Ask An Older Woman #24: Contentment in Marriage

Q: How have you worked for contentment in a marriage that feels like a daily struggle?

A: Marriage is a really big deal. It’s far more significant than acknowledged in our culture and perhaps even in our churches. Why is it such a big deal? Because it’s the way God puts the covenantal relationship between Himself and man, made possible through Christ, on display to the world (Eph. 5:31–32). Marriage as defined in the Bible—a covenant between one man and one woman for life (Gen. 2:22–24)—involves a daily, ongoing commitment that has an eternal purpose. That purpose is to glorify God and make Him known.

It’s essential to have that purpose at the forefront of your mind and in the core of your heart as you prepare for marriage, or if already married, as you live as a married woman. It’s also the foundation for contentment if your marriage feels like a daily struggle. While I have only experienced days or very brief seasons of that sort of struggle in my twenty-one years of marriage, I’d like to offer some truth and hope to the woman who might be in a long season of difficult.

God’s foundational purpose for marriage is where it all begins. Perspective is key in any test or trial—no matter how painful or complicated it may be. Keeping the eternal purpose of marriage as your hope and goal will shape your daily actions and reactions. The knowledge that enduring tense interactions, repetitive disappointment, or ongoing weariness will result in God being made known is powerful motivation. While we desire joy, fulfillment, love, care, and peace in our marriages, those things cannot be the only places we find contentment. Ultimately, our contentment should come from knowing that being faithful to our spouse is making us more like Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). This is not a focus on feelings and circumstances, but a focus that helps to define our feelings and circumstances.

Scripture gives us some very practical instructions for how to work toward contentment in any relationship—including marriage—so it’s going to be absolutely essential for you to be reading and studying God’s Word. As you consistently read and understand the Word, you will be increasingly conformed to it.

Perhaps you have applied these verses in relationships with other family members, friends, members of your church, or neighbors, but they apply to your marriage as well:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. (Ps. 133:1)

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Col. 3:12–15)

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Rom. 12:18)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. (1 Pet. 4:8–10)

Living out the principles found in God’s Word will help you find contentment in your marriage. Love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and peace should characterize your thoughts, words, and actions. Remember that you are not alone and you do not (and actually cannot) exhibit these qualities in your own power. Romans 5:3–5 lays out a hopeful process that begins with affliction and builds character and endurance by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

I also have one caution to offer as you seek contentment: flee from contentment-suckers. Perhaps you already have a list forming in your mind, but examples include unrealistic expectations, comparisons to other couples, and self-focus. If a circumstance threatens your contentment, take it to the Lord. Lay it at His feet. Ask Him to redeem it. Ask for forgiveness. Then trust Him to enable you to move toward contentment again.

My final exhortation is to pray. Pray for your husband. Pray for your attitude. Pray for your relationship and circumstances. Find verses and passages of Scripture to pray so you know you’re praying in God’s will. Prayer is not a trite suggestion; it’s a way-making, life-changing action you can take.

With God’s purpose for marriage as your focus, His Word as your guide, prayer as your mission, and the Holy Spirit as your power, contentment will come. It is possible in the midst of, and even because of, a difficult marriage. Christ can be formed in you and displayed through you as you walk faithfully in marriage. Hold on to eternal hope because the One who promises is faithful.

About the Author

Heidi Jo Fulk

Heidi Jo Fulk

Heidi Jo Fulk desires to know and live God's Word, then teach and challenge other women to do the same. Heidi and and her husband, Dan, live in Michigan with their four children where she leads women's ministries at her … read more …

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