Do you believe that couples who possess a strong faith have an advantage over those who don't? To put it another way, how important is the spiritual side of a marriage relationship? Is it crucial that husband and wife share the same faith and practice it together? If so, why?
The spiritual component of life is the core around which everything else revolves. It's the key to healing, wholeness, and well-being in every area of human experience. Since God created men and women in His own image (Genesis 1:27), it's reasonable to conclude that they can never be complete apart from a relationship with Him. And as long as men and women remain incomplete as individuals, it follows that something vital will always be missing from their relationships with one another. As Christians, we are convinced that the most fundamental of all relationships, our relationship with the Creator, can be sealed and secured in only one way - through faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
In view of this, our answer to your question has to be a definite yes. The spiritual aspect is crucial to the health and success of every marriage. Couples with a strong shared faith do have an advantage over those who don't. Husbands and wives who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ are in touch with the Life that pulses at the center of the universe in a way that others can never be.
Is this to say that Christian marriages are perfect or that couples who share a strong faith never experience any problems? Of course not. The Bible is up front about the fact that all of us - believers included - are fallen people living in a fallen world. As such, we will continue to wrestle with sin, selfishness, and interpersonal conflict until the day we meet the Lord face to face. We're in the process of being sanctified, but we have not yet reached the goal. Because of this, we can't hope to maintain healthy relationships with one another - especially in marriage - unless we're willing to humble ourselves, confess our faults, and seek forgiveness on a daily basis. This, too, is an essential part of every couple's spiritual life.
Does this mean that, if you're not a Christian, that your marriage is "invalid" or "inferior" in some way? Absolutely not. In our opinion, the notion that marriage is valid only for believers or that it should be viewed only as an ordinance of the Church is inconsistent with what Scripture tells us. The Bible teaches us that God established marriage for the good of all mankind "from the beginning of creation"- before the giving of the Law, before the founding of the Jewish nation, and before the institution of the Church. With or without its spiritual component, marriage is vital to the survival of healthy families, and thus to human society as a whole. But we believe that it can be enriched beyond all human expectation when it draws its strength and inspiration directly from its Designer.
If you and your spouse are not believers, and if you'd like to know more about what it means to put your faith in Jesus Christ, call us. Focus on the Family has a staff of pastoral counselors available who would love to discuss these questions with you over the phone.
If you are Christians but find yourselves struggling to give your faith a more central role in your marriage, we have a few suggestions for you. It's a good idea to start moving in the direction of praying and studying the Scriptures together on a regular basis, but it's also important to avoid forcing the issue in a legalistic way. You don't want to turn the spiritual life into a source of guilt or a burden that robs you of your joy and zest for life. Here are some things to keep in mind as you think about these issues.
- Start with yourself. A joint prayer and devotional life for a married couple works best when it's a natural outgrowth of each partner's personal time with God. If you haven't been praying and reading the Bible much yourself, you might want to do so on your own for a while before moving any further.
- Don't rush it. If you're the more interested spouse, be patient. Praying together, like any family tradition you establish, must spring from what both partners agree to and feel at ease with.
- Start small. Many couples have never seen their parents pray together, and find it an uneasy, challenging experience. So start with what you know. Give yourselves time and don't push it. You might begin by praying at mealtimes. In time, you might feel comfortable going beyond the blessing of your food to remembering the needs of friends and family members. Go slow and take it one day at a time.
- Use the resources available. Do you know an older couple who might be able to serve as mentors or role models in this area? If so, ask them if they'd be willing to help you out. Devotional books, pamphlets, and magazines can also help take the pressure off by providing structure for your prayer and study times. See the resources referenced below if you need help locating some helpful materials.
Growing Spiritually As a Couple: Gary Thomas explains how husbands and wives can grow closer together as they draw closer to Christ.