FELLOWSHIP IN CHRIST
By fellowship in Christ, I mean fellowship with other couples from across three general spectrums: Younger, Same, Older (in terms of marriage or chronological age). I will focus primarily on Same and Older with Younger receiving more attention in the next heading.
You see, the problems you are facing in your marriage are not uncommon (1 Cor 10:13). Nothing is new under the sun (Ecc 1:9). Whether you are married to someone who, as it turns out, has a anger problem, a spending problem, lust problem, depression/anxiety problem, a lack of faith problem, a problem in submission or a problem in leading, I guarantee you there is one to two couples in your life right now who “know what you mean”.
However, I counsel couples to share their hearts and lives with another couple or two NOT so that it can turn into a gossip session (that would be sinful and wrong on every level); rather, so that other people can fulfill their Christian duty to bear your burdens (Gal. 6:2).
These are some of the benefits and blessings of being a Christian, and we have an obligation to one another in this regard, (Rom 15:1; Heb 10:24-25). Two is better than one and three is even better (Ecc 1:9-12).
Therefore, find at least one to two couples of approximate age, and go on the journey together. Find an older couple who have years of wisdom and experience ahead of you. If you engage in this kind of fellowship in Christ, your marriage, over time, will be blessed in ways you can hardly calculate.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
I hope I am not breaking bad news to you when I say marriage is far more about God’s kingdom than it is about your personal happiness. But even as I write this…if it turns out that this sounds like bad news, then I am glad I said it. The reality is – your marriage is not actually about you or your happiness but more about God and what he is up to in terms of his kingdom-building purposes.
Maybe you’ve heard it said before: God is more concerned about your holiness than your happiness. So, the aim of this section is to introduce to you a mindset shift or a shift in a ‘lens’ through which to see and view your marriage.
The great commission applies in at least two ways in the context of marriage: (1) Child rearing; (2) Helping younger couples live godly marriages.
A kingdom-oriented aim of your marriage is to reproduce yourself. This happens naturally when couples have children…mom and dad (re)produce and multiply. But as we grow in maturity in our marriages, we need to reproduce (another word is disciple) other couples unto godliness.
When we miss this aspect of married life, we naturally bend toward building a little kingdom on earth with our names on it. Without a gospel-oriented, kingdom-mindset, we end up setting our minds on things of the world: Career, money, material prosperity, college, reputation, retirement. Before we know it, these are things that make up the bulk of our marriage conflict.
But don’t we realize that these things will perish (Heb 1:11, Jas 1:11, 1 Pet 1:4)? You will not take your 401K with you when you die; your dream home will crumble just shortly after you die; that savings account will be spent before you know it. I don’t say this to discourage you from working hard.
There is wisdom in leaving an inheritance (Pro. 13:22) but this is beside the point. The point is, the inheritance isn’t the point. The moment we elevate earthly, temporal matters to eternal, kingdom status, we’ve lost the battle and marriage conflict will inevitably be around the corner.
Two people who are committed to a secret earthly kingdom will live in a perpetual state of anxiety and marital conflict, constantly wondering why the other is so hard to live with. Meanwhile, we will constantly feel alone and distant until a breakthrough of a new vision for something bigger than your marriage emerges on the scene.
This bigger vision is the kingdom of God. When you have a moment, as yourself with your spouse:
- How can we build God’s kingdom by and through this marriage?
- How can we invest in others to grow in godliness?
- What will it look like to emerge from the tendencies to build and invest in our kingdom?
You can answer this last question by reflecting on: What am I really after?
Marriage conflict is not the end of the world. In many ways, it can serve as an impetus to recognizing a need for a new beginning. I do think you should work to flee marriage conflict, not necessarily at all costs, however, but almost, because most conflict is about something oriented toward the self than about God; something inherently designed to make you happier but not necessarily holier; something that isn’t saturated in the Word or in prayer but rather something innately selfish and sinful.
If you are growing in these four domains: The Word, Prayer, Fellowship in Christ and Kingdom Building, then you are likely taking the narrow way (Matt 7:14) which is the way to life and godliness. If you neglect these areas, then you will struggle.
ONE FINAL NOTE
This article is not designed to address marriages that are wrought with physical abuse, adultery, significant degrees of substance abuse leaving families effectively impoverished in some way, and the like. This is to say, there are times when it is appropriate to have grave solutions that may be construed as involuntary in someway. For example, a spouse needs to flee for safety. That would be appropriate and ideally occur in the context of Pastoral/Elder oversight in some way if/where possible. Therefore, much more can be said about these things to which this article is obviously limited in scope and purpose.