Which do you spend more time preparing for, the single day of a wedding or the lifetime of marriage? I think in theory most of us want to put more time into the marriage than into the one day that kicks it off, but in reality, marriage prep – be that courses, mentoring, or workbooks – is often the first thing that slides through the cracks.
Fortunately, there is an additional option. Books. Like an old friend that’s never in a rush and never demands more time than you can give, books offer some of the best insights into marriage. Whether engaged, newly married or an “old married couple” we can all benefit from the wisdom and insight of others.
Marriage is a beautiful, tough, fulfilling, complicating thing that God uses to bless us, bless others, and make us more like Him. So in the spirit of always pursing a marriage that is deeper, more intimate, and more rooted in Christ, here are my picks for my top five books on marriage.
The Meaning of Marriage
In The Meaning of Marriage Timothy Keller paints a beautiful picture of marriage, not as either a romantic inclination or a necessary societal institution, but as an intimate picture of God’s relationship with man. The purpose of marriage is outlined as being a refining fire for bringing about greater godliness, and ultimately as a reflection of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. He reminds us that the Bible’s teaching on marriage has never and will never fit within any culture’s perception of marriage. It’s meant to stand out – to be radically countercultural so that when people look at us, they see a reflection of Christ.
Love & Respect
In Love & Respect, Emerson Eggerichs explores the core need of men to be respected by their wives, and women to be loved by their husbands. When these core needs aren’t met, your relationship embarks on “the crazy cycle” – men feel disrespect so they react unlovingly, women feel unloved so they react disrespectfully. Eggerichs reminds us of the importance of not looking to the other person to fill our needs, but rather looking for ways we can serve theirs. By helping husbands understand how their actions can be perceived by their wives, and wives understand how their actions can be perceived by their husbands, a picture of greater wholeness and health emerges.
The 5 Love Languages
How do I love my spouse well? This question often reaches to the heart of our marriages. In The
Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman answers this question with an unsurprising – yet profoundly true – response. It’s different for everyone. Chapman explains that there are five key ways that we each receive love, and every one of us is a beautiful, mixed up combination of them. Are you more of a quality time person or a physical affection person? Words of affirmation, gifts or acts of service? The 5 Love Languages is an essential delve into what makes us tick, and how we as human beings receive love.
I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah
In I, Issac, Take Thee, Rebekah Biblical scholar and apologetics author and speaker Ravi Zacharias takes on a new topic – marriage. Through the unfolding of the Genesis twenty-four account of a marriage that shaped the history of a nation, Zacharias teaches what real love and marriage center around, and the way our cultural backgrounds shape our perceptions of love. “Real love folds together both the emotions and the will,” writes Zacharias. “Without the emotions, marriage is a drudgery; without the will, it is a mockery.” Through his book he builds on that base – that marriage is the combining of your emotions and your choice. Only choice leaves you with a relationship that is little more than a chore; only emotion leaves you with a superficial that will surely fade, likely quickly, through time, trial and the revealing of imperfection.
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas can be summed up perfectly in its subtitle: What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? A godly, Christ-centered marriage is not dependant on, does not revolve around, romance. It is a way that God works in us to make us more like Him, and to teach us perseverance and forgiveness. Marriage – every part of it – is meant to point us towards Christ.
Books have the power to shape the way we see ourselves, and our place in the world. Story has the power to create a picture that teaches us a truth we may not have otherwise seen. Through these books, each of the five authors draws the reader into a fuller, more complete view of marriage, centered on the person and work of Jesus.
Whatever stage of relationship you are in, may you find true and meaningful encouragement in these books and ultimately grow in intimacy with Christ, first and foremost, as a result.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie has become something of a cult classic. In it he outlines the fundamental techniques in handling people, six ways to make people like you, twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking, being a leader and getting people to change without offending them or causing resentment, the importance of “the favour” and the seven rules for making your home life happier. While not strictly or solely about marriage, Carnegie does an excellent job of stripping down the human psyche and helping people understand how exactly they can most effectively influence those around them.