Commitment, contentment, and confidence are the pillars marriages are strengthened by.
Commitment is what makes marriage different from so many other aspects of life. In your lifetime, you will probably have a number (and maybe a variety) of jobs. You will probably live in a number of different homes or apartments. You probably dated a number of people before you got married. It’s normal for all of those circumstances to change. That’s why we don’t make lifelong commitments to our employers, our landlords or mortgage companies, or to the people we dated before we got married.
But once we make that commitment, things change. We spent time getting to know a person, we were attracted to them and to their personality, and we learned that we both wanted generally similar things out of life. Finally, we allowed that relationship to develop to the point that we were both ready to make a commitment to choose this one person out of the billions of people on the planet to share our life with. This is what Genesis 2:24 (and Matthew 19:5 when Jesus quoted it) talks about:
“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
Contentment can be a little trickier to pin down than commitment. Commitment is largely a choice to exclude other potential partners or other activities that will take your time and energy away from your spouse. Contentment is about learning not to allow your circumstances to completely dictate your mood and your behavior.
In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul explains that he has “learned the secret of being content,” whether he’s in good situations or hard ones. It’s significant that he uses the word “learned” and the word “secret” in that one line. In other words, this doesn’t happen easily, and it doesn’t happen accidentally. We already know the natural way we experience life is that we feel happy and satisfied when our circumstances are good, and we feel frustrated and worried when our circumstances are hard.
Marriage will give us a chance to practice being content in all circumstances. Because every relationship has its ups and downs. Every relationship requires compromise and figuring out how to navigate a situation when each of you sees the situation itself (and the way forward) so differently. You are also likely to experience times when one of you is struggling at work or with your mental health. Or when one of you gets sick or has some temporary or long-term limitation. The commitment is what keeps you going in those times, but learning to be content even when things aren’t going the way you want them to go is incredibly important.
This brings us to confidence, which is two-pronged in marriage. You need confidence in your spouse, and you need confidence in God. Sometimes confidence in your spouse wavers in the moment. When they say something that hits you a certain way, it’s really, really hard to believe that it’s possible that they meant it in a way that was constructive or helpful.
It’s incredibly hard to do this in the moment, but it can be helpful to remember that you truly believe that your spouse is on your team and is working with you, not against you.
If you were to put a percentage on the amount of time you think your spouse has your best interests at heart, it’s likely that your number would be somewhere above 80% – that’s if you’re asked this question at a time when you’re not in the middle of a conflict.
While you’re feeling hurt or offended or angry about what they said, you wouldn’t be in a position to give a number on that because your judgment would be so caught up in the emotion of the moment. Those reactive tendencies will likely stay with you, even when you work to build that confidence that you have in your spouse. But that’s why confidence is so important; because emotions in the middle of a conflict are very, very strong!
No matter what you’re facing in your marriage, it’s vital that you continue to have confidence in God! Knowing and loving Him is not a cure or prevention for the tough times we face in life, although that is what we sometimes wish for. Instead, we can know that God is for us and God is with us through it all (Romans 8:38, 39). Our confidence in His goodness and His love can remain in place even when we face dark moments.
In a world where things are constantly changing and where it seems like people prefer to be angry and resentful rather than peaceful, our devotion to God reminds us to focus on the commitment, contentment, and confidence that makes our marriages meaningful.
Dan Seaborn is the founder and president of Winning At Home, a marriage and family organization based in Zeeland, Michigan. His practical illustrations and memorable real-life examples teach others how to win at home. He and his wife, Jane, have four adult children and live in West Michigan.