Having Trouble with marriage? You’re not alone.
What the Eldredge bestsellers Wild at Heart did for men, and Captivating did for women, Love & War is intended do for married couples. It’s intended to use pop culture and some insight into Christianity being read as a love story and provide the framework for helping Christians see marriage as a struggle that is to be fought through. Like their previous books, this one has bestseller written all over it.
John and Stasi Eldredge have contributed some culturally significant works on Christian spirituality through the experience of men and the experience of women individually. Now they turn their focus to the incredible dynamic between those two forces, and the significance of marriage to the Christian life.
They have a candid openness that will grab readers from the first page. The book opens with some keen insight and quickly takes us to a scene three years into John and Stasi’s marriage, where Stasi proposes that they get a divorce.
Each talks independently to the reader about what they’ve learned, giving their guidance personal immediacy and a balance between the male and female perspectives that has been absent from all previous books on this topic. The cooperative writing works really well with the way they use the stories and provide commentary on one another.
They begin Love & War with an obvious, all too often ignored and extremely necessary acknowledgement: Marriage is fabulously hard. They attempt to re-frame marriage for us, not as the idealistic vision at the end of fairy tales, but as the struggle for that all the way through. Marriage in their book is shaped as the struggle towards happily ever after, it is the beginning of that fight, and deserves full command of all our resources.
Bringing this interpretation of marriage to the popular level could be extremely successful in helping passive and sated couples overwhelmed by the difficulties they face. Putting the struggle for marriage at the heart of what it means to be married is something Christians need, especially in the developed world. Often we’re told that marriage is idealistically easy. Or we assume that things will sort themselves out once we’re married.
The book’s opening chapters dispel this myth and try to help us reimagine what marriage might mean, if it’s not a walk off into happily ever after. The Eldredges often state the centrality of Love as the guide for marriage, and how that love shapes the way we live for and with each other.
Alright, now that we’ve gotten the summarization out of the way, here’s my two cents.
I really appreciated this book, it tells stories, it is honest, it is genuinely a good book about marriage. It’s not a book that goes, “and that’s how we became perfect and if you follow these 7 steps you can too.” It’s not pretending to offer all the answers, but it does point us in the right direction.
They start with the premise that marriage is hard, and that it’s hard because of our own sin and brokenness, a radically divergent view from many other voices and books about marriage out there today. They are not trying to teach us, that there are some princinples or some verses out there that will help us make everything better, but they do state that we are sinful creatures, who need to find life in God, deal with our brokenness, and shutdown the spiritual attacks against our marriages.
Eldredge writes, “So long as we choose to turn a blind eye to how we are fallen as men or women, and to the unique style of relating we have forged out of our sin and brokenness, we will continue to do damage to our marriages.” This book really diverges from the typical prosperity approach of name it and claim it, pray these things, or look at these verses and solve your marriage. As well meaning as some of those books are, they don’t get to the heart of the problem, we are sinful creatures.
The eldredges are right about many things, but one thing that is truly important is that life is a love story. It’s a love story, bookended by two marriages. One of the first couple, and in a larger sense God to creation, and in the book of the Revelation to St. John, to Creation again, but a renewed and restored creation. Marriage is central to the redemption of creation, and the Eldredges pick up on this.
They’re almost sacramental with their language about marriage, and talk about how the kingdom is riding on marriage, it’s riding on the success of the couple caught in the epic struggle, and this is very true. I thought that at times they too easily shut out the local church and communal life’s relation to marriage, and I think that’s one point where all the Eldredge books are a bit weak.
As much as Christianity is about our joining the story of God as individuals, it’s so we can be refashioned into a true community, where our neighbors can speak to us, and share with us the meaning of life.
John and Statsi talk about the importance of right desire, and I think they’re right to say that the intentionality of our marriages, the focus on our desire is an important step. Now, I’d offer one corrective, that the desire shouldn’t stop at wanting our spouse, but should be framed by the Christian story, and a couple working together towards the desire of new creation.
Nonetheless, the book is a great start, and it offers a lot to think about. I really enjoyed reading a book on marriage with no fluff, no fillers, no 5 simple steps, 4 easy rules, or a Stepford Wife complex. It was nice to hear about real marriage, the nitty gritty struggle, and experienced voices offering wisdom to a culture that often lacks this sort of dialogue about what it means to share life together.
To buy the book, check out WalterBrook Multnomah
Disclaimer: This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.