In the last year of marriage, Beth and I have learned more about marriage than we did in the first 8. Church planting has its ways of pressing a marriage on every side and exposing things in you that you never thought were there. Between the ridiculous hours, the pressures of success, the incredible relational demands, 4 kids and the exposing of our idols, by God's grace, Beth and I are building an incredible oneness. We have had unique opportunities to be counseled by some incredibly Godly people and also offer counseling to pre-maritals and some struggling relationships. Here is some that we have learned.
Marriage is be one of the most difficult challenges in a persons life. Beth and I have experienced some major challenges along the way in our relationship. Something that we learned is that marriage is a sacred covenant that joins two people together in one flesh (Matthew 19:5). It is not easy because it's very difficult for two sinners to live in peaceful harmony (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). If Beth and I aren't pursuing Jesus together, the inherent struggles of living under two different authorities quickly become apparent.
Often Christians in this situation will look for a way out of the marriage. At times we can even convince ourselves that this is the only way to truly be happy and even bring honor to God. You may be thinking "God wants me leave; or God wants me to be happy; or God would never want me to feel this way." His Word, however, says nothing like that. It is very important not only to be content in our marriage, (unless of extreme circumstances such physical sexual unfaithfulness or abuse) but also to look for ways to bring glory to Jesus out of our challenging circumstances (1 Corinthians 7:17). Unless you look to Jesus to be your source of satisfaction, you'll never experience the true joy of marriage. The problem with this is we too often look to our spouse to be our source of satisfaction and joy when they are a sinner by nature. And for some reason, even though you knew that when you said "I do"; you're surprised when you feel the effects of being married to a sinner.
My encouragement is that you would pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to enable you both humble yourself in submission to Christ (Ephesians 5:21) and live in the light of God's presence (1 John 1:7). Seek God's transforming power to change your hearts and produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
A Christian wife is obligated to have a submissive heart, even toward a man that is not perfect or even unbelieving (1 Peter 3:1), and you will need to remain close to God and rely on His grace to enable you to do so. A Christian husband is called to love his wife well, by taking his eyes off of his own desires and seek to love Jesus by serving his wife. I would argue that you, like Beth and I, struggle to do this. My encouragement to you is that you would stop looking at marriage as a covenant to bring YOU happiness and joy but rather as a covenant to serve each other and honor Jesus. In that, we will find our greatest Joy. I promise, because God promises.
Lastly, we are not meant to walk through marriage alone; we need to find support from outside sources like our church, Godly marriage counselors, Godly books on marriage, Godly teachings on marriage online, and and other Christians in our lives. Being in a struggling marriage does not alter the sacredness of the relationship, so it should be your priority to pray, asking Christ's light to shine brightly (Philippians 2:14).
Don't give up on your marriage. Fight for your marriage, Fight for each other and fight to honor Jesus. I am convinced that the strong will fight for this but the weak will roll over and quit. Be Strong!! Joshua 1:9 says "Be Strong and Courageous…God is with you."