Personally I try to read a book on marriage every year. I have two reasons for this. First, it is good for my own marriage and second, it gives me a greater basis for counseling people with marriage issues. My book for this year is Paul David Tripp's What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage. I was excited the find out that Dr. Tripp will be speaking on that topic in Missoula in October, 2012. (For more details, look here.) The only bad thing is that I have to wait a year to hear him.
Dr. Tripp lays out three essential perspectives on marriage that we all need to be reminded of. The first is this – we are conducting our marriages in a fallen world. I can hear some of you saying – duh! - we know that. But do we always think about how it affects our marriages?
Simply put, we live in a world that does not function as God intended it to function. God created it perfect, sin messed it up. Everything in our world is touched by the brokenness of our world. Sometimes the affect of sin is rather minor, other times it is major and life altering. Whichever the case it, we cannot escape this environment.
The fact that God allows us to live and love in a broken world is not an accident. While God is not the author of the sin in our world, He has a plan and purpose in the midst of that sin. He intends to use the difficulties we face – in life, in marriage, at work or wherever – to do something in us that cannot be done any other way.
Most people pursue happiness in marriage. Not a bad thing – there is a well-being that happens when a couple has a happy marriage. But is happiness in a marriage a big enough goal for a couple who believes? Tripp suggest that God has better things in mind, bigger things, deeper and more necessary things, eternal things. Rather than shooting for personal happiness, God envisions us aiming for personal holiness. God's purpose is to work through our daily circumstances, those situations tainted by the brokenness of the world, to change us. In other words, since we are sinners, God is working to rescue you from you. That might mean that there are times when, in love, God interrupts or compromises our happiness for our holiness. That is His unshakable commitment in our life.
And though those times when our happiness is interrupted can be painful, they should also produce hope. It is a hope that says that God is in the middle of those circumstances or that situation, molding us. His purpose is to help us mature in Him, so we can respond to life better. That makes us a better person to live with, which of course results in a better marriage. All of this is there to fulfill God's eternal purpose for us. As the apostle Paul says in his writings:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Rom. 8:29-30, NIV)
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18, NIV)
Stay tuned for the second essential perspective on marriage.