This afternoon I had the chance to start reading Francis and Lisa Chan’s book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. I try to make it my practice to read a book on marriage each year, not only for my personal benefit, but also for tools to care for married couples in the church. I have appreciated Francis Chan’s books in the past and am looking forward to reading this one in its entirety.
The Chans start the book in a strange place. Many marriage books start you off with some kind of reflection or analysis of your marriage. They asked questions like: What are your struggles? What are your joys? Where you are united? Where do you tend to fight? Rather than starting their book off by reflecting on the state of a couple’s marriage, the Chans start by calling the couple to reflect on the state of their understanding and fear of God. And as I think about it, that is exactly where any discussion of marriage should start.
The fact is, our relationship with God is far more important than our marriage. Our relationship with God sets the tone for our marriage. Our relationship with God is eternal, our marriages will not be. (Matt. 22:30) And the problems in our marriages are actually often problems in our relationship with, understanding of or fear of God. As the Chans note, most marriage problems are really God problems.
And so, the Chans challenge couples to start staring deeply at God rather than spending a lot of time looking at each other and themselves as a couple. Let’s face it, we are very guilty of looking at each other rather than looking at God. I don’t mean looking at how we are aging or gaining a few pounds or sprouting some (or in my case, many) gray hairs. I mean we get far too wrapped up in looking at our spouses in other ways. Some look at their marriages as a competition – when one spouse gets something, the other needs something equivalent, whether they can afford it or not. Others look at their marriages and just see the bad habits and the irritating things. Sometimes we get very convinced of our own superiority or, dare I say it, “godliness” by dwelling on the failures of our spouses. Still others wrap all their energy and focus into their earthly marriage relationship, becoming much too obsessed with their spouse and far too apathetic toward God.
All this goes away, the Chans suggest, when we start looking at God. We need to stare deeply at Him. We need to read and meditate on Him as He is described in the Scriptures. We need to cultivate a healthy fear of Him as God Almighty, Creator, Sustainer and Lord of all. We need to bow in awe of Him as we contemplate His salvation, His goodness and His grace poured out into our lives in Jesus Christ. We need to find satisfaction in him. And that means not just being satisfied with what God has done or is doing our lives or our circumstances, but being satisfied in Him. Do we understand God as being the source of all our contentment? Can we put aside our pursuit of personal satisfaction, even personal satisfaction in marriage, to gaze deeply at God and find real satisfaction in Him?
I have only read 1 chapter of the Chans book, but I am looking forward to the rest. The chapter I read was entitled, “Marriage isn’t that Great.” Doesn’t that sound like a strange chapter title for a book on marriage? But it is true – marriage isn’t that great when we compare our earthly marriages to what our relationship with God should be like. Our earthly marriage relationship does not ultimately hold a candle to our eternal, Godward relationship. And the joy, the satisfaction and the contentment we find in a good marriage does not begin to compare to the joy, satisfaction and contentment we can find in God.