I am not sure exactly how it works. I can’t (yet) quite explain the inner dynamics of it all. But it’s true. If you’re married, your relationship with God and your relationship with your spouse are linked. After Peter gives his readers admonitions about marriage, he closes the section (specifically to husbands) by saying, “so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7). His point? If you aren’t careful and considerate in how you treat your spouse, conversations with God will be interrupted. There will be an invisible wall between you and God. Ice in the air. Tension. In other words, as things go in our marriage so things go in our relationship with God. Particularly to husbands – so as you treat your wives, so goes your friendship and interaction with the Father.
It’s not just here. Peter isn’t the only one to point us in this direction. Paul starts off Romans telling us how human sexuality gets out of whack when our relationship with God is broken. He mentions a similar dichotomy to the Corinthian believers. He also shares how the marriage relationship was intended to display the relationship between Christ and His Church (Bride). And again to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of prayer and marriage being intimately linked. And let’s not forget that God Himself invented marriage, calling the two spouses “one flesh.”
The Bible is clear. If you’re married – as your relationship with your spouse goes, so goes your relationship with God. I’m guessing the reverse of this is also true: as your relationship with God goes, so goes your relationship with your spouse.
Again, I cannot articulate the inner workings of this. I don’t fully grasp the spiritual dimension here. But if you think about it, it does make sense. The second commandment, which Jesus says is related to the first, is “love your neighbor as yourself.” If you’re married, *your nearest neighbor is your spouse. This means the closest, clearest, most obvious working out of your faith relationship with God is within your “one flesh” union. You will reveal, in other words, what you understand about God and what it means to relate to Him – first and foremost – with your marriage partner.
Now. If you are anything like me, you are beginning to feel guilt and shame and a bit of embarrassment. I get it. But that’s not the point here. I don’t think guilt and shame is what the biblical authors’ intended. We will all fail our marriage partners. We are humans who will miss it time after time after time. You will do it toward your spouse and they will do it toward you. You will need grace and you will need to show grace to him/her. This side of heaven, no earthly relationship will be perfect. Even our relationship with God will not be perfect before we see Him face to face. However, I believe this truth is here for us to think. To evaluate. To process. To ponder. To consistently monitor and consider. How we view and treat and interact and engage with and love our spouse is a direct reflection of our relationship with God the Father. Marriage is a mirror. If something is out of whack in our walk with God, we need to start by considering what is going on in our marriage. It may be something else, but here is where we must start. Similarly, if something is out of whack in our relationship with our spouse, we need to evaluate what is going on within us spiritually. Peter says (again, specifically to husbands), “so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
If you are a Christian who is married, one way you can evaluate your walk with the Father is to monitor how you are relating to your spouse. It is a primary way we can “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” If you aren’t able to pray, don’t beat yourself up. Ask yourself why. Don’t condemn yourself. Consider what is going on. Ask the Spirit to reveal what you are not understanding. Ask the Father to lead you to a greater comprehension. Let the marriage relationship be a litmus test of a spiritual reality. And as His grace piles up more and more, be sure to let it overflow first to the one you are one with.
*Full disclosure: I heard someone share this thought (nearest neighbor being your spouse) on a podcast. I cannot recall who or what podcast, but this thought is not original with me.