Serving Together In Marriage
Words by Jennifer Harris // Image by Marisa Albrecht
White tulips and winterberries decorated the small country church where my love and I got married eleven years ago. Our vows were exchanged and a covenant was sealed. Laced with prayer, meaningful songs, words, and intentions describing our love for each other, we committed our marriage to Christ.
Marriage is a picture of Christ and his covenant relationship with the Church. It is an image of God’s intentions in his redemptive plan of salvation. The Church is Christ’s Bride here on earth, with a mission to go out into the world to share the gospel and disciple believers (Mark 16:15). Will not God, who has designed marriage to reflect these things, strengthen our marriages when we serve in a way that portrays the function of this image? One way my husband and I have strengthened our marriage is by serving together.
When we serve in ministry together, it gives us something to work toward that is greater than ourselves and bonds us in prayer. We are looking upward and outward, to God and to others, and fulfilling God’s plan for how we are to live and relate to one another as his people. God produces fruit in our lives as we live in obedience to his ways. Serving others brings joy to our lives and marriages.
When we serve the Lord together, we are meant to depend on him in prayer. We cast aside our own ways of doing things, and instead ask the Lord to grant us unity of mind to know how to serve him most effectively. When at a women’s conference a while back, I had the pleasure of hearing a well-known pastor and his wife speak. One thing that stood out from that session, and that still speaks to me today, was at the beginning of planting their church they believed it was vital to end every day in prayer together, even if it was just five minutes. This gave them a way to connect with the Lord and with each other, in dependence on Christ as they sought to serve God together.
One of the great outcomes of serving together is the shared joy of seeing fruit produced from mutual service in others’ lives. A shared experience of storing up spiritual treasures in Heaven brings an eternal perspective to the purpose of your marriage. Some of the greatest fruit we have seen serving together in ministry has been to witness lives changed, hearts comforted, and people discipled.
Years ago, our church held a Soup Sunday once a month. My husband and I would cook two large pots of soup and everyone else was asked to bring either bread or a beverage to share. We would never know how many people were going to show up, but we trusted that the same Lord who had miraculously multiplied the five loaves and two fish would make sure there was enough food for everyone. The joy we experienced as husband and wife by opening up our home together was immeasurable. Those meals brought forth mentoring relationships, discipleship, counseling, and changed lives.
There have also been seasons of life when my ability and capacity to serve has been more limited. Perhaps you are reading and thinking about your own circumstances. There may be health or financial obstacles that make it seem impossible to serve. With empathy and compassion, I can relate.
We had our fourth baby several years ago. I still wanted to serve in the church, and was able to find ways to contribute such as singing occasionally on the music team or helping out with a summer Bible club. That was the year we started a weekly Bible study meeting at our apartment for young adults. Having this meeting in our home included me in discipling college-age students while also making sure our four children got to bed on time. When our baby was a newborn, the ladies in our group would take turns holding him; they would come to babysit and help me with the older kids, and it provided a way for me to begin discipleship relationships as we visited together.
There will always be obstacles to overcome when we serve together. The way one couple serves will be completely different than the way another couple serves. Seek the Lord for how he would have you serve. Think creatively about your stage and season of life and how it can be used for God’s Kingdom. Ask the Lord how your season fits into his plan. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; we learn what works through trial and error. There is abundant grace.
Whether you and your husband are serving food at a homeless shelter, cleaning the church bathrooms and foyer together, singing in the choir, providing foster care for children in your home, visiting someone in the hospital, leading a children’s Sunday school class, or discipling teenagers at a youth drop-in center, God is willing and ready to bless your efforts in loving him and loving others together. Through this service, he will strengthen your commitment to him and thereby strengthen your marriage with shared experiences of his work in your lives as you look upward in dependence on Christ, and outward to the needs of others.