There is no getting around it. If I am to become the man and minister God has called me to be, my wife must be able to say honestly before heaven, hell and all the world, “My husband loves me with the love of Christ. He makes mistakes, but he’s growing more patient and understanding with me. He’s becoming more tender and caring. He prays with me. He isn’t a phony. He is what he preaches.”

If this isn’t my wife’s testimony — if she has a secret pain in her heart thinking, “My husband isn’t the man of God he pretends to be” — then everything in my life is in vain. All my preaching, accomplishments and charitable giving amount to nothing. I am a withering, useless branch that doesn’t bear the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus will cause others to see the death in me, and I’ll be worth little to his kingdom.

A while ago, a middle-aged pastor and his wife came to me brokenhearted and weeping. The minister told me through tears, “Brother Dave, I have sinned against God and my wife. I’ve committed adultery.” He shook with godly sorrow as he confessed his sin to me. Then his wife turned to me and said softly, “I’ve forgiven him. His repentance is real to me, and I’m confident the Lord will restore us.” With that, I was privileged to witness the beginning of a beautiful healing.

We can never make up for our past failures; but when there is true repentance, God promises to restore all that the cankerworm has destroyed.

I wish every couple who enjoys a Christ-centered marriage would rise up and tell the truth: “It isn’t easy.” There is no other school as difficult and intense as the school of marriage, and you never graduate. God makes it clear to us that our life with our loved ones is the pinnacle, the very summit, of all our testings. If we get it wrong here, we’ll have it wrong everywhere else in our life.

Marriage is a day-by-day effort, in the same way the Christian life is. Like the way of the Cross, it means giving up your rights daily and turning to Christ’s promise, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NKJV).