Before we get rolling, if you are being abused in your marriage, either physically—which includes sexually—or emotionally, you should act immediately. If you’re in immediate danger, fly to a safe place and get help. If you are being abused, I recommend several options. If you go to a healthy church with godly shepherds, tell your elders about the abuse so they can protect and help you. You can also reach out to a Biblical counselor through CCEF.org or biblicalcounseling.com. Another option is to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. The important thing is to take courage, share your secret with trustworthy people who love you, and get help.
There is a danger in thinking about marriage. Many marital topics are nuanced. We need to listen and learn with wisdom and discernment. We need the Holy Spirit to help us rightly apply what we hear. Sometimes abused spouses hear Biblical counsel that is right and good and apply it wrongly to their abusive marriage. We don’t want that. With most marital problems, I’m not sure there’s a way to work through them without the counsel and support of others. Healthy law-gospel churches are a powerful support.
Okay. A woodworker carefully crafts a wooden spinning wheel for yarn. He turns the legs, spokes, maidens, and more on his lathe. He fashions the drive wheel. He skillfully assembles all the parts together. It’s beautiful. However, no yarn can be spun on the wheel unless the man puts his foot on the treadle and uses the wheel. In other words, the man has to make the spinning wheel work, otherwise, it just sits there. This is similar to God creating all things out of nothing and sustaining it all by His eternal counsel and providence. God creates, and God sustains.
You might have an amazing marriage or a horrible marriage or a marriage somewhere in between. Whatever the case, here’s a truth that will provide you immense comfort, fortitude, strength, and thankfulness in marriage: Your loving heavenly Father will sustain you in marriage and work your marriage for your ultimate good. Do you believe that? God created marriage, gave it to you as a gift, and will sustain you in marriage while working marriage for your ultimate good as you trust and love Him.
I think it’s very common for married couples to experience pain in marriage and to doubt that God is good and that God will work all things for their good. Pain has a way of distorting our perspective. I love hip-hop music. The beats are awesome. But those blessed beats are not so blessed when you have a splitting headache and you’re vomiting. Pain has a way of distorting our perspective.
The pain of marriage can plant the thought in our minds, “This is useless. God is not changing things. God must not care about my prayers. If He cared, He would respond and fix this!” That pain is real and understandable, but that pain is also rooted in unbelief, an unbelief that believers need to repent of. God promises us that He will sustain you in marriage and work your marriage for your ultimate good, and that is a rock of confidence and comfort to stand on in marriage.
Remember the spinning wheel illustration. God created and sustains all creation. As Heidelberg 26 says, our heavenly Father “still upholds and governs [heaven and earth] by His eternal counsel and providence.” This includes you and me and our marriages. We’ll get into God’s providence next time, but I want you to think about how much you trust your God.
Psalm 55:22 is a great verse for married couples. It says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” When you cast your marital struggles onto your Lord, He will sustain you. After all, He loves you. God doesn’t promise you that your marriage will be awesome nor that it will even last—many believers have gone through an unwelcomed divorce—but God does promise to sustain you in your marriage and work your marriage for your ultimate good. When you trust your heavenly Father and cast your burdens on Him, He sustains you.
Consider Heidelberg 26 again:
What do you believe when you say “I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth”? That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and all that is in them, and who still upholds and governs them by His eternal counsel and providence, is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father. In Him I trust so completely as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul and will also turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this life of sorrow. He is able to do so as almighty God and willing also as a faithful Father.
Do you trust your God and Father? Do you trust that He loves you? Do you trust His promises? Do you trust Him to work marital pain for your good? Trust is the X factor in being able to persevere through disappointment, adversity, and struggle in marriage. Trust is the X factor in being patient, kind, and loving toward your spouse. You will endure when you believe that your loving heavenly Father is sustaining you and working for your good.
Consider one line again: “In Him I trust so completely as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul and will also turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this life of sorrow.” I would guess, if you’re anything like me, you struggle to believe that. God doesn’t call us to understand everything He does. He calls us to trust Him. Do you trust that God will provide you with everything you need to be the spouse He calls you to be? You may want to meditate on Matthew 6:25–34. You will be the spouse God calls you to be when you “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). God will take care of the rest.
Consider the line again: “In Him I trust so completely as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul and will also turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this life of sorrow.” Yes, this life is filled with sorrows and adversities that make marriage difficult. Those sorrows and adversities will be too much for you and me if we do not believe, I mean really trust, that our loving heavenly Father will “turn to [our] good whatever adversity He sends [us] in this life of sorrow.”
When people are suffering, I don’t think Romans 8:28 should be quoted in a flippant and insensitive way. That said, believers need the bedrock truth of Romans 8:28 when they’re struggling. We need this amazing promise from our God: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” And I don’t think that’s a generic good, it’s a personal good: your good and my good. Do you believe that promise for you in marriage? Joseph in the Old Testament believed it in his suffering, and through faith God helped him forgive and love (Gen. 50:15-21). You will face conflict, disappointment, stress, anxiety, anger, hurt, fear, and affliction in marriage. The question is will you trust that your heavenly Father is turning all of it to your good? Will you trust Him even if you don’t understand exactly how He will turn it all to your good?
I think we struggle to believe what I’m saying here because pain makes it feel as if God is not good or loving. Our feelings betray the truth. Here’s why you can fully trust God. Consider the last line of Heidelberg 26: “He is able to do so as almighty God and willing also as a faithful Father.” That’s key. Think about who God is. He is “almighty God,” meaning He is omnipotent or all-powerful. He is powerfully upholding the universe with the word of His power, and inside His universe is . . . you . . . and your marriage (Heb. 1:3). God is also your “faithful Father.” Because God is faithful, God is faithful to you. He will keep His promises to you. It pays to know what God has promised you and what God has not promised you.
I’ll leave you with this thought: Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will sustain you in marriage and work your marriage for your good because He is good.
Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021).
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one-half of any book of the ESV Bible.