Is God the Center of Your Marriage?

Making God the center and highest priority of your marriage may be the key to saving it, even if it’s not in trouble — yet.

How often do newlyweds excitedly affirm that God will be the heart and focus of their marriage only to find that excitement all but extinguished in short time. Sometimes it’s trial; sometimes it’s temptation; other times it’s just sheer boredom — but what once seemed an essential commitment becomes an outmoded ideal.

Part of the reason is that people honestly have no idea what it means to have a God-focused marriage. Nor do they understand the incredible freedom that accompanies it. The couple may be committed Christians, but their marriage is effectively agnostic.

What then does it look like to have a theologically grounded marriage?

God-Centered Marriage Means Knowing God

You cannot make God a priority in your marriage if you do not know who he is personally. We live in a society that is increasingly post-Christian. This creates exciting witnessing opportunities for our marriages if they are gospel-grounded. However, it also means that we cannot count on culture being our aide. Bible intake, prayer, and corporate worship have never had as little value in our society as they seem to have today. But these elements are essential if we desire to have a genuine relationship with God.

We cannot know God outside of how he has revealed himself to us through his word. We cannot communicate with him outside the vehicle of Spirit-saturated prayer. We cannot experience full communion with him apart from his people. If we are to keep God at the center of marriage, we must know who he is and that is only possible through regular access to Scripture, prayer, and worship.

I cannot have God as the priority of my marriage if I will not have him as the priority of my life.

Knowing His Spirit

Knowing God means knowing his fellowship through the Holy Spirit. Christ has sent his Spirit to be with his people and to dwell in their hearts (1 Corinthians 3:16). This incredible fellowship never ceases to be. Not even when the born-again are sinning, and playing like enemies to the Lord, does the Holy Spirit leave us. A partial fulfillment of the promise of God is that he will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). Though there may be times when we grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), or God removes his countenance from us and we feel as if we are alone, the believer, in fact, always has access to him. The Holy Spirit brings comfort (John 14:26), peace (John 14:27), and conviction (John 16:8). And when we do not know how to pray as we ought, he intercedes for us with groans too deep for words (Romans 8:26).

This means we can be free from the fear of loneliness because we are never actually alone. We no longer have to avoid conflict in order to preserve a faux fellowship. But neither are we driven to conflict in order to create a false sense of intimacy. We are able to give our spouses the freedom to be wherever they are emotionally without the fear that their hurt, fear, and sadness (even joy!) may lead to our being alone. It means that we have an eternal advocate who knows our fears and pain.

Therefore, we are free from having to defend ourselves — we can take those things to the throne of grace, giving them to God — even when we don’t have the words. It means we are free from the drive to self-comfort because the divine Comforter is always in our reach. It also means that our spouses may be the means of God’s conviction of our sin. We are free to hear those places where we have hurt and scared our spouses, to learn from it, to ask forgiveness for it, and to endeavor not to repeat that mistake again — even if we are relatively certain we will.

Knowing His Sovereignty

Knowing God means knowing the sovereignty of the Father. Nothing happens that is not pre-ordained by the Father. There is no place in all the universe that we can hide from his watchful eye (Psalm 139:7–10). There is no molecule in the universe that doesn’t listen to God’s commands. In the decree of salvation, it is the Father that commissions the Son and directs the Spirit. Christ himself says that he only does that which God the Father has sent Him to do (John 5:30). And when asked about the time of his return, Christ states that only the Father knows (Matthew 24:26).

This means that we are free to rest in the Father’s control over our lives as well. Even when we do not understand why our spouse acts the way he does, or when events happen that seem to shake our marriages to their very foundations, we can cling to the truth that all things happen for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28). It means that whether we exercise loving authority or gladly submit to it (1 Corinthians 11:3), there is one that is higher to whom we both submit (Philippians 2:10–11).

The goal of authority should not be to hold it over one another, but to display something of the gracious character of the one supreme sovereign, God himself. It means we are free to not create pockets of power for ourselves to be used as bargaining chips to make this the most comfortable marriage for me. Rather, we are stewarding the authority we are given in whatever areas we find ourselves so that God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — might be brought glory and honor.

Knowing His Son

Knowing God means knowing the service of the Son. Although he was one with God, same in substance, equal in power and glory, yet he willingly took on human form subjecting himself to weakness and to God’s law (Philippians 2:5–8). Christ perfectly obeyed that law even though he was personally tried and tempted by Satan on multiple occasions (Luke 4:1–13). And though he deserved to be treated like a king, he was mocked, beaten, betrayed, abandoned, tortured, murdered, and endured the wrath of hell. He completed all of this so that he might then clothe his people in his own righteousness, and so that they may become not just serfs in the kingdom of God, but members of the royal family, co-heirs with Christ himself (Romans 8:17). Rather than using his authority to force others to serve him, he freely sacrificed himself (John 10:18). Without question, he bids us do the same (Matthew 20:25–28).

This means that we are free for our marriages to be a place of service, not just satisfaction. We often look to our marriages to be sources of little comforts and small joys, and we find ourselves perplexed or discouraged when they are a place of suffering and service. While marriage is certainly meant to reflect the joy and satisfaction of our union with Christ, it also will be a place of intense trial, temptation, and discomfort — all on the path to the greatest joys.

So when the time comes to sacrifice — to lay down our lives for our spouses, to listen before we speak, to respond in love rather than in wrath, to own our part of sin rather than point it out in others — we are able to do that knowing that what we are doing is reflecting something of Christ’s goodness and his character back to our spouse.

No Safer Place

Prioritizing God in our marriages means knowing him in our hearts and reflecting him in our actions. While the Trinity at times may seem like some obscure theological construct, it is in reality an essential part of God-centered marriages.

The fellowship of the Spirit, the sovereignty of the Father, and the service of the Son help securely situate our marriages at Calvary. And there is no safer or more liberating place in all the universe.

(@RevJASquires) serves as pastor of counseling and congregational care at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He and his wife have five children.