Every weekday for the past 21 years, I have found myself sitting behind a microphone hoping to provide listeners with practical, biblical help for their marriage and family relationships.
Over those 21 years, I’ve come to realize that for Christians, there is one piece of advice that is more important than anything else I could say.
That one piece of advice?
Believe the gospel again today.
Here is how author and counselor Larry Crabb says it: “If you don’t think Jesus and the gospel are the answer to whatever you’re facing right now, you haven’t understood your problem correctly yet.”
Does that sound odd to you?
How does the account of what happened to Jesus 2,000 years ago affect a troubled marriage today? Why is reaffirming the truth of the gospel each day the most important thing we can do to build a stronger marriage or a healthier family?
The link between what Jesus accomplished by His death and resurrection and the issues couples face in their marriage each day is unclear in the minds of most Christians today.
We may understand John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
We may have embraced that truth, believing that our sins have been forgiven and our future in heaven is secure because we have acknowledged Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
We may understand that because of what Jesus has done for us, we will not face the wrath of God on the day we stand before Him.
We may even understand that if we are in Christ, God is at work in our lives, conforming us to the image of Jesus.
But most Christians today still can’t see how Jesus’ death and resurrection has any practical bearing on their marriage problems, or for that matter, on most of the practical challenges they face each day. They believe the gospel, but they don’t see how that has anything to do with any of the issues they face in life.
Don’t just address the symptoms
When most couples experience conflict or challenges in their marriage, they tend to focus on the symptoms and not the real issue they’re dealing with. And that’s the main reason why they don’t see the gospel as the answer to their problem.
If you’ve ever listened to the radio program Car Talk, you’ve heard mechanics Tom and Ray Magliozzi helping people diagnose their car problems. People call in and describe the sound their car is making, and Tom and Ray try to diagnose the cause. Occasionally, just for laughs, they’ll say things like, “If you’ll wear ear muffs when you drive, you won’t hear that noise.” But everyone recognizes that ear muffs won’t fix the problem.
You have to address more than just the symptoms.
In marriage, as in every area of our lives, the only long-term fix for the relational symptoms we’re experiencing is to get to the source and address the wellspring from which all of life flows—the human heart.
“Only two things have ever changed a human heart,” Larry Crabb says. “The fall of man. And the grace of God.”
The problems we experience in marriage—and in all of life—are problems that come from inside of us, not from outside of us. Your spouse is not your biggest problem. Your circumstances are not your biggest problem. Your empty wallet is not your biggest problem.
Your sin-sick heart is the biggest problem you’re facing today.
You have to have a correct diagnosis—the effects of the fall on the human heart and on how we behave—for healing to happen.
And you have to experience the correct treatment—experiencing the grace of God over and over again in our lives—for real, specific change in human relationships.
As followers of Jesus, we are assured that the penalty we face for our sins has been paid. God has begun a good work in us, conforming us to the image of His Son, and He will be faithful to complete it.
That’s good news.
And believing that good news again today—and every day—changes everything.
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