Looking back at my younger self, I remember thinking how romantic it would be to give of myself and sacrifice my wants and desires for the good of my man (whoever he might be); but, then I grew up, married the man, and found that sacrifice is anything but romantic. To put it bluntly: sacrifice hurts. Sacrifice pulls at the core of our human condition. Constant sacrifice can breed resentment. Sacrifice is no feel-good movie.
The question is: Is it worth it? Are the sacrifices you will make – including the ones you cannot predict – worth it to you? This may sound like a question with only one good answer, but I assure you there is more than one correct answer. Is connecting your life with this person – entering a lifetime covenant with him or her – worth the sacrifices to come? Are you ready to make significant changes to your lifestyle, your dreams, and your comfort for someone else? You will have to do just that. To be married is to make constant sacrifices – sometimes small ones and sometimes significant ones.
- What if he decides to go back to school and you rarely get to spend any time together?
- What if she decides to take a lower paying job and you must cut back on your comfortable lifestyle to which you have grown accustomed?
- What if he goes out for a night with the boys which ends in a car wreck and your husband is suddenly in a wheelchair for the rest of his life?
- What if her mom becomes ill and needs to move in with you for several years?
- What if he changes careers which requires you to move or give up your privacy and anonymity?
- What if she develops an illness which changes her body and emotional state?
- What if he decides he is not that interested in having children after all?
Have Your Counted the Cost of Marriage?
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28, ESV) This verse, in context, is speaking about the cost of following Christ. This message, however, can also be applied to marriage. Before joining your life with someone, it is wise to count the cost. What does he want out of life? Where does she plan on going with her gifts and talents? How big of a family does he have and what expectations will there be of us regarding his family? What health challenges is she facing, or might she face based on family medical history?
Start answering the question, “Am I ready to sacrifice for my partner in marriage?” by looking at what you do know. Review the questions above. What are his or her faults? (And, yes, he or she has some; they may just be hiding for now.) What are his or her perspectives and worldview? How hard is he or she striving towards righteousness (no, I mean actually striving for righteousness – not just lip service)?
Then, consider what you do not know and what you cannot yet know – that is, what the future might bring. Are you willing to sacrifice if your future spouse has needs which change the landscape of your entire life? If she finds out she cannot have children? If he suffers medical issues which make a sexual relationship impossible? If his career prospects go under and money is tight, or you have to move in with a relative? If she goes through a dark depression and seems like a completely different woman than the one you married?
A marriage between two giving and forgiving people can be a huge blessing. Marriage was meant to be a blessing, but the fallen state of our souls makes marriage difficult. Eric and I have enjoyed some wonderful times together and we also have encountered a lot of hardship – some we brought on ourselves and some we did not. Anyone getting married with his or her eyes only on the good times will soon be disillusioned and disappointed.
Before entering the marital covenant, I again exhort you to count the cost.
Bible Passages That We Like to Ignore
If we ever get push back on any passage of Scripture we discuss with our clients, it is this one:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-24, ESV)
Our 21st-century, Western society does not want to believe God would ever expect wives to submit to their husbands (submit!?!?). Even I, a relationship coach, have looked through the Bible for a submission loophole. Submission is hard and requires exceeding sacrifice. At times, I think about my single friends and how they can go where they want, spend their money the way they want, and I occasionally feel some pangs of jealousy.
To be a God-honoring, Christ-following wife, there will be considerable sacrifice. Sacrifice of doing what you want when you want. Sacrifice of time and energy, both physical and emotional, and sacrificing some dreams as he pulls you in a different direction than you had planned, expected, or even wanted. And God’s Word does not time out or have a statute of limitations: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, ESV)
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ (Ephesians 5:25-31, ESV)
As tough as submission is on us ladies, the life of a God-honoring, Christ-following husband is all the more sacrificial. In order to love a wife the way Paul describes here requires much forgiveness, much time in prayer and study, and much energy for nourishing and cherishing her. A husband is called to leave his family of origin where he is cared for and preside over a family where he is now responsible to care for them. (And, to be fair, wives are not the only ones who submit in marriage… the husband also has to submit – to God Himself – and is accountable to Him for how he leads his family.)
In The Beginning…
Before the fall of mankind, God created men and women to need each other. We are not down on marriage or trying to talk you out of marriage. Rather, we want to communicate the good and the struggle of choosing to partner with someone for a lifetime. Choosing him when he is stressed and grumpy. Choosing her when she is overwhelmed and you get the short end of the stick. Choosing each other when the excitement is gone. Holding onto each other even when you believe life would be easier if you just let go.
Take a little time. Think about it thoroughly. As much as is possible, set aside your adoration of your partner (or your dreams of a future partner) and look at what life tends to bring everyone: exhaustion, undesired changes in appearance and health, death of loved ones, job losses, depressions, small child decisions, adult child drama, planning for retirement, end-of-life care, and (likely for one of you) burial of a spouse.
Before slipping the ring on each other’s fingers, think, pray, prepare, interview couples of all ages, and be clear-minded about all sides of married life. Then, should you marry, walk into your covenant with intentionality. Intentionally choosing to love and sacrifice for each other daily… till death do us part.
What sacrifices are you prepared to make if you get married?