Last weekend I attended the wedding of a friend. At each marriage between two followers of Christ there should be the desire and purposeful pursuit to have a union that honors both God and each other.
It is our call to continuously and increasingly desire the same, to intentionally seek after that pursuit, and to love well in the face of life as we expect it as well as life with its unexpected twists and turns.
It takes being deliberate about our choices personally and with our spouse, tenaciously choosing to submit to the Lord which includes loving and respecting our spouse more than we love ourselves and our own desires.
It’s one of the things I enjoy about going to weddings where I know the vows taken and the challenges given to the bride and groom are based on God’s Word; that I might continuously be encouraged and challenged in my own marriage.
In his book, “What Did You Expect?,” Paul David Tripp says that many marriages that have lasted for years often forget the need to be intentional about nurturing – not just time spent with each other, which is vitally important; but also about heart issues – honest conversations, growing in grace, truthfully but kindly speaking to one another, among other things.
Tripp also reminds that every marriage needs “radical commitments” and the “regular rescue of grace” for the minor grievances and the major wounds. That doesn’t allow us to act badly or sinfully so grace will abound (Romans 6), but grace is needed to choose well and to rescue our stubborn but (hopefully) repentant hearts when we don’t.
Whether you are not yet married, have been married a short time or a lengthy one, we are all to be “mutually encouraging one another” to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” And our marriages, even more, are to be a reflection of the grace of God, the power of God, and the love of God.
We never expect to “disrupt our dance” and, hopefully, neither do most brides and grooms so it is good to come back to the heart of the marriage vows again and again, good to come back to the heart of God for a man and woman making covenant vows and becoming one.
As I listened from the balcony where I was taking some photographs for her, I was compelled to write down some of the encouragements and challenges given by one of the pastors performing the ceremony. In light of Tripp’s book and my last blog, “The Dance,” I decided to share some of them here.
May these words of great joy be used by the Lord for you! (Where he used their names, I have replaced them with husband/wife, bride/groom)
It is evident you stand here in love with and in the joy of one another! Continue in that love and joy in the days ahead – the easy and the hard, the strong and the weak, and in those moments of temptation…
Guard and protect each other fiercely. Don’t trust yourself; keep your eyes on the Lord and His ways for your marriage. When you hit a conflict or wound each other, run to the Savior and work and walk through it in prayer…together. Don’t attempt to handle temptations, fears, and wounds alone; God did not intend for that – He gave you each other.
Desire to see your marriage be all God designed for marriage in general, your marriage specifically, and watch it grow (sometimes even through the hardest of circumstances) and be willing to do what it takes to make it so.
Dare to believe He will do it in the two of you as you stand firm and are two who speak truth to each other and are quick to say “I’m sorry” (and mean it) and “I forgive you.”
Be intentional not to let hope and great expectations lessen. Honor God through your marriage in every way when you are together and apart, in public and in secret.
I now charge you both as husband and wife – but know that each charge can and should be applied to the other.
I charge you, as the husband:
-“Praise the Lord for all who fear God are blessed beyond expression, they find great delight in His commands!” (Psalm 112:1)
The beauty of your bride should call you to see the beauty of God and to listen to Him. Do not miss that beauty nor cover her beauty with your own sinful passions and so cover the glory of God.
Cultivate your desire for your bride and her beauty in your eyes by keeping them on her, not allowing other women to fill the recesses of your thoughts and imagination. She will grow in beauty and your desire for her will increase as you tame your temptations.
Listen well to the Savior out of love for God and gain praise for His glory especially in the eyes of your bride. Listen to God; don’t close your heart and mind to Him and to His truth. The increase of His glory and your delight will happen as you listen, act, and grow.
-Darkness will fight to gain control of your heart that you might sin against her. Fight it in the power of the Holy Spirit; He is already yours in Christ and we have everything we need to fight and flee if necessary, but we have to do it; He won’t pluck us out. It’s our responsibility to put a guard on our mouths, our hands, our eyes, and our mind.
When you fail each other, sin against the other – learn to say “I’m sorry” out of true sorrow not a desire to get out of “trouble.” Learn to resolve conflict without dismissing the other. Give and receive grace freely.
You are each less than perfect so you need to FIGHT to keep light in your marriage – the light of truth, the light of grace, the light that keeps us from going down a dark path of sin and then secrecy, some of which will continue to damage as it is kept in the dark.
Your marriage is to be a reflection of the light of grace; she deserves to feel safe and secure with you!
-“Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.” (Psalm 112:8)
Fight foes, of all kinds, together. Don’t try to fight your temptations, your fears, your concerns on your own. The Lord has given you a bride, a helpmate, an accountability partner. Let her be that and you be that for her as well; be her warrior and give her the freedom to be vulnerable and to share her concerns without critical pushback taking care not to build walls of prideful secrecy.
Instead, see how God wants to speak to you through your bride. Her differences are an expression of the mystery of God, the wonder. Learn to appreciate who she is; don’t let the differences become a stumbling block or an area of contention or frustration.
-“They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 112:7)
Every day is an invitation to worry; don’t give in to that invitation. Take yourself and your bride to the cross, minute by minute and day by day!
The opposite of love is not hate but fear. Fear will wound love at best, kill it at worst. Be courageous in giving her a safe place. At various times, each will need to be the anchor of faith, stability, and confidence for the other – as the leader and as the helpmate.
-“They give generously to those in need…” (Psalm 112:9)
Yes, be a marriage that sees the needs of others and, together, provides for them as able. Serve well together as opportunities arise where God has place you.
But also, be generous in your love for your wife! Be quick to protect her in every way – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Speak well of her in public and to yourself. Guard her dignity in public and private. Guard yourself when alone and, in such a way, cherish her.
A Charge to the Wife
-You will not be the perfect Proverbs 31 wife, but in every way, determine to pursue it deliberately. “If you find a truly good wife, she is worth more than all the jewels” (and everything that “sparkles”). (v 10)
Help your husband to be all God desires Him to be. He needs your nurture and your care, your prayers and your encouragement. Helping your husband will cost you your life but will help your husband to be the leader God desires and intends.
Let him have full confidence in you and bring him good not harm all the days of your life. Let him have no reason to lack confidence in your faithful, respectful love. (v. 11)
Be clothed with strength and dignity, able to see the best in him and in the days ahead even when he struggles to see either. (v. 25)
Be a listener, a forgiver but also act and speak wisely; be compassionate. (v. 26)
Above all fear God and trust Him to work in your marriage and to change you and your husband. (v.30)
-Trust God for your marriage.
Trusting God will be the measure of God’s work in your life. Trust God to fulfill and complete the good work He began in each of you and in your marriage. Trust God to fulfill the dreams you have for your marriage on this your wedding day (don’t forget those dreams, those desires, those vows).
-Express your thoughts and desires, your fears and concerns!
Your husband will learn much from you (and vice versa) when each listens in humility and has an increasing desire to grow. But speak with humility as well and, as you express concerns and fears, do so in a way that reveals the heart of love. Caustic criticism will destroy the heart so be assertive in sharing what you need to but do so with gentleness and respect. Some things may be hard to share and hard to receive but Proverbs 31:26 says that when she speaks, her words are wise. Choose your words carefully.
-Be wise in establishing your home. Be used by God to bring direction to your husband your family.
Let your gifts be used with wisdom as you give your heart to your husband. Time with God alone in His Word and prayer will enhance your love for the Lord and so for your groom (and time with God alone in His Word and prayer, husband, will enhance your love for the Lord and so for your bride).
– Love your husband in a way that enhances his strength and courage. Love in a way that encourages him to love Jesus well.
There will be times he will feel weak; take him to the Lord daily, even more so in his hardest times. Let him know you are beside him and love him well even when your own eyes can’t “see” and your strength is “small.” Let him draw strength and courage from you as you receive strength and courage from our Savior.
Again, let both hear the charges and apply them to yourselves as well as your spouse. Commit to love and protect each other. Commit to growing in grace. Commit to Jesus being the only firm foundation for marriage – everything else is shifting sand. Keep that foundation firm by keeping your eyes and your hearts on Him.