It’s been a while since I’ve spent time in this space. Part of the reason for this is adjusting to the changes that come with marriage. The changes of available time to read, study, and write. The changes of not really knowing what to write about, or what I should or shouldn’t write about when I wanted to write about marriage and its ups and downs. The changes in the state of my heart that led me to want to spend more time relaxing with my wife than doing the hard work of soul-searching, sin killing, and pursuing my own sanctification. The changes in not needing to lean on God the same way, but still blind to see how I needed to lean on Him differently.
Everyone says that, with the exception of having children, marriage is the most sanctifying experience we will ever have. What is equally true is that if all we rely on for sanctification is our marriage, well, it won’t exactly work out as well as it could. Don’t get me wrong, things have been really great. And I think that God has been very gracious to give us warnings in our hearts before our sinful hearts could take us places we wouldn’t want to go.
Each of us is born with a heart turned inward. We are born and plagued by a heart that is primarily selfish. Sure, we may put aside our selfishness for a while because we love someone, because we’re willing to sacrifice for a person, but let push come to shove and see how quickly our selfish hearts attack the one we love, or rise in defense instead of fall to our knees in prayer.
The two best pieces of advice I’ve heard for preparing Bible studies are to “soak in the text” and “bathe it in prayer.” I couldn’t think of better counsel for marriage.
Marriage is indeed sanctifying. But let the heart that has not been fueled by and filled with the gospel try to be sanctified by grinding against another person’s heart and see how well that goes.
Sinclair Ferguson rightly points out that “the Word of God sanctifies.”
We become more like Christ when we read about and experience how much grace God gave us, and by extension turn around and do the same. The only way we can survive those sanctifying moments without tearing each other down is to be full of the gospel. To already realize how desperately reliant we are on God. To already be humbled before God. Why would we then feel the need to stand strong before man? This isn’t just giving someone the benefit of the doubt, though that is part of it. It’s knowing the other person is actually wrong and not crucifying them for it, because Christ already took that punishment for them. It’s restoring the offender “in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1).
Single life is hard. Married life is hard. Because life in general is hard.
The Christian life is marked by daily repentance (Martin Luther), and that is hard.
If you want to live the Christian life, whether you’re married or single, soak in the text. Let the Holy Spirit sanctify you through the Scriptures. Bathe in prayer. Pray for your own sanctification, and for your spouse’s sanctification. Pray that your heart would align with God’s Word as you read it. Pray that you would be quick to extend grace, and slow to cast judgment.
Pray that you would always see how desperately reliant you are on Jesus. And remember that your spouse is too.
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