Special thanks to Hendrickson Publishers for providing a review copy of this marriage study.
A Christian marriage starts off with a covenant not only with each other but also with the Lord. A covenant with each other should never be taken lightly. A covenant with the Lord should never be broken. Marriage is more than a piece of paper and should be taken very seriously. Because of this, couples should enter into marriage with a great foundation and understanding of the journey ahead. Marriage is a lifelong adventure filled with ups and downs, and there are certain to be growing pains along the way.
Roughly a month ago, D and I began the Growing a Strong Marriage: Starting Strong study. It’s set up for a group setting with a video session, study guide, and group discussion questions. It also has at-home questions for the couples. We chose to do the study as a couple, so each week for the last 4 weeks, we popped in the dvd, took turns reading the study guide, answered questions, and talked. Even though we’ve been married for nearly 18 years and we’ve been together for much longer, we enjoyed going through the study together.
The month-long (4 session) marriage study took us down memory lane, had us talking about the present, and gave us the opportunity to talk about the future. We, once again, found ourselves seeing that we approach life and marriage a little differently than many others. Because of this, our take-away from the study may not be the same as others, so I thought it might be good to share a little of our journey through the study rather than just write a review.
Week One: How We Met – Building a Strong, Biblical Marriage Foundation
The video covered some introductory videos on how several of the couples met, and what their relationships looked like as they got to know each other. The study guide dove into the topic of Biblical marriage. Basically, it was an introduction into the ideas that would be covered more in-depth later in the study.
Week one was all about what a Godly marriage looks like and what the Bible says about marriage. It was a great opportunity to look back at the beginnings of our marriage and some of the ups and downs that went along with understanding our God-given roles as husband and wife.
It’s been a long time since D and I have talked about when we first met. We were very young (junior high, not even teenagers yet). So much has changed since those days. We’ve grown up and matured together. Looking back, we can see some of the mistakes that we made in those early days – including the early days of our marriage. Our more mature selves can even see why those mistakes were made. Thankfully, we both went into marriage knowing that it was a covenant between us and the Lord; we knew that divorce was not an option. We understood our roles in marriage even though, in the early stages of marriage, we weren’t exactly sure how to put that into practice.
Lesson Take-away: Don’t forget to talk about our shared vision for life, for marriage, for family…
Week Two: Moving into Oneness – We’re in this Together
In this session, the video covers how the couples fought against drifting apart as well as accepting spouses as a whole person. The study guide dives a little deeper into the idea of being intentional in your marriage, the idea of sharing a vision, and the idea of embracing the differences that make spouses unique.
We’ve been pretty fortunate in our marriage as we have seen ourselves as partners in marriage from the very beginning. I don’t know if it’s because we went into marriage as really good friends and having gone through some difficult times already, or it it’s because we went through various times of separations due to D’s military service. Whatever the case, we didn’t take are time together for granted. That’s not to say that life was perfect, but we have always fought against the drifting stage in our marriage.
D commented that he felt it was probably a little easier for us to stay connected because we weren’t/aren’t on two different career paths that naturally pulled us in opposite directions. We try to make sure our lives aren’t too busy for each other. Yes, there are times that we have little or no time together, but we still try to stay connected by keeping the lines of communication open which helps us avoid the pitfall of feeling isolated from each other.
Lesson Take-away: Don’t take my spouse or marriage for granted.
Week Three: Identity in Christ – You Complete Me
In this session, the couples talk about how Christ is the only one who can fill the void in our lives. Christ is where our sense of security, identity, and love should come from – not other people (including spouses). They also talked about letting go of unrealistic expectations. The study guide dives deeper into the concept of letting go of unrealistic expectations as well as finding out identity in Christ.
D and I often say to each other “You complete me”, and we very much mean it. We know that we are better together than we are apart. We know that our strengths and weaknesses balance each other out. We know that we accept each other and don’t expect perfection because we are imperfect people. Knowing that we’re free to be ourselves gives us freedom in our marriage.
Of course, we had to laugh when we came to the portion in the study guide where it kinda knocks the idea of your spouse completing you. We understood what it was saying, but we don’t completely agree with how it was stated. The Lord, if we allow Him to work in us and our marriage, truly does use us to make each other better people. In that way, even though we are individuals, we do complete each other.
Lesson Take-away: Christ should be the head of the household. Having realistic expectations of my spouse makes for a happier, healthier marriage.
Week Four: Paths to Christ in Marriage – Biblical Love and Marriage
This week, the couples talked about how Satan is an enemy of marriage and how this plays itself out within a marriage. They also talked about how spouses need to constantly work on becoming more like Christ. The study guide dug a little deeper into the concept of roles in marriage as well as what love should look like in marriage.
Of all the sessions, this session was probably the one that we liked the least. After watching the videos, we thought “so, if there isn’t conflict, if we’re not struggling, if it isn’t hard, then we don’t have a good marriage?” Hmm… The other issue was how the video glossed over biblical love in a marriage. While the study guide did a better job of explaining biblical love within a marriage, it still didn’t really cover the significance of how deep Christ’s love for us, for the church really was and what that all that entailed. When scripture is telling husband’s to love their wives as Christ loved the church, it’s a huge! It really is dying to self, putting the other person’s needs first, and loving unconditionally. Obviously, as sinners, there is no way on this earth that a husband can truly accomplish this, but it’s the goal to strive for within marriage.
The other thing that we had a bit of an issue with was the focus on marriage being the path to each individual becoming holy. There is no way that we, as sinners, can become holy. In fact, D and I don’t strive for holiness as that is something reserved for God. Instead, we strive to be like Christ. Now, that may just be semantics, but it’s something that we struggled with in the session. Either way, we agree that our spouse can help us become more like Christ, and they should be helping us become better individuals, become stronger in our faith, and grow in our relationship with the Lord. They should be helping us become the men and women that the Lord desires us to be.
Lesson Take-away: I need to fulfill my biblical role in marriage and help my spouse become the person the Lord wants him to be.
Both D and I enjoyed this marriage study. While we didn’t always agree with the wording, we did agree with the message (for the most part) that was being shared. It was interesting hearing from different couples about the trials and triumphs in their marriages. The best part is that D and I had the opportunity to sit down every week to discuss our marriage, our hopes, our dreams, our goals. The study helped us focus on different aspects of our marriage and reminded us, once again, to never take our marriage, our relationship for granted.
We would recommend this study for either a group setting or an at-home setting. Yes, it’s set up for a group, but it can easily be used just by a couple. The benefit of doing it in a group setting is that you get the shared wisdom of members of the group. A study like this works for couples no matter where they are in their marriage journey.
About the Growing a Strong Marriage Study Series
- Vol. 1 Starting Strong
- ISBN: 978-1-61970-588-3
- Pack (Study Guide & DVD)
- Retail: $29.95
- Products also available individually
Just as Christ transforms individuals from the inside out, he is also working on the heart of your marriage. Through this video Bible study series, learn to cultivate and enjoy a beautiful marriage that’s rooted and grounded in Christ. Because whether you have been married for a few years or thirty years, there is always room to grow!
In Starting Strong (volume 1), learn about the importance of cultivating a strong and solid biblical foundation. The candid, never-before-seen video interviews with your favorite marriage experts will help you explore what it means to have shared vision, unity, and belief in your spouse, as well as how to find your true identity in Jesus. Through touching and personal stories, timeless wisdom, and sage advice, you’ll glean spiritual understanding and inspiration for a lifetime of marriage.
Four DVD sessions, ranging from 8 to 20 minutes long, feature touching interviews and personal advice from:
- John and Staci Eldredge
- Chip and Theresa Ingram
- Gordon and Gail MacDonald
- Les and Leslie Parrott
- Art and Lysa TerKeurst
- Gary and Lisa Thomas
About study guide author, Amy McGowan:
Amy McGowan holds a Bachelor of Arts in biblical studies (Ouachita Baptist University) and a Master of Arts in Religion in marriage and family counseling (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary). She has a passion to help strengthen marriages and teaches marriage enrichment seminars alongside her husband.
You can learn more about the Growing a Strong Marriage study series by heading over to their website.