Stay the course!

Series: Marriage East of Eden, by Rosie Moore.

Some final words about perseverance in marriage!

If married couples shared the truth about their struggles, it would soon become evident that every marriage passes through storms and wildernesses along its journey. The problem is that on the day that we say “I do” at the altar, we often have an idealised view of marriage, thinking it’s the end of all our loneliness and troubles, the ultimate island retreat! We don’t imagine that we could ever be overwhelmed with division, anger, disappointment or despair. We are ill-prepared for manipulative in-laws, childlessness, strong-willed children, chronic illness, tragedy, joblessness, burnout or the effects of sin and abuse. We’re not even prepared for the normal everyday stresses of life, which rock the strongest of marriages. As the years roll on, sometimes it may feel as if our actions don’t really make a difference, because nothing seems to change. But nothing could be further from the truth. Our actions really do matter.

Listen to the advice given to Frodo the hobbit and his unlikely companions on their perilous quest in  The Fellowship of the Ring. It could just as well apply to us on the quest of marriage:

“Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens…All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us….The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet it is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: Small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” (J.R.R Tolkien).

Small hands matter.

Small hands, not distracted eyes, make all the difference in marriage. Ordinary actions in the hidden rooms of our homes matter more than any lofty words we may profess. It matters what we do with the short time that is given us in our marriages.

Ask yourself three simple questions at the end of every day: Did I honour? Did I cherish? Did I thank my spouse today? Small deeds done over a lifetime will make or break our marriages. 

Remember this—If you’re a Christian, the greatest quest in life is to know and grow in the love of the Lord Jesus. It is to imitate our Saviour wherever He’s placed us. He is our Holy Grail, not our spouse or our marriage! And as on every quest, actions speak louder than words. Small actions, done day after day, over a lifetime.

Winston Smith expresses it well:

“True faith is most obvious when it empowers you to action that’s opposite of your emotions. Doing what you feel like doesn’t take faith…In your marriage, you choose to act not just because you feel things but because you’re moved by another relationship that’s more powerful, your relationship with God. The power of that relationship becomes most obvious when it moves you to do what God wants, rather than what you want” (Marriage Matters, p 263).

This is seriously counter-cultural at a time when feelings are on the throne and being true to yourself is the highest good! So, our Christian faith is practised when we are unselfish in the unseen moments of our ordinary marriages, whether or not our actions are affirmed or appreciated by our spouse. Irrespective of whether our actions change our spouse, they will change us. Obedience to God always does.

As I read through the list of faithful believers in Hebrews 11 this week, it struck me that these were men and women of action: Noah built an Ark in obedience to God’s command; Abraham and his family uprooted themselves from civilisation to go to a place they’d never seen; Rahab gave up all the security she ever knew in Jericho to follow the Israelites’ God. None of them would have felt like doing these counter-intuitive things!

These heroes of the faith were ordinary believers who acted in response to God’s promises. They didn’t just speak about their faith, they acted upon it! “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb 11:6). It is our acts of obedience in marriage that prove whether we earnestly seek the Lord. Our willing hands and feet show that Christ matters most to us, not our feelings or circumstances.

Marriage is a longterm farming operation.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians reminds us that our acts of obedience do indeed make a difference, but the difference isn’t always obvious to see from the outset. Marriage is more like the diligent work of a patient farmer, who sows his seed and tends his fields for ages before he finally reaps a harvest. In fact, most of the hard work is done under the ground, invisible to the naked eye.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal 6:7-9).

So, if we hold to a Biblical worldview, marriage is not a Facebook post, but a longterm farming operation! It requires time, effort and grace. It requires us to persevere in doing good to our spouse, even when we are weary. Like a farmer, we cannot control our spouse or all the external stressors of our marriage, but we can trust God to provide manna and water one day at a time. He will see us through the darkest seasons and driest deserts.

The principle of sowing and reaping means that no matter how hard the soil of your marriage, keep moving towards your spouse in faith and obedience. Keep your eyes on the Lord’s promises, the Lord’s love and the Lord’s faithfulness. It’s only His daily grace that can sustain us. Remember that marriage was always intended to draw you closer to the perfect Bridegroom, so fix your hope on Him.

Blessed is the one who perseveres.

As we reach the end of 2020, it’s natural for us to be weary, but we must fight for hope. This year has taught many in Christ’s family that human existence is often hard, dark and fragile, full of brokenness and hidden desperation. The reality is that earthly marriage is not miraculously sheltered from the ‘trials of many kinds’ that are part and parcel of the Christian life, no matter which century or continent we live in. But amidst the persecution of first century Palestine, James reminded believers to cultivate a hopeful mindset towards their trials, as they trusted in Christ:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing…Blessed is the one who remains steadfast under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:2-412).

And so, as we navigate the difficult seasons that test our marriages, let’s see our relationship as a classroom where the Lord is teaching us more about who He is, a crucible in which He is growing Christ’s character in us.

As husbands and wives, let’s stand steadfast together by allowing what we know about God to inform what we feel about our circumstances. And let’s press on in faith together, as we prepare for the day when our Bridegroom will return to claim His Bride (2 Tim 4:8). On that day, all who are in Christ will celebrate the great wedding feast that will never come to an end (Rev 19:7-10). “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.”


Lord, thank you for the blessing of marriage. Please help us navigate the challenges we face together and be willing to be honest about our struggles. Help us to honour, cherish and thank our spouse every day.

Lord, give us a hopeful outlook, because of the character and perseverance that trials can produce in our lives. Help us to focus on how we can walk faithfully alongside our spouse and love him/her well, showing the same selfless love that you have poured out on us. Finish the good work you have begun in us.

Father, protect our marriages from the enemy’s schemes to divide us. Give us grace to cherish one another for as long as we live. Fill us with hope to keep trusting in your promises, until the Bridegroom returns to restore all things.


It’s been a privilege to share The God Walk with you in 2020. What gems we’ve discovered in God’s Word along the way! If you’ve missed any of the previous devotions in this series, Marriage East of Eden, click on the links below:

  1. Whatever happened to marriage?
  2. Laws for lasting marriage.
  3. Worshipping the idol of blame.
  4. Demolishing the idol of blame.
  5. Redeemed roles.
  6. Husbands, love your wives!
  7. An excellent wife, who can find?
  8. Designer sex! A very good gift indeed.

Useful Books referenced in this series:

Winston Smith, Marriage Matters.

Walton, Jeff and Sarah, Together through the Storms.

Christopher Ash, Marriage and Sex in the Service of God.

Kevin Leman, Sheet Music.

Emerson Eggerichs, Love and Respect.

Designer sex: a very good gift indeed!

Series: Marriage East of Eden.

“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11).

From the first two chapters of the Bible, it’s clear that God created sex to be a blessing to married couples. In fact, our love life is a very good gift from God, the Designer of the universe, and it’s a gift that married couples should not neglect. If God made us sexual beings, then a good sex life colours our marriage. It may take a little work and forethought at times. It may require that we stand up to our own feelings when we’re just not in the mood. But the dividends of a good sex life are more than worth the effort.

Designer sex.

When God created Adam and Eve, He joined them as man and wife. Then he blessed them and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:31). He actually commanded them to have sexual relations! Moreover, when God looked at all that He had made, including the sexual act, he pronounced it “very good” (Gen 1:31). So then, we can say with absolute certainty that sex within marriage is not embarrassing or unspiritual, but a God-given gift to express and strengthen the covenant of marriage itself.

Intended for pleasure.

If you ever doubt that God designed the sexual bodies of husbands and wives to experience lifelong pleasure together, the Bible is not prudish or embarrassed about this divine intention:

“Drink water from your own cistern,
    flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
    streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
    and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
    and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19     a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
    be intoxicated always in her love”. (Proverbs 5:15-19).

I’m not sure how relatable the ‘lovely deer’ and ‘graceful doe’ imagery is, but it’s clear that God created husbands and wives for enduring sexual pleasure! This is a poem of pure sexual delight, blessing, fulfillment, fun, joy, even intoxication. But the Bible is equally clear that sex is a divine gift, not for strangers, but for monogamous, faithful, committed, lifelong marriage partners (Prov 5:15-17). Isn’t God’s design amazing? He gave us a little slice of sunshine amidst the grey humdrum of domestic responsibilities! And He means us to bask in the sunshine, not stay inside the house all day!

But sex is not only a pleasurable gift. It is also a powerful glue that God has given to married couples to bond us together.

Sex is divine glue.

Of course, common beliefs, interests, hobbies and children also bond married couples together, but sex is a very unique kind of glue.

Sex is about knowing another human being and being known, in the deepest Biblical sense of the word (Gen 4:1). “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.  Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen 2:24-25)…Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived” (Gen 4:1).

Lovemaking is the beautiful, tangible expression of being united as husband and wife physically, emotionally and spiritually. There is great vulnerability in the two becoming one. They have entrusted themselves to each other. They are unashamed, known, understood, safe, accepted, cared for.

I find it fascinating that God designed our human bodies to release oxytocin (the ‘love’ hormone) when we make love. It’s the same hormone released when a mother is breastfeeding, to strengthen the maternal-infant bond.

Amazingly, oxytocin is the hormone that underlies trust in the most intimate of human relationships. It’s been shown to be a powerful antidote to depressive feelings, and takes the edge off our emotions. Oxytocin makes it easier to resolve conflict and overlook offences in your partner. So, you see, sex doesn’t just bring momentary pleasure, but also bonds us together as husband and wife. It makes us more loyal, more committed, more forgiving, even a little irrationally fond of each other! And oxytocin is a totally natural hormone, with no unwanted side effects!

Study after study has shown that a sexually fulfilled wife will have less stress and more joy in her life. A sexually fulfilled husband will normally be more dedicated and confident as a husband, father and employee. So, a fulfilling sex life is about more than procreation and erotic pleasure. It actually knits us together in greater intimacy that deepens over the years. Sex gives us a spring in our step so that we can manage more difficult areas of our lives. Therefore, it makes sense that husbands and wives shouldn’t neglect our love life.

It’s interesting that even secular researchers have reached these conclusions. In 1995, one of largest studies ever conducted on sexual practices showed that married couples report considerably higher rates of sexual satisfaction than singles. Among women, conservative Protestant women have the highest rates of orgasm. I enjoyed this comment on their findings:

“The young single people who flit from partner to partner and seem to be having a sex life that is satisfying beyond most people’s dreams are, it seems, mostly a media creation. In real life, the unheralded, seldom discussed world of married sex is actually the one that satisfies most people” (Robert Michael and John Gagnon, Sex in America: A definitive survey: P127-131).

The Psalmist seemed to understand this 3000 years ago:“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11).

Sex is a mysterious mirror.

And yet, even more mysteriously, God created sexual intimacy to mirror the faithful, committed servant-hearted relationship between Jesus and his Bride, the Church. As John Piper rightfully reminds us, “the goal of sex isn’t ultimately just enjoying your spouse, but it is enjoying God as the giver of good gifts. God is better than the best sex. We know this because for all of eternity we will live in a new heaven and new earth better than this one, a world in which we will not experience marriage or sex as we do now, but we will have a better and lasting pleasure with God (Matthew 22:30 Psalm 16; Isaiah 51:11; Revelation 21–22).”

For all these reasons, sex outside of marriage is repugnant to God and damaging to ourselves. Sex was never created to be a mere function of biology, as human beings are not animals, driven by biological urges. If we’re to be blessed by the roaring fire of sex, we must use it within the mantelpiece of marriage. Outside of this covenant boundary, the fire of sex will burn the house down.

Five ingredients to sexual fulfillment.

Most of us complain that men are from Venus and women are from Mars! We may be different, but together, we’re better. God created the sexual differences in us to make our marriage more fulfilling. We fit together as we should. And if we truly believe that sex is a good gift from a good Creator, then it is a rejection of God himself to neglect this good gift. We cannot use our differences as an excuse.

So, let’s get intentional about fanning the flames of our love life. Here are 5 practical commitments that you and your spouse can make to each other today:

  1. Commit to meeting your spouse’s needs in a faithful and intentional manner. Since our bodies belong to each other, we should never use them to punish, manipulate or withdraw from each other (1 Cor 7:5-7). Remember that men and women respond to sexual stimulation at different rates and our needs are different. But it really doesn’t matter who is more sexual in the relationship. What matters is that you each commit to meeting your spouse’s sexual needs, provided that they do not violate your marriage covenant or your conscience.
  2. Commit to communicate your sexual needs and reservations to one another, freely and without fear. Make sex an open topic in your marriage and don’t be ashamed or prudish. Never ridicule or shame your spouse. If you talk things through respectfully, you’ll have a great time in bed.
  3. Commit to sexual purity in your marriage. God’s parameters are wide, but there are some boundaries which God’s word lays down:

For starters, don’t allow fantasy lust into your marriage (Matt 5:27-30). Take every thought captive to Christ, as the most ferocious spiritual battlefield is your thought life. Flee from pornography, as it is lust-centred and invites other parties into your marriage bed. Don’t let any person but your spouse into your mind or your heart. Don’t develop an emotional or sexual attachment with any person except your spouse, either on the internet or in real life. Trust Jesus to fulfill your unmet needs and do not turn to sin. Get help and be accountable to someone you trust when you face temptations.

  1. Create an atmosphere of sexual pleasure in your marriage. Lovemaking won’t just happen! Remember that sex begins in the kitchen, not in the bedroom! If a husband is impatient, angry and inconsiderate all evening, he’s crazy to think his wife will be eager for sex when they go to bed. Romance happens outside the bedroom. Plan a date night, and make sure the kids and housework are taken care of. Set aside times just to enjoy each other in a non-physical way, to talk and build trust and friendship. Become BFF’s (Best Friends Forever), as relational intimacy spawns sexual intimacy. If there’s no connection on the soul level, there’ll be no connection on the physical level.
  2. If you have sexual problems, deal with them together. At some point in nearly every marriage, there will be obstacles to sex. Lack of desire, chemical, hormonal, unresolved conflict, stress and fatigue are all part of our broken existence. Go to the Doctor; pray together; go for counselling for past abuse; go on holiday; do whatever you’ve got to do. Don’t strand your spouse sexually because of a problem that you need to deal with.

Sheet Music.

Finally, make a worthwhile investment into your sexual life by buying and reading together Kevin Leman’s book, Sheet Music—Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage. This is a wise, hilarious, straight-talking author, who understands sex from a female point of view!

“If you and your spouse work in tandem”, says Dr Leman, “you’ll create some of the most stunning music ever heard! All it takes is practice…and the right attitude. Sex is about the quality of your entire love life, not just the alignment of your bodies. So why not put inhibitions aside and give your spouse the best gift ever— a sexually enthusiastic mate?”

Recommended reading:

Dr Kevin Leman, Sheet Music—Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage.

An excellent wife who can find?

Series: Marriage east of Eden

10  An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:10-11).

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting to the Lord” (Col 3:18).

If the idea of a husband’s headship is a cultural hot potato, then a wife’s submission is a hot potato stuffed with radioactive chilli! To our 21st century ears, submission sounds a lot like mousy silence, subservience, humiliation and inferiority. Surely strong, intelligent women don’t submit to any man!?

But, if we’re Christians, we need to allow God’s timeless and infallible Word to recalibrate our distorted, preconceived ideas. We need the truth of the Bible to define what God has established as the good life. We need to be led, not by culture, but by the divine Choreographer who invented the dance of marriage in the first days of Creation (Gen 2:22-25). That’s how we, as God’s children, demonstrate that Christ is truly Lord of our lives. After all, marriage is not an end in itself, but a metaphor pointing to a much more profound spiritual reality– Christ’s relationship with his Church (Eph 5:32). Ultimately, everyone who is born again is His Bride, and we respond by gladly submitting to Him in all things.

Last week in “Husbands, love your wives,” the heat was on men! Today we focus on what it looks like for a wife to submit to her husband and be his helper, as Scripture teaches us.

Let’s start by reading the verses relating to wives in Ephesians 5:

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church (he himself being the savior of the body). 24 But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  32 This mystery is great—but I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband” (Eph 5:1-222-2432-33).

Simple, yes! Easy, no!

You’ll notice from last week that Paul uses much more ink on husbands than on wives! A husband is called to cleave to his wife, lead her spiritually, nourish her like his own body, put her ahead of himself and sacrifice his own interests for her good.

But, there are only two little verbs that describe how a wife should relate to her husband: Submit and Respect. She is responsible to love her husband by accepting his authority and respecting his God-given role as head of their marriage. A Christ-honouring wife will not try to undermine her husband’s leadership in any way. She will allow her husband to care for and love her, and trust God to care for and love her even when her husband fails…and he will! Marriage is a Christian wife’s tool and test to deepen and demonstrate her reverence for her Lord (Col 3:18Eph 5:22).

Submission and respect is really quite simple for us wives…when all is going well and we agree with our husbands! But it’s in the messy pressures of life that the rubber really hits the road. It’s that pesky little phrase “in everything” that gives me trouble (Eph 5:24)!

In those heated moments when things are falling apart, isn’t it easier to be critical, to nitpick and second-guess his decisions? There are so many subtle ways to undermine his authority. A roll of the eyes, a gesture that says, “Not again!”

Isn’t it sometimes more intuitive to save our best behaviour for the world, and give our husbands our grouchy, most negative self? Isn’t it easier to try to control things, rather than build up our husbands to become godly leaders of our family?

Isn’t it more natural to try to change our husband’s behaviour, instead of praying for him and allowing our quietness and respect to change his heart? Isn’t it easier to stay silent and sullen, rather than respectfully correcting him, speaking the truth in love in a gentle, patient and self-controlled way? Yes, submission is simple, but definitely not easy “in all things!”

A wife’s unique temptations.

Like a husband, a wife faces unique temptations in marriage.

Emerson Eggerichs, in his book “Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires. The Respect He Desperately Needs” cites a study of over 7000 men and women who were asked a simple question: “When you’re in conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved or disrespected?” 83% of men said ‘disrespected’, 72% of women said ‘unloved’.

Of course, husbands and wives both need love and respect equally, but often our felt needs differ during conflict. This seems to be borne out by Eph 5:33. A woman’s natural response to feeling unloved is to respond disrespectfully. A man’s natural reaction when disrespected, is to respond unlovingly. Regardless of who started it, the crazy cycle continues—leading down a dangerous path of endless contempt, criticism and anger. Intimacy can’t weather this onslaught, so the relationship inevitably withers and dies. Contempt is known to be the greatest early warning signal of impending divorce.

To avoid this inevitable destination, either husband or wife has to break this self-feeding cycle. It’s no use blaming your husband if you’re not obeying God’s word to submit to him. In fact, your failure to submit could stand in the way of God’s dealings with your rebellious or unbelieving husband. It’s best to stand aside and let God do His work.

But let’s first get a proper understanding of what submission means, and doesn’t mean.

Defining submission.

Some of us have bought into faulty definitions of submission. Literally, the word ‘submit’ means to arrange oneself under.

Submission is not mousey subservience or inferiority.

We can know this for sure because of the dignity Jesus gave women in the Gospels; the many women who flourished and actively participated in the early church, and because of the Bible’s insistence on equality of men and women in the Old and New Testament (Gen 1:27Gal 3:28).

There is nothing mousey or weak about the Proverbs 31 ‘wife of noble character’, or about Ruth or Rahab, or Jesus’s own mother, Mary. And there is nothing degrading about submission, as even Christ submitted to his Father (Luke 22:42). Jesus’ submission was actually an expression of his great love for us, a show of profound strength rather than weakness. Would we call Jesus a doormat for submitting to his Father’s plan of salvation? So why then would we caricature a submissive wife as a doormat?

Submission is not silence or blind acquiescence.

Honest, godly communication is expected of all Christian men and women (Matt 18:15Eph 4:152 Tim 4:2). In fact, respectfully correcting your husband is part of loving him and being his helper. You share in the calling to “love your neighbour” just as your husband does.

Love speaks sincerely, exhorts, corrects and says no to evil. That means that if your husband is verbally, physically or sexually abusing you or your children, you must say No to his sin. You cannot acquiesce in humiliating sexual acts. You cannot be his enabler in shaming and blaming sessions. Get the support you need from CCM’s Crisis and Care Centre. Submission doesn’t aid and abet sin.

A positive portrait of a godly wife.

It’s always best to go to the Bible for the real deal, instead of being misled by false caricatures and stereotypes. Proverbs 31:10-31 is a vivid cameo of a respectful, godly wife. Yes, it was written three thousand years ago, spotlighting a wife with many years behind her. But the timeless principles in Proverbs 31 show us that there is endless scope for a submissive and respectful wife to flourish as a woman and a mother.

This is a woman who is anything but a doormat! She has a good mind and is capable and strong in helping her husband to lead the household (Prov 31:16-171825). She has practical street savvy. She is caring and generous to the needy (Prov 31:20). She is resourceful, shows initiative and thinks for herself (Prov 31:21). She is a blessing to her husband (Prov 31:23). She is hardworking and wise in handling money (Prov 31:24). She takes her responsibilities at home seriously (Prov 31: 27). She is wise, and passes on her wisdom to others (Prov 31:26). Her family respects her (Prov 31:28). Most important of all, this woman fears the Lord. Her identity is in Him, rather than external status and charm (Prov 31:30). These qualities, coupled with fear of the Lord, leads to enjoyment, honour and worth (Prov 31:31). Peter paints a similar portrait of a wife who follows Christ in 1 Peter 3:1-6. Her identity and faith is in Jesus alone.

There’s no way we can do, or be, the wife of noble character, unless we look beyond our husband and see Jesus! Your husband’s behaviour may deserve contempt, but that won’t win him over any more than your husband’s harshness will win your heart. If your husband is an unbeliever, cling to 1 Peter 3:1-6, and nag God for a miracle in his hard heart. Put your hope in Christ, not your husband. “Do what is right and do not give way to fear” (1 Peter 3:6).

Wives, let’s do our own verse, and let Christ take care of the rest!


Lord, we pray for marriages in our church and life groups. We pray that you would help us to learn the steps of the marriage dance you have choreographed for us. Lord, help husbands to see the opportunities you’ve given them to lead sacrificially. Lord, help wives to respond by being our husband’s helper, respectfully arranging ourselves under his leadership. Lord, whether we are married, single, divorced or widowed, help us to resist the urge to find our identity in our marital status. Instead, may we find our hope only in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.