“God works in the faithful to restore them to their ‘gospel’ relationship.” Bruce Waltke
Your hopes and dreams for an “ideal marriage” were preceded by the purposes of another. From the beginning of time, God had a purpose for your marriage: to forge a gospel relationship.
“Remember this and stand firm…” God encourages his people, “‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:8-10, emphasis mine). As the ESV Study Bible comments, “The only true God will succeed in his glorious purpose for his stubborn people.”
Marriage is the union of two stubborn sinners. Yet God will succeed in his glorious purpose to restore an ideal gospel relationship.
You may think your problems are too high or your rut too deep. But do you really imagine that the Creator and Restorer of marriage throughout all generations is going to throw in the towel when he gets to you? To put it another way: Do you really think you are the exception to the rule of God’s faithful purposes?
In the days ahead we will talk about how to be a gospel wife. But we must start—and return often—to the truth that our work is effective only because He works. Our faith is possible only because He has redeemed us. Our hope is realistic only because He has promised to accomplish His purposes.
God will succeed in His glorious purpose for marriage. In fact, whether we see it or not, whether it feels like it or not, He is succeeding right now.
“The story about the gift of the bride (Genesis 2:18-23) represents marriage ideally before the Fall, providing… a type of Christ’s relationship to his church (Eph. 5:22-32). This latter represents their relationship by the metaphor of the gospel. As Christ dies for his church, the husband dies for his wife; as the church obeys her Lord in everything, the wife obeys her husband. After the Fall the man and the woman become divided and struggle in their relationship (Gen. 3:16), but God works in the faithful to restore them to their ‘gospel’ relationship.” (Bruce Waltke, Genesis, pp.104-105, emphasis mine)
The story of marriage in the Bible has a happy ending. We, the faithful, are in the middle of it right now. God, whose ideal for marriage was rejected by sinful human beings, sent His only Son to die for us. He bore our sins, died in our place, absorbed God’s wrath, redeemed our lives, and will one day present us faultless before the throne of grace. And He is at work turning sin-shot marriages into gospel relationships.
He works. He restores. He takes divided, struggling, selfish, proud husbands and wives and patiently forges gospel relationships: for His glory and for our good. No matter our difficulty, we have hope because of what God has done and what he is doing. He is even more committed to an ideal marriage than we are.
He works, but we cooperate. We have a part to play. We must “toil” as Paul says, “struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29). By the grace of God we must strive for a gospel relationship. We must seek to become “gospel wives.”
“Being A Gospel Wife” is our new series here at girltalk. Hope you’ll join us!
The first husband and wife, Adam and Eve, had the ideal marriage—for a little while, anyway. But it wasn’t long before sin entered the world (Genesis 3); and almost immediately, the first couple began to have marriage problems. They blamed each other. They argued. They did not love.
Sound familiar? The Fall is a historical event and a present reality in marriage. From that day to now, marriage has been less than ideal, because all marriages for all time have been corrupted by sin.
It is not good.
But the problems in our marriage are bigger than we realize. That’s because the stakes are higher than we think. You see, we don’t just disappoint each other’s expectations, or dash each other’s hopes; we fail to attain God’s glorious ideal of reflecting Christ and His church. And we cannot hope to do so on our own.
But the Bible’s story of marriage doesn’t end here. And neither does yours or mine.
Talk about a dramatic opener. The story of marriage in the Bible begins suddenly, unexpectedly. One moment there is a man and animals and a beautiful world and everything is good. And the next moment, God declares: “it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18).
So God created marriage. And it was good. It is good.
Not only is it good, marriage is glorious: a picture of Christ and the church. God created marriage to display His good news, the gospel. Thus Paul’s stunned reaction: “This mystery is profound” (Eph. 5:32).
”[Paul] interprets the original creation of the husband-and-wife union as itself modeled on Christ’s forthcoming union with the church as his ‘body’. Marriage from the beginning of creation was created by God to be a reflection of and patterned after Christ’s relation to the church. Thus Paul’s commands regarding the roles of husbands and wives do not merely reflect the culture of his day but represent God’s ideal for all marriages at all times, as exemplified by the relationship between the bride of Christ (the church) and Christ himself” (ESV Study Bible, emphasis mine).
Did you catch that? Marriage as a picture of the gospel wasn’t an afterthought. It wasn’t a backup plan. It was the purpose for marriage from the beginning. And God’s purpose hasn’t changed. Reflecting the gospel is God’s ideal for all marriages at all times.
It is good. It is glorious. It is for the gospel.
What do you want from your marriage? What would you change if you could?
No doubt something, or many things, come to mind. In one way or another marriage has probably fallen short of your expectations. But we must consider: where does our definition of “the ideal marriage” come from?
Do we get our cues from the culture and its illusive ideal of a mutually satisfying relationship? Do we compare our marriage to our friends’ marriages, to our everlasting disappointment? Or are we myopically focused on our husband’s weaknesses as the cause of our less than ideal marriage?
We need to ask: What does God want from my marriage? What does He want to change? What is His ideal?
Would it surprise you to know that His goal is not for you and your husband to have a “mutually satisfying relationship”, or to have a marriage that’s as good as or better than your friends, or to finally change that husband of yours?
His goal is far greater than that. His agenda far more glorious, far more satisfying.
What does God’s ideal marriage look like?
The answer begins with a story. A long story. A beautiful story. The story of marriage in the Bible.
“Are you in love with your husband? Not, Do you love him? I know you do. He has been around a long time, and you’re used to him. He is the father of your children. But are you in love with him? How long has it been since your heart really squeezed when you looked at him?...Why is it you have forgotten the things that attracted you to him at first?...Your husband needs to be told that you love him, that he is attractive to you. By the grace of God, I want you to start changing your thought pattern. Tomorrow morning, get your eyes off the toaster or the baby bottles long enough to LOOK at him. Don’t you see the way his coat fits his shoulders? Look at his hands. Do you remember when just to look at his strong hands made your heart lift? Well, LOOK at him and remember. Then loose your tongue and tell him you love him. Will you ask the Lord to give you a sentimental, romantic, physical, in-love kind of love for your husband? He will do this.” ~Shirley Rice
The other day, my three boys tramped downstairs to the kitchen. They were arguing.
“He took my quarters!” my seven-year-old pointed to his brother.
“No, Mom, I brought these quarters home from Mom-Mom’s house!” the accused brother defended himself.
As I tried to get the story from them, one…at…a…time, the words of blame kept flowing, with frequent interruptions and scowls.
My temptation in these moments? I want to bring swift resolution through my commands and directives: “Boy #1 is wrong. Boy #2 is right. Case closed.” I want peace for myself more than I want to teach my children God’s Word.
But my words—although very important!—are not sufficient. My children need to hear God’s Words. They need Scripture, which is “profitable for teaching, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). They need God’s promises and commands sown like seed into their little hearts. They need the words from God’s mouth, which never return empty (Is. 55:11).
So we return to the most often quoted verse in the Chesemore home—Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
“Is corrupting talk coming out of your mouths?” I ask my boys. “What words would give grace to your brother?”
And surprise, surprise—Scripture serves me too. I need the life-giving words of Scripture as much as my sons. I too need the encouragement and correction of Ephesians 4:29.
This is one reason why I must sit and listen to Jesus’ teaching every day. So that I—and my boys—can profit from His Words.
—from the archives
We pick up our series on fear with the second half of Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones’ counsel. We must not listen to ourselves, but we must also fill that space by speaking to ourselves.
Dr. Lloyd Jones explains:
“Our fears are due to our failure to stir up—failure to think, failure to take ourselves in hand. You find yourself looking to the future and then you begin to imagine things and you say: ‘I wonder what is going to happen?’ And then, your imagination runs away with you. You are gripped by the thing…this thing overwhelms you and down you go. Now the first thing you have to do is to take a firm grip of yourself, to pull yourself up, to stir up yourself, to take yourself in hand and to speak to yourself.”
“Talk to yourself out loud, if you have to” a pastor once advised me in the midst of one of my particularly intense battles with fear. So if you ever catch me muttering to myself, you’ll know why.
And what exactly should we say to ourselves?
“Faith reminds itself of what the Scripture calls ‘the exceeding great and precious promises’ says Lloyd Jones. “Faith says: ‘I cannot believe that He who has brought me so far is going to let me down at this point. It is impossible, it would be inconsistent with the character of God.’ So faith, having refused to be controlled by circumstances [or feelings!], reminds itself of what it believes and what it knows.”
Tell your soul—out loud if you have to—what it believes and what it knows.
When fear for our children grips us, we often look for something “new” to help us deal with it. But instead, we must rely on the true and the tried strategies from God’s Word. They are:
Prayer: “...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Promises: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
Saints throughout the centuries have leaned on God’s promises and called out to Him in prayer. And each and every time, they have found Him to be faithful. “I sought the Lord,” David tells us, “and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
So let’s follow the example of David and that “great cloud of witnesses.” Let’s seek God through constant prayer, and in the space of His promises, let’s park our souls.
“[T]ake the…sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Ephesians 6:17-18
To fight fear we are to “pray at all times.” But we have another weapon in our arsenal: the promises of God. We are to wield the Word against the onslaught of mothering fears.
We are to ”take” the Word of God and use it. To do this, we need to have it nearby. This means we need to be daily reading the Word and consistently meditating on it.
And we need to pull out the promises and put them into action. We have to pick up the sword and fight. A sword must be swung in order to deliver a blow.
We have a legacy of faithful, fear-fighting women to follow: “And you are [Sarah’s] children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” 1 Peter 3:6
John Piper writes: “[T]he daughters of Sarah fight the anxiety that rises in their hearts. They wage war on fear, and they defeat it with the promises of God.”
Let’s be daughters of Sarah and fight our mothering fears with the promises of God.