June 15, 2015

The Spiritual Umbrella of Marriage

Gary Thomas — 

The Spiritual Umbrella of Marriage final

Rain is going to fall on your marriage; it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

Which means, you better have a spiritual umbrella nearby.

  • One husband wrote to me, furious that his libido is “twenty times” that of his wife.
  • A wife is upset that her husband has a more intimate relationship with his game controller than he has with her.
  • A husband believes his wife says “yes” to everyone—the kids, her parents, their kids’ school teachers, friends at church—making it all but impossible for them to get any alone time where she’s not distracted, trying to save the world while she may be losing her marriage.
  • A wife can’t believe that her husband has fallen again after promising he was done with an activity that disgusts her.

I could go on and on. The circumstances may change, but the question is always the same: “What am I supposed to do?”

When your spouse lets you down…

When your spouse is too busy….

When your spouse is sinning…

When your spouse is apathetic…

When your spouse is ill…

When your spouse is acting in an evil manner…

When your spouse is succumbing to horrendous priorities, what are you supposed to do?

Paul answers this question for us in the book of Philippians. He really does. But before we get to that answer, we have to set it up (as Paul does).

The first thing you notice with Philippians is that Paul is obsessed.


In the first sentence, he calls himself a servant “of Christ Jesus.” In the second sentence he writes to the “saints in Christ Jesus.” In the third sentence he offers grace and peace from “the Lord Jesus Christ.” In verse six he reminds them of the “day of Christ Jesus.” In verse eight he tells them how he loves them with the “affection of Christ Jesus.” In verse ten he mentions the “day of Christ” once again, and in verse eleven he speaks of the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.

Eleven verses, and Christ is mentioned 7 times.

Yeah, obsession is a proper word here. A glorious obsession.

We’ll never get Paul’s words to husbands, wives, children, even slaves, until we understand his theme song, “For to me, to live is Christ.” (1:21)

More than he cared about anything—his comfort, his freedom (in prison or not), his standard of living, his reputation, Paul cared about the Name. He lived for the Gospel (the good news story) of Jesus Christ.

So the umbrella for every possible marital situation you will ever face, in Paul’s mind, is crystal clear: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (1:27)red umbrella

Our first thought—beyond our own hurt, our own welfare, our own comfort, our own desire, we embrace an entirely new motivation: “What action of mine will best serve the cause of Christ?”

Sometimes, it might indeed be leaving. Other times, it might be staying. On occasion, it might mean patiently enduring. At still other times, it could mean courageously confronting.

Whatever the response, the all-important motivation must be, “How does this reflect on Christ’s work in the world?”

If the call of the Gospel is to endure a difficulty or sacrifice a pleasure, we find joy even in that: “For it has been granted to you, on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.” (1:29)

Our individual actions when married to an addict, an angry person, a busy person, an insensitive person, may vary, but every one of us should strive for the same motivation: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

It may not always be obvious what the specific answer will be, but motivation is well over half of decision making. In good faith, before God, I’m seeking a response that is worthy of the good news of Christ. Even if we make a mistake and apply that motivation in a poor way, God will see our heart.

Instead of asking what we want, what will make us happy, what will serve our first interests, we are encouraged to ask, “What will my actions say to my non-believing friends? What response will best showcase the love, grace, and presence of God in my life? What response best serves the work of Christ’s church?”

I can’t control how loved ones treat me, but I can control whether my response to their actions is worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.




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15 responses to The Spiritual Umbrella of Marriage

  1. RJ proud of you for not giving up. It is well worth the sacrifice to keep your covenant with GOD and your spouse. We’ve had a real rough marriage but never gave into divorce but gave into forgiveness and learning to trust again & again. We will be celebrating 45 years of marriage soon. Praise our Mighty GOD. We both have changed a lot and are closer to GOD and each other because we persevered through our trials. Amen JESUS is the only way.

  2. Keep looking up RJ!

  3. I want to thank everyone for your words of encouragement and prayers. I believe that God will have His way in my life and grow through us in our marriage.
    Gary! Thank you. I’m anxiously waiting for my set of Dvd’ s on Sacred Marriage which I ordered. I’m looking forward to equipping myself and my wife with all the necessary tools. I hope to some day make contact with you so that we can invite you to our beautiful country, South Africa.
    Thank you and I will continue to seek God’s will for my life. I hope I can continue to post on this blog.
    God bless you all!

  4. RJ…know I am saying a prayer for you today. My husband and I have been married 20yrs this Sept. We’ve been at the point of no going back, yet we went back and God saw fit to make our marriage and love for one another thrive. More importantly, our faith in Him has thrived. I don’t have magical words to offer, just wanted to encourage you to stay in God’s Word, humble yourself before your Heavenly Father, confess your inability to fix or lead your family on your own and thank Him for His Grace. And then may I humbly suggest going to your wife and simply tell her that you know you haven’t always been the husband you should have been, but that God is working on you, that you love her, ask for her forgiveness and then just proceed forward, choosing to grow in Christ daily. Don’t let Satan tempt you to look back in guilt or shame. Joyfully proclaim this is who I used to be/where I used to be but this is where God has brought me today and sing HIS praises for all to see! May God bless your marriage.

    • M, thanks for offering RJ wise advice and kind, soft words at just the right time

      • It’s only through wise counsel, especially within the last five years, from God’s Word and the likes of authors such as yourself and Emmerson (love and respect) that I am able to respond, so thank YOU! 🙂

  5. I cannot begin to express how much I’m struggling at the moment, though blown away by these gems and jewels of the truth about what God is wanting from me. It just seems that I don’t know where to begin. I have messed up on every level in wanting to be a good husband and father. Always trying to fix things and others and not listening to the voice of God through His Spirit. I do believe that I have pushed her away from God and somehow can sense her disappointment in my behaviour and actions. My wife is not as communicative as I am.
    Gary I get lost reading your material and so much want to rise above my circumstances but I’m afraid I really don’t know how or what to do.

    • I’ve found that humility is never a bad way to respond. Tell your wife what you told us–that you’ve messed up on every level, but that you want to get things right. Ask her to pray for you. Let her see the repentance and perhaps that will soften her heart. Ironically, when we men respond with an arrogant “I can make this better” we often make things worse because it was our pride that caused so much to go wrong in the first place. I don’t know you, so I’m not accusing you of pride, but I’m speaking generally. Even if she’s not as communicative as you, have you ever asked her to pray out loud for you? That’s a humble request that can soften many a wife’s heart.

  6. Does marriage impact on how you see GOD or read the bible? Many times I get the feeling people who are married have a deeper understanding of GOD’s word and impact on their lives. I’ve never been married, but have asked this question of people who have gone from being single to being married. So far all of them have said, that being married has given the a deeper understanding of bible verses.

    What do you say?

    • In a sense, yes–but even more, I’d say being a father has given me a deeper understanding of God’s heart, particularly looking at my wife as His daughter.

  7. Deeply comforted and greatly encouraged by these words.,Thankyou and bless you!

  8. Ironically, people who come to me for spiritual advice are looking for an Umbrella ANSWER, ie. “If this is your situation, this should be your reaction.” I’m grateful for these words, Gary:

    “Sometimes, it might indeed be leaving. Other times, it might be staying. On occasion, it might mean patiently enduring. At still other times, it could mean courageously confronting.”

    Just as every person is different, every marriage is different; and God’s diagnosis, prognosis and prescription will be different! As a result, my only wise and godly advice is exactly what you’ve stated so clearly here, Gary: Go to Jesus. Seek Him. Humble yourself. Do not make any decisions without His guidance, His Word, His blessing. I will pray with you and for you, but only Jesus can lead you.

    Thank you for this good word, Gary!

  9. Such a great message here, Gary. Marriage is forever; in good times and in bad. Today, when couples encounter difficulty, the world’s message is to leave and start over with someone else. What God joined together, man should not separate. Trials build such wonderful closeness and faith, if only couples would do the work required to get to the other side of it.

  10. Strange how God always seem to know what we need and when we need it. Today was one of tho days. Thanks Gary, you and the Holy Spirit made my day.

  11. Amen and Amen!! If we all would apply this timely message, marriages would no doubt prosper. This is the perfect life coaching goal for the week! Thanks, Gary!