What if God has a unique purpose for your marriage? Is your marriage God-centered or us-centered? Are you and your spouse ambassadors of holy love to a hurting world? Is your marriage what God intends it to be: a life-saving, hope-inspiring, and transforming force of his love?
Bible Gateway interviewed Aaron Smith (@husbandrevo), who, along with his wife Jennifer Smith (@unveiledwife), is the author of Marriage After God: Chasing Boldly After God’s Purpose for Your Life Together (Zondervan, 2019).
Talk about some of the challenges you’ve faced together in your marriage.
Aaron Smith: The three biggest challenges we faced together in our marriage were sexual intimacy, the burden of debt, and learning how to communicate.
For the first four years of our marriage, we couldn’t enjoy sex because my wife experienced excruciating pain every time we tried. This challenge in our marriage became the source of many other challenges, like wrestling with negative thoughts about unmet expectations, disappointment, and doubt about whether we were “compatible” for each other.
The lack of intimacy in our relationship created a grand canyon sized gorge between us. This made it difficult to navigate the challenge of mounting money issues. My school debt was no longer in deferment status and I had to begin paying monthly, and we weren’t on the same page about how to get out of the debt. Our disunity kept us from working together to pay it off quickly.
As we faced these challenges early on in our marriage, we were also learning how to communicate our way through these issues. We were learning what respect and love looked like practically as we interacted with each other. The more we practiced healthy communication, the better we got at doing so. The times we didn’t communicate so well, we ended up hurting each other.
We can look back at those early years and see clearly the mistakes we made and what we could have done better, and how we could’ve been unified doing it. Those challenges we encountered gave us the opportunity to learn more about each other and about how God desires us to engage and interact with each other.
We still face challenges in marriage—even today—but we’ve learned what it takes to persevere through them together. It’s not our circumstances that define our relationship. Rather, we’ve put the time in to intentionally building a strong foundation, where God’s at the center, and he defines our relationships. We’re obedient to his Word and his ways! Doing marriage God’s way has helped us tremendously! And being obedient to his Word gives us a clear picture of what our marriage is for, which motivates us all the more to persevere through life’s many challenges.
What do you mean when you write “marriage is designed for more than a happily ever after”?
Aaron Smith: Today’s culture says happiness is the goal of our life, and—if we subscribe to that end—then if we’re not happy, we must be doing something wrong or something wrong has been done to us. The world spreads the message that being happy is the most important thing we can experience and that the goal of marriage must be “happily ever after.” We’ve even heard Christians explain their reasoning for leaving their spouse is because God wants them to be happy.
Although happiness is something many Christians get to experience and walk in, it’s not God’s will or plan to merely make us happy. In fact, there isn’t a single verse that tells us that God wants us to be happy, but he does say to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16).
Being holy or choosing to live a holy life does not guarantee happiness, but it does guarantee joy. Although, there’ll be times that a person may experience happiness while pursuing holiness in their marriage.
If our aim is merely happiness, then we’ll live a life centered specifically on ourselves, our needs, our desires, our wants. But, if our aim is holiness, we’ll live a life devoted to God, centered on what he desires! And the fruit of that life is much more enjoyable than happiness. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control is what is promised to the believer who walks in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
How do you contrast the marriage posture of “you and me against the world” with the posture of “you and me for the world”?
Aaron Smith: The world will say that a couple in love can do anything for each other and for their love…but it’s self-focused. “You and me for the world” makes us consider how we can use our relationship and everything we have to “look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:4.
What does ministering to the world look like on a daily basis?
Aaron Smith: It starts with how we interact with one another at home. Is a husband and wife interacting with each other with love and respect? Their marriage should reflect the love Christ has for his bride, the church. Living this way reveals the message and power of the gospel—first to our family, our children, our neighbors, and then to the world as we step out into it, like when we’re shopping or playing at the park.
We write in Marriage After God, “As long as Christian husbands and wives see ministry to be separate from everything else in life instead of ministry being their life, they will never be able to recognize the true value of their marriage.”
How does every marriage have its own mission and unique calling from God?
Aaron Smith: Every marriage has the opportunity and mission of being a light in this world for God. Every marriage can and should reveal the message of Christ’s love. And at the same time, every marriage is unique. Every couple has unique experiences, testimonies, talents, and resources, which means how they minister to others will look different compared to other marriages.
The Bible illustrates the concept of unity and oneness for those who believe by likening believers to a body. There are many members, but each part plays a valuable role. Every marriage has a unique work to do; an important role to fulfill.
We’re created for this. Ephesians 2:10 confirms this, declaring, ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.’ A couples’ marriage relationship was designed by God to do good works for his name’s sake; works that he had in mind long before we were created. A couple can believe this truth and so be empowered to walk in the extraordinary purpose they’ve been uniquely created by God to do.
What would you say to someone whose spouse isn’t interested in this idea of a ministry-minded marriage?
Aaron Smith: We don’t have the ability to change someone else; not even our spouse. But we can influence them, encourage them, and pray for them.
We also need to remember that we must do what we can to do our part. Being faithful to what God has commanded in his Word and to live a holy life is not contingent on anyone else doing their part. We must seek to do our part faithfully. We’re to minister to and love each other because that’s how we walk in obedience to God.
In doing this we’re showing our spouse what the gospel is. By loving like this we’re doing exactly what Christ did. So we say to those who feel alone in walking with God in their marriage, “You’re not alone and your work is not in vain. God is good and his Word will work through you toward your spouse. Don’t give up!”
What advice do you have for people who are single/dating/engaged?
Aaron Smith: Abide in God. Get to know what he says about you and about marriage. Make sure that you’re the person you desire your future spouse to be. If you want him/her to be kind, be kind. If you want him/her to be godly, be godly!
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Aaron Smith: 2 Peter 1:3 which says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…”
We’ve been equipped to do what we need to do to live a holy life. Christ has set us free from the bonds of sin. And we know this because of what Scripture tells us. We do what we do by his power and strength, not our own, for his glory, not our own.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Aaron Smith: My wife and I love Bible Gateway. We use it to look up Scripture, to compare versions, and to study the Word. My wife uses the Bible Gateway App on her phone using a reading plan that also notifies her daily to get into the Word. We also appreciate how easy it is to navigate and use.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Aaron Smith: Just what we wrote in the book: “As Paul prayed for the Colossians, so we pray for you and your spouse that you would ‘be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God’ (Colossians 1:9–10). When you abide in the Lord and when you choose to walk in a manner worthy of his calling, you pave the way for others to follow God. As you choose holiness over happiness, your marriage will grow in maturity, able to bear the weight of abundant fruit, so that others can taste the goodness of the Lord through your life and marriage. As you make choices that lead to an increase in intimacy in your marriage and in the intimacy of knowing God, the will of the Father and the good works he has prepared for you will become clearer.”
Marriage After God is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Aaron Smith has been encouraging husbands to lead their families according to the Bible through his site HusbandRevolution.com since May 2011. He passionately urges men to strive for spiritual maturity, supporting husbands with daily marriage and parenting encouragement. Aaron has co-authored several books on marriage with his wife including Husband After God and Thirty-One Prayers for My Wife. Aaron has been married to his wife Jennifer since January 2007. Aaron’s greatest motivation is sharing the gospel.
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