Few activities have affected our marriage so profoundly as reading. Books have a way of softening your heart and changing your mind. The funny thing is, our marriage has been most affected by books that aren’t directly about marriage.
Being marriage authors and podcasters, Selena and I think and write a lot about marriage, so don’t get me wrong; we value books explicitly about marriage! However, when I was invited to share five books that made us stronger in Christ, I felt compelled to share books that dig at deep truths in a way that they inevitably strengthen your marriage. So, here’s my list! I hope it’s helpful.
5: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
I’ll admit, it’s comical to include a book about pain on a list of books that help marriage! Humor aside, this book changed my life. In our second year of marriage, Selena and I moved to Switzerland for work. Just a few weeks in I was diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition (the whole story is in our book, Fierce Marriage). After having surgery in a Swiss hospital, I found myself physically broken and spiritually shaken to the core. I was angry at God and bitter toward Selena. The Problem of Pain is an exploration of how a good God can allow bad things to happen. Lewis’ wonder-filled and delicate apologetical voice was exactly the tone I needed to crack the door on my path toward healing and deeper faith in Christ. Selena will attest that this book helped save our marriage (and her sanity) because it sparked many honest, faith-filled, and difficult conversations that unified us in ways we’re still discovering to this day.
4: 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke
You probably have a smartphone. You also probably feel like it’s a blessing and a curse. You’re not alone! We all have to learn to navigate the technologically dense times we occupy. When it comes specifically to marriage, couples must learn to fight for (and win) focused quality time that is unhindered and undivided by technology. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You helped us immensely in this area. What I appreciate most is its nuance. Tony addresses both sides of the tech-saturation debate: phones are useful, but they’re also anti-real-life, which is generally bad. Tony urges readers to be users of their phones instead of allowing their phones to be users of them.
As Selena and I have wrestled with our modern technological reality, we’ve often felt like we’re venturing into a dark cave. Tony Reinke’s book was a much-needed headlamp to light the way. I’ll venture to say that if you’re reading this article, you probably spend a good amount of time on screens, and therefore, you would probably benefit from reading this book.
3: Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
Before you make too many assumptions, you should know that Selena is just as hardcore about systematic theology as I am. Probably more so. Since early on, much of our relationship has revolved around studying God’s Word. However, neither of us has had formal training in theology or biblical literature. So, when we picked up this book years ago, it radically changed the landscape of our faith and the nature of our conversations. Instead of guessing around complex biblical topics (for example, male/female roles or the canon) and cobbling together stances from vague Google searches, we can now study them systematically. The good news is that you can too, and I’d recommend it.
A few thoughts for couples looking to jump into Grudem’s Systematic Theology: 1) It’s a massive book, but don’t let that intimidate you (it’s easy to understand), 2) don’t feel like you have to read it cover to cover, but instead use it as a reference, and 3) make time to digest and discuss what you learn together. This book will change your marriage because it will greatly expand your understanding of God’s Word. Get curious! You’ll never regret digging deeper into the Bible together.
2: Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney
Did you know that just a few generations ago, it was common among Christian families to gather nightly for worship? Kids and parents would sit at the dinner table or near a fireplace to read God’s Word, sing a timeless hymn or two, and pray for each other. When I first heard about this common but long-lost tradition, I was truly shocked.
Donald S. Whitney’s book, Family Worship, beckons readers back to a time before TVs and smartphones when families like yours would gather and celebrate God together. This is one of my favorite books because it’s short and practical, plus Donald makes engaging in family worship approachable. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes a day, read from God’s Word, sing a song (“Jesus Loves Me” is currently in heavy rotation for us), and pray for each other. This book revolutionized the culture of our little household. For the first time in our marriage (and as parents), daily family worship—something we’d never considered—was both possible and joyful.
1: Fierce Marriage by Ryan and Selena Frederick
Okay, this is a shameless plug but hear me out. Researching for and writing this book revolutionized our understanding of God’s design for marriage. As a young couple, Selena and I often felt that books in the Christian Marriage category, though plentiful, lacked a certain balance. They were either intensely practical, without explaining or exploring underlying doctrines of faith and marriage, or they were lofty and theoretical, discussing the truths of marriage without providing ways to apply them.
As Selena and I wrote Fierce Marriage, we realized that God’s deepest eternal truths (like our hope in the Gospel) can and should have very tangible effects on every aspect of marriage. Sex is more than sex; it’s supernatural, beautiful, and God-ordained to knock your socks off. Arguments about money aren’t about money at all; they’re about trusting or not trusting in God. Fighting is inevitable, but if done according to God’s Word, it can bring you closer to each other and God at the same time.
God’s design for marriage is profound. Writing Fierce Marriage helped us truly understand just how intricate and incredible He has made it. It’s our hope that this book changes and informs readers as much as writing it has changed and informed us.
Of course, there are countless quality resources that will deepen your faith and capacity for loving each other more like Christ. I hope this short list has helped point you to some meaningful resources for your life and marriage.