I’ve heard that question posed in so many different ways. The answer is a solid “yes.” But the real question people want to know is not “Can God…?” but “How can God…?” My answer to the how is that God will save your marriage but only along with you as His grace empowers confessional and redemptive living.
As we look at the Bible, there are no explicit passages that give a seven-point plan for saving a marriage that’s in trouble. Instead, we have various beautiful passages that deal with the foundation, roles, and reason for the marriage relationships. We find very quickly from scripture that the core of marriage is simple: it is a covenant of love. So, let me point you to two passages as reminders of this core.
1. The Source of Love — 1 John 4:7-12
The passage from John teaches us that “God is love” (v. 8). You and your spouse did not dream up love. Neither did Shakespeare for his plays or the latest Hollywood romantic comedy movie. Love originates from the very character of God and would not exist if not for Him. Of course, our love for our spouses is horribly flawed. So, we must allow our character and thus our love be defined by the character of God. You must not allow the latest self-help book, the sappiest made-for-TV movie, or any episode of Dr. Phil define love for you. It is only from God’s nature that we learn about love.
In the passage from 1 John 4, we learn that God’s love transforms us (v. 7). Love is revealed most perfectly in Christ’s sacrifice (v. 9-10). It calls us for an action from us (v. 11). True love is defined by our Creator and revealed by our Savior. We must reject the silly notions of the world that love is only sappy emotions, romantic gestures in the dark, and a spouse who will serve you day and night. It is defined by the very nature of God, who is redemptive. Can God save your marriage? Yes… so do this: Define, refine, and/or redefine marriage by the character of God through the gospel’s power.
2a. The Context of Love — 1 Corinthians 12 and 14
2b. The Activity of Love — 1 Corinthians 13
The two ideas of love’s context and activity are too closely related to separate. The three chapters of 1 Corinthians 12-14 describe how the church relates together. Put it in the funnel and let it become more specific for marriage and we discover powerful truths for troubled relationships. Chapters 12 and 14 describe how any spiritual gifting and power is to be used for the benefit of other believers. Love is active, not sappy.
In another book, Paul reminds us that marriage is a mysterious relationship (Ephesians 5:32-33) but there is a reason for it. Marriage is a temporary picture of an eternal reality. The covenant relationship we have with a husband or wife displays God’s grace available for salvation through Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross.1 Corinthians 13 warns us against ego, seeking only self-satisfaction, and just being religiously busy. Instead, we are to use our God-given, grace-induced gifts for building up others and caring for their needs. Service is the context and result of love. Clearly from 13:4-7 we see that love starts with the heart and chooses to make service a priority.
Can God save your marriage? Absolutely. You must take the long view of life so that you will opt for service over a demanding attitude. A love born from God’s character will allow you to see your spouse through the lens of eternity; knowing what lasts and what does not. You will see your husband or wife not just in the current circumstances but as a person to serve and help be more like Jesus Christ.
Choose love. Choose service. Choose Christ. The covenant of marriage displays the saving work of Jesus. Your marriage will be constantly on edge until you root your life in the eternal reality of God’s salvation.