Seeing the words ‘marriage’ and ‘work’ in the same sentence makes me smile a little. On entering marriage I don’t think I considered that marriage would be work. And if someone had told me I would have smiled and said, “Oh, I’m sure that kind of work will be a joy!” Little did I know!
Marriage requires work – and work of a different kind than the roll-up-your-sleeves and grunt-it-out kind of work. If that was all that was needed I’m sure marriage would be a lot easier. If only it could all be boiled down to a few check-lists and steps and books to read and seminars to attend! The work of marriage is an internal one. A work of the heart – a transforming work. A work that refines, shapes, moulds and re-designs us from the inside out.So much of what we discover in the trials of marriage is what we discover in the Christian life in general. Because we are all being called to growth and change, no matter our marital situation. Marriage just happens to be one of the tools God can use to re-design us into a closer likeness to His Son.
“Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son” Romans 8:29a (Good News Translation)
The reality is that I really can’t make my marriage work. For marriage to work, one person cannot do enough to make it work. It helps if both parties are willing to grow and change, but even then – at least for me – I find myself at a loss for how to change me! Forget even trying to change my spouse – I struggle to change in the ways that I should!
In talking to others whose marriages have had significant struggles I really believe that only God can make our marriages work. And to what end? So we can sail off into the sunset and be happy? Not quite. When God causes growth and change and brings marriages back from the brink of disaster, Who receives glory? I hope it all goes to Him! Because it is true: I can’t make my marriage work. My spouse can’t make my marriage work.
“Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” John 15:5
Dependence on God is a must for Christian marriages to work. Only by His enabling grace – to work in me – more than anyone else, will I be able to engage my marriage for His glory.
So, dear struggling spouse: You can’t make your marriage work. Only God can.