Now let us turn our attention to three biblical principles that point the way to fulfillment.
1. Realize that it is impossible for any person or human relationship to bring total fulfillment.
God alone can fill that “God-shaped vacuum” in the heart. The first two of the Ten Commandments rule out any alternate “god” and forbid idolatry. If the dream of an ideal marriage has become an idol in your life, it’s time to smash it. For most of us this unrealistic expectation has been broken on the anvil of life’s experiences long ago. Although it may be followed by some grief, this is the first step toward relational maturity and the provision God has made for your spiritual fulfillment.
Scripture gives us glimpses of this way of spiritual contentment. Remember King David’s testimony: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”(NLT). And in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Likewise, Asaph testified, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail [and my idealism in marriage may fail…]; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25,26).
For years I discipled an earnest Christian brother whose marriage was up and down like an elevator. There was bickering and conflicts, yet times of sincere seeking after God together. Finally an outburst of his anger led to a police-enforced separation for several months. During that time I challenged my friend to write a personal commentary on a particular New Testament espistle. I thought this would keep him focused on the Word of God, give him constructive use of his time, and help him discover the gems there. By God’s grace he finished his biblical commentary and has reconciled with his wife and family.
You recall that in Philippians, for example, Paul testified,
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry,
both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:11-13).
So, we have seen the need to give up any idol of total fulfillment by any human relationship, pleasure, or possession.
2. Discover Your identification with Christ at a deeper level.
How does this spiritual discovery relate to the quest for fulfillment when married? Because only though the revelation of our oneness with Christ can we appropriate a new identity and a new resource.
We tend to live out of an identity that has been shaped by our life experiences, whether positive or negative. Similarly, we have an identity concept of our husband or wife that is based on our cumulative memories and impressions of them, whether accurate or distorted. The good news is that though our co-death and co-resurrection with Christ, God gives us a new, positive, unshakeable identity! Romans declares, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (Rom.6: 4,6.) As a believer this happened when God took you out of Adam’s line and grafted you into Christ’s line. Now you are in Christ and Christ is in you!
Paul wrote elsewhere: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). By God’s grace we have a new identity, a new destiny, a new freedom. We even have a new past—one that isn’t derived from our natural life, but from our supernatural life. This is a “past” that is retraced to the Cross where we died with Christ and then were raised and ascended with Him. Amen? (See Col. 3:1-4)
We need, then, to renounce our old identity and accept our new identity in Christ by faith. When we do that we will be ready for the corollary—to also see your believing husband/wife through the lens of their new identity! The same passage states, that “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view” (2 Cor. 5:15,16 NLT). Rather, regard your spouse supernaturally; practice seeing yourselves based on your new grace-based, spiritual identity. Gals, your husband is a son of God—a prince. Guys, your wife is a daughter of God—a princess. So, recognize each other as royalty in Christ. This will definitely enrich your marriage!
Another advantage to discovering your identification with Christ at a deeper level is this: you have a new resource. This supernatural resource in Christ enables forgiveness and abiding love. Any relationship will have enough set-backs to require mutual forgiveness. The Ultimate Forgiver (Christ, through the Holy Spirit) enables this vital process. (Eph. 4:32).
Another indispensible factor in a happier marriage is mutual love. Space restricts us from walking through 1 Corinthians 13, but we know that enduring love is based, not on feelings and performance, but on an unconditional commitment. This requires supernatural, agape love. Thankfully, this quality of love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:4). Will you abide in Christ and trust His love to flow through you? This made all the difference in restoring the marriage of my friend (mentioned above).
Cultivating the Christ-centered life is the key to the transformational change that we have seen over the years at our counseling center and related ministries.
3. Distinguish ultimate needs from relational needs.
By “ultimate needs” we refer to blessings from God that alone can fill the empty place in the heart of every man and woman. This provision is available through receiving Christ by faith. He wants to disclose Himself to us Savior, Lord, and Life. These ultimate needs include love, acceptance, significance, security, worth, and belonging. Remember this famous promise: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Allow the Lord to quench your thirst and satisfy your hunger for fulfillment. Be content because you have been made complete in Christ (Col. 2:10).
When we lived in Canada, a lonely, discouraged woman came in for pastoral counseling. As I led her through the process of discovering her identification with Christ, she found joy in her new identity and her fully adequate resource for living. Eventually, however, she asked about her unresponsive husband. Was she to just ignore their marital problems? Then the Lord gave me the awareness that “ultimate needs” are distinct from “relational needs” in marriage. Through abiding in Christ we can have a joy that transcends life’s circumstances. However, if we have a husband or wife that is self-absorbed and not showing love, there will still be a measure of unhappiness. Happiness and joy differ; “happiness depends on happenings, but joy depends on Jesus”! This sister in Christ then discovered that as she found the indwelling Christ sufficient to meet her ultimate needs, she had the motivation and resource to take the initiative in meeting her husband’s relational needs. God blessed their marriage. It reminds me of Christ’s paradox: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).
What are relational needs? Husband: ask your wife about her marital needs; wife, ask your husband about his. God boils relational needs and roles down into one little verse in Ephesians 5:33: “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Love and respect–that sums up most relational needs in marriage. 
In his CD series, “Bury Your Marriage,” our friend, Mike Wells, points out that God uses the marriage relationship to reveal our self-centeredness. As we cooperate with God and turn fully to Him, we then can discover that there is nothing that the nearness of Christ cannot overcome. 
So whether you’re married or not, change the channel from Hollywood’s idolatry of the fantasy relationship. The One Who knows you best and loves you most. God is ready to complete you and equip you as a vessel of true love.
Part 2 of 2
This message of this article is illustrated in the testimonial CDs of Chuck and Nancy Missler–“A More Excellent Way.” www.kingshighway.org/ Store
 On this theme, see Emerson & Sarah Eggerichs: www.loveandrespect.com/
 Mike Well’s CD set: http://abidinglife.com/ Purchase Resources
For additional guidance on overcoming false beliefs, see Shifting Sands and Foundation Stones: 101 Marriage Myths and the Wisdom of the Wedded, by Dr. Cary Lantz
Marriage and Family Counseling is one of our distance education courses in the www.GFICounselingInstitute.com. Please visit to take a closer look.
Copyright 2011 by John B. Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article in its entirety for non-commercial use with credit given.Biblical quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from the New King James Version, Copyright 1982by Thomas Nelson.