.
Now I no longer fear that my husband will leave me. Not only because he himself is rooted and grounded in the gospel but because even if he leaves me, Jesus never will. The answer to my worst fears about marriage is not a perfect marriage—it’s Jesus.
Because of the gospel, I am no longer bound to the past but I am hopeful for the future; always looking to the promise that he will finish the good work he began (Phil. 1:6). Because of the gospel, my husband and I are compelled to work toward reconciliation in the small and big things. All the motivation I could have to withhold forgiveness and cultivate bitterness is destroyed by the weight and glory of Jesus’ pursuit of me. Because of the gospel, we have the correct lens to see ourselves which helps protect us against the temptation to withhold affection and encourages us to pursue togetherness in all things.
On top of that, the gospel gives my marriage purpose. I am so deeply thankful my husband loves the Lord. It simplifies so many of our discussions. Our greatest purpose is to glorify God and all our day-to-day decisions filter through that purpose. We are forever on the same page.
I love the C.S. Lewis quote “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The gospel is not merely relevant to marriage, it is the “why” behind every single piece of it.
Jalea is a partner at the Paradox Church and attends the Henderson Street City Group in Fairmount with her husband Ryan and her son Levi. Jalea is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Texas.