I’ll start this post with a plea: If you are not in a God-centered marriage, please seek out godly counsel. Your pastor may be able to recommend for a Christian counselor. (Some churches, like the one my husband and I attend, will even pay for the first few sessions, if you can’t.) If you are uncomfortable asking your pastor, Focus on the Family has a list of Christian counselors across the United States. Obviously, they can’t guarantee the quality of each one, but having a vetted list to start with is a good first step.
And please: Seek out a woman who is in a joyful, God-centered marriage. Talk to her. Ask her questions. Ask for advice. If this woman is truly in a God-centered marriage, she isn’t going to judge you for struggling. She knows how hard marriage can be. And she’ll be thrilled to know that the example her marriage is setting is making a difference. (But be careful who you turn to for this type of discussion and advice. Read about potential problems here: (becoming) a godly wife: how to welcome Satan into your marriage.)
That said, the rest of this post is aimed at those of you who are in joyful, God-centered marriages — or hope to be soon (either because you’re engaged or because you’re planning to get counseling to move toward such a marriage).
If you do have a joyful, God-centered marriage, you’ve probably encountered this scenario: Someone who observes your marriage thinks it’s too good to be true. Thinks surely your husband must be oppressing and brainwashing you into submission. Thinks surely there’s a problem that you’re just good at hiding.
The first time I encountered a situation like this, I was devastated. I wanted our marriage to be a beacon of light for people. I wanted people to notice our marriage was different and be drawn to God because of it. I was upset that instead she saw our marriage as something negative. What I didn’t realize then was that the reason this woman thought my husband must be forcing me into submission — that he was somehow treating me like a second-class citizen — was that she had likely never seen a God-centered marriage. Our relationship seemed so foreign to her that she assumed something must be very wrong. I tried to explain our relationship to her, but I don’t think she believed me. She probably still doesn’t.
The next time I encountered this, I was more ready for it. I wasn’t devastated. I didn’t see it as a failure on my part to give an example of a God-centered marriage to someone. I saw it for what it was: This dear friend really didn’t believe that a marriage could be that joyful. I tried to explain things as best I could, but I also realized that this was a long-term mission. She might not believe me now, but she would (hopefully) be in my life long enough to see that it was true: God is a God of joyful marriages. (And keep in mind the difference between joy and happiness: Happiness comes and goes with circumstances. Joy does not. Joy stays. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit of Christ (Galatians 5:22), and Christ’s joy remains in all circumstances, so long as we remain in Him (John 15:10-12).)
So here is my encouragement to those of you in joyful, Christ-centered marriages: Keep showing your love – God’s love – for one another. Keep being a shining example that many people find baffling. Keep giving an answer for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15) and encouraging other women in their own marriages with a positive example and a living testimony to the faithfulness of God.
And please, please, try to reach out to this next generation. You don’t have to lecture them — trust me, they aren’t big fans of that, in the classroom or in “real” life. Just be open to conversations. Ask them questions about themselves (they usually love this topic) and watch where God might take the conversation. (Remember, of course, to always be praying during these conversations. I often ask God to help me say all and only what He wants me to. This prayer tends to keep me out of trouble.)
I am often amazed by what students will reveal to me before they even know me. On the first day of class, I ask them to spend 10 minutes or so writing about who they are. A lot of them write about their families. Most of them tell me if their parents are married or divorced. Many of them will reveal a great deal of anger at one or both parents for abandoning them. Many will tell me about how devastated they were when their parents got divorced. Others will tell me about their girlfriends or boyfriends. Or financial problems. And I don’t even know these kids. This is the first day of class. These are the things that they think describe who they are. My point is simply this: Talk to the kids in your life. You might be surprised how much they’re willing share – and how desperate they are for someone to listen. Especially someone whose life offers them some hope.
Read part one of this series: (becoming) a role model, part one
Read part two of this series: (becoming) a role model, part two
Want to read more?
Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife
Start the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted
Have trouble saying no? Try: (becoming) a good volunteer: the necessity of “no”
Struggle with worry? Try: (becoming) less of a worrier
Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6
Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful