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Have you ever tried to put together a big jigsaw puzzle without the box? Attempting to fit together 1,000 tiny pieces into a picture is difficult enough, but imagine doing so without knowing what the final product is supposed to look like. How in the world do you begin to create a picture out of such chaos?
This is how most of us go about the daunting task of building a marriage. We attempt to wade through the challenges of communication, sexual difficulties, conflict, and money issues without a clear vision of what we are trying to construct. What is the picture on the box? After all, what is a Christian marriage even supposed to look like?
A Christian marriage isn't about creating a love that is brand new; instead, it asks us to discover and replicate God's love, which has existed since the Garden of Eden. The commitment of a husband and wife isn't just about to trying to build a happy family. It is supposed to point to something beyond the walls of your home.
When the world looks at how Christians act in marriage, they should see a testimony of God's unfailing commitment and sacrificial love. Understanding God's design for marriage can help you put into context the suffering that marriage sometimes brings, the ecstasy of being intimately known, and the challenge to love in all circumstances.
When I put together a puzzle, I constantly refer to the picture on the box. I thoroughly study each piece to discern where it fits within the whole picture. I'm learning to do the same in my marriage. There are days when I stumble on something that confuses or disappoints me. Instead of trying to figure it out on my own, I'm learning to refer to the big picture of God's Word. What does God want to teach me through this trial? How can I be a testimony to others who are watching my marriage? What does this situation teach me about God's faithfulness?
Far too many Christians have forgotten about the picture on the puzzle box. When none of the pieces seem to fit or make sense, it can seem easy to just give up. If this describes your marriage, it's time to start looking at the big picture of what marriage is supposed to be about in the first place. Contrary to public sentiment, marriage isn't ultimately about your happiness or fulfillment. It is a refining fire that represents the covenant love, the unfailing commitment of God to his chosen people.
Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?