Pursuing God’s Vision for Marriage

Many of my friends walked down the wedding aisle to the hymn “Be Thou My Vision.” The melody has an ethereal quality about it. And the lyrics—to say that the lyrics are meaningful would be a gross understatement. I want to walk through every day of my married life embracing the truths of this song in my heart.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art . . .

So many things clamor for my attention when I wake up every morning. Regardless of the busyness or dullness of the day, I want the greatest reality to hit me—that the God whose name is I AM is worthy of my praise, my thoughts, and my obedience.

Will the damp towels and clothes left strewn about the room from my husband’s morning routine matter to me when the atoning work of Christ on the cross is my vision for the day? In my husband’s case, leaving towels and clothes draped around the room is not an affront meant to hurt me. But, what if it was? Is God so clearly my vision that I could persist in clinging to his grace in Christ even when my marriage relationship is strained?

Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light . . .

When the tragedies and discouragements of life threaten to overtake our marriage then I want to think on God’s faithfulness by day and by night. Will the urgency of the day’s demands weigh so heavily on my heart and bring out the nag in me when the indwelling Holy Spirit is my comfort and peace?

Waking or sleeping, God’s presence sheds light on how he does all things for his glory. We have no cause to fear the darkness. Today—right now—we can relate to one another by grace, hoping in the future grace to be shown to us in the last day when Christ returns.

In Ephesians Paul describes the marriage relationship as a reflection of the heavenly reality of Christ’s marriage to the church.

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. (Eph. 5:24-25)

Paul goes on to quote Genesis 2:24 to underscore the significance of this mysterious relationship:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

No wonder the second stanza of “Be Thou My Vision” strikes such a chord with couples about to be united as one flesh:

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord . . .

I wonder if I could dub this song over the soundtrack on the VHS tape of our wedding. Or better yet, what if grace covered over the soundtrack of every petty argument, stray word, and rude remark I’ve ever made to my husband?

The great news is that Jesus has already done that. And he doesn’t just dub over the soundtrack of such things. He removes our sins from us as far away as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). By the shed blood of Christ, we are forgiven. The price for my peace-filled, joy-enjoying, grace-exchanging marriage is the precious blood of the spotless Lamb of God. Who am I to scorn the sacrifice that Jesus made?—so I can hold onto my scoffing pride, self-righteous anger, and arrogant impatience toward my husband?

Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one . . .

What a poetic reminder of the priority of fellowship with God and the preeminence of our relationships with him as the foundation for our relationships with our spouses. The power that we need to love our spouses is supplied by God according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). In Christ, we can serve our partner with the strength that God supplies so that God gets the glory (1 Pt. 4:11).

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight; be thou my whole armor, be thou my true might . . .

My power for holiness is from God, and I see him most clearly in his word, the Bible. The Bible says that God’s grace, not fear or regret, is the song of my life. It sounds like a Christian cliché to say, “We’re together at the foot of the cross.” But when we understand that what puts us at the mercy of God at the foot of the cross is our pervasive inability to love God and each other as we ought, then all of a sudden our sin isn’t so trite anymore.

My husband’s sin isn’t so harmless, either. We’re sinners married to sinners. We sin against each other, sometimes we’re in sin together, and we even leave our sin lying around for our spouse to stumble over. We must see ourselves together at the foot of the cross. Both of us need God to look favorably upon us through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The blood that covers my sins is the same blood that covers my husband’s sins.

Even if I were not married to a Christian man. . . God has freely given his Son and offers to all the body and blood of his Son Jesus if we will repent and believe. Who am I, a sinner saved by grace, to look on anyone as more desperate for that grace than I am? If I have Jesus then all I know is grace and God’s future for me is grace upon grace. By that grace, we can love our spouses as God has instructed us.

Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower: O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power . . .

And what of the millions of little, mundane things that occur each day? What about my sharp tongue, for example? If God did not withhold his only Son giving us all his riches in Christ Jesus, who am I to withhold words of kindness from my husband? Through Christ in me I can speak the truth in love as he commands and compels me. Instead of merely biting my tongue and avoiding hurtful words, by God’s grace my tongue is loosed to edify and build up my husband instead.

When Jesus died on the cross he reconciled us to God and he wrote his song of reconciliation by grace across our entire lives. God has shown us grace and we can be conduits of grace to others.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise: be thou mine inheritance now and always . . .

The reward I am looking for in loving my husband is not bound up in how my husband responds to me. How our souls can be refreshed and our marriages strengthened when we believe: “Thou mine Inheritance, now and always; Thou and Thou only, first in my heart.” A godly husband is a gift from the Lord, and I do enjoy the gift God has given me. But the gift of my husband is meant to draw me to worship the Giver.

Because we are all so prone to worship our gifts, this hymn reminds us to pray, “Be thou and thou only the first in my heart; O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.”

“Be Thou My Vision” is an epic song to walk down the aisle to. The triumph of God’s grace in Christ is an even greater song to dance to by faith.

Gloria Furman lives in Dubai with her husband Dave, a pastor at Redeemer Church of Dubai. They have four young kids. Gloria is the author of Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home (Crossway, 2013) and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms (Crossway, 2014). You can read her blog at GloriaFurman.com.