There are a number of theories about what causes most marital troubles–money, children, time, sexual intimacy etc. It has often been argued that money problems are the number one cause of divorce. Fair enough–certainly misuse of or disagreements on the use of money can result in a tremendous amount of conflict inside of marriage. However, I want to cite a different culprit at the heart marital discord–people. The number one problem inside of marriage is the husband and the wife.
Let me be clear: if your marriage isn’t what you want it to be, if you don’t feel that your marriage is glorifies Christ, let me encourage you with this–it is your fault. It Is not the fault of unfortunate circumstances or differing personalities or lack of compatibility–if your marriage isn’t healthy–its your fault. I believe the same about my marriage–when there is strife in my marriage, I am to examine my own heart.
If you are reading this, chances are I don’t know much about what really goes on inside your marriage and there is a good chance that right now you are thinking that I don’t know what I am talking about because the problems in your marriages are chiefly your spouses fault. That may or may not be true, probably it is both your faults, but the Bible is pretty clear o the fact that we are incapable of changing other people and very clear that by faith God will change those who seek Him. Further God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). So before you lump your marital difficulties on your spouse–why not take the log out of your own eye (Matt. 7:3-5) and trust God to transform the state of your marriage?
If you still don’t believe me that its your fault, let me prove it to you from Scripture:
And [Jesus] said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” -Mark 7:20-23
This shouldn’t surprise us. What happened in the first marriage when Adam and Eve were caught in sin? They immediately began to blame shift. Adam says, “my wife gave me this fruit and I ate it” and Eve says, “Satan gave me this fruit and I ate it” ( Gen 3:12-13 my paraphrase). Why can’t they fess up? It is their own pride and selfishness that keeps them from admitting their failures and it is this same pride that moves them from being “naked and unashamed” to covering themselves and hiding from God (Gen 3:7-11).
Nakedness in Scripture is a sign of being exposed, open, and intimate. Sin has ruined intimacy inside of marriage. Marriage was created to be a “one flesh” relationship where the husband and wife share all things in common and are completely open and honest with one another. The intimacy for which God created marriage is far more than physical intimacy, it is also physical and spiritual.
So how can the intimacy God designed to be experienced inside of marriage be restored from all the damage sin and selfishness has caused it? The answer is the gospel, by which all our sins, including those committed inside of marriage are paid for, such that when we believe on Christ we bear them no more because of His sacrifice on the cross. The gospel leads us to a “godly grief that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Cor. 7:10). Inside of marriage this means that the gospel frees us from hiding from our failures and moves us to instead confess them and repent from them. Thus the gospel frees us to move toward the intimacy (though not without setbacks) we are meant to experience inside of marriage.
Only the gospel can truly move a man to apologize without making excuses. Only the gospel can free us from our slavery to the sin of selfishness that refuses to recognize wrong-doing and renew the image of God in us that will lead us to Christ-exalting intimacy and joy no matter what the circumstances we find ourselves in.
The problem with your marriage and my marriage is not compatibility issues, circumstance, or misunderstanding, the problem is you and the problem is me. You cannot change your spouse but God can and will change you and as He does you will begin to see the tremendous hope and potential for your marriage to grow in joy and intimacy and thus display gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:25-27).