As a pastor I have the privilege of being asked to officiate weddings. When asked to officiate a husband-to-be and a wife-to-be, I sit down with the engaged couple 4-5 times to do some pre-marital counseling with the hopes of preparing them for the greatest human-to-human relationship available from God.
My main goal in counseling the couple is to get them excited about a marriage more than they are excited about a wedding.
Here are the 5 things I make sure they understand heading into their adventure of marriage:
(1) The Biggest Threat To Your Marriage Is Unresolved Conflict
Marital psychologists share that the path to divorce starts with disappointment. In fact, if disappointment in the marriage isn’t dealt with in a God-honoring, unified manner, it will take the marriage down in 2-3 years. The pathway to divorce looks like this:
Disappointment – Discouragement – Distance – Disconnect – Discord – Divorce.
The church has done a disservice to couples yelling at them to not get divorced and then walking away hoping the marriage stays together. Rather, if the church came alongside couples and helped them realize that way before divorce there’s disappointment, and then how to resolve that disappointment, divorce wouldn’t even be a thought.
Marriages don’t fall apart because of conflict, they fall apart because of unresolved conflict.
At the wedding altar, instead of pledging to be there for the other for better, for worse, I think the couple should flat out admit, Hey! I’m different than you. This means we’re going to disagree a lot. But even in the disagreements and the disappointment, I’m committed to you and committed to God’s Spirit at work within you.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are angry.”
I make sure the couple will make a commitment to resolving conflict.
(2) Your Wedding Day Should Be The Day You Love Each Other The Least
What happens too often when a Christian gives their life and sin to Christ and becomes saved as a child of God, that is the day they love Jesus the most. After conversion for many Christians, there’s lackluster worship, discipline and spiritual growth.
What needs to happen for new Christians is that the day they got saved is the day they loved Jesus the least.
Ephesians 3:19 says that we will never be able to understand the depths of God’s love for us which means each day is an opportunity to grow in a love for Jesus.
Instead of pursuing Jesus daily we are using our time for others things (which, those other things like family, work and leisure are good gifts from God, but pursuing Jesus needs to be happening).
When it comes to the wedding day with all of the obsessive plans and dreams of what the ceremony and reception will be like, even though it’s a signifiant day, that should be the day the couple loves each other the least.
After the wedding they should still study each other and date each other and still pursue each other. There should be daily encouragement and forgiveness and laughter and prayer.
For too many couples the mountaintop experience of their relationship is the wedding day. This happens when during the engagement instead of prayerfully putting into place routines and commitments to grow closer together and to allow God to lead them, they instead use their time to plan an event.
(3) Choose To Pray For Each Other and Pray With Each Other Daily
It’s very difficult to be angry at someone and pray for them at the same time. Love heals deep wounds and an intimate step many thriving couples choose to take each day is praying for each other and with each other.
Spouses need to be encouraging each other daily (Hebrews 3:13) and through a disciplined prayer life to thank God for blessings, to ask God for forgiveness and wisdom, to place Him as the leader of the marriage all can breath such life into the relationship.
(4) In Grieving, Choose To Lament Together
Sometimes the pain a couple experiences is caused by one or both sides. But sometimes the deep trauma experienced in a marriage is circumstantial and out of their control.
There might be death of parents and loved ones. There might be miscarriages. There might be seasons of unemployment. There might be a cancer diagnosis. There might be health or behavioral concerns with children.
In these seasons of confusion and hurt, since the couple already resolves conflict with each other (there’s trust and grace), since they pursue one another relationally (their love for each other deepens) and since they pray for and with each other, grieving is a safe and unified space to mourn.
The author of the book Lamentations in the Bible is grieving deeply. In the midst of his emotional struggle he rightly recognizes that God is the Giver of great hope (Lamentations 3:22-24). Regardless of the circumstantial pain, he clearly confesses his ongoing need for God in his life.
We cannot go a day forgetting the mercy of God in our lives. A married couple needs to be grateful for the grace of God and His comfort and presence in the absence of answers and clarity.
A married couple cannot separate relationally during seasons of pain because distance leads to disconnect.
(5) Recognize That The Best Day Of Your Marriage Happened 2,000 Years Ago
Christians believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins and the sins of humanity. They are grateful that forgiveness is found freely at the cross through belief and confession.
Just as there is mercy found at the cross, there is power and hope found at the empty tomb of Jesus when He rose from death 2,000 years ago.
The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in the history of the world. It’s more important than a spouse’s wedding day, or the birth of their child or any answered prayer they experience. It’s more important than the church, more important than the Bible and even more important than the crucifixion of Jesus.
If Jesus didn’t rise from death then His claim to be God wouldn’t be true and His prophecy that He would rise from death would be a fraud. And someone who isn’t God and is a fraud can’t forgive sin, provide sacred Scripture or start a movement of love (the church).
For marriage, yes the couple is so grateful for Jesus’ death (to the point where, since Jesus died for them, they can die to their selfishness and pride towards each other), but b/c He lives (He lives!), the couple can receive the power and the hope that sustains, revives and propels a marriage to places of unimaginable joy, unity and peace.
Whether someone remains single or pursues marriage, life is broken and can be harsh at times. When forced to go through the trials of pain and suffering, every person needs the reality that Jesus is alive, that He is for us and that He is with us.
Thanks for reading! You are loved.