Marriage: Keep working at it

Published 9:12 pm Friday, May 15, 2015

By Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

This is the time of year when many couples are getting ready for their wedding.

Understandably, they want their special day to be beautiful, and they are spending lots of energy in preparing for it. But preparing for a wedding that hits all the right notes is relatively easy compared to preparing for the marriage that comes after the wedding.

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The Bible begins with the wedding of Adam and Eve (in Genesis) and ends with the wedding of Christ and his church (in Revelation). God knows about weddings. Thankfully, He also knows about marriage, and how it is supposed to work. After all, it was His idea.

And it was a glorious idea. But it also takes hard work. Tim Keller, in his wonderful book, “The Meaning of Marriage,” says, “Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories.”

Many couples say, “But if two people love one another, why should it be so hard? Love just happens, so shouldn’t a great marriage naturally follow?”

Suppose you were blessed with natural athletic talent. You have off-the-charts hand-eye coordination, great speed and strong muscles.

Does that mean you are naturally able to hit a Major League curveball? No! It takes years and years of hard work, even for the best athletes.

Does natural athletic ability and coordination mean you can go out to a golf course, grab a set of clubs for the first time, and start hitting the ball straight and far? Absolutely not.

The great Ben Hogan was once asked where he found the “secret” of his golf game. Hogan replied, “I dug it out of the dirt.” He meant he worked at it — hard.

Marriage takes hard work because of the two people who enter every marriage. Every marriage is the union of two sinners.

All of us are, as one theologian put it, “curved in on ourselves.” We all deal with selfishness and sin. We all carry various wounds and complexes into our marriage. Often we don’t even understand the depth of our selfishness or the wounds in our own hearts.

So do these two very flawed people suddenly become flawless when they walk down the aisle and say, “I do?” No. We bring all that we are — the good, the bad, and the ugly — right into the marriage. Marriage has a way of exposing our character.

But here is something else to consider, something wonderful: Marriage has a way of building character.

It gives us an opportunity to learn “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

It helps us learn to forgive and to love someone who is less than perfect and sometimes even less than lovable.

Is this not exactly how God loved and continues to love us? One of the best verses for couples is Ephesians 4:32, which says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Husbands and wives, and future husbands and wives, please hear me: Look to Jesus for help with your marriage. Look to the cross and remember how much love you have been shown, so that you will better be able to love someone else.

And keep working at it.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.