In this series of articles, we've shared many stories of hard times, along with lessons that God has taught us along the way. And although we've tried to give a vision of a vulnerable, intimate relationship where joy is much more prevalent than distress, it's important to understand that overcoming is not a straight road without bends or valleys.
Having an overcoming marriage is not something that happens overnight. It's not a destination where you can chart your arrival, say, in a matter of weeks, months or even years. And there's no magic milestone where you can say, "Now we've arrived at the perfect Christian marriage of our dreams!"
Rather, it is a commitment, a process, a hope that drives us to lift our heads and our hearts again and again to reengage. If we use the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23) as a paradigm for marriage, it's:
- Pulling out the weeds that would choke us
- Identifying the rocky soil of the world, and, when necessary, lifting out the boulders one at a time
- Refusing to let Satan tell us we can never change or steal what's been given to us from God Himself
- Continually guarding our hearts — seeking to become fertile soil that bears fruit
In an overcoming marriage, we understand that the cares of this life will always be there, but there's a bigger vision that sustains us and restores us after we fall.
That vision is Christ living in each of us individually and in the holy temple of our marriage.
Bringing Christ Into Our Marriage
What we've learned is that embracing the life of Christ extends to every aspect of our marriage. What does that mean practically?
- Two lives laid down. Look for opportunities to serve, love and lay down your own agendas to meet the needs of the other — whether in the kitchen or in the bedroom, whether in how you spend your leisure time or the ministries you undertake together.
- Grace extended daily. Move forgiveness from begrudging acceptance to fighting for the other person. (We figure in 28 years of marriage, we've had thousands of opportunities to forgive!) Then, cover your spouse's struggles in liberal prayer.
- Truth honored. Choose to come into the light with struggles, heartaches, needs and desires. Confess when it hurts. Receive your mate's confession humbly, honestly and graciously.
- Acceptance given unconditionally. See beyond each other's character flaws, weaknesses and mistakes to see through eyes of faith the man/woman each of us were created to be. Build a beautiful intimacy where you are both "naked and unashamed."
As we follow Christ in marriage, we create fertile ground where God himself can come and restore hope, mend broken dreams and even redeem us from the depths of darkness.
Together, We Will Overcome
No doubt this is a high calling. But here's the encouraging part. We're all in need of overcoming. Jesus came to model for us how to overcome the world. The book of Revelation tells us that Heaven will be filled with those who have overcome.
Please know that whatever you're going through that impacts your marriage — whether outward battles like addiction, financial struggles and parenting trials, or internal unrest like depression, lust, discouragement or anxiety — there is hope!
And whenever you choose to scorn the shame — and then for the joy set before you, firmly grasp onto your commitment to your mate — you've brought Christ into your marriage. And you've set out on the journey of having an overcoming marriage.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." — John 16:33