It has become somewhat of a hobby of mine to seek out conversations with couple’s that have been married for decades – 40, 50, 60 years. I always want to know how did they make it, what do they have that so many marriages don’t or didn’t have? In every case, it comes back to their ability to sacrifice. They have marriages that last, through all of life’s changes, because they continually learn to make sacrifices. They consistently give up to gain strength to move forward. They give up themselves: their egos, their pride, their need to be right, the need to win – they give up themselves, and God keeps putting them back together. In short, they sacrifice for God and that causes them to make sacrifices for each other – over and over again, year after year, and situation after situation.
Sacrifice is a tricky word. Because, when we think of sacrifice we hear ideas of pain and going without, yet before we actually make the sacrifice we don’t know exactly how deep the cost or how severe the pain will be. Without knowing all of the ramifications of the sacrifice, we can become fixated only on the potential upside and lose sight of what the outcome could be. We lose sight of the possibility that we could lose our marriage or family. For example, we have a dream, an ambition that is sparked by an opportunity that is placed before us. It could be a lucrative opportunity in our career or the chance to take on something we always wanted to do. It is just what we always wanted – but it will cost us valuable time with our family. So we go forward, pursuing the opportunity, aware that there will be some sacrifice involved, but unaware that the time sacrificed will potentially walk our marriage right to the point of collapse or hinder the development of our children in their crucial adolescent years. So now, the great opportunity to move us and our family forward becomes the very thing that costs us, or at least deeply strains our family or marriage…
Sacrifice to God to Sacrifice to Your Spouse
However, the wisdom of older couples, the secret to building an enduring marriage that lasts is to make godly sacrifices, by placing ourselves, our very lives in God’s hands. Different from sacrificing for our husband or wife, the real sacrifice is because of and to God. When our spouse is the impetus for our sacrifice it can be tainted with our motives. When our sacrifice is to God, He then brings about the outcome that brings Him glory.
Here are three biblical examples of sacrifice, that may help guide us into making sacrifices with God, and in turn building a stronger marriage bond.
Sacrifice in Faith
Look at the example of four lepers in 2 Kings 7
3 Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, “Why do we sit here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ then the famine is in the city and we will die there; and if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we will live; and if they kill us, we will but die.”
8 When these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they entered one tent and ate and drank, and carried from there silver and gold and clothes, and went and hid them; and they returned and entered another tent and carried from there also, and went and hid them.
It is part of a bigger story, wrapped up in the prophecy of Elisha regarding the King of Israel. But in this portion of this story, these four lepers faced a choice – stay where we are and die or get up and go and possibly live. When they chose to get up from where they were, they found food in a time of famine, and they lived. The sacrifice here was to step out of their comfort zone, and the risk was with their very lives. These four men were used by God to carry out a greater purpose for God. But, the result was not possible where they were, they had to make a sacrificial step that placed them in harms way first.
Sacrifice Hoping in What God Can Do?
In Genesis 22, Abraham was asked by God to give up the very child that God said he was going to fulfill his promise to Abraham through. God told him to take Isaac, the son that he and Sarah had received at 100 and 90 years of age respectively, and sacrifice him – kill his son. How can I kill the very means by which I see God blessing me? That doesn’t add up. But Abraham was willing to sacrifice because he believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead, although it had never happened before (Hebrews 11:19). In the end God did not allow Abraham to actually sacrifice his son, but he was willing to.
Sacrifice to God in Humility
Ultimately when we talk about sacrifice, we have to come to Jesus. His sacrifice for us, as seen in Philippians 2, was to empty himself of His independence in heaven and come to earth. It is often referred to as “The Great Humiliation” – God sacrificed the splendor of heaven to save us from sin on earth. Without His sacrifice there would be no salvation for us and He would not have obtained the power and authority that He now has.
- Philippians 2:5-11 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
- I Peter 2: 21-25 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
Three amazing examples of how we are to sacrifice: With Faith, In Hope and From Humility.
The lepers could have sat dying – denying the obvious or they could get up, step out of their comfort zone, place themselves in harms way and live. Abraham could have refused to kill his only son, but he obeyed and hoped in what God could do. Jesus could have stayed in heaven with all splendor and glory to Himself, but he humbled Himself, He lowered Himself, so that we can be lifted up. Altogether it makes me look at my own life and marriage and think, “What sacrifice do I need to make, what do I need to give up to strengthen my marriage: ego, pride, money, a career.”.
As a husband or wife make your sacrifice to God, in that, you find strength to sacrifice for each other. How about you EYM, what 1 thing are you willing to give up for a better marriage?