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There are many articles on the hardships and difficulties of marriage, and even many valuable tips and tricks on how to do marriage better.  Yet, this is not one of those articles. In this article, we celebrate the marriage. We want to encourage and exhort a deeper delight in your spouse and the covenant made.  Marriage is a gift from God and sometimes we need a fresh reminder of that fact. Here are three joys of marriage that we hope will spur you to further appreciation of your marriage.

You can dance in the car!  Let your hair down, be yourself!

One of the greatest joys of marriage is that we can be ourselves and still be loved.  A deep desire is to know and to be known. We are relational people who need deep relationships.  However, since the fall, shame creeps into our relationships. We desire intimacy, but often hide.  We conceal our true feelings and emotions, thoughts, and sins. Repressing who we really are, we intend to present a version of ourselves that will gain and guard their love. And while we get a sense that we are loved, it is a façade. We are not really known, and others only love the false self that we have presented.

Yet, in marriage, we cannot hide. Not for very long, anyway. The “honeymoon” period lasts a short while. Eventually, you cannot hide your personality or quirks. But this vulnerability creates exactly what we need. As our model, Christ knew the faults of his bride, the church, and still died for her. Marriage is to be like the love of Christ for the church, one that allows us to be known and loved despite our flaws. What a joy that we can truly be ourselves in a godly marriage! Marriage gives a taste of a known-kind of love. We can dance in the car, cry, and be exposed.  When you’re married, there’s freedom. Be yourself. And as you experience this gift of being truly known and loved, you’ll also be helped in knowing the unconditional love of Christ.

You can go to awkward parties! Take a risk and do hard things!

Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran are onto something in their newest single.  In marriage, we can do hard things because we experience safety and security.  Having difficult conversations, facing our fears, and going to the awkward Christmas parties, are possible and made easier with a spouse. The author of Ecclesiastes was right in saying that two are better than one because if one person falls, the other person is there to lift up. 

Scripture tells us that we are a one-flesh union. When one person embarks on a challenging road, the other is traveling on the same road – literally and figuratively. Practically, the benefit comes about as we willingly serve one another.  It is the willingness for me to help Evan pack for a trip even when I could be shopping, or for Evan to take the time to solve a research dilemma when he could be reading. With even small sacrifices like this, marriage allows you to do hard things that you may not be able to do on your own because you leverage the strengths of each other and make up for the weaknesses of each other.

You can break open the champagne! Celebrate the progress!

The above joys culminate in another joy. When you combine the ability to reveal flaws and the presence of help, growth is a natural result. Each person in the marriage develops and matures in ways that they would not have even fathomed or in ways, they needed to. A couple has the privilege of observing the small and incremental changes, as well as, the large and immediate signs of this sanctification. The joy comes in celebrating these milestones, events, and gifts of grace with each other.

God grants us gifts for our benefit but also in order for us to give him glory and praise. As we behold the grace of God in our partner’s life and as we are affirmed in our own growth, celebrations of worship and gratitude ought to be a steady note of joy in our marriage. Anniversaries, promotions, birthdays, and baby showers are all sweeter because we can reflect more clearly on the faithfulness of God. 

This is a small list of joys experienced in marriage. Unfortunately, sin has marred many of our marriages and prevented us from living in the fullness of joy. The wonderful news is that God can still restore delight in and infuse them with joy. But a harvest of good fruit does not sprout immediately. It comes through time, care, and intentional cultivation. 

How can we actively cultivate joy in marriage?

Pray Together

One of the best pieces of advice that we got from a friend before marriage was to always pray with your spouse, especially if you begin to engage in a fight. It makes it terribly awkward at first, but it forces both of you to reorient yourselves to focusing on what God desires of you. You are forced to recognize your own forgiveness from God and extend it to the other. You are compelled to seek the welfare of your spouse and to sacrificially love.  Further, you are urged to worship God in hope for what he is going to do by his grace. 

Highlight the Good

In our premarital counseling, we read Mingling of Souls, by Matt Chandler. One of the most valuable take-aways was to resist speaking negatively about your spouse, especially in the company of others.  Sure, your spouse does things that may annoy you, but when speaking and focusing on their weaknesses we portray marriage as the ol’ ball and chain.  Unfortunately, it is an acceptable sin to criticize our spouses. Often, it is done in a passive aggressive, semi-joking way. The world speaks and views marriage in this manner. However, when we do this, we tear down our spouse, muddle the beauty of marriage, and portray the relationship of Christ and the church as something less than desirable. So, we ought to speak highly of our covenant, boast jealously of our spouse, and encourage each other with the beauty of what a godly marriage can become.

Certainly, marriage is hard, yet there is great joy in marriage. The fruits of marriage are sweet, but we must take the time to cultivate it. By God’s grace, let’s commit do doing this together.