Many folks ask us, “What does it really mean to have an abiding marriage?” That is a really good question - and one I have been pondering myself.
“Abide” is just not a word you hear much in daily conversations. One Bible reference I checked uses several words to help us better understand the word “abide”: to remain, to dwell, or continue. But the one I like says, “not to depart, not to leave, to continue to be present”.
Jesus had a lot to say about abiding in the Bible in John 15. He references abiding more than 10 times in the first section of that chapter. In verse 5 He said, “Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” If Jesus took the time to share this with His disciples just before His death on the cross, then I think we should take heed to His words as well.
The Foundational Step: Surrender
The foundational step of having an abiding marriage is vital for everything that follows. And we hear this spoken to us by God as we read Jesus' words in John 15:1-5:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Jesus is telling us about the connection between the vine and the branches. He says that unless the branches (you and me) are connected to the Vine (Him), we cannot bear fruit. So the first thing a branch must do to bear fruit is be connected to the vine. Simple enough, right?
But what does this mean for us in marriage? How are we connected to the Vine as husbands and wives?
For my wife and I or for you and your spouse, here is the bottom line: To have an abiding marriage, both husband and wife must first surrender to God, the One who created us. Since He created us, we must trust Him to both understand and live out life and marriage as He designed it. So He is calling me to surrender my desires, my agenda, my rights, my will - really, surrender EVERYTHING.
You may be wondering, “Hey, Glen, you said that the branches needed to be connected to the Vine. What does surrender have to do with connection?”
One of the main messages of the Bible is that God loves us. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is His Story of love, connection, and pursuit of those He created. But the Bible also tells us that in the midst of God's Story, we ALL have a problem. Each of us has gone our own way, following our own selfish desires, and wanting to do our own thing, apart from God. This disobedience and rebellion toward God are called sin. And our sin separates us from the God who loves and created us. So our sin, in a real sense, disconnects us from God. Our selfishness and pride have disconnected us from the life-giving Vine. But that is not the end of the story.
God, because of His great love towards us, provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him. He alone, through His Son, Jesus, has provided the only way that we can be connected to the Vine. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God.” 1 Peter 3:18. In one of the most well-known verses in the Bible, John 3:16-17, Jesus tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
Over and over in the Bible, we see the picture of God's great love for us. And this incredible love compelled Jesus to leave Heaven and come to earth to be our perfect sacrifice on the cross, dying in our place, and giving us the opportunity to be reconciled or connected to God.
But to be connected we must make the choice to surrender – recognizing that my sin has disconnected me from God. I must completely trust in Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection to pay for my sins. This is the only way I can be reconciled and connected to Him. It is only as I take this step of surrender, accepting His free gift of salvation, that I can begin a relationship with Jesus and connect to and draw my life from the Vine.
So here is my question to you, husband or wife: Have you taken that foundational step of surrender to God? If you can confidently say “Yes” to that question, then I give thanks to God for Him drawing you into that relationship. But if you cannot confidently say “Yes”, then I know that God wants you to take that step. He wants to be connected to you. He is waiting for you to take that step of surrender.
If you want to take that foundational step, I beg you to stop reading this, type in the short link shown below, and hear God imploring you to be connected to Him. You will never regret this step!!
Your Step to Surrender to God: Use this short link: rebrand.ly/the-foundational-step
If you are still reading, then I am thankful to know you have taken that foundational step of surrender and connection to the Lord. It is vital to having an abiding marriage. But let me remind you that surrender to God is not a one-time decision. It is something that the Lord asks us to do daily as we die to ourselves and our ways, and submit and surrender to His ways.
Maybe, as you read this, you find yourself in a tough place in your marriage. Maybe you have lost hope that things can change, or you are even having thoughts of ending your marriage. This is not a place any of us thought we would be when we said “I Do” years ago.
But God knows the tough place you are in. He is fully aware of the challenges you are facing. In this moment, He is asking you to call out to Him in surrender. Just as you took that step of faith to surrender to be connected to Him, He is asking you to take another step of surrender – to surrender your marriage to Him. Not surrender in the idea of “giving up”, but surrender in saying, “Lord, I will trust You and take steps each day to follow You as You work on me and my marriage.”
If that is where you find yourself today in your marriage, I encourage you to “fast forward” to the prayer at the end of this article/post. You can repeat it as is or make the words your own. But I encourage you to cry out from the depth of your heart to the Lord, knowing that He cares for you and loves to hear the desperate cry of His beloved children.
What Does Daily Surrender Look Like?
So what does this daily surrender look like between husband and wife? Here are a few examples of what that might look like for you:
In the midst of an argument with your spouse, rather than focusing on trying to get your point across (which is most frequently the focus of my thoughts in conflict), you surrender your “rights” to get your point across and rather focus on what your spouse is trying to say and communicate.
In the middle of the night, you hear your two-year old crying. You get up and take care of the child's needs because you want to serve and sacrifice for your spouse, even when you are dead-tired too.
You were hoping for a quiet weekend at home, when your spouse calls and shares that an old friend and their spouse are making an impromptu trip through your area and were hoping to spend some time with you both. You choose to give up your plans for the weekend and focus on both preparing for and enjoying the time with your guests.
I think God gives us chances every day to surrender our plans and agenda for the day to what He has for us. The only question is this: Will I follow His lead, or go my own way?
In war, what warring nations always demand to end the conflict is “unconditional surrender”. That means that one warring nation completely surrenders with no conditions or terms to the other nation. They drop their weapons, put up their hands, and submit themselves fully to the other nation.
If we take that same thought of unconditional surrender and apply it to our lives as Christ-followers, it surely calls us to a level of dying to self and living obediently to and for Him. Two verses come to mind related to this – one from the words of Jesus and the other from the Apostle Paul:
If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Are you willing to surrender unconditionally to the Lord right now? He is waiting to hear your cry of surrender and faith. Cry out to the One who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He is sitting on the end of His throne waiting to hear His beloved's cry of surrender to Him!
Lord, thank You that because of the blood of Jesus I am connected to you, the Vine. Help me to daily surrender to You in everything. By the power of Your Spirit in me, help me to deny myself, take up my cross, and truly follow You wherever You lead. Help me to no longer live for myself but for You, the One who died and was raised again. And help me to surrender daily in my marriage so that my marriage can truly reflect the loving relationship between You and Your bride, the church. In the Name of Jesus!
Image by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
Written by Glen Solberg, Abiding Marriage 2018. All Rights Reserved. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions.