God’s Design for Your Unique Marriage Differences

Happy married couple standing outside. She's hugging his shoulders from behind.
Husbands can reveal God's loving, self-sacrificing movement into people's hearts by the way they treat their wife. And wives can reveal God's invitation to be filled with His strengthening presence.


Listen to a broadcast about the unique aspects of male and female with Dr. Larry Crabb.

Western culture’s movement away from God provides a rich opportunity for Christian men and women to reveal what following God’s loving, self-sacrificing design for male and female can really look like and, in the process reveal God’s heart. The opportunity must be seized — and by God’s grace, it can be.

Husbands have the distinctive opportunity to reveal God’s  movement into people’s lonely hearts by the way they treat their wife. And wives have the unique opportunity to reveal God’s invitation for empty people to be filled with His strengthening presence by the way wives respond to their husband.

At the risk of being a little bit inappropriate, I believe God designed the physical relationship of a husband and wife as a metaphor for their personal relationship. I believe the primary things my wife, Rachael, wants (the things that she’s open to receive from me) are to be noticed, to be treasured and to be cherished in the deepest part of her soul. And God has designed me, as her husband, to remember His design and move into the deepest parts of her emotional being.

The woman is open to receive. The man is designed to move. When I recognize that Rachael longs to rest in the presence of a man who’s strong enough to not be thrown by the difficulties of life and still move toward her, then she can rest in the strength of that man. That’s what she longs for. So, do I remember how God has designed my wife, and do I see her and desire to embrace what is deepest within her?

Perhaps as never before in the history of Western culture, we need to recapture a fundamental truth about Christianity: God always does what He does for His own glory. Let me put that same thought another way: Because God, as the three-person divine community, is the supreme model of perfect and joyful relating, He created us male and female. Not merely to procreate and enjoy pleasurable sex and fulfilling relationships but to put His relational style on display, especially in marriage.

Husbands displaying traits of Jesus

Jesus, under authority from His Father and in the power of the Holy Spirit, moved from heaven’s joy-filled community into earth’s misery-stained chaos to sacrifice himself for the eternal joy of God-rejecting rebels. The Hebrew word for male in Genesis 1: 27 implies one who moves. It follows that husbands, uniquely designed to reveal God’s way of relating, are called to display the way Jesus moved to meet others’ needs by moving sacrificially toward their wives with her well-being in view.

Wives displaying traits of Jesus

Now resurrected and returned to the divine community, Jesus invites us to move toward the Father with confidence that He will warmly receive us and, by His Spirit, provide everything we need to carry out His plan for us. The Hebrew word for female in Genesis 1:27 implies one who is open to receive. It follows that wives are specially designed to open themselves, not to all movement, but only to godly movement from their husbands, and to receive such movement with godly delight. In so doing, wives reveal the way Jesus opened himself to invite our movement into the relational joy of His divine community.

Couples modeling how God relates to us

Movement and invitation: the two-part rhythm of how God relates to us. The Gospel of Christ reveals the nature of divine relating: movement into the heart, invitation to delight. The marriage of a man and a woman puts divine relating on display for others to see and to be drawn into the relational beauty of God. It can only achieve God’s purpose when a marriage is a God-glorifying covenant between a male and a female.

God’s design is sheer beauty, and it leads to joy. Both male and female are called to equally high ground in God’s plan, to the privilege of putting Jesus on display by how each gender relates. Christian men and women have the opportunity to show the satisfying beauty of God’s design, nowhere more clearly than in a Christian marriage.

Dr. Larry Crabb is the author of Fully Alive.

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