A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Francis Chan speak at a marriage conference. It’s always a little weird to be the single guy at a marriage conference, but I’d listen to Chan speak on just about anything. He said something in that message that has stayed with me. I’ve used it in almost every wedding I’ve officiated since. Chan painted a picture for the people there that day that I’d now like to paint for you.
Chan encouraged us to think about standing before Christ one day alongside our spouses (or future spouses). He asked us to imagine presenting our lives before Christ, “Lord, here is the wife you gave me. Throughout our marriage, I strived to encourage her to love you, to follow you, to please you…” Chan said a huge goal of our marriages should be to encourage our husband or wife to be a better disciple of Jesus. We should want our spouses to have a greater impact for Christ’s kingdom because they were married to us.
At first, I thought Chan was merely bringing a little eternal perspective to the concept of marriage, but the more I’ve thought about it, he was doing far more. Chan was countering the way most of us view marriage. Today, most value marriage by the happiness it will provide. We assess a person’s personality, beauty, education, etc. and ask, “Is this person right for me?”
Very few ask the kingdom questions before they marry. Will this marriage make me more effective in my work for Christ? Will this marriage make my spouse more effective for Christ? I believe this is often a missing question as we make our way to the altar. If you are not convinced the person you are marrying will serve Jesus better and help you serve Jesus better, you should not marry him/her.
When I think about someone who has modeled this well in looking for a spouse, I’m reminded of the great Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards. When people think of Edwards, they might think first of his fiery preaching. Let’s be honest, sermons titled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners” and “The Torments of Hell are Exceedingly Great” tend to set a preacher apart. Can you imagine your pastor preaching any of these? I certainly can’t.
But Edwards was more than just a bold, 18th-century preacher. He also had a romantic side. From the same pen that produced theological classics scholars are still studying, came these words written about his future wife, Sarah Pierpont:
They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that almighty Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him—that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always. There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love and delight forever. Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her actions; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after those seasons in which this great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, and to wander in the fields and on the mountains, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.
Edwards’ love for Sarah was compelling. They were both sincere lovers of God. It’s plainly the main thing he loved about her. Her delight and joy in Christ was what he was attracted to most. In this short excerpt, Edwards mentions her desire to be with Christ, her desire to meditate on Christ and her desire to please Christ.
As we search for our future spouses, we ought not settle for someone who would consistently pull us away from God’s call on our lives, but instead, look for the qualities like those Edwards saw in Sarah. This famous couple went on to marry and raise a family who loved and honored the Lord. In the same way, our aim should be that Christ will one day say well done not only to us, but also to the spouses He has entrusted to our care.