Jim got sick and had to forsake his climb up the corporate ladder. This brought stress into his marriage to Jen that he would never have anticipated.
Brad and Savannah got busier and busier and quit communicating as they should, and their relationship paid the price.
Brent struggled with a secret sin for years, and when Liz discovered it, it almost ended their marriage.
India and Frank always seemed to be in a battle for control. It was an exhausting marriage to be a part of.
Alfie and Sue never seemed to be in the same place spiritually.
Jared and Sally had an infectious affection for one another, but their financial woes brought much stress to their marriage.
Jung’s mother pulled her into loyalty battles again and again. It caused lots of conflict between her and Kim.
There are two observations to make about all these marriages. First, none was a bad marriage. No one was about to walk out. No one had been unfaithful as yet. There had been no abuse or violence. But none was experiencing what God had in mind when he created their union in the first place. And all of them were surprised at what they had to face as a couple. It was not what they had expected.
Second, everything that each couple faced is predicted by command, principle, proposition, or perspective in the Bible. If they had approached the Bible as a wonderful window onto their marriage, they would have known what to expect and not been surprised at what came their way.
So what are the essential wisdom perspectives that Scripture gives us that enable us to have realistic expectations for our marriage?
1. You are conducting your marriage in a fallen world.
Sam can’t believe he has been suddenly laid-off after all these years. Julie struggles with the thought of living with a man with a chronic disease. Mary feels like a prisoner in the house she loves, which is located in a neighborhood now gone bad. Sherrie struggles with the responses she has received to her biracial marriage. John often wonders why life has to be so hard.
We all face the same thing. Our marriages live in the middle of a world that does not function as God intended. Somehow, some way, your marriage is touched every day by the brokenness of our world. Maybe it simply has to do with the necessity of living with the low-grade hassles of a broken world, or maybe you are facing major issues that have altered the course of your life and your marriage.
But one thing is sure: You will not escape the environment in which God has chosen you to live. It is not an accident that you are conducting your marriage in this broken world. It is not an accident that you have to deal with the things you do. None of this is fate, chance, or luck. It is all part of God’s redemptive plan. Acts 17 says that he determines the exact place where you live and the exact length of your life. He knows where you live, and he is not surprised at what you are facing.
Even though you face things that make no sense to you, there is meaning and purpose to everything you face. I am persuaded that understanding your fallen world and God’s purpose for keeping you in it is foundational to building a marriage of unity, understanding, and love.
2. You are a sinner married to a sinner.
You and I just don’t get to be married to someone perfect. It seems true when you read it, but even though this seems obvious, many people get married with unrealistic expectations about who they are marrying.
Here is the point: You both bring something into your marriage that is destructive to what a marriage needs and must do. That thing is called sin. Most of the troubles we face in marriage are not intentional or personal. In most marriage situations, you do not face difficulty because your spouse intentionally did something to make your life difficult.
Yes, in moments of anger that may happen. But most often, what is really happening is that your life is being affected by the sin, weakness, and failure of the person you are living with. So, if your wife is having a bad day, that bad day will splash up on you in some way. If your husband is angry with his job, there is a good possibility that he will bring that anger home with him.
3. God is faithful, powerful, and willing.
There is one more reality that you have to include as you are trying to look at your marriage as realistically as possible. Not only must you consider the fallenness of the world you live in and the fact that both of you are less than perfect, but you must also remember that you are not alone in your struggle. The Bible says that God is near, so near that in your moment of need you can reach out and touch him because he is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27). Yes, you live in a fallen world, and the two of you are less than perfect, but in all this you are not left to your own resources. The God who determined your address lives there with you and is committed to giving you everything you need.
What did you expect?
Because God is faithful, powerful, and willing, you can be realistic and hopeful about your marriage at the very same time. Realistic expectations are not about hope without honesty, and they are not about honesty without hope. Realism is found at the intersection of unabashed honesty and uncompromising hope. God’s Word and God’s grace make both possible in your marriage.
Taken from What Did You Expect by Paul David Tripp, © 2010, pages 20-26. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 60187, www.crossway.org.
Paul David Tripp is a speaker, writer, pastor, seminary pastor, and president of Paul Tripp Ministries. He and his wife, Luella, have four grown children.