We have covered a lot of ground so far. We have helped our couples understand the grand themes of Scripture and how those themes impact their marriage. We have also dove into some of the details that help make marriage wonderful rather than a challenge.
Let’s consider the final two practical issues in our attempts to help couples have a marriage that rightly portrays the relationship of Christ and the church.
#7: Commitment to their roles as husband and wife
Christ has assigned roles to each husband and each wife. In our view, these roles are not options. For husbands, we use three words to describe his task (lover, learner, and leader). Husbands are commanded to love their wives like Christ loves the church. This is an impossible task without the grace of God. Husbands are to learn their wives, according to 1 Peter 3:7, so that they can live with them according to that knowledge. The husband is to lead his wife toward greater Christlikeness. While beyond the scope of this article, it is interesting to note that each role is essentially becoming like Jesus (Notice 1 Peter 2:22-25 and Matthew 20:20-28 on leadership). In order for husbands to fulfill their role they have to become like Jesus. Thus, young men seeking to be married are given the most arduous task possible – be like Jesus. Nothing could prepare them to take responsibility for a young lady than that!
A young girl, on the other hand, is also asked to do an impossible task without the grace of God. She is asked by the Lord to be his companion (Genesis 2:18-24). She completes him in very special ways. Thus, she is called to be her husband’s greatest helper, his greatest cheerleader, and his greatest encourager. In addition, the Lord asks her to willingly submit herself to the husband’s leadership (Ephesians 5:22-24). Had she remained unmarried, her relationship to men would be very different. This willingness to submit to her husband will inevitably result in some unpleasant consequences – as he will not always be like Jesus. She is asked to respect him (Ephesians 5:33). This is a task that she is divinely equipped to fulfill, but it is not a task that is easy or natural. In many ways, she is being asked by God to also be like Jesus.
A commitment to roles is not just a commitment to a certain set of tasks. It is a commitment to be like Jesus. A commitment to the roles is also a commitment to be dependent on the grace of God – for both spouses will fail to live up to this standard.
#8: Understanding of sex
Many counselors know that sexual struggles in married couples sometimes began during their honeymoon. What was supposed to be a wonderful time of enjoying one another turned out to be an experience of hurt and pain due to the selfishness of one or both persons. Sadly, I have heard couples married for a few short years say to me in a situation that they have no idea why they waited for marriage – sex has simply been one huge disappointment. As the ceremony nears it is wise to have a conversation or two about the role of sex in the marriage. Here are a few tips for helping couples during the early stages of their marriage:
- Help them not to focus on expectations. Most couples who come to the ceremony as virgins think that the wedding night and the honeymoon will be one huge set of mountain top type experiences. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. So encourage them not to set a certain expectation, but rather to simply enjoy the experiences together – whatever they might be.
- Help them to seek to please God in their sexual relations. God is the designer of sex and he is pleased when his people enjoy sex in the boundaries that He gave. Thus, young couples could be greatly helped if they would remember to pray before sex asking God to help them please him in their thoughts, actions, and attitudes.
- Help them put the past experiences behind them. There is a different challenge to those couples with sexual experience. Jealousy, bitterness, or anger can easily enter the bedroom unless both persons are careful. The reality is this, after the ceremony they are experiencing sex under a new set of circumstances – circumstances ordained by God. This means, that there is a sense in which everything they experience after the wedding is “new.”
Talking about the major themes of Scripture and helping couples in these eight practical areas will not keep them from all problems. They are still sinners saved by God and his amazing grace. But at least you, as their friend, have given them a set of tools to help them have a marriage that truly reflects Christ and the church.
In the next, and final post, I will discuss a few ways to help those couples whose marriages include some complicating facts such as children or previous marriages.