Early in our marriage, my purpose in life could be summarized as the "work, make money, retire, play" strategy. My wife, Ann, and I did not intentionally align on our life purposes. I assumed that the American dream was a purpose Ann could agree with and get behind. While we both wanted children, we never really discussed our purpose as husband and wife or our purpose if God chose to give us a family.
Then we realized it was time to make a change. We decided we no longer wanted to pursue differing goals. I felt we needed a united answer to the question Why are we here?
You and your spouse each need to know why God put you here on earth and what He wants to accomplish through you as husband and wife. You will then become very intentional about achieving that common purpose.
A divine purpose answers the ultimate questions of Why am I here? What does God want me to accomplish? and What does He desire for us to accomplish together? Part of your responsibility as husband and wife is to look beyond the financial outcomes and decide how to impact your family and the broader world you are called to serve.
I have found that many couples tend to make assumptions about their purpose. Oftentimes, a husband and wife don't easily discover that they have vastly different ideas of what their real purpose in life is. This will inevitably lead to division and stress that pulls marriages apart. I am certainly not saying couples cannot have different interests, different careers or different ideas of how to accomplish life goals. But they need to have a big-picture goal of what they are striving to achieve as a result of these collective efforts.
Each of us has a common purpose. As articulated in the Westminster Shorter Catechisem: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Once a couple agrees that this is their ultimate, overarching purpose, they will ask how to determine a specific purpose as husband and wife. Here are three steps to assist in this discovery process:
1. Know thyself
We are each "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). We are made to fulfill God's purposes, not our own. A helpful step toward that end is to know and understand our unique design and allow God to use us according to how He has made us.
In our case, Ann is designed by God to enjoy reading, studying and learning. She is totally happy to curl up by a warm fire with a cup of coffee and dive into a good book. Given the choice between going to a movie and browsing through a bookstore, she will choose the bookstore or any opportunity to learn and grow every time. Although she is very capable of thriving in a variety of careers outside our home, Ann chose to use her gifts and talents to glorify God by educating our four sons. She has operated within her design.
My unique design involves the gifts of leading, managing and influencing. During the early years of our marriage, my career was in business. When God called me to serve in full-time ministry, there was a clear convergence of my gifts and talents that could be used to advance Crown Financial's mission. If Crown needed someone to build houses, fix cars, program computers or provide medical care, my gifts would not have been a good fit. My purpose, like yours, is to glorify God; my specific calling is serving in leadership at Crown.
As a husband, I support Ann in her calling, and she supports me in my calling. Together we are seeking to glorify God in our common responsibility of raising our family and home-schooling our children.
2. The "Sound-Mind Principle"
Bill Bright, the co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ International (now known as Cru), created a process that has been very helpful to me. The process is taken from 2 Timothy 1:7: "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (NKJV). Bill Bright called it "The Sound-Mind Principle," referring to the distinction between a carnal person, who uses only common sense to make decisions, and someone who is controlled by the Holy Spirit and has the advantage of God's wisdom and power when making decisions. This approach provides Christians the freedom to make rational decisions based upon knowledge and wise counsel, while also relying upon the Holy Spirit to control the final outcome.
The process, which Bright explained in a letter, involves answering a series of questions and completing a few exercises:
- What is the greatest thing you can do to help others?
- Make a list of the most logical ways your life can be used to accomplish the most for the glory of God with the desire to put His will above all else.
- List the pros and cons of each opportunity.
- Evaluate these opportunities in relation to your talents, training, personality and other gifts God has given you.
- Ask yourself where or how, according to the Sound-Mind Principle, the Lord Jesus Christ can accomplish the most in continuing His great ministry of "seeking and saving the lost."
Bright often emphasized this process can be valid only if certain factors are present: you are not walking in obedience to sin, your life is fully surrendered to Christ and you are filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. It is also wise, in accordance with Scripture, that we seek the counsel of godly, mature Christians before finalizing our decisions.
3. The trust-and-obey method
Perhaps you are painfully lonely right now. Possibly you and your spouse are deeply divided on your life purpose. Maybe one of you is not a Christian. Maybe you have considered divorce or separation; your marriage is in tatters. It may be that you are deeply divided over your finances and misaligned on how you want to operate as one. Let me assure you that God knows and cares about your pain.
I counsel you to trust Him fully. Obey His Word. Wait for Him to give you the desires of your heart. He may be working to change your desires. He may be at work to give you what you desire. Either way, it is important to delight in Him today, to fully surrender to Him today and to put your full confidence in Him regardless of your circumstances, your pain or your heartache. I encourage you to record the desires of your heart somewhere you will see the words regularly, then write out Psalm 37:4 beside it.
Ann prayed for unity in our marriage for many years. She longed to be united in mind and soul with me. She obeyed the Lord, waiting for me to also desire to obey Him. God answered her prayers. We now have a united purpose. Our hearts are united, and our finances are aligned.
Once you and your spouse have established your common purpose to glorify God and have settled on your specific callings, you can unite your hearts to achieve these life goals and align your financial decisions to support them. Knowing your purpose as a couple will allow you to make decisions about where to live, what type of lifestyle you should have and how to allocate your finances to ensure your purpose is achieved. A couple without a purpose is in danger of achieving nothing of eternal value.Chuck and Ann Bentley have been married since 1978. Chuck is the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries and the author of Money Problems, Marriage Solutions, from which this article is adapted.