Building a great marriage: quality workmanship
“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”
Quality workmanship takes hard work, knowledge, and high standards. But who has extra energy, or time to develop better interpersonal skills? And who needs another reminder of the law’s demand for perfection? Take heart! God doesn’t give you the gift of marriage (complete with quality materials!) and then leave you to do it on your own. He is here to strengthen and guide you as you labor to build a strong marriage!
Where do you find the energy to work at your marriage? “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10)! That doesn’t mean you are an inexhaustible bundle of energy. It means you are motivated and encouraged by God’s love! It means Christ is the foundation of your life, and the source of all you do. It means that when you’re not motivated by the progress you see in your marriage, you keep at it, “as if you were serving the Lord” (Eph. 6:7) because you are!
When you are overwhelmed and frustrated with your marriage, you run into the arms of your Savior and remember that He is the only one who can ever love you perfectly (Jeremiah 31:3). When you feel like you just can’t do it alone, He reminds you that you are not alone (Matthew 28:20). When you just don’t feel like doing it at all, He reminds you of His sacrificial love which restores the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:12). The joy of marriage and the love of a husband are incredible blessings, but they are not your source of strength; they bring wonderful delight, but they are not the fountain of life. Christ is. By seeking God first, in His Word, you will be better equipped to love your husband with renewed strength and wisdom.
How can you deepen your knowledge and insight as you build a strong marriage? God’s Word is always the start, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). With His wisdom, you can be sensitive to your husband’s need for respect, and work to honestly and openly express respect for him publically and privately. Not because he has earned or deserves it, but because God tenderly speaks to your heart that it is what he needs; because God asks you to respect your husband as an expression of your love for Him. With the strength from His Word you will be able to forgive seventy times seven, even when you’ve really, really been hurt. You forgive because you know how freely and completely Christ forgave you, not because your husband finally apologized. You will also be able to apologize and admit your faults without excuses and justification because you are no longer a slave to sin. With His love, you’ll be motivated to do the little things: a kind word, a supportive smile, or a re--heated dinner plate after a late meeting, even if he forgets to say, “Thanks.” You love because Christ loved you first, not because your husband is always lovable.
Finally, what are the high standards to keep in mind? “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). God’s standards are unattainably high! So why is it that we sometimes feel the need to make the standard even higher? We often times feel (or internally create) pressure to be a perfect wife with a perfect marriage! Marriage can begin to feel like one more unattainable standard to pursue rather than the encouragement it is meant to be. Marriage can seem like a burden instead of a blessing.
When you’re discouraged and feel like you aren’t the perfectly happy wife, you need to look at your Savior. You need to remember that everything you are supposed to be as a wife, a mother, a church member, a housekeeper, cook, and chauffer has been fulfilled by our perfectly obedient Savior. He lived a perfect life on your behalf. And after He lived a perfect, obedient life, He gave it up to pay for your failures. Remember the suffering He bore to give you His righteousness. You are free from the yoke of slavery and the burden of sin, free from the law and all life’s demands. Let your heart and mind rest on the laurels of your Savior and release you from the pressure to do and be more than you ever could. He invites you, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29--30). He says it; we need to take Him at His Word and believe it.
Marriage isn’t easy but it is a gift from the Lord and He will bless it. It is worth every ounce of effort you put into it, especially when Satan and your sinful flesh are working to tear it apart. Cherish the priceless materials He’s given you to build it strong. Depend on His powerful Word to energize and teach you, and always, most importantly, let it bring you to the loving arms of your Savior for forgiveness and His perfect love.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are my joy and greatest delight. Help me to always treasure the precious relationship we share. Remind me of its cost, Lord – the priceless blood of Your Son – and keep me humble and thankful for Your grace. But let that beautiful message also draw me to you and motivate me in all I do. Let Your salvation be my true source of joy and strength as I live for you. Encourage me to be a loving wife even when I don’t want to. Give me a longing for Your Word that I can be found daily seeking You in Scripture. Daily, Lord! Don’t let me become complacent or forgetful but put the desire in my heart to be at Your feet learning and growing in the knowledge of grace and wisdom. Teach me Father! Open my eyes to the insights and riches of your Word, to understand how to be a wife that honors You. And when I am reminded of all you want me to be, don’t let me suffer long in the discouragement of my sinful flesh. By Your soothing Word show me how it is finished, calm my burdened heart with the unchanging truth of Your vicarious atonement. My heart is Yours Jesus, Not because I give it to you but because You have purchased it. What grace and mercy I have! Accept my love in grateful thanks. Amen.