How trials can make your marriage better

August 28, 2017

I remember the moment I stood before my groom and recited my wedding vows. I certainly didn’t expect life to be perfect, but I assumed my marriage would be filled with more of “better” than “worse.”

With stars in my eyes, and blissfully unaware of what the future would hold, I confidently vowed, “I take you, Jeff, to be my lawful husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live.”

That was almost 13 years ago.

Trials can test your marriage vows

Little did I know those thirteen years would hold chronic illness, financial loss, special needs, suffering children, marital strain, and overwhelming stress. I never imagined that I’d experience so much of the “worse, poorer, and in sickness” part of our vows.

But I’m grateful as I reflect on the unexpected trials that have tested our marriage. In God’s goodness, the “worse” parts of our marriage have ushered in a deeper, Christ-centered experience of the “better.” This hasn’t come without the pain of loss and failure; yet Christ has used it to mature us in him, change our character, and increase our love for each other.

This, of course, is only possible with and through Christ. While God can certainly change the heart of a non-believing spouse and use the pain of unbelief to draw both spouses to himself, the following truths reflect a husband and wife who’ve put their faith in Christ and desire to follow him. If you’re married to an unbelieving spouse, I pray God will use the trials to draw them to a saving faith in Christ.

Trials can make your marriage better

So how can the “worse, poorer, and in sickness” parts of marriage bring about a “better” richness in our relationship with Christ and one another?

Seeing that our spouse is incapable of meeting our deepest needs can be God’s grace.

Trials reveal our inability to meet our spouse’s deepest needs, teaching us to look to Christ instead (Phil. 4:19; Col. 3:1-3).

When pain hits, it’s natural to look to each other for comfort, security, happiness, and strength. I believe God allows us to experience seasons where our spouse falls short of filling our emptiness and providing for our needs because we so easily look to each other to fill that void, rather than Christ. However, seeing that our spouse is incapable of meeting our deepest needs can be God’s grace. Lord willing, our eyes will gradually be taken off our spouse and placed on Christ, where they were always intended to be.

As we look to Christ to meet our needs, be our security, comfort our aching hearts, and convict us of sin, we are more likely to come to our spouses ready to love, give, and talk with openness, rather than finger-pointing, demands, and insecurity. Though this is a lifelong process and we will continue to fail, Christ can use these afflictions to grow our character and marriage.

Trials expose our sin, reminding us that we can’t change each other, but Christ can change us both (Matt. 7:3-5).

When I’m not feeling well, I quickly become impatient, irritated, even angry when my spouse or kids rub me the wrong way. In that moment, it’s easy for me to point the finger at my family as the cause of my irritation when, in reality, my sin is the real issue.

It’s tempting to focus on our mate’s sin when life gets hard. But it’s freeing that we haven’t been given the role of changing our spouse! God alone has that power and wisdom. As God has used the “pressure” to reveal our sin, he has slowly helped us take our eyes off each other, bringing us to our knees in repentance and dependence on him. As we grow in humility, seeing our own sin more clearly, we also grow in compassion and patience toward our spouse in their own struggles with sin.

Trials teach us to appreciate our spouse’s God-given strengths (1 Cor. 12:12-27).

I always knew my husband was a hard worker. But since he lost his job, I’ve seen that strength in a new light. As I’ve watched him pour himself into job searching every day for months without quitting, I have new respect for the strength he brings to our marriage. (I would’ve been tempted to jump on a plane to Maui, rather than start over!)

Trials have grown my appreciation for the strengths God has given my husband, especially in areas that are weaknesses for me. It’s a gift in marriage when we learn to appreciate our spouse’s unique strengths. We’re often unified as we see the blessing of a helpmate who was created with different strengths and gifts for God’s purposes.

Trials help us grasp how marriage reflects the beauty of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:21-33).

Christ has chosen us, loved us, and sacrificed himself for us. As his bride, we are to submit to him, love him, and follow him wholeheartedly, no matter the cost. Suffering will come, storms will rage, and temptations will arise, but we are one with Christ, and therefore we cannot be separated from his love.

Marriage reflects our relationship with Christ, and nothing displays this more than when a husband loves, serves, and humbly leads his wife—even when it takes great sacrifice. Similarly, nothing displays the church’s love for Christ more than when a wife respects, honors, and loves her husband—even at great cost to herself.

When we face trials as a couple, we can increasingly reflect Christ and the gospel as we grow in dependence on him, learn to humbly confess our sin, encourage each other’s strengths, bear with each other’s weaknesses, and commit to loving one another through the valleys. As we do this, we not only reflect Christ to those around us, but we simultaneously reflect Christ to our spouse.

Trials can help you move toward your spouse

If you and your spouse are facing challenges of any sort, I’ll leave you with nine practical steps to encourage you move toward each other as you learn to trust Christ for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health:

  1. Spend time in the Bible every day, and ask the Lord to meet you and provide all you need during this difficult time.
  2. When fear, insecurity, anxiousness, or frustration rise up, go to Christ first, ask for his strength, and remind yourself of his promises.
  3. Share with your spouse what you’re learning, how you’re struggling, and how he can pray for you. Then ask if they’d consider doing the same.
  4. Ask the Lord to reveal areas of sin in your heart, and entrust your spouse’s sin to his control.
  5. Pray with each other (if your spouse is willing) and for each other as often as possible.
  6. Encourage your spouse with ways you see them growing and where you see their gifts and strengths.
  7. Ask your spouse to name one or two areas where you can grow, and pray that Christ will help you receive their suggestions with humility.
  8. Though it often looks different in seasons of trial, try to make time for fun, romance, and lightheartedness. No matter how hard life gets, find ways to laugh with each other.
  9. Lastly, stay connected. Because trials tend to isolate, it’s important to attend a church and, if possible, a small group. Staying in community will help you keep perspective and will surround your marriage with support.

Sarah Walton

Sarah Walton is the co-author of Hope When It Hurts and Together Through the Storms, and the author of Tears and Tossings: Hope in the Waves of Life. She and her husband, Jeff, live in Colorado Springs with their four children, where they are members of Cross and Crown Church. … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24