Today, I’d like to share a review of a book on the topic of marriage I recently finished. Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace by Gary and Betsy Ricucci is a wonderful work that can help benefit believers looking to strengthen their marriages.
The targeted audience for this work include healthy Christian marriages, broken Christian marriages, and couples engaged who are looking to build a strong foundation (pp. 16-17).
The work is undoubtedly Christian as it sets a strong foundation on Christian marriage from a complementarian perspective. It is deeply rooted in a proper understanding of the Trinity. As God the Father lovingly sends the submitting Son, so should husbands lovingly lead their submissive wives. The theological accuracy of the book is not overwhelming and should be easy to understand for even the newest of believers.
The book carries a simple format by summarizing the main tenets and principles of marriage. First, it develops a theology of marriage that is based on the Gospel. The book then unfolds to show how husbands (chapter 2) and wives (chapter 3) ought to fulfill their God-given roles. The book spends a lot of time clarifying and emphasizing the role of communication in marriage (chapters 4-6). The book then ends its main body with two short chapters on sexual intimacy within marriage (chapters 7-8).
The book itself has many strengths that are worthy of noting. Perhaps one overlooked strengths of the book is that it is written by a husband and wife duo. It makes a lot of the discussion bearable. Especially on sensitive issues such as communication and intimacy it is much easier to have both perspectives in one resource. It’s also an added bonus that Gary and Betsy are transparent about their marriage. Instead of a facade they allow you to see the realities of their own marriage and how the Gospel has strengthened them.
A second strength of the book is the resources and suggestions. It is a book that is filled with several practical examples for how to better your marriage. While it could be better structured, sprinkled within each chapter are several practical lessons and homework assignments for couples to practice.
Another wonderful strength of the book was alluded to earlier, it is driven by solid Gospel doctrine. This book may be even used to evangelize an unbelieving married couple that is experiencing marital difficulty. It’s commitment to a sound understanding of the Trinity and the practical application is evident in their devotional writing.
A fourth strength of the book is it’s “popcorn” arrangement. This type of arrangement allows for the reader to jump to any chapter at any time without having to read from the beginning of the book. In this way, couples who are interested in only one particular section or topic can jump straight to that chapter to quickly learn and be edified. While it would be better to read through the book from cover-to-cover it is not necessary which may make it useful for counseling purposes.
One weakness of the book is that it does seem to be more on the preventative side. It may not be as directly helpful to couples who may have deeply rooted issues in their marriage. While the book tries to make up for this deficiency by provided a list of extended resources at the end, it may not directly be as useful to a struggling married couple as advertised.
On another related note, the topics are rather brief and general. There are many areas in marriage that could have been expanded upon such as finances, time management, child-rearing, dealing with in-laws, etc. Rather, the authors focus on what they rightfully believe to be the core of marriage concerns (foundational understanding of marriage, roles of men/women, communication, and intimacy). This may not be the best book for individuals who are looking for specific practical applications in a specific area of marriage.
I would encourage other married couples to read this book. It would seem best for newly weds or older couples who have healthy marriages. It provides wonderful suggestions for deepening and developing a strong foundation. I’m not so sure I would use the book in a pre-marital context since the chapter on intimacy may seem out of place for them. It may also be too basic for a couple that is dealing with some difficult or complicated marriage issues, but I wouldn’t count it out.
I’d like to end some of the book reviews with some quotes from the book I found helpful and encouraging.
“God’s grace comes to us through the gospel, and the gospel is the means by which we experience that grace. Grace redirects our focus from our guilt to God’s forgiveness, from our failures to Christ’s perfect righteousness, from our total inability to God’s complete sufficiency, from all we feel burdened to do to all Christ has already done on our behalf” (p. 21).
Commenting on the leadership role of husbands, ” . . . leadership is not merely a position we are to assume–it is a service we are to provide” (p. 40).
Commenting on the wife’s submission, “To submit with joy to our husbands is to be like Christ, who submits joyfully to the Father. Submission follows and reflects the very pattern of the Trinity!” (p. 58). The chapter continues, “The same good and loving God who designed the wisdom of the cross also designed the particulars of my role as a wife, including submission. And he did both of these things for his glory and my greatest good. I trust God in his design for salvation and in his design for my marriage. My ultimate confidence is not that Gary is all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful, but that God is!” (pp. 59-60).
On defining listening, ” . . . true listening is an active, attentive commitment to understand another person and to discern relevant truth from what he or she is saying. When Jesus said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’ (Matthew 11:15), there was a clear implication that not everyone within the sound of his voice was truly listening or hearing” (p. 72).
“Every difference in communication style between a husband and wife can be a pitfall or a redemptive platform for change. Whatever your situation, God has handpicked your spouse–with all of his or her unique traits–to complement you in precisely the ways needed to accomplish God’s will in your life, in your spouse’s life, and in your shared life as a couple. And that includes how the two of you communicate. So if my style includes resisting or refusing my spouse’s style, and insisting that my spouse see and say things my way, the result will be poor communication and probably an ever-widening gulf in our marriage. But if I humbly value my spouse as a gift from God, embracing his or her unique perspective and contribution, we will grow both in godliness and oneness” (p. 84).
“All conflicts in a marriage can be resolved. Yes, all. Our God is able to resolve them. Therefore, any resignation, despair, or hopelessness you may feel regarding your marriage stems far more from an inadequate view of God than it does from any view, accurate or inaccurate, of your spouse or yourself” (pp. 104-05).
“Forbearance is not just tolerance. It is a commitment, grounded in faith, to love a fellow sinner in full acknowledgment of his or her unconfessed sin. It is an active and sometimes difficult decision to respond to sin with mercy, in the confidence that God is always at work in the heart of your spouse. Committing yourself to serve in the sanctification process over time is not to ignore or excuse your spouse’s sin. It is to recognize that the Spirit of God generally brings illumination, understanding, and conviction gradually. Humble patience in a conflict echoes the long-suffering nature of God’s love for us” (p. 108).
“To extend forgiveness is a precious thing. The one who forgives expresses a willingness to cancel debts, and even to absorb some of the bad fruit of the other person’s sin against him or her. To forgive means to commit myself to not bring up that person’s forgiven sin in my thoughts, words, or actions toward him or her at any point in the future for the purpose of accusation. As with a half-hearted request for forgiveness, the half-hearted granting of it likewise reveals bitterness and mistrust” (p. 111).
“When affected by bitterness, we withdraw, neglect and avoid our spouse, caress and compliment less, and criticize more. If this is you, you must got ot he cross and consider God’s mercy and grace toward you, a sinner who needs the Savior every bit as much as anyone else. Confess your bitterness as self-righteous sin against God. Then pursue humble, open, and redemptive conversation with your spouse. Let God rekindle your care and affection for one another” (p. 122).
“Romance to us simply means communicating–in as many consistent and creative ways as we can–that our spouse is the most important, precious, desirable person we will ever know” (p. 131).