We hadn’t been married a week before our differences threatened to drive a wedge between us. I can’t recall the reason Josh and I were fighting that night, but I do remember going to bed angry at my new husband. On our honeymoon.

Even then, doubt crept into my mind, making me question whether we were well suited for each other. As a newly-married unbeliever, I didn’t have a clue what the purpose for marriage was back then, or if there was one at all. Now, I know God’s plan for marriage is to reflect the fullness of who He is in an increasingly empty world. And He gives us an amazing example of what that should look like through Jesus’ life—and death—on earth. And this story, the greatest story in history, has nothing to do with jellybeans and rabbits.

Marriage and Easter

This time of year, we reflect quite a bit on the Easter story—the story of Christ’s betrayal, His sacrifice, His death, and ultimately, the Resurrection that changed the course of history and mankind’s relationship with our Creator. But what does this have to do with marriage? More than you might think.

If our marriage is meant to reflect the image of God, we have no better example than Christ, the living embodiment of God’s love. In His omniscience, God knew what marriage would take. Through His sacrifice, He showed us that our love for each other and even for Him wasn’t enough. We needed His love. We need Him.

Here are seven things we can learn about marriage from Easter.

1. Betrayal can come from those we love and trust the most. Jesus knew this all too well. Judas—one of the 12, the few in Jesus’ inner circle—betrayed Him by turning Him in to the chief priests. This man had walked long roads beside Jesus. Sat at His side and dipped bread with Him. To make the betrayal sting a little more, Judas identified Jesus to the authorities with a kiss (Mark 14:44).

Betrayal hurts. When it comes from someone we love and trust, it cuts all the deeper. And some of your deepest pain will likely come from your spouse. Getting betrayed or hurt is a risk we take in marriage. No marriage is immune. But our response to the offense has to reflect the faith and trust we have in Christ. We can choose to love our spouse even when we feel betrayed.

2. We aren’t above betraying the ones we love. Peter was passionate about his relationship with Christ. When Jesus told Peter he would disown Him three times before the rooster crowed, Peter just couldn’t fathom it. “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” Peter told Him. Yet, before the night had ended, Peter “wept bitterly” after he denied His Savior not once, but three times (Matthew 26:34-75).

Matthew 26:41 tells us “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I can relate to that verse. I don’t ever want to hurt my husband. But I have, and I do. Sometimes it’s unintentional: My words often rush out before my brain can catch up. Other times, I know the words that cut deep and allow them to leave my lips without fully assessing the damage they will cause. None of us are above hurting our spouse, no matter how much we try. Remember, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

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3. Others won’t believe your marriage can be saved. As they gazed upon the suffering Christ, the chief priests mocked Him. “He saved others; he cannot save himself,” they said. “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:31-32). The sad irony of their words is that because they refused to believe, they would never see their own salvation on that cross.

Our culture is a brutal place to try to save a dying marriage. Not only do an increasing number of people not believe in the lasting power of marriage, many will gladly take a front seat to watch your marriage die. They’ll mock you and your spouse and say divorce is a better option. Protect your relationship by surrounding yourself with people who encourage your marriage rather than dragging it down.

4. Marriage takes sacrifice. Jesus knew what was coming. He prayed in Gethsemane, “My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Later, before He was nailed to the cross, “they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it” (Matthew 27:34). The wine concoction offered to Jesus was one typically offered to slightly ease the pain of those condemned to death. Jesus refused to numb even a fraction of the sacrifice He was about to make.

It sometimes seems like a no-brainer that we would give our lives for our spouses. But what about in the day to day? Are you willing to sacrifice your comfort, your preferences, even being right for your spouse? On a much smaller level, sacrificing yourself for your spouse is putting their best interests above your own through a series of choices that can seem insignificant.

5. Marriage takes forgiveness. Jesus’ sacrifice guaranteed God’s forgiveness for those who love Him. Even through the pain of the cross, He called out on behalf of those who crucified Him. “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do'” (Luke 23:34).

Forgiveness isn’t just something we’ve been given, it’s also something we, as followers of Christ, are told to do. In Colossians, Paul says, “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (3:13). Your spouse is going to mess up. A lot. You are too, perhaps even more. A good marriage involves a lot of asking for, giving, and receiving forgiveness.

6. Marriage takes faith. After the tomb was found empty, Jesus appeared to His disciples. Thomas wasn’t there. And when the others told him they had seen the Lord, Thomas was skeptical. “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” A week later, Thomas found himself face-to-face with Jesus, who offered his hands to Thomas. “Do not disbelieve,” Jesus told him, “but believe” (John 20:24-29).

There have been times it was a struggle to find the good in my marriage. It was like trying to find a match in the darkness. I couldn’t see things getting any better, and to be honest, I didn’t always want to. Holding on when you want to let go takes faith. Even a little. When the disciples couldn’t heal a boy, Jesus told them it was a faith issue. “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

Which brings me to my last point …

7. We all need a Savior. The apostle John recorded the last words Jesus spoke on the cross to be, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Finished was His atonement for our sins. No one else could have paid the heavy debt we carried but the Son of God.

Marriage is a blessing, but make no mistake, it’s hard at times. You and your spouse can’t do it on your own strength and determination. Much like the criminal hanging next to Jesus who said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42), we need to recognize our need for a Savior. And much like the disciples who were standing before their risen Lord, we need Him to breathe life into us (and into our marriage) with the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).

Your spouse needs Jesus as much as you do—no more, no less. Remembering this can help you view him or her differently. If your spouse is a believer, then they are no longer the sum of all their sins. If you are married to an unbeliever, then never stop praying for their salvation.

God used the death and Resurrection of His Son to restore our relationship with Him. Do you doubt He can restore your marriage? Remember, the Easter story isn’t one of death and defeat. No, it’s a story of overcoming death in victory. With God, your marriage story can be one of victory, as well.

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