Devotions For A Sacred Marriage: A Year Of Weekly Devotions For Couples, by Gary L. Thomas
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
It is frequently my lot to read devotionals , and frequently it is the case that the devotional genre encourages superficial bromides with scriptures taken out of context. That is not a problem for this book, which manages to follow a fairly conventional 52-chapter structure but that hits hard even with its conventional structure. Like many devotionals, it begins with scripture and includes a great deal of personal discussion, but it rises above its peers in presenting its target audience of readers–Christian spouses struggling with their own and their spouse’s flawed and fallen human natures–with a forthright and uncompromising challenge. To be sure, as an unmarried gentleman I am not the ideal audience for this book, but all the same, this book crystallizes many of my own concerns with spiritual growth that inform my own thoughts about marriage as a whole as well as the particular marriages and their ruins I observe on a regular basis in my own complicated life.
Over and over again the author uses his own personal experience and his own struggles to love and appreciate his wife and to be a godly husband as a way to encourage the reader to use their marital struggles as a mirror with which to examine their own personal shortcomings and areas for growth, and as reminders that their motivation to love and honor and encourage their spouses has fallen to unacceptable levels. Consistently, the discussion of the author is evenhanded, showing how it is our tendency to be hypocritical and excuse ourselves of our own failings while condemning others for theirs. To be sure, this is not a tendency known only by married people–I recognize and struggle against this same tendency within myself–but marriage is a particularly fruitful field for painful and unpleasant spiritual development. The author manages the difficult task of both pointing out the extreme seriousness and immense difficulty of marriage as well as the expectation that it will generally be the state of adult believers who are being sculpted and refined into the image and likeness of God, a process that comes with a great deal of pain and unpleasant reminders of how far we have to go along in that process.
Whether or not the reader appreciates this book and its approach will depend on the extent to which he or she is willing to engage in the painful but profitable task of self-reflection and repentance. This book is a hard sell, a mirror into the dark and corrupt heart of people who regularly engage in justification and selectively harsh condemnation, namely ourselves. Yet the best books, and the most worthwhile books, to Christian audiences are not those books that pander to our nature but those which challenge us to engage in the reflection that leads us to repent of our corrupt ways and seek to follow God’s ways, not only in terms of our moral conduct towards God but also our graciousness and mercy towards those sinners we happen to be married to, if we are fortunate enough to be in that challenging state. I found this book to be a profitable if painful read that cost me a fair bit of sleep after finishing it, and that will likely be the experience for many others. Even so, as the author points out consistently, holiness is a higher goal than happiness, and ultimate happiness can only be found in holiness, a reminder that all of us would do well to remember and apply in our own lives, as difficult as that may be.
 See, for example: