What if Christian marriage is meant to be more a journey of faith in God, than a romantic adventure between two Christian people?
All of us, when we get married, have a very particular set of expectations. Most of those revolve around the material world. We see ourselves with kids, we see ourselves with our first starter home, building some equity wealth over time, selling it, upgrading to the home we really want. The husband has a nice job, we drive a nice minivan or SUV. We go to a nice church, go out to eat, do fun things, and just have a nice family life. Don’t get me wrong. Of course, we must provide as best we can for our families. We need a place to live, and a job that helps provide for their needs.
When our dream is interrupted when the series of expected events and acquisitions do not work out as we thought, most couples are severely disappointed, confused, and many are greatly discouraged. But what if we are imagining the wrong thing? What if our lives were meant to be a journey of faith in God first and foremost? What if our lives, having been bought by Jesus himself, having paid for us with His blood, are now His to do with as He believes is best for His earthly and eternal purposes? What if God has a very specific plan for your life and marriage that involves something so eternally important that it will involve great hardships, suffering, sacrifice and difficult choices you never imagined before? Are you willing to embrace that reality? Are you willing to submit to the requirements of God for you as a Christian husband and father, as a Christian wife and mother when they are very uncomfortable? When they don’t fit what your preconceived notion of what you thought they should be?
My life experience and study have taught me God does some crazy things. God allows some really difficult, painful, and extremely unjust things to happen to us. God asks for things that are extremely unreasonable, even illogical from a human perspective. Our faith journey involves some very difficult choices.
One of the most profound, yet painful, unjust, and unreasonable stories of faith in the Bible involves a Jewish couple and their baby. We all know the story of Moses, yet most of us completely miss the shocking, gut-wrenching reality faced by his young mother and father. This is a young couple whose married life begins in slavery, brutally oppressed and ruthlessly mistreated by the Egyptians. There are no nice material dreams for them. No morning Starbucks coffee, sitting in a nice lazy boy recliner, reading the Torah on their smartphone. They rise early and go to bed late every single day, 7 days a week. They deal with exhaustion all the time. Their backs hurt, their hands are scrapped and rough, their earthly life and future are very dreary, bleak and miserable. Amidst all the oppression and exhaustion they find a little time for each other and begin a family. Bringing children into a wretched world of misery, slavery, and oppression. God graciously gives them a boy and a girl. It was a very difficult life. Years went by, and the wife, Jochebed, became pregnant with her 3rd child. Joy filled her heart with this wonderful news. As she gives birth to this precious baby boy, the ruler of the land, Pharaoh, becomes paranoid and afraid of the rapid growth of the population of Jewish slaves. He is a brutal, ruthless, wicked man. He commands the Jewish midwives to kill the little Jewish baby boys as soon as they are born. Can you even imagine this? The midwives decide in their hearts they will not comply and devise a plan to defy this order, and their successful baby deliveries continue. Pharaoh is outraged. He commands the Egyptians living around them to storm into the homes of the Jews and rip these precious nursing baby boys from their mothers’ arms and throw these baby boys into the Nile river to suffer and drown.
I ask you, what kind of a nice married life does that sound like to you? Can you even imagine this brutality? Can you imagine the screams, the horror, the anguish of this happening to your little child sitting next to you right now? Just thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach.
Jochebed and her husband are overwhelmed with love for their baby boy. To them, he is a beautiful and magnificent gift from God. They refuse to comply, they dare to defy. They risk everything to hide this little boy for 3 months. Imagine the fear and anxiety she must have dealt with every day, hoping his cries would not be heard? Hoping that some wicked, hateful Egyptian would not find her baby and throw him to his death in the river!
One day, while hidden in the reeds growing by the river, he begins to cry. His mother cannot even be there to watch him as she has to slave away all day making bricks, in the hot desert sun! Miriam his sister is watching from a secret hiding place. Suddenly as the baby cries, a woman appears in the water, she is the daughter of this ancient butcher named Pharaoh! She asks her servant to bring the basket and opens to find this beautiful, crying, little Jewish baby boy. The princess is moved by his cries and decides she will adopt him and raise him. Miriam, the baby’s sister comes out of hiding and says, “Would you like me to find someone to nurse him?” “Of course,” says Pharaoh’s daughter, and off Miriam goes to find Moses’ mom! She even gets paid for nursing her son.
This all sounds so wonderful, doesn’t it? So benevolent, so divine, and happy ever after?
Are you kidding me? Can you imagine nursing your son, knowing you don’t get to keep him, but rather he will grow up in the very home of the despicable, barbaric, wicked, ruthless, genocidal maniac who killed all your neighbor’s baby boys, throwing them to their deaths in the river!? My gosh, how blind, how obtuse can we possibly be reading this story? This would be like your baby boy growing up with Hitler as his grandfather. Can you even get your hands around what God is asking Jochebed and her husband to do? To trust God with? What He is asking of her faith?
Pondering this story and grasping this couple’s reality is gut-wrenching to me. I will soon have 12 grandchildren, every one of them is so precious to me. I can picture in my mind’s eye what this would be like to hand one of them over at about 3 years old to be raised in the palace of this wretched man, never to see my little grandchild grow up, or hold them, or play with them, or tell them about my God. This is what God asked of Jochebed and her husband. This would be incredibly difficult, traumatic, and so gut-wrenching to do.
Jochebed and her husband had no promise from God, no word from God that said, “Ahh, Jochebed fear not, I have great plans for Moses. 80 years from now, he will lead all the Jewish slaves out of Egypt to freedom. Your son Aaron and Miriam your daughter will be his marvelous assistants. You will be so glad you did this!”
She did not know any of this. All she knew was Yahweh God, the God of Abraham,
was worthy of her faith and trust! She understood her married life was meant to be a journey of faith
not a wonderful, material life where all her dreams came true.
Do you grasp and understand that God wants to make you part of that great cloud of witnesses to the life of faith in Hebrews 12? Will you embrace that vision and purpose as a couple? Will you take your place in that pantheon of men and women of Faith, couples who chose to submit, suffer, and endure whatever unreasonable request or requirement God asks of you?
Will you choose faith in God when you cannot possibly understand what He is doing in this season of your life? Will you choose faith in God when what He is allowing right now in your life doesn’t seem to make any sense? Will you follow Him right into the hardships and perplexing circumstances by faith in God, when you simply cannot see the end of the matter?
Jochebed’s life did not make sense! God telling Ezekiel “I am going to take your wife, your dearest treasure, tomorrow she will die! You must not weep, show sorrow, or accept any food from consoling friends”, did not make sense! It seemed very cruel. God telling Abraham to kill his only son did not make sense! All of the things God asked of these people seemed unbelievably unreasonable from a human perspective. Just because we know through the lens of history the end of their stories does not take away from the incredibly difficult, emotional realities they faced during the actual, painful events of their lives, and what they had to choose! For all of them, their marriage was a very challenging journey of faith in God!
I have come to grasp my marriage, my children, and my life are an offering and sacrifice of faith to God. What He brings, what He allows, what plans He unfolds, it is our faith journey that our marriage is about most of all. It is not about our plans, it is all about God’s, and his divine eternal purposes.
Please listen to these messages as I believe they will inspire you, challenge you, and greatly encourage your faith.