Why did (or do) you want to get married? Other than the obvious reasons—you love someone and want to spend your life with that person—is there a bigger purpose at work?
Robbie and I hadn’t really talked about marriage before he proposed (it’s one of two times I’ve been utterly gobsmacked by a move that he’s made), and we certainly didn’t head to the altar with any sort of goal or “purpose” in mind. Sure, we had big-picture ideas—I envisioned kids and the picket-fence thing; I am pretty sure Robbie wanted a dog (and “I” got a birthday puppy one year, which was the second gobsmack)—but we’d never really considered what God thought about marriage. Or what his vision for our marriage might be.
Now, nearly four decades later, I am finally waking up to the fact that God does have a vision for marriage. As I pulled the pages together for the new book—talking with dozens of couples about their own perspectives on purpose and exploring the Bible to see what God had to say—I’m boiling it all down to this:
God wants us to bear fruit in our marriages and he wants our relationships to showcase the gospel.
The Christian idea of marriage is one of mutual submission and service, one where we give up ourselves—our rights, our desires, our position, our needs—for each other out of love. Even (maybe especially?) when we are not pretty or perfect, or we don’t think that the other person deserves it.
The privilege we have to build marriages that reflect the gospel as we “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” is the theme that undergirds pretty much every chapter in Praying the Scriptures for Your Marriage. But the other part of our mission—the fruit-bearing part—can look different for every couple. Sure, it’s a charge the Lord gives to every believer (he chose us, he says in John 15:16, so that we might go and bear lasting fruit), but how do we do that, exactly?
A vision for your marriage
For many folks, the idea of “being fruitful” in marriage means having children. (At least that’s what my mom seems to think, since she signed every one of our engagement and wedding gift cards with Genesis 1:28 and a big smiley face.) Honestly though, that’s only part of the picture. The fruit-bearing charge is one that pops up again and again in the Bible. “I chose you,” Jesus says in John 15:16, “so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”
So how do we do that, exactly? How can we be sure that our lives—and more specifically, our marriages—will be meaningful and productive, in a way that endures? What if we have different ideas about, say, the best uses of money and time? How can we merge our individual (maybe even competing) desires so we have a unified sense of calling?
Those are legitimate questions—questions that have led many couples to lean in and do the same thing many businesses and ministries do and create a “purpose statement” for their marriage.
Having a purpose statement is like adding bumper guards to your relationship: it can keep you in your own lane as you consider the unlimited ways to spend your limited time, talents, and energy. Some couples write their statement in paragraph form, others prefer bullet points that detail their core values (service, adventure, humility, etc.). One fellow I talked with keeps notebooks for the different goals he and his wife have for their marriage; other people—like my mom and her husband—keep their vision simple. “We just want to bless and cherish each other,” Mom told me, “and then do that again the next day.”
Praying about your purpose
Whether you’ve got a big picture vision, a detailed notebook, or you find yourself somewhere in between, it can help to remember what Jesus says about purposeful, productive living: “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Put another way, the power to discover and live out our purpose doesn’t come from our own strength or striving; it comes from our attachment to Christ.
Not only that, but Jesus makes it pretty clear that fruitfulness begins with prayer. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you,” he continues in John 15:7-8, “ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. This is to my father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Ask…that you bear much fruit.
If praying about your purpose (and doing so with your spouse) feels awkward or unfamiliar, you’re not alone. Research suggests that only 4 percent of Christian couples pray together—about anything—despite evidence that points to a divorce rate of less than 1 percent among those who pray together daily. Still though, I want you encourage you to give it a try, even if it’s just for five or ten minutes. Set a timer if that helps; do what works!
As you pray, start by asking the Holy Spirit to help you answer some clarifying questions:
What are your individual strengths? What unique gifts do you have as a couple? What is it that you find easy to do, where others might struggle?
What do you love to do, even if it’s hard? When do you feel most alive? What gives you purpose and joy?
Where can you make an impact? What does your wider sphere of influence look like? How might God want to use you in that space?
Those questions aren’t meant to be all-inclusive; rather, they’re designed to help form your thoughts as you pray. And where you come up against thorny patches—individual strengths that feel competitive, priorities that seem misaligned, personality traits or individual longings that have you and your spouse pointed in opposite directions—bring those to God, too.
Your differences don’t catch God by surprise; in fact, they may be the very things that equip you to fulfill your calling. They may be what makes you, as our friends Alyssa and Jefferson Bethke put it, “Stronger together.”
You can read more about fulfilling your purpose in the new book. It releases April 25, and—
What’s that you say? You don’t want to wait? You want to start bearing fruit now?
Well alrighty then. I’ve got some good news. Great news, actually. All you need to do is pre-order the book (which is super easy; click here) and then click here to let us know your order number. We’ll send you a set of 20 different conversation cards—including one on FULFILLING YOUR PURPOSE—so you can start talking (and praying!) about all sorts of good marriage topics TODAY!
I hope you like these cards as much as Robbie and I do. We had fun coming up with the questions—they got us talking!—and now we’re having even more fun talking to God about all of the stuff!
More to come in the weeks ahead—and as always, I am grateful for you!
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)