Theology 101

The Calling & Hard Work of Marriage (Part 1)

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Last year, I wrote an article on how parents can successfully launch their children off to college or work. A key element in being able to do this well that I did not discuss is having a good marriage.

Parents of children at this age are often in their mid-forties (or older), and many men and women struggle with mid-life issues. Marriages are fragile, even Christian ones. When your child is leaving the nest, it can add even more stress to your life together. Many couples may find it difficult to handle this transition in harmony.

My goal in writing this two-part article is to explore marriage as a divine calling. It has much in common with other callings, such as medicine, teaching, or the military. How are we called to pursue it? How does God prepare us, provide for us, and protect our marriage? How do we overcome the unique thorns and thistles in this calling? How is God present in it? How does God use our marriage to love our neighbor?

Let’s explore some of these questions as we begin with part one. 

How Are We Called to It?

In general, Christian men and women are called to pursue marriage and family life. Adam and Eve were commanded to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). This command still applies to men and women today; it has not been rescinded. This “one flesh” union in marriage normally results in procreation, which fulfills this portion of the creation mandate (see Gen 2:24). Jesus himself reemphasized the purpose and permanence of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6.

In between two passages on marriage, the Apostle Paul singles out two other callings. In 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, he mentions the statuses of circumcision and slavery as categories that new Christians can fall into. His point is that new believers are not required to change their status at conversion. This implies that marriage is also a calling. Believers are not to avoid it, nor are they to try to get out of it in order to be more spiritual.

Just like other callings, God does not leave his children uninformed. The Bible provides some guidance for selecting a mate; i.e., do not be unequally yoked to an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:14). Beyond that, we have to choose carefully, prayerfully, and wisely using the internal checklists that God writes on our hearts.

How Does God Prepare, Provide & Protect?

In all career paths, God has a way of preparing us for our life’s work behind the scenes with desires, aptitudes, skills, spiritual gifts, experiences, and education. It also works this way as he prepares us for marriage. Sometimes, God prepares us for the work of marriage through pain. In our families of origin, my wife’s parents handled conflict with the silent treatment. Mine did it through shouting matches. We decided to avoid both dysfunctional patterns and learned to resolve conflicts in a mature way.

God provides wisdom when we ask for it with regards to who we should marry. This wisdom is also available through every stage of the marriage. As we commit to this sacred relationship for life, God provides for us as we learn to obey what the Bible teaches about marriage.

God also protects us from dangers inside and outside the marriage. God kept us both faithful, despite two one-year unaccompanied tours in Korea and multiple separations while I was training.

Thorns & Thistles in Marriage

Let me begin by mentioning that Adam’s sin resulted in God putting a curse on work for all men and women that will last until Jesus returns. This curse makes work more difficult than necessary, which also impacts the relationship between husband and wife (Gen. 3:16-19).

All married couples figure out shortly after the “I do’s” that sometimes they would rather say, “I don’t.” We want the “for better” and would rather avoid the “for worse.” Until you live together 24/7, you really do not know a person. It is hard to put into practice all that the Bible teaches husbands and wives to do.

Every job will have its share of “thorns and thistles.” Some are common, such as dealing with difficult customers and bosses; some are unique to that field. In marriage, the thorns and thistles that will come up appear in the form of interpersonal conflict, losses, and distractions. My wife and I have worked together for over four decades, learning how to raise our children and launch them out into the world. As we have stood firm in the “for better and for worse” in every season of life, our marriage has gotten sweeter.

In the next article, we will explore how God is present in the marriage union and how he uses marriage for the good of others.

Editor’s note: This article was republished from the author’s blog with permission.

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