Most of us go into marriage with good intentions but selfish hearts. If you want to change your marriage, spend some time thinking about God as your Father-in-Law. ◊
From a worldly perspective, if you review even a portion of the vast array of books and advice on good practices in healthy marriages, you can generate a long list of keys to happiness and success. But if you approach marriage from a Biblical perspective and look at marriage as the God-ordained construct it is, marital happiness and success can be surmised from just a few verses in the Old Testament (Genesis 2:24) cited by Jesus himself in the New Testament (Matthew 19:4-6), and an extended passage written by the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:22-32).
From these verses, I’d summarize the Biblical view and keys to a happy marriage as follows:
- Both husband and wife love, honor, and worship God.
- The husband leaves his parents and starts a new family with his wife.
- Both husband and wife love each other – particularly the husband loves his wife deeply and is willing to die for her; the wife loves her husband with all her heart.
- Both husband and wife respect each other – particularly the wife respects her husband because he thrives on it; the husband respects his wife because she is his wife.
It’s really as simple as that. Get this right and the marriage foundation is firmly established. All other issues and sources of conflict in marriage – communications, sex, work, money, relatives, children, etc., – derive out of deviations from these four pillars.
A New Thought: God as Your Heavenly Father-in-Law
Recently I learned another way to think about marriage and my role as husband. I shared this idea with my wife as the simple concept can be flipped and applied to wives as well. She liked it. As we are celebrating 40 years of marriage this very month, there’s a clear lesson here that one can always be learning and that it’s never too late to improve.
The new idea comes from the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.1 This one concept is profound in how it changes your perspective on your spouse. As Thomas put it:
We often reflect on the fatherhood of God, which is foundational Christian doctrine. But if we want to change our marriages, let’s spend some time thinking about God as Father-in Law – because when you marry a believer, that’s what He becomes!
Thomas points out that his perspective on his relationship with God changed when he and his wife had their first child. As he realized that he was now a father to his daughter, a new view extended to his wife. Since we are all children of God, his wife was actually not just his wife, he realized that he was married to God’s daughter. And he was to treat her accordingly.
And his wife was likewise married to God’s son. Everything about how he viewed marriage changed for him.
God feels about my wife – his daughter – in an even holier and more passionate way than I feel about my own daughters. Suddenly, my marriage was no longer about just me and one other person; it was very much a relationship with a passionately interested third partner. I realized one of my primary forms of worship throughout the rest of my life would be honoring God by taking care of a woman who would always be, in God’s divine mind, “God’s little girl.”
Don’t Mess with God’s Kids
All fathers and mothers love their children and protect them intensely. And we like it when other people love our kids. It’s a parent’s prerogative to love, adore, and want the best for their little ones. We even love them when they go astray. Like the Prodigal Son’s father, we pine for them to return and celebrate it joyfully when they do.
It’s the same way with God. He loves His children beyond description. Even when they go astray.
Thomas raises an interesting question for women:
If you have sons, you are well aware that they are not perfect, that in fact they “stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). But does that mean you don’t want them to be loved by their future or current wives? Does that mean you think your future (or current) daughter-in-law has the right to withhold her love because your son isn’t perfect? Not at all! From the point of view of a mother, you are likely particularly grateful that a woman loves your imperfect son in spite of his imperfections. God looks at your husband through a parent’s eyes. He knows you might be frustrated with the man you married. But He also is passionately committed to the welfare of that man, who happens to be His son.
And Thomas highlights this for men as well.
When I fail to respect my wife – when I demean her or am condescending toward her or mistreat her in any way – I am courting trouble with the heavenly Father, who feels passionately about my spouse’s welfare, a spouse who just happens to be His precious child.
The Impact on a Husband’s Prayers?
Additionally, Thomas makes a fascinating connection of this God as Father-in-Law notion to the centrality of prayer. He cites a verse written by Peter which directly ties our attitude toward and treatment of our wives with the fundamental Christian discipline of prayer:
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)
Think about this. It’s the exact opposite of our common thinking that we should improve our prayer lives if we want to have stronger marriages. Peter is telling us to improve our marriages so we can have stronger prayer lives!
The Bible tells us that marriage is a holy mystery. (Ephesians 5:32) Ironically, Jesus brings both mystery and answers to everything. God loves His Son and allows Him to die for His beloved creation; namely, us, the human race, to bring full reconciliation to Himself. And the God-designed act of holy matrimony between His children is reflective of the union and love of Christ and the church.
And specifically, husbands like me are called to both love and respect our wives. And God loves her like a Father, as much as God loves me. I need to treat His daughter with the utmost love, respect, and gentle consideration. She needs to do likewise with me. A divine Father is expecting as much toward His “little girl” and His “little boy.”
And even more, my direct prayer channel to my Loving Father is opened up and unhindered when I get it right in my relationship with my wife. It makes me want to approach my marriage over the next 40 years in a completely different way!
Are you pleasing your spouse and your heavenly Father-in-Law? Husbands, is your marriage the tool that refines your prayer?
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:31-33
1Sacred Marriage, by Gary L. Thomas, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000, 2015, pp. 72-74.