Several years ago we attended an EXCELLENT Focus on the Family satellite marriage conference called Focus on Marriage. It was terrific! Even at our stage of marriage we learned a lot. Oh, how we wish every Christian couple could have been a part of it!
Unfortunately, that’s not possible. But what we can do is share some things that one of the speakers—Gary Thomas, spoke. (There’s also a related video below to watch.)
Gary is one of our favorite authors on the subject of marriage. He spoke on the point of “Seeing Your Marriage Through the Eyes of God.” He chose a great topic because it’s something that too many spouses forget. In all honesty, we did! For many years we thought marriage was all about us, and our happiness. We focused on what WE were getting out of marriage. (And that’s probably why we were so unhappy.)
But eventually, the Holy Spirit spoke to us in different ways to help us to see that marriage is more about God than it is about us. After all, it is a living picture of Christ’s love for His church. So in light of this Truth, there’s an important question to prayerfully consider. What does GOD get out of our marriage? We had to confess—not much, if anything!
How about you? Have you ever considered what GOD is getting out of your marriage? Is HE magnified in the way you live with each other? When people see how you interact with your spouse do they see God? Do they see even a glimpse of Him? Do your words and actions with your spouse, reveal and reflect the love of Christ? If not (and even if your answer is yes) please prayerfully consider the following:
Focus on Marriage
Below are some things Gary said at the conference on this issue that I TRIED to write down as fast as I could. I hope I am quoting him correctly. Nonetheless, we pray each quote ministers to your marriage as they have ours. Additionally, you will find [bracketed] statements made by us, as well. As you read the following, ask God to reveal to you what He has here for you in your marriage.
First, as followers of Christ:
• “We have to quit going to church for our marriages and to Caesar for our divorces.”
It’s important to note:
• “Marriage places a spotlight on my sin much more than I experienced when I was single. [As Gary pointed out, your lifestyle isn’t bumped into, to the same extent, when you’re living on your own. So after marrying you can become more aware of your sinful ways. Plus, you focus on your spouse’s sin.] And what God showed me is that we have the amazing ability to be blinded to our own sin.”
• “If your goal in life is to serve Jesus, stay single. That’s because marriage is going to take an immense amount of time and energy. But if your goal in life is to be like Jesus, get married because marriage will reveal your weaknesses. It will also challenge you to grow. [That doesn’t mean that you can’t be like Jesus if you’re single. But in marriage you can better experience the sacrificial servant attitude Christ took on as our Bridegroom.] Ultimately, a married person is to take on the nature of a servant.” [This is just like Christ modeled for us when He died to self for the sake of His bride.]
Additionally, Gary Thomas challenges our thinking by saying:
• “Have you ever considered the following point? What if God didn’t design marriage to make us happy? Instead, what if God designed marriage to make us holy? What if God’s purpose for marriage goes beyond our fun? What if God wants to use my marriage to reveal my weaknesses? Could it be that God wants to teach me sides of Himself I could not see before, to teach me how to love?
“Marriage reveals my spiritual weaknesses. It gives me the opportunity to master patience, forgiveness, faithfulness, goodness, and other virtues God is trying to build in us. In fact, that might be God’s most important purpose for your marriage. It may be to help you to grow up.”
• “What is behind the problems in marriage? We see the answer in James 3:2: ‘We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.‘”
Gary was telling of a woman who told him that her marriage was difficult.
To that, Gary said to her:
“You don’t have to tell me that you’re in a difficult marriage. That’s redundant. Marriage IS difficult. That’s a given!” [Gary pointed out James 3:2. And then he told of the warning the Apostle Paul gave in 1 Corinthians 7:28. “Those who marry will face many troubles in this life; I want to spare you this.“]
But once you are married, and when (not if) you are facing “many troubles”:
• “In finding help for your marriage, it’s not so much the ‘How to’ that is needed, but the ‘Heart to’ do what is right and what is needed. If you know the ‘How to’, but you don’t have the ‘Heart to’ do what is needed, the ‘How to’ won’t matter. You won’t do it. One of the ways to renew the ‘Heart to’ improve your marriage is to rediscover the purpose of marriage.”
• “Aren’t we asking more of marriage than God expects it to give? It’s foolish to allow romantic attraction to mainly determine WHO we marry and WHEN we are to divorce. Scientific studies show bio-chemically, that the highs of romantic feelings aren’t continually sustainable.” [As a result, we could easily make grave mistakes and sin if we allow ourselves to be guided by our emotional, romantic feelings of attachment.]
Gary Also Pointed Out:
• “The Bible tells us that we all stumble and fall and sin. Before you marry you need to know how the person you are marrying stumbles. You want to know what you’re agreeing to live with and what you have to work with. Marriage isn’t about being young and romantic together. It’s about growing old together.”
• “When you married for trivial reasons, you’ll divorce for trivial reasons. A reason to stay married is to seek the heart to become a better spouse. It is to become a God-centered spouse, not a spouse-centered spouse.”
• “To be a God-centered spouse, I am called to love my spouse out of my love for God. [Gary refers to Matthew 6:33, which says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.“] The question to ask yourself is: How do I bring God’s Kingdom into my house? … Seek first God’s righteousness in your attitude and actions within your marriage. And God will surprise you in other ways from behind.”
Then Gary referred to 2 Corinthians 7:1, which says, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.“
He then said:
“We are called to purify ourselves, to put the spotlight on ourselves—not to aim to purify our spouse. Marriage gives me opportunity to apply these principles every day and to purify myself.”
As far as how we treat our spouse, Gary shares:
• “If you want to get on my good side, be good to one of my kids. If you want to be on my bad side, be mean to one of my kids. I’m a Dad and I love my kids and want others to treat them kindly. God is your heavenly Father. Your spouse is one of God’s kids. If you want to please God, be good to his kid—your spouse.
“…Some husbands wouldn’t know an emotion if it bit him on the nose and he bled. But you please God’s heart when you love him anyway. He is God’s son, just as a wife is God’s daughter.
“Love God’s son (or daughter) despite how they stumble [sin]. Marriage brings out the ways we stumble. Can you love your spouse out of reverence for God?”
Gary additionally asked and then stated:
• “How can I face God someday and say to Him, ‘I’m sorry, your daughter (or son) is not good enough for me?’ I’m telling you; Marriage will challenge you.
“And part of that challenge is that marriage brings out a lot of bad attitudes in each of us. But biblical God-centered love in action is what makes a marriage a success. Through our married experiences God teaches us what love is—not based on human expectations, but on God-centered love.”
We pray what Gary Thomas had to say has spoken to your heart through the above statements. It’s important for us to focus on marriage. It’s important that we focus on our marriage. And it’s important that we approach our marriage from God’s position.
Below is a related video for your viewing enrichment. In it, Gary Thomas makes some great additional points. And he does it so well! We HIGHLY recommend you watch it (especially with your spouse). You’ll find a few commercials pop in (via You Tube) from time to time. But don’t let that throw you. Just skip the ads when they let you. It’s definitely worth hassle. Again, ask God to show you what He has for you to learn through this video presentation:
Gary has written the books Sacred Marriage. He also came up with a follow up book: Devotions for a Sacred Marriage: A Year of Weekly Devotions for Couples. We highly recommend it to every married couple.
In addition, Gary has written the books, Loving Him Well: Practical Advice on Influencing Your Husband. For singles, he also wrote the book, The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why? as well as other books on other subjects.
We hope the things you have viewed and read here, and other readings—especially the Bible will inspire you to center your love on God and love your spouse “as unto the Lord.” By living out these principles, you will help your marriage, but even more so, you will please the heart of your Heavenly Father.
Cindy and Steve Wright
To read additional quotes from the other speakers at the Focus on Marriage Conference, we will provide a link below to a web site where blogger, Jenny Slain, shares some of what she learned.
— ADDITIONALLY —
We give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below to do so:
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