Marriage is a gift from a good and loving God. Take a moment to pause and let that sink in. From the beginning, the covenant relationship of marriage was designed as a blessing to humankind.
In the second chapter of Genesis, you can read about God’s purpose for officiating the first marriage between Adam and Eve. Notice that marriage serves to reunite the woman with the very man out of which she was “taken” or created. The author makes this clear in verse 24: “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”
God is LoveWhat makes the unification of marriage so beautiful is that it reflects the image of God, who is relational by nature. God is love because he has always existed in a state of perfect relational harmony within the Trinity. This is why God says in verse 18 “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
G.K. Chesterton poses this question in The Everlasting Man: “[I]f there be a being without beginning, existing before all things, was He loving when there was nothing to be loved? If through that unthinkable eternity He is lonely, what is the meaning of saying He is love?” Chesterton suggests that the answer can be found in “that very balance of beautiful interdependence and intimacy…the very Trinity of the Divine Nature.”
I want to pause here to be clear that I am not suggesting marriage is the only way of life that is blessed by God. Historically, Christianity was revolutionary in its elevation of the validity and dignity of singleness.
For the single man or woman, there are many other blessings to be received from God, as Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 7 and elsewhere. Although singleness is a blessing as much as marriage is, my focus in this article is to explore the gift of marriage.
What kind of gift-giver is God? Jesus describes a heavenly father who will “give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11). How do we know whether something in our lives is a gift from God? James assures believers that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17a).
How can we be sure that marriage is one of God’s gifts? In Proverbs, we are taught that “The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22). In this article, I want to look at just a few of the ways that marriage lived out according to God’s plan is a blessing. I hope that by the end of the article, you will reflect on your own marriage with a grateful heart!
Dreaming and Waking
Some people become disillusioned and cynical about marriage upon discovering that marital love requires effort and perseverance. Compared to the thrill of anticipation that accompanies engagement, the reality of marriage can feel downright laborious. As Alexander Pope famously quipped, “they dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake.” Can you relate to the experience of “waking” to a marriage that didn’t live up to your dreams?
This is a common experience that is often suppressed or hidden out of shame or fear of judgment. However, I regularly encourage couples to acknowledge their disappointment and unfulfilled longings in marriage. There may be unrealistic expectations or selfish desires that need to be confessed and repented of.
However, I don’t believe that a lifeless marriage is something couples must accept out of necessity. Of all marriages, biblical marriage should be the most vibrant and alive. It may surprise you to learn that one of the blessings of a biblical marriage is romance. In other words, reality can be even better than the dream.
The Author of Romance
Modern portrayals of passion and romance in media usually involve little more than a few lines of steamy dialogue followed by casual sex. Almost all occur outside of marriage or any form of a committed relationship. The message is clear: passion occurs only when it is forbidden, and where it does flare up it burns out quickly.
But God is the author of romance, sex, and marriage, and they all were intended to work together. The most beautiful, passionate romance only blooms in the safe and fruitful garden of a biblical marriage.
What do we mean by a biblical marriage? We can define it very simply as “a lifelong monogamous covenant relationship between a man and a woman joined before God in sacred union.”
Within the security and intimacy of this type of marriage, a husband and wife are free to be “naked and unashamed”, and to explore and enjoy one another’s beauty with mutual pleasure. Just consider these poetic (and erotic) descriptions of marital love found in scripture:
Groom: You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes, with a single jewel of your necklace. (Song of Solomon 4:9)
Friends: Eat, lovers, and drink until you are drunk with love! (Song of Solomon 5:1b)
Bride: I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. Come, my love, let us go out to the fields and spend the night among the wildflowers. (Song of Solomon 7:10-11)
The erotic love that flourishes in a biblical marriage burns bright and hot enough to make any forbidden romantic tryst appear dim by comparison.
For Best Results, Follow Instructions
Are you experiencing your marriage as a blessing? Even if you agree in principle with the idea of marriage as a gift from God, depending on how things are going currently in your marriage or those of your friends and family, you might have to admit that it doesn’t always feel like a blessing.
After all, marriage is hard work. Even when you try to get it right, it doesn’t always turn out the way you would like. If you and your partner are caught in cycles of conflict, plagued by dysfunctional communication patterns, or suffering from faulty connections in your relationship, you might be tempted to question the design (or the Designer) of marriage itself.
We do this all the time when it comes to faulty or malfunctioning products. If you buy an appliance such as a toaster and it doesn’t function properly, you might be frustrated and wonder something like “who designed this piece of junk?”
Poor Design or User Error?
Your question is only valid if you are using the toaster for its intended purpose (what the Greek philosopher Aristotle called its “telos”), which is to toast bread. If you were trying to use it to cook a steak or melt butter, you would not have a legitimate complaint against the designer because you would be using it improperly.
We have to be careful not to become overly frustrated with marriage when it doesn’t go as we’d hoped, especially if we have failed to approach marriage with its intended purpose in mind or followed the instructions for its proper use handed down by its Designer.
Without going into detail here, let me list just a few of God’s purposes for marriage below:
- Marriage is designed to provide practical companionship (see Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
- Marriage is designed to shape and refine our character (see Ephesians 5:25-27)
- Marriage is designed to teach us about Christ’s love for his church (see Ephesians 5:32)
Besides, Christians need to follow biblical commands regarding our attitude and behavior in marriage to benefit from its intended blessings. Some of the instructions for marital behavior set the bar incredibly high, such as “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
Although it can be intimidating to pursue such a high standard, this is intended to drive us further into dependence upon God. Besides Paul’s principal teaching on instructions for marriage in Ephesians 5, other passages containing marital instructions include 1 Peter 3 and Colossians 3, among others.
Christian Counseling for a Biblical Marriage
I hope that you are beginning to see how following God’s design for marriage and using it for His purposes brings innumerable blessings to husbands and wives. A biblical marriage is a blessed marriage. It flourishes because it is aligned with the good, pleasing, and perfect will of the Almighty God.
If you and your spouse would like help pursuing and enjoying the blessings of biblical marriage, please contact me or another Christian Counselor on this site. We would consider it a privilege to work alongside you.
“Kissing on a Rock”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Kissing in a Field”, Courtesy of Alex Blăjan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wedding Bands”, Courtesy of Denny Müller, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Quiet Time”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com, CC0 License