A Marriage Made in Heidelberg (13): A Rock to Stand on in Marriage – God’s Providence

Last episode I gave you a truth that will provide you immense comfort, fortitude, strength, and thankfulness in marriage if you believe it. Here’s the truth again: Your loving heavenly Father will sustain you in marriage and work your marriage for your ultimate good. Oh, that you would believe that. When you confess, “I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” you are confessing the truth that God will preserve, protect, and provide for you in your marriage.

Can you play soccer without goals? Will your cell phone work without semiconductors? Would you want to head to work if you knew the building had a crumbling foundation? Goals, semiconductors, and solid foundations; these are integral to soccer, cell phones, and safe buildings. The same is true for your marriage. God’s providence is working in your marriage, and you need to learn how to better observe and trust it. It is a doctrine that undergirds everything you do in marriage—cleaning the house, talking about finances, praying about kids, taking vacations, making love, offering comfort in loss, etc.—and whether your marriage is horrible, excellent, or somewhere in between, believing God’s providence will provide you immense comfort, peace, strength, and hope.

Let’s look first at what God’s providence is. Then, let’s understand how divine providence applies to our marriages. First, the Heidelberg Catechism defines the Biblical doctrine of God’s providence in this way, Q&A 27:

What do you understand by the providence of God? God’s providence is His almighty and ever-present power, whereby, as with His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things come not by chance but by His fatherly hand.

Providence begins with God’s almighty power, His omnipotence. With His omnipotence, God upholds all creation. In other words, God sovereignly sustains all that He has made. Additionally, God governs all He has made in a way that achieves His sovereign purposes. He sustains and governs the fall leaves and their brilliant colors for His glory. He sustains and governs weather patterns for His glory. He sustains and governs the wheat, barley, and rice crops for His glory. He sustains and governs your cupboard and refrigerator for His glory. And God is sovereignly sustaining and governing your marriage in the best of times and worst of times for His glory and your ultimate good.

The best of times in your marriage are no mistake; they are from God for the purpose of His glory and your greatest good. The worst of times in your marriage are no mistake either; they are from God for the purpose of His glory and your greatest good. Don’t misunderstand. God is sovereign over sin but not responsible for sin. That is clear in Scripture (e.g. Gen. 50:20). There is no evil in God, God does no one any wrong, and God is not the cause of your marital pains (WCF 3:1). Sinners and their sin are responsible for marital pains. However, God does ordain whatsoever comes to pass, is sovereign over all that comes to pass, and by His providence works all things for His glory and our good (WCF 3;1; Rom. 8:28). So then, it is right to say, and even comforting and reassuring to say, that nothing happens in your marriage by chance. God ordains whatsoever comes to pass in your marriage which means everything is meaningful and for the purpose of your salvation and ultimate good. God is with you to sustain you.

Do you believe this marvelous truth? I hope so for at least two reasons. One, it is true and revealed throughout the redemptive story of Scripture. Two, it is a rock of comfort and assurance for you to stand on in your marriage. The doctrine of God’s providence helps you see and experience God’s faithfulness in your marital successes as well as your marital struggles. There is a divine purpose for your pleasure and pain, and trusting in God’s providence allows you to see God’s hand in all of marriage.

How does it benefit you to believe in God’s providence? Heidelberg 28 asks the question this way: “What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by His providence?” I break up the answer into four parts as I apply the answer to your marriage:

  1. “We can be patient in adversity.”

    All married couples face adversity in marriage. Sometimes the adversity comes from outside the marriage—economic collapse, workplace demands, conflict with aging parents, etc. Other times adversity comes from inside the marriage—emotional detachment, arguments over money, the consequences of poor decisions, etc. God’s providence allows you to be patient in the face of adversity because you believe God is at work in you during adversity.

    2. “We can be . . . thankful in prosperity.”

      If you believe God is sovereign over your marriage, you will be thankful to God for all the things you enjoy in marriage because you believe that He is actively giving you many things to enjoy. Trust in God’s providence fuels thankfulness in marriage.

      3. “With a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from His love.”

      There are uncertainties in marriage and your future. What do you need to know to live with hope, confidence, and courage? You need to know this: nothing, not your spouse, not your children, not your boss, relatives, abuser, doctor, not even the devil himself can separate you from God’s love. God is faithful and will keep all His promises to you. He is your Father who loves you deeply. You don’t know the future, but you know that God upholds and sustains you now and in the future. Will everything work out for you? Yes. How do you know? Because of God’s providence. He will powerfully and mysteriously work everything for your salvation and eternal joy.

      4. “All creatures are so completely in His hand that without His will they cannot so much as move.”

      If you really think about and believe that, you will find peace, comfort, and rest for your soul. Do you need to fear the death of your spouse? No. Do you need to fear your spouse leaving you? No. Do you need to fear the angry and vengeful response of your spouse if you tell someone about the abuse? No. Why? Because of God’s providence. As you trust Him to work everything out, He will strengthen you to face your fears and to move ahead in a way that’s pleasing to Him and good for you. And, when your spouse honors, cherishes, respects, serves, and loves you consistently, God’s providence allows you to understand that God is actively providing for you and blessing you greatly through your spouse. God is doing it! God’s providence helps us appreciate pleasure as God’s gracious gift and interpret pain as a means God uses to draw us closer to Himself to bless us with Himself.

      The gospel of God’s providence is profoundly true and encouraging to believers. Believing it opens our eyes to see God’s involvement in the details of our lives, and it draws us closer to Him. It would profit you to mine the depths of God’s providence more and more so that you come to better understand His power, His grace, and His love for you in life and marriage.    

      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.

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      Jonathan Shirk

      Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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