Delivered as the message at the wedding ceremony of two Christians on October 6, 2018.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to provide a message on your wedding day. To be honest, I don’t think I could say anything now that you should not have already heard in premarital counseling. But there is always the chance that you weren’t paying much attention to said counseling, being doe-eyed lovers and all. Or perhaps you heard it but didn’t really process it or perhaps you heard it but didn’t really believe it. Whatever the case may be, I’m going to share with you two truths that are by no means novel but are critical to understand:
- Marriage is hard because you’re both sinners.
- Sinners needs God’s grace.
So let’s dive right in.
Marriage is hard. Anyone who told you otherwise was almost certainly lying. Compatibility in personality and beliefs will only take you so far. This is hard to grasp for newlyweds. You will think, “Not me. Not us. We have so much in common. We’ve done so well together thus far. She’s so gracious. He’s so optimistic. No way this isn’t going to work.” Let me assure that reality will set in not long after you’re married and at that point you’re true character will show up. If your marriage is built only on the hope that you two remain compatible, whatever that might mean, then it will begin to slowly erode. The virtuous upward circles of your pre-nuptial relationship will eventually become vicious downward cycles. After a few years of this you might find yourself listening to this same message, except I will be replaced with a pastor, and instead of holding hands you’ll be sitting across the room from one another.
If this sounds unrealistic, let me ask you some questions right now:
- Do you think you know about the other person’s least attractive traits?
- Do you think you know their greatest struggles or weaknesses?
- Do you think you know where they really are spiritually?
Here are some more sobering questions…
- Do you think you are beyond threatening divorce as a means of vengeance?
- Do you think you are beyond hurting your spouse, physically or emotionally?
- Do you think you are beyond cheating your spouse or living a similar lie?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then I will be honest: you are naive. You do not really appreciate the gravity of your sinful nature and how far away from rational living it can drag you. Perhaps you’ve heard people say, “Yes, marriage is hard, but it all works out in the end.” That’s worthless advice. If your marital gameplan is to rely on your excellence of character or folk clichés like “time heals all wounds”, then you could be in for a surprise.
The struggles in my own marriage I would have never predicted, and I thought I was pretty sober-minded going into it. If you had told me ten years ago the faults in myself that became most prominent in marriage, I would have stared at you in disbelief. If marriage has shown me one thing, it is the myriad of ways that I am selfish. Marriage is like money: once you have it, it doesn’t change you are, it simply magnifies what was already there.
My hope is that you are walking into this new life with realistic expectations. But not just the expectation that it’s difficult because of your imperfect character but also the expectation that God will help you in spite of your imperfect character. This is where grace comes in. Grace is unmerited favor. It is God blessing you even though you don’t deserve it. It is a well that God says you can go to freely and drink from always. It’s an oxygen mask that will keep you breathing through the thickest smoke. But you will never cry out for it if you’re trusting in your character, your intellect, your income, or even your good acts of service to your family.
Consequently, instead of showing grace, spite will permeate your thoughts:
- “If he was more thoughtful, this would have never been a problem.”
- “If she was more rational, we would have never argued.”
- “I provide such a good life for my her, she should be so grateful for me.”
- “I do so much to make him, he has no right to act like that.”
Yes, there is an element of truth to each those. But I have good news for you: because Jesus died and rose from the dead, you’re don’t have to win every argument. You don’t have to get in the last word. You don’t have to receive the response you wanted.
We deserve nothing from God. As the artist Lecrae said, “If fought for our rights, we’d be in Hell tonight.” If a perfectly holy God is willing to not only show us sinners grace, but give it abundantly and freely, how much more should we give grace to fellow sinners, especially those who we enjoyed so much that we chose to spend our lives with them?
Grace is what will paralyze the vengeful thoughts building up in your mind. Grace is what will let you close your mouth and open your eyes even when you’re certain that nothing your spouse is saying is sensible. Grace is what will let you squeak out a sincere, “I love you” as your head hits the pillow after you spent the entire night arguing. Oh, and you should tell that your spouse every single night without exception.
A marriage that loses sight of grace can end rapidly. I know one that did just that. The former husband told me it was a period of his life so painful that he wished he could have traded it for death. With utmost earnestness he told me, “Do not EVER treat divorce as an option. Get to counseling immediately if the thought even creeps in your mind. Do whatever it takes to heal the marriage. But do not consider it as an option. As soon as its an option for either of you, the marriage is just one argument or mistake away from being a failure. Because by the time I was willing to get help, I discovered that she had already made up her mind.”
This is not meant to sound depressing but sobering. Sobering doesn’t mean solemn, however. Indeed, let me leave you with this message of optimism: If you know Christ as your savior, know also that he is sanctifying you. He is going to give you grace. He is going to use even your most painful trials for your good. Contrary to what the world might think, there is no dichotomy between happiness and holiness. They are one and the same. For to abide perfectly in his way is to live the most pleasurable life of all. That is why David wrote in the Psalms, “You will show me the path of life, in your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Part of those pleasures is this gift of marriage, which he gives to you now. May you seek His glory first and may he grant you a highly adventurous, wildly passionate, and incorrigibly joyous union for the rest of your lives. God bless you both.