What did you pack for your honeymoon? A bathing suit and flip-flops? A few warm sweaters?
Whether you went to Mexico or to the Poconos, surely you remembered to take this with you: your list of expectations.
No one goes into marriage without that!
Some lists are longer than others, and some are more colorful; but each list is a variation on this theme:
I expect my spouse to meet my needs.
Once the wedding is over, we take that list of expectations and try to build a marriage on it. But, as it turns out, that list creates a lousy foundation for a marriage. The first big storm can tear it into heartbreaking strips. Even ordinary breezes can eventually shred those expectations into disappointing little scraps. As a foundation, our list of expectations fails to offer any kind of strength or stability.
But the Scriptures tell us about another, very different foundation, one that is solid and unshakeable. This foundation has both a primary and a secondary layer of strength.
1. The primary layer is complete reliance upon Christ.
It is Christ who is our Need-Meeter. He is not only the creator but also the sustainer of our lives. He is our provider and our protector.
God may or may not choose to use our spouses to meet a need in our lives. It does not matter how God chooses to meet our needs. He will meet our needs. He is our Source.
Regardless of the actions of others, we are completely secure in the care of God; we are completely unthreatened. Our well-being is not vulnerable to the actions of others because we are completely sheltered in the protection and provision of God.
This is the mindset which gives us strength, frees us from fear, and releases us from the need to control. Our underlying, Rock-solid foundation is this: we rely upon Jesus as our Need-Meeter.
In fact, here is an amazing thing:
God says that He will be our Covenant Partner. (See Isaiah 54:5 and Hosea 2:16, 19, NLT.)
God is willing to enter into a covenant with each of us personally in which He promises to be the One who provides for us, who protects us, and who meets our every need.
- God will be unshakeable in His loyalty to us;
- He will be steadfast in His faithfulness to us;
- He will be fully trustworthy in His commitment to us; and
- He will be unfailing in His love toward us.
This means that we don’t have to panic when a spouse fails us. We do not need to retaliate or manipulate. When a spouse disappoints us, we don’t have to feel desperate. If a spouse misunderstands or dismisses our needs, we don’t have to feel vulnerable. There is no need to run, withdraw, or scheme.
God will not fail us. He very well may meet our needs through our spouses, but He is not limited to that. God can meet our needs in any way He desires as we remain yielded to Him. The LORD is our Shepherd; we have everything we need!
2. The second layer of this foundation is a commitment to serve our spouses.
We usually think that our marriages are where we go to get our needs met; we think that marriage is where we are nurtured and renewed. Perhaps we believe that our spouses should be our soulmates—able to understand our hearts, able to comfort our hurts, and able to fill up all the holes in our souls.
Sometimes there is even a Christian version of this:
My spouse should minister to me so that I can go out and minister to other people. If my spouse will be good to me, then I can go out and do a lot of good for the world.
But here is the truth: our marriages are our places of ministry. In fact, our marriages are our priority places of ministry.
When someone is considering marriage, these are not the questions to be asking: “Is this person my soulmate? Will this person meet my needs? Does this person make me happy?”
A better question to ask is this:
Is God calling me to serve this person as his or her spouse?”
This calling to our spouses will become a solid foundation on all those days when they do not feel like soulmates or do not meet our needs or do not make us happy. It does not matter. We are there to serve, and that commitment does not change.
We have been assigned by God to minister to our spouses. Their reactions and their behavior do not change our assignment at all. Their actions may alter the way we best minister to them, but the goal of ministry is a constant.
This second layer of foundation can be poured only after the first one has been built into our lives. Once we know that God is meeting our needs, then we are free to serve our spouses. Without this foundational security, people can give to someone else, but they must then receive back. Most of our natural giving is actually only bartering.
But when we know that our needs have already been provided for, then we can truly serve another person. Even if we have greater neediness in our own lives than our spouses do, we can still commit to a marriage of ministry because we are confident that Christ takes care of all of our needs.
Without the first layer of foundation, the second one is merely good intentions without the strength to fulfill them. It is because God meets our needs that we are able to serve others.
We can trade in that list of expectations for a double-layered foundation able to withstand any challenge. On that foundation, we are able to build marriages of strength, beauty, and success.