When I was working as a Web content editor, I read several articles on the importance of prenuptial agreements. These articles made me sad because creating a prenuptial agreement suggests that the couple expects the marriage to fail. A prenuptial agreement suggests that marriage is a contract. Seeing marriage in this way may limit progress and justify any lack of complete effort. Perhaps worst of all, a contract view on marriage may lead to hopelessness if someone messes up, suggesting that occasional failure should lead to annulment.
Forget the contract. In marriage, both must give their all, as well as support in weakness. Even that may not be enough, though. Marriages cannot truly succeed without God's loving grace. This article will discuss three reasons grace is necessary in marriage.
Grace helps in efforts to become whole
A common phrase is, "He completes me." There is nothing wrong with having a spouse whose strengths are your weaknesses. The problem comes when people use that as an excuse to not overcome their follies.
For example, I'm not a very confident person, but my husband is. His confidence will not do me any good when I have to give a presentation. Nor will it at that job interview, or when I am trying to make a new friend. For my own benefit, I need to become confident. How can I do that?
Another example. Say a husband has a weakness for alcohol. The fact that the wife has never had a drink in her life will not help him unless he chooses to change. But, her self-control and support, as well as his desire to overcome, will not be enough alone. What will make it enough?
Speaking of the Lord's grace, Paul writes in Titus 2:14: "[Christ] gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify."
Because Christ gave His life for all, everyone can become pure. However, you can't just stand back and wait for the Lord to help. In Romans 5:2 it states, "We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand." Ephesians 2:8 adds, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."
Faith in the Lord plus grace is necessary.
But faith is about more than just belief. It is about action: "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17).
In other words, you must believe and then make the effort to change. Then, as is declared in 1 Peter 5:10, "The God of all grace ... after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." As you make the effort, the Lord will help you change.
As each spouse goes through the process of change, they will grow closer to each other and to the Lord. When I become confident, I'll be happier and better able to serve and support others, including my spouse. When that husband gets over his weakness for alcohol, he will be able to focus more on his family.
But do not forget that as someone seeks the Lord's grace, the spouse's forgiveness and support is essential.
Grace helps you forgive and deal with it
Perhaps your spouse has done something to hurt you. Or perhaps he or she has a quirk that annoys you. Instead of dwelling on these things, you should do your best to work through them. Matthew 5:44 proclaims, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Matthew 6 goes on to testify that the Lord will only forgive us if we forgive others. If God wants us to love our enemies and forgive them, He desires that we make amends with our spouses.
I remember reading an article in a religious magazine some time ago called, "The Grapefruit Syndrome." The author relates how there were several things that bothered her about her husband, including the way he ate his grapefruit. She suggested to her husband that they each write down what annoyed them about the other and discuss it. When her husband shared, he merely stated that he couldn't think of anything annoying about her. The author cried, realizing that she had let petty things bother her, which could have had terrible consequences.
But how do you get over the little stuff or forgive the larger ones? It all comes back to the first scripture quoted in this section: praying for others, and loving and serving them. It's really hard to hate someone you continually pray to love, or that you frequently serve, for God will help you change through grace.
Grace helps you see that neither of you can be perfect now
Grace can also help you accept that neither you nor your spouse will be perfect any time soon.
But the Lord only cares about effort.
My mother once told me a story she heard from a church leader. The leader's daughter had asked him for a bicycle. Knowing they didn't have much money, he told her to save up her pennies. A couple weeks later, she brought him 61 pennies. Full of love, he decided to take her to get a bike. She cried when she realized she didn't have enough. The father said that if she gave him what she had, and a hug and a kiss, he would cover the rest. He then explained that it was the same with the Lord. After our best efforts, He says, "Give me all you have, and I'll do the rest."
There is hope that you can change through grace. Seek it in your marriage, and you'll overcome.