In Marriage Matters, Winston Smith shows how the little moments in marriage are significant because they are wonderful opportunities to live out the significance of the gospel in our lives. Smith reminds us of the great story-line of Scripture and the overarching themes that impact every area of life. For example, the book regularly draws the reader to the themes of the gospel, worship, love, and grace.
However, Winston does not leave us in these themes. He also shows how the big themes and the great story-line impact the daily struggles and challenges in marriage. This will surely be one of the volumes that counselors use to help those seeking help. While there are many strengths of this work I would like to highlight the four reasons why you should read it and use it in your ministries.
Reason # 1: Great emphasis on ordinary moments revealing opportunities for growth and change in the Lord.
I once heard Paul Tripp say that we live in the utterly mundane. He is right about that. Many of us will make less than a dozen life-altering decisions. That does not mean, however, that the mundane is insignificant. In fact, it is where we really live.
Winston Smith picks up this theme and reminds his readers that ordinary moments become opportunities for great change. The core reason that problems in marriage occur is our counselees have problems with God. In other words, every problem—even the ones that seem insignificant—is vitally important because it says something about our walk with the Lord.
Surely many of us can relate to that. If our counselees can truly understand that either the Lord lives and is significant in the little moments of our lives, or the Lord is not in our lives at all, then they will be well on their way to a more committed life with Christ.
Reason # 2: Helpful reminders of the great story-line of Scripture
Smith, in keeping with the CCEF tradition, spends a significant portion of his volume explaining the themes of redemption, worship, and love. These themes then couch all of marriage in the context of Christ. For example, counselees need to understand that they were made for worship and thus they do worship. The only question is whether they worship the Lord or something else. Smith reminds us that the power for change comes from our walk with the Lord rather than simply a willingness to take a step here or step there.
In addition, who can argue with the significance of love? God has poured out His love for us. It is God’s love that helps us understand that love is a means of giving and serving rather than a means of getting and taking. The overall emphasis Smith provides leaves the reader acknowledging that worship, love, redemption, and the work of God in our lives are the only proper contexts to discuss marriage issues.
Reason # 3: There is great advice from a seasoned counselor.
We need big picture thinking. We need to explain the great themes of Scripture. We need to think about the God who loves us so much that He sent His Son for us. We need to see the help that is provided by Christ and His Word. But we also need to know what that “looks like” in the moments of everyday life.
Thankfully, Winston Smith helps us here as well. It is obvious that he has spent many hours doing counseling. The many hours of “seat time” provide solid examples of how these great themes are lived out in daily life. I also appreciated his honesty about his own marriage. Counselors will benefit from the sage advice given throughout the work.
Reason # 4: Comprehensiveness of issues.
The final reason that I recommend this book is that the author covers a wide range of issues often present in every marital counseling situation. He discusses the issue of communication through the concept of love and honesty. He shows how love is a missing ingredient, exchanged by something selfish, in the midst of conflict. He explains how love is crucial to the notion of biblical forgiveness. He reminds us of the significance of Christ in fulfilling our marital roles. He also helps us see that many sexual challenges in marriage are, in many cases, merely symptoms of a poor relationship in general. This broad range of issues will make this volume useful as a tool in counseling. Think about it…your counselees learn from both you and Winston Smith.
A word to all counselors: buy a copy of this book, read it, and then evaluate your own marriage. Does Christ occupy the right place in your thinking and in your marriage? Is your expression of love as comprehensive as the Lord would desire? Do you need to change? Then, after you have allowed the big picture truths and wise advice to sink deep in your soul, drive you to the cross, and work out in practical ways, help your counselees go through the same thing.