In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller alludes to three levels of friendship that are necessary for any relationship to thrive. They are:
- The supernatural friendship
- The natural friendship
- The romantic friendship
The natural friend and romantic friend are often rather obvious. So I would like to share on the supernatural friendship. A supernatural friend in marriage plays the following roles:
Spurring to godliness
A supernatural friend spurs you to walk closer with God. This is because a truly happy marriage embraces the power of sanctification. Your spouse plays the role of a supernatural friend when they intentionally point out areas in your life that need sanctification. Because a supernatural friend understands that the ultimate marriage is between Christ and the church, they want their spouse to be radiant when they meet Christ. Husbands are specifically tasked to be the lead supernatural friend to their wives by washing them with the water of the word of God (Ephesians 5:25-26). A supernatural friend reveals that Christ is not just a means to a better relationship with your spouse; your spouse is also a means to a better relationship with Christ. So the supernatural friend will help draw you closer to Christ by helping you cooperate with the sanctification that God is working in you.
On a practical level, a supernatural friend helps their spouse grow in their spiritual formative practices e.g. prayer, fasting, giving, studying the word. A supernatural friend will encourage you to spend time with God. They will be concerned about you drifting away from your quiet time and prayer life. My wife, Turi, and I pray together at least twice a day. When we go to work in the morning we pray in the car. And in the evening we pray with the family. When we do not leave for work together, we have our separate prayer and quiet times. We periodically check on each other’s spiritual health. Spouses can do this by asking themselves questions such as: “How is your walk with God?” “How is your quiet time?” “What are you learning from your time in the scriptures?” “Can I fast with you over this issue?” “Are you struggling with forgiveness?” “How can I pray for you?”
The antithesis of this role of a supernatural friend is dragging your spouse away from an intimate walk with God. Perhaps this could happen because the spouse being spurred is an immature believer who is full of themselves and is unteachable. But most likely this could happen because the couple is unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14), meaning one of the partners is not a believer. The supernatural friendship is amity between two people based on their mutual faith. For a relationship with the opposite sex to thrive supernaturally, it is imperative that both man and woman have separate thriving individual walks with God through his Son, Jesus Christ. They are not nominal Christians; they are genuinely regenerate. They do not merely attend church culturally; they live out their faith. They do not identify as Christians simply because they grew up in that environment; they espouse the faith as a key part of their identity. They are not simply religious; they understand the Gospel and it plays a central role in their lives. They are born again. It is imperative that a believer marries someone who is a fellow believer. It is only upon this premise that the supernatural friendship can take place. For the believer who is dating an unbeliever or contemplating marrying one, you must ask yourself: do you want to do marriage with your spouse or do you want to do evangelism and discipleship? I encourage people in this conundrum to read the blog on marrying an unbeliever.
Challenging to be purposeful
A supernatural friend will also challenge you to live in purpose. If you have certain gifts and abilities that can serve the Kingdom of God, a supernatural friend will challenge you to put them into use. Especially since Christian marriage involves pursuing a mission as a couple, the supernatural spouse may be well aware that if their partner does not rise to the plate, then the marriage mission suffers. When my spouse is in full knowledge of their natural gifts, spiritual gifts, personality, passions and unique experiences, they can offer them to God in prayer and start to have an idea of what their purpose is. A supernatural friend will seek to have you plug in the right place while you are here on earth.
Turi and I play this role to one another. I have a spiritual gift of teaching. Turi has a spiritual gift of encouragement. We check on how we are exercising these gifts in our discipleship groups. Turi may ask me how to share wisdom on how to exercise her gift when she is discipling the girls. At times I pass my notes to her for perusal before I preach. We talk about our gifts and keep checking if we are in purpose as far as work and vocation are concerned.
The antithesis of this role of a supernatural friend is not challenging their spouse to be more faithful with their abilities. Perhaps selfish competition checks in, where one spouse is envious of the other. Or perhaps settling for the mundane things of this world is the enemy- the pursuit of money, pleasure and finite earthly ambitions. A believer ought to have their eyes fixed on the return of Christ; this way they use all they have to be salt and light before Christ returns and at the same time hopeful for the second coming and not getting entangled in worldliness. You cannot be a supernatural friend if you are in bed with the world. You cannot be worldly and godly. Whose kingdom will you build? Yours or God’s? Friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4).
Confessing and accountability
A supernatural friend also plays the role of being someone to whom their spouse can confess their sins and shortcomings. A supernatural friend offers accountability to their spouse when they hear the confession of their partner. Perhaps the spouse has an over-eating problem. The supernatural friend can keep their partner accountable by reminding them to reduce their servings at the buffet table. The spouse with the problem can confess their bad eating habit to their spouse and ask them to play the role of a supernatural friend. Perhaps the spouse has a weight issue or a money spending issue. The supernatural friend is meant to play the role of accountability by gently but firmly keeping their spouse in check.
I remember how Turi played this role in my life once. I belonged to a certain WhatsApp group that I would regularly send short encouraging messages from the scriptures. For a long time, I kept sharing the messages and many people would be blessed by them. However, one time I overslept and someone posted on my behalf. They copy-pasted one of my older messages and fronted it as their own. I became upset. I complained about it and Turi heard me. She asked why I was upset. When I told her why I was upset, she played the role of a supernatural friend. “Ernest, does it really matter who posts? Isn’t the more important thing that the group is blessed by the messages?” I was struck in the heart by the gentle rebuke. We had a conversation about it and I realized from my supernatural friend that I was posting the messages with a dirty motive; I was more interested in people appreciating me than in them being helped by the messages. It was a humble pie to swallow and it made me a better man.
The antithesis of this role of a supernatural friend is seeing the flaws and shortcomings of your spouse and not keeping them accountable. They are too timid to confront the spouse with the truth or the spouse is arrogant and unteachable and cannot accept correction. The truth must always be said gently and lovingly. This way the supernatural friend does not cause unnecessary hurt. However, the converse is not godly. Sacrificing truth on the altar of false love and false peace is a deathblow to your spouse. A supernatural friend is by no means a coward; they are a champion of truth and love simultaneously.
The benefits of a supernatural friendship in marriage
- A supernatural friendship contributes to your sanctification as a believer.
- A supernatural friendship teaches you to ask for feedback before you receive it. You become more teachable as a result.
- A supernatural friendship with your spouse gives them a hunting license to point out your character flaws. Because they have a license, your weaknesses are not hidden in denial.
- A supernatural friend offers marital intimacy through vulnerability. Marriage has the power of being naked and without shame (Genesis 2:25); a supernatural friendship unlocks this power. Because you can confess your sins and shortcomings, you can receive unconditional love. This deepens a couple’s bond.
- A supernatural friend makes you a better candidate of this planet. Many proud spouses dismiss their partner’s counsel and correction and end up receiving it harshly from the world. It is easier to learn in the secrecy of marriage than in the publicity of the world.
- A supernatural friend prepares you to receive your eternal reward from the King of Glory.
- A supernatural friend helps you examine yourself and see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5)
- A supernatural friend keeps you humble.
Do you have a supernatural friendship in your marriage?