By Matt Chandler
Lauren and I have been married 16 years. I must admit that those first few years were tough. I had an over-romanticized view of what marriage was and what I thought Lauren and our marriage would bring to my life. There was a confidence I should’ve been gaining from the Lord. But I was, instead, trying to gain it from Lauren. When she was unable to heal all the brokenness in my heart, I began to blame her. I had convinced myself that the problem in our marriage was Lauren. I was constantly on the lookout for evidence to support my theory.
I remember one Saturday morning, Lauren had frustrated me again and she knew it. But, she came around from our bar area and just hugged me. She said, “I’m not sure what’s going on in your heart. But I want you to know that I love you.” For whatever reason that moment of her expressing grace to me broke me. I remember thinking for the first time in that moment, “I’m the problem.” The root of the problem was that I had a distorted view of what marriage was. By God’s grace, Lauren and I discovered that because our understanding of marriage had been broken, the way we utilized it was be broken.
Generally speaking, there is a fundamental misunderstanding, in our day, of what marriage is, what is designed to be, and what it provides. As a result then, we lean toward a sort-of romantic comedy, ethereal view of it. We, then look for someone to complete us, to make us happier people, and to somehow take all our difficulty away. This problem is rampant in our homes, churches, and communities. But as pastors, we must enter the fray. We have a responsibility to shepherd the marriages God has entrusted to our care.
Disciple Your People With Truth
Marriage issues are discipleship issues amplified by the intimacy of the relationship. It is critical that we feed our people a theologically rich, gospel-centered understanding of marriage. This begins with our teaching. But, it doesn’t stop there. We must cultivate environments for our people to discover and observe how the gospel is applied to marriages.
Create A Gospel-Centered Culture
One of the best things we can do for marriages in our churches is to create a culture where it’s okay to not be okay. Husbands and wives need to feel the freedom to be honest and vulnerable about their struggles without threat of condemnation or passive aggressive ridicule. We must create space for people to be honest about blind spots and all issues of sin early on before they catch fire and burn marriages to the ground.
Help Marriages in Crisis
As a pastor, I love to be involved in helping the people under my care in every aspect of the redemptive process. Over the years, the church I pastor in Dallas has become so large, that I simply cannot handle even a fraction of the counseling needs. And frankly, that was a good thing. Sometimes, the needs are beyond my training and expertise. It is critical, however, that we are prepared to help spouses navigate the treacherous and painful waters of marriages in crisis. Consider hiring a pastoral counselor or keeping a professional therapist on retainer to refer couples in trauma.
Provide Enrichment Opportunities
God tends to honor when His people pull away and remember His goodness. A study of the Old Testament will show God’s people stopping in their tracks, building and altar, and remembering who God is and how His glory had been on display. It is critical to work opportunities like this into the rhythms of your church. It’s for this reason that Lauren and I do the Mingling of Souls conferences. We want to create special environments for God to do his redemptive work in marriages.
If we want God to be glorified by human flourishing, we must be serious about the family. If we are serious about family, we must be serious about marriage.