Build friendship into your marriage

Simon & Garfunkel once famously declared their rejection of love: “Don’t talk of love,” they sang, followed by their well-known refrain: “I am a rock, I am an island.” Having been hurt by love, they resolved never to open themselves to another person again. While their music may have spoken to many a wounded heart, Simon & Garfunkel's poetic declaration was wishful thinking--no one is, or really wants to be, an island. In fact, when God looked down at a world yet unspoiled by sin, he found the sole person he had made to be incomplete: “And God said, ‘it is not good that Adam should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” (Gen. 2:18). Imagine that! Even in a perfect world, God saw something that wasn’t yet good--and by performing the world’s first surgery, God answers Adam’s need in a way that points us to God’s purpose for marriage even today. As we bring our marriages in line with God’s design, we’ll discover the joy God intends for us in marriage.

We DO Have Need Of Friendship

As Adam set about the God-given work of care and cultivation, it became painfully obvious that there was no other creature like him. In the skies, water, or on land, Adam found no one to laugh with, no one to discover the world with, no one to share the joys of work with. Adam was alone, and God declared this solitude “not good.” We are made for relationship; if you are lonely, it is not because there is something wrong with you, but because there is something right with you.

Friends and Spouses

Not everyone will be married, but all need companionship. Marriage affords us a particular kind of companionship. When Adam sees Eve for the first time, he sings for joy; Adam has been given a companion, a friend! Together, he and his wife could work, laugh, and play, together!

Sadly, we often neglect this ingredient in our marriages today. Relationships often begin in passion and emotion, and friendship is added later on (if at all). Consequently, if when infatuation and passion wanes and friendship has not been cultivated, we might conclude that the relationship is flawed and must end. Or, consider a couple married several years with young children. She devotes her time to meeting the many demands of young children while juggling a part-time job and volunteering at church. Meanwhile, he’s working full-time (and then some!), trying to advance his career, and also paying the bills, maintaining the house or car or more. Life is busy. Sooner or later, if they neglect investing in their friendship, they risk drifting apart and the relationship will struggle.

Building a Foundation of Friendship

Here are a few things you can do to avoid this mistake. If you are dating, ensure you are building a foundation of friendship. Find hobbies that you enjoy together. Learn the fine art of conversation. Discover what makes each other laugh. This foundation will carry you through those seasons when passion and emotion quiet down for a time. If you are married, be intentional about sustaining your friendship. Make time for a date night, without kids, each week--even if that means getting take-out and eating it together while playing Yahtzee after the kids are in bed. Pursue your hobbies together. When life becomes difficult--and it will--you will be deeply grateful to have your lifelong friend by your side.

Put to Work Together

God’s solution for humanity’s aloneness was to create a helper. God recognized that people do not just need a companion, but also a co-laborer. God had given Adam the task of filling the earth, and exercising authority over it. Adam could not do this alone, so God provides a counterpart and helper. A fellow-laborer. Together, Adam and Eve could do the work that neither of them could do alone. To put it simply, God brings us together so that, as a couple, we might better pursue God’s mission of “filling the earth, and ruling over it.”

Set To Work

Have you considered how God is calling you to pursue his mission in this world as a couple? Preparing for marriage ought to involve conversations about how you envision God using you to serve Him. For some this might include a call to serve overseas in ministry; for others, this will mean exploring how God will use your gifts in art, or science, or finance, or business or… in a such a way that you both can flourish to God’s glory. If you are married, do you have a sense that God desires to use you in his mission in this world? How are you working together, to use your God-given gifts to advance his kingdom? Spend time prayerfully considering God’s vision for you, as a couple, working in this world.

If you have ever stood on railroad tracks (hopefully when no train is present!) you will notice how the rails stretch out to infinity--close together but always a couple of feet apart, never intersecting. This is not what God intends for marriage! It is not good that we should be alone—God has created us to seek companionship and partnership in the work God has for us to do.

About the author — Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra

Rob Toornstra has pastored a church in Salem Oregon for the past ten years. He has been married to Amy for fifteen years, and together, they are enjoying the adventure of raising two girls and one boy. For fun, Rob enjoys cooking, reading, aviation, and geocaching.  He is the author of "Naked and Unashamed: How the Good News of Jesus Transforms Intimacy" (Doulos, 2014).

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