Hope for Hard Marriages

If you’re in a hard marriage, even if you chose it through your own sin or foolishness, God does not say, “You did that to yourself, so don’t talk to me about it.”

Chris Hutchison on February 5, 2024

The past two Sundays we’ve spent time in 1 Peter 3:1-7, a passage which is largely addressed to Christian women with unbelieving husbands. Peter instructs them to seek to win their husbands through their God-fearing conduct and inner beauty.

It’s interesting to notice how Peter speaks to this situation in such a matter-of-fact manner. Doesn’t he understand how profoundly lonely it is to be married to someone who rejects the most important part of your identity? Has he no sympathy for the aching pain of knowing that, unless they turn from their unbelief, the person with whom you share your earthly life will not share eternal life with you?

I don’t know what was going on in Peter’s mind as he wrote these verses, but I can’t help but consider some of the ways in which his letter has already prepared a wife (or a husband) to face this situation with the necessary perspective:

  • we are exiles and sojourners who don’t belong here (1 Pet 1:1, 2:11)
  • our present life is full of grief as our faith is tested by various trials (1 Pet 1:6-7)
  • our joy is to be found not in our present experiences but in the expectation of our inheritance (1 Pet 1:4-6)
  • we must set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us when Christ returns (1 Pet 1:13)

That last point is especially relevant to the matter of marriage. So many Christian young people set their hope on marriage as their happily-ever-after. And the truth is that even a good Christian marriage can’t support the weight of those expectations. The best marriage will disappoint you. The best marriages are just temporary shadows of the real thing, which we’ll experience fully when Christ has returned (Matt 22:30, Eph 5:25-27, Rev 19:6-8).

Please hear: I’m not trying to downplay the real difficulty and suffering experienced by those married to an unbeliever. But is it possible to see God’s grace even in the pain? Is it possible to see in your situation a reminder that marriage is not our ultimate purpose in life, and was never meant to be our source of happiness? Is it possible that the sorrow you carry around is but one reminder that you’re not home yet, and the person you’re really longing for is still coming for you? As Laura Story has sang, “What if my greatest disappointments, or the aching of this life, is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?”

That’s a big question to ask, but I think from heaven’s perspective we’ll see that anything which helped wean our hope off of this present world, and set it fully on the return of Jesus, no matter how hard and painful, was a gift. 

And this applies regardless of the various reasons someone might be married to an unbeliever. Some people came to faith in Christ after they were already married. (This does appear to be Peter’s primary audience in 3:1-6). Others married a professing Christian who later abandoned their faith. And still others, through ignorance or rebellion, chose to marry an unbeliever in spite of God’s warnings (1 Cor 1:29, 2 Cor 6:14-18).

It’s those in this last group who particularly need to remember that we serve a God who “does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him” (Psa 103:10–13). 

If you’re in a hard marriage, even if you chose it through your own sin or foolishness, God does not say, “You did that to yourself, so don’t talk to me about it.” Jesus was nailed to the cross for this sin, too. And if God gave up His Son for you while you were yet a sinner, He’s going to give you everything you need from Him today (Rom 5:8, 8:32). Repent and confess your sins to the Lord, and choose to walk in the grace of your compassionate Father who is working all things—even your painful marriage—together for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28). And then, “preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:13).

Picture of Chris Hutchison
Chris Hutchison is lead pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Nipawin, SK. Have any feedback or questions about what you've read here? Get in touch at .
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