July 17, 2015

The Best Marriage Is… A Truly Sacred Marriage

Gary Thomas — 

A Truly Sacred Marriage Final

You can read all the “how to” books you want. You can apply all the fun little intimacy exercises, burn through all the clever conversation starters, or exhaust half a dozen “date night” idea books. And I’m not suggesting you don’t. What I am suggesting is that most all of the marital wisdom you need is contained in one short paragraph in a book that was written over 2,000 years ago.

This advice begins with a spiritual journey (Any marriage advice that doesn’t start here won’t get at the root issue):

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with his Spirit…”

A truly sacred marriage begins with a Trinitarian flare:

  • We are rooted in our identity in Christ; that’s how we see ourselves.
  • We get our primary, ongoing comfort (that we need so desperately, and without which we all become addicts) from the love of the Father.
  • We live as radically dependent people on the ongoing presence and work of the Holy Spirit (because we don’t have a tenth of the power we need on our own).

This Trinitarian reality, and it alone, makes the amazing marriage we’ll soon read about possible.

But before we get there, ask if you wake up and consciously embrace a Trinitarian faith. Is this your underlying foundation? “I’m united in Christ, I’m spending time to receive love from the Father, and I am leaning on the Holy Spirit.”

You can’t do what follows next if you don’t first do that.

So what does happen next?

“If any tenderness and compassion…”

When we are united in Christ, when we are receiving the Father’s love, when we are offering ourselves to the Holy Spirit, God’s tenderness and compassion pour out of us. You want to bless your spouse? Be bathed in God’s tenderness and compassion. When this happens, you don’t feel sorry for yourself—how could you? Wrapped in the Trinity, you are among the most blessed! You don’t resent service—you look for service, you have a passion for service. Even opportunities to sacrifice can feel, at times, like joy-filled invitations. But only when we’re plugged into the Trinity. No one lives like this on their own.

“Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose…”

This is one amazing marriage! Two people, husband and wife, living out of the Trinity and therefore like-minded in Him, sharing His love, having the same spirit and purpose because God is the one Presence that can unify two distinct individuals.

Any conflict can be resolved, because if you live with one purpose and if you listen to one voice eventually consensus can and will be found.

It’s when married couples live with two distinct ultimate purposes: my happiness or hers, my demand for respect or her demand for love, “you have to meet my love language” or “no, you have to first meet mine” that we get torn apart. (Don’t get me wrong: I’m fan of these books when they are read to help us serve each other—what the authors clearly intend—rather than raise new demands.)

Doesn’t it sound wonderful to have a marriage where the two of you are “like-minded, having the same love, and being one in spirit and purpose?” Isn’t this the intimacy we all long for? Yes, it is!

But we’re not done. To maintain this attitude we have to:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider each other better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Did you catch that word “nothing?” I don’t perform any act that is motivated by selfish ambition or vain conceit. To live out of the Trinity is, by definition, to stop living for myself, even in my marriage. I adopt an entirely different mindset. I’m not obsessed with manipulating my spouse to do what I want her to do; I am singularly focused on serving and loving her, because I consider her needs as more important than mine.

If you think you married “beneath” you and you can’t possibly treat your spouse as “better” than you, hold your breath, because this is the sentence where it all ends:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

If Jesus can look at us this way, we can look at our spouse this way.

I’m going to skip several verses to bring this to a close (yes, I’m in Philippians chapter 2). Marriage provides a marvelous gymnasium to take this truth seriously and apply verses 12-13:

“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

I don’t naturally have this mindset. I wake up and think thoughts of myself. I wallow in my independence. And Paul says, “Stop that! Immerse yourself in the Trinity, be joined in a harmony that is literally heavenly. Live with a different passion: others, not yourself. Keep practicing this as God works through you. It’s what He created you to do. It’s what He wants you to become, more and more each day.”

Remember: we can’t skip step one—ever. If you don’t immerse yourself in unity in Christ, if you don’t receive the Father’s love (“We love because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19), if you are a stranger to the Holy Spirit, you can’t have this kind of marriage.

But if you want this kind of marriage and place yourself under the Trinity, we have this glorious promise that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” God knows what He’s doing. He can give you this kind of marriage.

This is a truly sacred marriage, and there isn’t any better.

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil 2:1-5, 12b-13)

Note: This posts celebrates the pre-release of the updated and revised edition of Sacred Marriage, which comes out in just a few weeks.  You can pre-order by clicking on the book.

Sacred Marriage ReRelease


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13 responses to The Best Marriage Is… A Truly Sacred Marriage

  1. Not something I’m proud of, but I am a man whom you described in an earlier post as “the husband will commit fornication, and the wife will be considered partially responsible for setting him up”.
    The guilt and shame was unbearable. The devastating effects were rippling.
    Reading your “Sex Isn’t Optional” blog almost validated why the affair occurred.
    My unfaithfulness was my choice. I won’t incriminate my wife for her actions or lack thereof.
    You hit the nail on the head when you said our identity is found in Jesus, and that our primary ongoing comfort should come from the Father.
    I was guilty of relying on my wife, instead of God.
    When my tank was empty I longed for my wife to fill it. I wanted to feel loved, to feel needed. Maybe my expectations were too high.
    It was a void that only He could fill.
    It was a void that only He should fill.
    I was tempted by a temptress who I thought filled my tank.
    It was a lie from the enemy.
    My wife became entangled in an emotional affair.
    Another lie from the enemy.
    We have since been rebuilding our marriage.
    Forgiveness was extended.
    Grace was found.
    We continue to rebuild.
    He is my source.

  2. “If Jesus can look at us this way, we can look at our spouse this way.” – YES! I needed this post in the worst way. I haven’t been myself lately, the little things that usually don’t bother me began to hit me like a crisis would. I was thinking things I usually don’t, saying things I usually wouldn’t and separating myself from the family with extra work or trips to the running park. The sweet Holy Spirit delicately revealed my intentions and in reflection, I realized how much my little family has gone through over the last year. From deaths in the family and custody battles, to financial hardship and running 2 businesses; it is no wonder those little heel biters were beginning to get to me. I choked up and shared my heart with my husband. Thankfully he showed me such grace, and prayed with me…we surrendered to a loving God, gave all that we have been worrying over to Him, and made a list of things we KNOW God has been doing with our family.
    After 11 years of walking in this journey with Christ, I thought I would be further along….mature enough to withstand whatever comes my way with a trusting heart, yet I find myself returning to these lessons…and it’s usually because I am relying on myself to fix life’s issues.
    Seek FIRST the Kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness……
    Thanks for this post, it was most helpful and confirming.

    • What a beautiful testimony, Skye! I’ve found–perhaps like you–that this kind of attitude in marriage has to maintained, not just obtained. It’s so easy to forget and fall back into the old mode of thinking. What a great reminder to hold onto what we have already received and continually go back to the first things.

  3. Oh goodness! YES!
    There has been a stirring in my spirit today about this very topic.
    I wrote a blog post in the middle of the afternoon and published it because it was so heavy on my heart for us to get back to the fundamentals of marriage…GOD’S WORD, the fullness of exactly what you talked about!
    I’m SO GLAD to read this and shout an AMEN!

    Many blessings,

  4. vicki reynolds July 17, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    So far every writing I have received perfectly answered my problem for the day. When marriages are in trouble for whatever reason, we tend to forget how many people become affected by our words and our actions toward our spouses. Bad, impulsive actions are irrevocable and many times cannot be forgotten. Walk with God .every day and keep your marriage and your family unit together. After all, God is in the room!!! I love receiving these postings. God seems to be telling you what to say to me.

  5. Ray S. Frederick July 17, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Gary, Hi. Of course, Since you base it on your biblical reference,’right on’. Always enjoy you Blogs and books. Since I can’t apply this to the spouse I don’t have I’ll try/will to apply it to my family,including you, and neighbor’s. Shalom;

  6. Thanks, Gary, for opening the eyes of our hearts this morning. Your writings give so much INsight….literally. My question is this:
    How can one person do this when the two are not like-minded? My husband is debilitated with chronic back pain, depression, anxiety and is bipolar. He is receiving medication for these issues. He has not worked in almost 3 years and is receiving disability benefits. We are in our 50s, with several years to go before we hit the retirement age. I am working outside the home to make ends meet so that we do not deplete our entire savings in these early years. With his mental health issues, being left alone is quite troubling for him. I often ask myself, “What would Jesus do?”
    Sometimes I think I’m doing the right thing but other times, I wonder if I am putting my own needs (like security in being able to pay our bills) ahead of his (security).
    His medical treatment is expensive and not always covered by Medicare so my working helps pay for his treatment, which we know he has to have, but it does take me away from home. Since his treatment is and will be on-going, I think I’m doing what is best for him and our marriage and I’m working unto the LORD, but then I still have a lingering doubt when I see his struggles. Any thoughts?

    • Jeanne, you need more than a quick reply. You deserve some pastoral care here. Call Alli Smith at the Woodway office (she’s my assistant), and we’ll set up a time to meet. I’m not sure what campus you’re at, but I meet people at both the Woodway and West campuses.

      • Ok, will add that to my to-do list! 🙂
        Maybe in another blog post, you can address those of us who are caregivers to our spouses. We face the challenges of taking care of the household responsibilities in addition to meeting the needs of our loved ones. The older we get, more and more couples will face this balancing act. We want to serve the Lord by serving and loving our spouses, whatever circumstances come our way. Always…..to God be the glory!

      • Thanks for a great message today (Sunday)! I actually found the answer to my own question in Titus 3:14. Thank You, Jesus! Thank you, Gary!

  7. Often I feel overwhelmed by this higher calling, I feel like I just can’t get it right, do it right, feel it right. But, then isn’t that the point? If I could do it on my own, why would I need God?

  8. Thank You, I needed this this am and to remember it every day!