I sat and marveled at the splendor of the day.  

A beautiful young lady was being celebrated for her upcoming matrimony and would soon be joining the ranks of wifery. I felt elated and subdued at the same time, similar to when I meet a woman who is expecting her first child. I know what awaits: joy and bliss and exhaustion and sorrow, mountain-peak highs mixed with deep valley lows. 

It is easy to be adrift in the sea of marital bliss when all is going well and passion is running high. Before too much time has passed, we get glaring reminders that the one we have pledged our lives to is not perfect and we aren't cutting the mustard either. To add to the party, real life comes knocking on the door. Whether a lost job, sickness, bad decisions, lukewarm feelings, etc., these painful realities teach us the futility in seeking our best in anything or anyone but God.  

We also get a much clearer picture of our need for grace as we get many glimpses into our own shortcomings as well the parameters and conditions in those we love. There are times when the peaceful union of two sinful people seems impossible.

Marriage is a physical, emotional and spiritual journey. God uses an imperfect human being to work life into us. In some instances, God uses our men to show us His attributes: kindness, selflessness, bravery, power. And in other circumstances, He uses pain, unmet expectations and disappointment to show us that our dependence can only be in Him. We also get a much clearer picture of our need for grace as we get many glimpses into our own shortcomings as well the parameters and conditions in those we love. There are times when the peaceful union of two sinful people seems impossible.  

God has an interesting way of using our lowest moments to speak the clearest. When we realize that, in our own strength, we cannot do this, He shows up in astounding ways. Marriage becomes a massive tool of sanctification. And to have any hope of doing this thing well, we need His perspective on life, love and duty. It is an awesome avenue for learning to follow the way of our Servant King. As we give and learn to love unconditionally, the Holy Spirit does a quiet work in our being. As we learn to take each thought captive against the insanity that culture would have us believe about marriage, we are disarming our carnal nature and the Holy Spirit is free to mold and shape.  

Much of the struggle is letting go of the illusion of control and getting our eyes off of what we think will bring us happiness. Happy is a fleeting emotion. Joy, on the other hand, is a fruit of the spirit and can be impervious to circumstance. Joy boldly states that when the storms come and when the waters rise, it will not be moved. This priceless fruit of the Spirit is unshakable because it rests outside of us. It is rooted in the One who holds eternity, the One whose hands we are graven upon and the One who ransomed us from the pit of destruction. Joy is an enduring reality that is only cultivated by strong winds and high seas.  

Without the struggle, the true definition of joy cannot be known. You see, Joy is a decision that no matter what happens, God is good! God knows that He alone must be our need. Our fickle human emotions are not on His priority list and our sanctification is of much more value than our silly want lists. God is such a benevolent Father not to entreat our immediate gratification but to deal with what really matters – shaping our hearts for eternity. 

Our fickle human emotions are not on His priority list and our sanctification is of much more value than our silly want lists.

What’s even more counter-intuitive is that when we get our eyes off of ourselves and put Christ as the center of all that we think, feel and do, we experience a holy unity with God that is so much more valuable than whatever our men could give. When we look to God to meet our deepest needs then we are free to let go and love without bounds, genuinely placing their best before our own. And the weirdest thing, it’s so satisfying! True unity takes place because true love is being given. This true love gave up all for our best and it gave in spite of our sinfulness. The most astonishing aspect of marriage is that both parties get the opportunity to tread in the footsteps of Christ and love as He loves! May God help us to see our position as wives as the wonderful gift that it is. 

When my turn came to give this bride-to-be advice, I struggled because I knew that a few sound bites wouldn’t cover it. She was entering a journey that would painfully and joyfully teach her to lose herself in her Messiah, to become less so He could become more. Jesus would change a corner of the world through this young lady and she had no idea what awaited!