BY JESSICA A. CHANCE RELATIONSHIPS / LIFE January 26, 2016

The last two years have been the years of continuous weddings for my husband and I as a multitude of friends have tied the knot.

It’s always interesting to hear what marriage advice is given prior to the special day. Christians and non-Christians alike seem to make it their personal duty to inform everyone considering marriage, especially engaged and newlywed couples, for what exactly they are signing up.

Although I appreciate (what I hope is) the caring heart behind these sentiments, it is extremely discouraging to repeatedly hear that all marriage brings is a lot of hard work.

As followers of Christ, we believe the first marriage happened in the garden during creation when, in Genesis 2:18, God made Eve for Adam. “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Jesus references back to Genesis when He later teaches on marriage in Mark 10:6-10, saying, “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. ‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

In marriage, the union of two imperfect human beings, there are plenty of challenges, for sure. And, no, life is not a fairy tale. However, let’s not miss that God designed marriage not only to stretch us beyond our selfishness to become more like Jesus through trials, but also to bring great joy to our lives with the myriad of gifts marriage provides.

Marriage Gives You a Life Partner, a Friend, a Permanent Date.

Yes, relationships have their ups and downs. Marriage takes work. But your spouse is an invaluable resource, a strong shoulder to cry on, an intelligent mind to make decisions with, someone to watch your Netflix shows with, the father or mother of your potential future children, one who makes you feel special, cherished, loved.

The gift of a partner through marriage is a precious one to be treasured, protected and never taken for granted.

Marriage Gives You the Chance to Be a Picture of His Grace and Love to the World.

Recently, my husband and I attended a wedding between two of the most amazing friends we are privileged to know. The God-honoring celebration of their love was truly phenomenal; their love story shouts His grace in every facet.

Their marriage, even in its young state, is a picture of God’s grace to the world. It is only by His grace and His strength that we can truly even try to selflessly love another human being the way we should. The picture of the Gospel message found in marriage is often much more powerful than all the cliché church language, the tracts or the Bible stories we could ever share.

We all want to change the world, we all long for significance, and we have the chance to be a witness, an example in our own marriages. What a gift it is to be able to honor God by loving, forgiving and extending grace to our spouse.

Marriage Gives You the Opportunity to Create Your Own Family.

Families can come in all shapes and sizes with many differences, but the principle remains: In marriage, when you join two lives together, you create a brand new family unit. No matter your family of origin—whether your parents celebrated 30 plus years of marital bliss or you didn’t even know one of your parents—you now have the gift of a new beginning to continue the legacy or break the cycle.

Building your own family can be a road fraught with twists and turns. No one’s beginning or ending will look the same, but endless possibilities await you as a newly formed family through marriage.

Marriage Gives You the Deepest Intimacy—Spiritual, Physical and Emotional—This Side of Heaven.

For Christians who believe in abstinence until marriage, we sometimes think marriage will solve any sexual issues from our pasts and instantly erase any sexual baggage we might be carrying. We think easy vulnerability in communication and amazing sex will be synonymous with our wedding night. That’s usually not the reality, but marriage does bring with it the gift of pure, God-sanctioned intimacy and vulnerability as we seek to love our spouse well.

It doesn’t happen overnight—it takes effort. Being intimate with another person includes taking down barriers, relinquishing control and giving away the deepest parts of our hearts. It can reveal deep fears long buried, but it is a gift that comes with the marriage commitment.

The ability to truly be vulnerable, to let ourselves enjoy all forms of intimacy with our spouse is a gift that comes solely with marriage. Don’t let it become a duty or a chore.

Marriage Gives You Much Reward for Much Work.

Have you ever worked on a project and felt discouraged because despite your best efforts and dedication, it felt as though nothing was accomplished? This is not the case for marriage. Marriage does take hard work. A union, a partnership between two flawed human beings, can never be effortless—but from the great work marriage requires comes immeasurable reward.

As you strive to love your spouse well, to pick your battles, to enjoy the small things in life, to remember all the qualities that caused you to say, “I choose you!”—you are building a legacy of love, of marriage, of family. While you work, play, laugh and thank God for another day of life together, you paint a masterpiece of His grace and mercy, which thankfully are both new every morning, especially in the journey called marriage.

Whether single, engaged, newlywed, or a marriage veteran, all of us can benefit from the reminder that although marriage does require hard work, the most rewarding things in life always do, and marriage is well worth the investment.

JESSICA A. CHANCE

Jessica A. Chance is a Florida born, Texas girl who is currently calling North Carolina home. She can usually be found with hot tea in one hand and a good book in the other. When not saving lives as a registered nurse, she enjoys spending time with her husband, dreaming up her next travel adventure, and writing about embracing life’s everyday moments at jessicaachance.com.

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