How much more could Jesus, God in flesh, have done on this earth if He had given Himself another thirty years of active ministry rather than three short years?
Jesus could have performed many more healings and miracles so that the church would number in the hundreds of thousands rather than the few hundred who believed at His death. He could have written dozens of books rather than work through Matthew, Paul, John, and Peter. He could have established churches all over the world, putting the leaders in place under His authority so that no one would question them
Why did Jesus leave the church so seemingly unprepared?
The answer is He didn’t, not really. Jesus had great confidence in the Holy Spirit. He told His disciples that this comforter and counselor would lead them to do even greater things than He had done and so He could leave with full confidence that even in His physical absence, all that would need to be done would be done.
Do we live with this confidence in the Holy Spirit for our lives, our marriages, and our families?
So much of Christian teaching today is about us developing “our” gifts, improving “our” talents, reaching “our” potential, yet so much of Jesus’s teaching and modeling is about surrendering to the work of the Holy Spirit. Let’s allow marriage to teach us to trust this Holy Spirit.
It is impossible to be married in a sacred manner without the Holy Spirit being active in our lives, helping us to understand what it means to love, giving us the power to love, convicting us when we fail to love, renewing our hearts when we grow weary in love, and pouring out hope when we grow discouraged in love. Many of you are frustrated in your marriages because you try to live as if the Trinity isn’t part of the equation. You keep asking something of your spouse and rarely get it: “Listen to me more.”
“Help out more.”
“Have sex with me more often.”
When was the last time you asked something of God’s Holy Spirit? “Help me to love more. Help me to listen more. Renew my heart. Give me strength. Help me forgive …”
You’ll have far more success and satisfaction in your marriage if you start asking more of God and less of your spouse.
Jesus teaches us to pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us, enlighten us, empower us, direct us, and renew us (Luke 11:13). According to Paul in Ephesians 5:18, we are to be continually “filled” with the Spirit. In the Greek this is an unusual construction called a present passive imperative: we are commanded to let something be done to us on an ongoing basis (“let yourself be continually filled with the Spirit”).
I don’t fill up my gas tank on Monday and then curse the automaker when I need to fill it back up on Friday. There isn’t a car in existence that can keep going without refueling, and there isn’t a marriage alive that can keep pressing into sacred intimacy without daily drawing on God’s presence and power. This is one of the things I love about marriage, one area in which God shows His utter brilliance in designing it: our primary human relationship makes us dependent on our primary divine relationship every day.
Besides, God loves it when we ask for more of Him in the form of His Spirit. He promised to answer such prayers in dramatic fashion: “I will pour out my Spirit” (Acts 2:18). Notice He didn’t say, “I will sprinkle my Spirit, drop by drop.” God said He will pour out His Spirit.
It is the way of God with His people that He will often let us continue to fail and be frustrated until we learn to depend on Him. And that’s the miracle of marriage—it forces us to depend on God, and all of life is transformed when we live in dependence on Him. It sets us up for success in literally every endeavor. No longer shackled to our natural gifts and resources (though these, too, come from our Creator), we are emboldened and empowered by a supernatural Presence.
We can keep trying to draw from an empty well, trying to transform our marriages by asking stubborn or unfeeling spouses to meet our needs, or we can ask the God who promised to “pour out” His Spirit on all who seek Him for what they need.
In tough marital circumstances, do we seek resolution or do we seek Christ’s power? Do we seek the pathway to an easier life or to a supernatural life? Will we accept that God may allow a thorn to remain in our lives to teach us the need for spiritual dependence?
It is in our weaknesses—as individuals and perhaps as couples—that Christ’s power comes to rest on us; often it is only when we are at our end that we make way for God to begin. If God resolved every issue, every child’s problem, and every spouse’s annoyance with our first uttered prayer, we’d be weaker saints. We’d be weaker couples. We wouldn’t display the power of Christ. Or we’d display it to a much lesser degree.
Can you thank God for that child who keeps you on your knees? Can you recognize why God may choose to allow the possibility of another addictive lapse to keep both of you living in dependence? Can you understand that God may not remove some difficulties that you hate because He wants you to rely on the supernatural power of Christ that He loves?
I believe it will change our marriages and our walks with God if we stop expecting every problem to be fixed and instead expect every difficulty to help us learn to depend upon God more and more.
Gary Thomas, GaryThomas.com
This blog post was adapted from Gary’s latest book, A Lifelong Love: How to Have Lasting Intimacy, Friendship, and Purpose in Your Marriage