Marriage is hard.
Marriage in the Bay Area seems to be particularly hard. We live in a place where there are precious few models of healthy, happy, self-giving marriage. As a result, many adults in our area are forgoing marriage altogether: Only 41% of adults in Oakland and 54% of adults in Alameda (our family-friendly Island City) are married. Only 51% of adults in California were married in 2016, compared with 74% in 1960. The marriages that do last—and a majority don’t—often devolve into mere contractual arrangements, rather than the deep intimacy that drew the couple to get married in the first place.
Over the years, I’ve counseled dozens of Bay Area couples. All of them were struggling in their marriages, from minor disagreements to major infidelity. I have pleaded with couples, tears in my eyes, begging them to forgive, to give their hurt to Christ, to let Him heal their wounds, to seek reconciliation with one another. Those pleas have not always been successful.
When I reflect on the obstacles to healthy, thriving marriages in our context—from financial pressures to lack of support network, from the demands of career to sexual temptation—one phrase best summarizes them all:
The devil hates marriage!
(I imagine this line as a song, to the tune of “Papa Loves Mambo.” Just pretend Perry Como is singing “devil hates marriage” instead.)
Why is it so hard to apologize to your wife when what you’ve said is genuinely hurtful? Devil hates marriage.
Why is it so tempting to focus on what your husband has done wrong and using that to justify your stubbornness? Devil hates marriage.
Why is it so much easier to spend your energy on your children than on your relationship with your spouse? Devil hates marriage.
Why are you and your husband or wife stuck in a pattern of miscommunication, arguing, indifference and hopelessness? Devil hates marriage.
The devil hates marriage because he hates what God wants to do with it. God wants to shine His glory through your marriage. He wants the love, the self-sacrifice, the deep knowledge of another, and the mutual submission to be like a mirror that reflects the glory of our self-giving Savior.
When speaking of the union of man and woman as one person, one flesh, St. Paul wrote, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:32). Marriage is a tangible metaphor of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
We get stuck in patterns of self-focus, mistrust, autopilot, and despair in our marriages because Satan wants to cloud over God’s glory in your marriage with lies. Jesus said of him, "there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He wants to obscure God’s glory in your marriage with lies like:
- Marriage is too hard.
- Your situation is really unfair.
- You should just settle for the way things are.
- You’ve given all anyone can reasonably expect of you.
Those lies focus your attention on yourself. Not God. Not your spouse. And when those lies take hold, the devil’s hatred for marriage wins.
In opposition to the slavery of sin and Satan’s lies, Jesus welcomes us into His freedom: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin…. [But] if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36). The devil hates marriage. But Jesus loves marriage. And if you’re married, He wants you to enjoy the freedom, intimacy, joy and affection that come in a healthy, God-reflecting marriage. And He wants your marriage to accomplish its mission to display the glory of our self-giving God.
We need to be honest: marriage in the Bay is hard. It’s hard because the devil hates it. It’s hard because reflecting God’s glory isn’t easy. But God wants your marriage to be a school of love, in which you learn how to love others as your love yourself. God gave you your spouse to teach you to love like Him.