I’ve never been married. But I have been very interested in marriage.
The divorce of my parents led me to one of the most fervent prayers I’ve ever made – “God, don’t let me end up there.” It’s the kind of prayer God is eager to answer. His first lesson? Much of the answer takes place before any vows do.
And the greatest answer of all is…Jesus.
I know. I can hear you sigh. You’ve heard for years that you need Jesus more than a spouse. But he just seems so boring compared to romance and white picket fences and sex and babies. He honestly seems unrelated, other than saying “no” to your longing.
But indulge me for a second. The fall of my family prompted me to keep my eyes and ears open for “what it takes” for a thriving marriage. It got me watching older couples, gleaning from them, reading every book anyone gave me. It got me learning from couples my own age as they’ve reached that stage. God used the whole thing to grab my attention; he gave me the chance to scout out, in a way, the territory ahead of us singles.
And not only am I more convinced than ever that Jesus is the answer, but he’s been kind enough to give me some idea as to why.
It’s awkward to speak beyond my experience, and it forces me to mix in some generalities. But this really isn’t my words. It’s those of married couples. Perhaps we’d be wise to switch Tinder off for a minute and listen to them.
Six reasons we need Jesus more than a spouse…that have to do with the spouse.
1. You need Jesus to find that person.
It’s hard enough to surrender our desires as 19-year-olds and let Jesus hammer out for us a List of Great Spouse Qualities based on his word.
It’s harder to stick to that list as time goes on and our prospects start getting picked off like dodgeball victims. It’s tempting to settle.
But it’s still true: only when we’re seeing through Christ will we spot a real treasure. When you’re fully ingrained with your identity in Christ – fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37), temple of his Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and heir of his kingdom (Luke 12:32) – you’ll yoke yourself to someone who enriches your walk rather than hindering it. When you trust Jesus, you won’t try to second-guess his brilliant timing. And when you live with your eyes on him, his patience and wisdom become your allies in discerning a good match.
2. You need Jesus for that person to find you.
You’ve probably already this in numerous singles’ books, but I’m repeating it anyway. Sorry, not sorry.
Be the kind of person you’re trying to attract.
I know the world has some of us singles wrapped around the axle trying to clean our lives up so he’ll stop “holding us hostage” and marry us off. I’m not talking about that. There is grace. That alone validates us.
But in a different sense, we can hardly expect Godly people to gravitate our way if we’re blatantly ignoring God’s callings. Whether that’s to the mission field or simply to charity, responsibility, and diligence, heed his call. He’s given us a part in getting to the right spot at the right time. (And am I sparking a revolution in the Christian singles’ community if I suggest doing it foremost for God’s glory, rather than just to get something out of him?)
3. You need Jesus to love that person well.
Once you’ve floated (or fought) through the courtship, signed the certificate, and vowed things in front of people, that makes everything okay, right?
Nope. First of all, newlyweds let down their guard. They stop pushing things down all the time because now they’re “safe” and don’t have to care about getting dumped. It’s just human nature to take things for granted. The phenomenon of “letting yourself go” after the honeymoon? From everything I’ve heard, it’s no joke.
And marriage brings a lahar of its own challenges, both funny and painful, that you never saw coming. Navigating the emotions and miscommunications of human interaction is like trying to snowboard down Mauna Loa. I don’t even need to be married to figure that out – it applies to my friendships! The un-regenerated human heart is kryptonite to love of any kind, the opposite of 1 Corinthians 13. Which means the wedding day isn’t the final boss in some video game. It’s more like reaching Level 3. Out of 50.
Wedding bells only ring in a fresh need for 1 Corinthians 13 in our character. Patience, humility, trust, and a short memory will see us through a lot of torturous snags. We can’t fake this stuff, or paper it over with chemistry or sex. Only Jesus can do this in us.
4. You need Jesus to be loved well by that person.
When my brother got hitched, the officiant had a line about trusting each other’s love in marriage.
It stuck with me. Low Christ-esteem can leave one suspicious of love. Again, we do this with our friends. “They’re too polite to say what they really think of me” when they’re thinking nothing of the sort. Someone who’s grown up doing everything for themselves will leave a spouse feeling unneeded. A person who envies another’s spouse (or their own unfulfilled List) will undervalue the love of the one s/he’s got.
Is it just as hard for prickly humans to receive love as to give it?
But being secure in Christ clears the air. You can accept her efforts. You can stop reading into his every word. The pressure of making the other person your universe lifts, and things click into place. His love frees you to love better.
5. You need Jesus when you don’t love that person well.
Some of us will be hard on ourselves when we don’t come through for our spouses. I will be. That’s why it’s so dangerous to let the status of our relationship be the verdict on us. Why, we’ll be yanked all over the place. “I don’t deserve him”, “she wants out”, “I’ll never figure it out” every time we screw up. Imagine the damage that can cause.
Instead, God offers his grace to be rooted in. Infinite second chances. It’ll remind a marital failure (which all of us will be) where our bread is buttered. Our identity does not lie in becoming a great spouse. It lies in him alone, untouchable by any of our failures.
6. You need Jesus when that person doesn’t love you well.
I was sitting at my desk years ago, grading papers, bored out of my mind, my mind drifting inevitably back to its happy place: “Things will be so much better with a wife.”
…when God crashed through my expectations like the Kool-Aid Man on skates.
There will be countless moments in marriage that will feel exactly like this. What will you do then?
It was like that sinking feeling where you think you’re getting a tax refund, but on second calculation, you realize you’re waayyy in the red. If I wasn’t close enough to God to handle boredom, there was no way I was ready for marital conflict or silence. Suddenly I glimpsed how far behind I’d fallen in my journey.
Welcome these gut checks. If you’re in the red, you want to know it. It’ll drive you back to God, the source of all help. That I can testify to.
And he’s just plain better anyway.
Jesus never abuses or manipulates. Never makes unrealistic demands. Never sins in his anger. Never undergoes hormonal shifts, depression, or mood swings. He loved you enough to die on the cross. He is always there for you, with just the words you need. Lo, he is with you to the end of the age.
It’s not enough to find the right person. I implore you – ignore the silver screen and country music when they whisper “find the right one and all will be fine”. Our divorce rate should have exposed that crock by now. Jesus means marriage to be wonderful. But he, and only he, is its foundation, center, and power source. Without him, the rocks of our humanity will dash a marriage to pieces. With him, a marriage can be strong.
Don’t fake this, either. “I’ll run towards Jesus so he’ll give me someone.” He sees right through that, and you’ll never trust your own motives. Chase him for his sake. Taste and see.
And if you’re in the red, know that the red of his blood cleanses us. Today. Don’t beat yourself up because you’ve fallen behind. Just turn to him. May we all turn to him.