As husband and wife come together as one body in the profession of marriage vows, man and woman are united through covenant. Though it is not only their participation in the sacrament which binds them ‘till death, but God’s active presence as the third member of the triune union. This truth of trinitarian love can become a source of confident peace “in good times and in bad.”
God desires to fill our minds and hearts with faith, hope and love. In our human experience, we are often tempted to despair. I invite you to reflect on the triggers which test your resilience against fear or doubt in your vocation. When we collaborate with God, he promises to give strength to our weakness and drive out fear through the grace of the sacrament.
The deep intimacy of marriage and call for ongoing transformation is an experience of vulnerability and exposure. This vulnerability has the potential to reflect beauty itself, imaging the original nakedness and shamelessness of the human heart in God’s perfect design—before the fall to sin. Yet for some, myself included, the raw exposure of body, heart, and soul can initiate feelings of self-doubt, lack of trust, or worry for the future.
We are only human; we are not immune to fear.
Fear can take many forms in our lives, such as tension, defensiveness and a short-temper towards others, or apathy and hopelessness towards important matters. Whatever its form, fear affects our relationships.
In my own experiences, I can internalize my emotions, over-analyze circumstances, and seek means to gain control. Fear also materializes in the form of a question, a litany of asking, “what if?,” in times when God is calling me to surrender and trust his providence.
Any number of circumstances can provoke personal discord, such as separation over a distance, challenges with fertility, conflict involving extended family, financial burdens and professional stress. This list is nowhere near comprehensive of the challenges in family life. Yet no conflict or origin of fear is too big or too ugly for God to redeem, especially through the unbreakable bond of covenant.
Despite our brokenness, here is the source of unfailing, sanctifying hope: the sacrament of Matrimony is indefinitely bound to the gift of grace. “Christ dwells with [married couples], gives them strength to take up their crosses and to follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,” and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love.”
He pours out his love to us and through us. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ created an unbreakable promise of love from God to his children. The vocation to married life is an invitation for us to participate—with God and our spouse—in this promise. Our responsibility is, simply, to remain in him.
When our value, security or identity is threatened by fear, the courageous Christian response is love. 1 John tell us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” We do not acquire this perfect love through our own effort. Rather, we remember “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us.”
If we honestly identify our source of fear—as an individual or as a couple—and share it with God in prayer, he can begin to restore our hearts and our lives. We eventually break free from the chains of fear, love others in greater abundance, and receive love without hesitation or doubt. In essence, we fulfill our human design to love and be loved. We catch a glimpse of sanctification in our marriage, family, and community.
“Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy… It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and life with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.”
Marriage is a party of three: man, woman, and God. Through our wedding vows, we are infinitely bound to both our spouse and our Creator. In seasons of sorrow or despair, courageously choose love. Enter more deeply into raw intimacy with trust. Enter more honestly into prayer with hope. When temptation to fear abounds, we are invited to stand with confidence upon our unbreakable sacramental covenant, in union with the presence of God, and anticipate the fulfillment of perfect love.