There are abominations which, like nests of vipers, lie so quietly within, that we hardly suspect they are there till the rod of affliction rouses them; then they hiss and show their venom. This discovery is indeed very distressing; yet, till it is made, we are prone to think ourselves much less vile than we really are, and cannot so heartily abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes. (John Newton, Letter to Mrs. Wilberforce)
I would not necessarily consider marriage a “rod of affliction”. Marriage is wonderful. But marriage also comes with difficulties. Because God is radically dedicated to our finding lasting joy in Him, he will allow affliction into our lives. Sometimes this is the affliction of seeing the consequence of our sin. Sometimes the affliction is being sinned against. And sometimes the affliction has nothing really to do directly with sin—but is merely the part and parcel of living in a fallen world.
God is not satisfied with us merely having a “good” marriage. God wants to use our marriage to conform us more and more into the image of Christ. God has a rescue plan for your marriage. His goal is not simply to rescue your marriage. His goal is to use your marriage to rescue you.
Part of this rescue plan is to expose the nests of vipers living within. He does this not only with you but also with your spouse. That means that marriage can be messy. Our hearts are like a nest of vipers and marriage is like a pointy stick that taunts the vipers. Eventually marriage causes these soul-destroying serpents to come out of the darkness and show their ugly faces.
So, what do you do in those moments? What do you do when the vipers in your spouses heart are exposed, mocked, and set to fighting? Do you meet them with grace or are you offended and surprised that serpents want to destroy your spouse and you? God wants to use you to expose these serpents and crush their skull by the victory of Christ.
What do you do when the vipers in your own heart are exposed, mocked, and set to fighting? Do you defend them? Do you pretend like this is who you actually are? Is this really your identity that is being attacked? Or do you see these slithering demons for what they really are? Do you see your spouse as the enemy for exposing these vipers, or do you see them as your faithful friend used by God to destroy God-belittling and soul-destroying sin? Join with your God-given partner in exposing and crushing the head of these serpents by the victory of Christ.
Marriage is beautiful. And it is beautiful partially because it is a means that God uses to rescue sinners and help us drink from the fountain of lasting joy. Your marriage has so much more to offer than fleeting pleasure. Don’t trade it in for fading and half-hearted beauties.
Even if you are not married you can still benefit from this. God also uses the church to expose vipers. So you can just easily replace the word “marriage” with gospel community.