I had heard plenty of good reports about Paul David Tripp’s latest release, What Did You Expect??: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (Crossway Books, 2010), and when I was recently asked to officiate a wedding for a young couple I thought it a perfect opportunity to read the book and see if it could be useful in pre-marital counseling. Tripp’s book is obviously designed to help those who are struggling in their marriages, but the foundations and practical applications are exactly what’s needed for every season of marriage. As the man himself writes, this book is “a detailed description of the daily work of love that must be done with commitment and joy when a flawed person is married to a flawed person and they are living in a fallen world.” That covers everyone in every situation this side of eternity.
The book begins with some key principals that underpin the rest of the work, namely the problem of selfishness, the focus on day by day small decisions/actions that lead to the big crises of life, and most importantly the realistic hopefulness that comes from the Gospel. After these foundations come six commitments, each of which receive multiple chapters. The commitments are:
“1) We will give ourselves to a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness.
2) We will make growth and change our daily agenda.
3) We will work together to build a sturdy bond of trust.
4) We will commit to building a relationship of love.
5) We will deal with our differences with appreciation and grace.
6) We will work to protect our marriage.”
Each chapter features the story of a couple in crisis, how they got there and then Tripp offers the solution that is drawn from the application of the commitment, those being drawn from the foundational principals, which in turn are all drawn from the Gospel. This is the reason that I give absolute, unabashed recommendation for this book. Tripp doesn’t lead his readers down some self-seeking inwardly-fixated therapy session. He is not prone to the modern tendency to blame one’s parents, environment or breakfast. Instead, he calls sin for what it is, points to Jesus as the only way to deal with sin and then models that same forgiveness in marriage. You see the heart of a pastor and counselor on every page.
I will admit the book is not flawless – there appear to be some repetitions of passages – but even this adds to the weight of the message Tripp is bringing. Other than the repetition, the writing is fluid and engaging, and the points are clearly made. I would love to see some study guide material for the book, especially how Tripp would vary that material depending on audience (pre-marital, marital check-up, marital crisis), but for now I’ll be working on my own so that I can employ this book for as many people as I get opportunity.
Bottom line, wherever your marriage is at, this book is worthy of your time and investment. It is both deeply theological and intensely practical. Read it, then do as it instructs, and watch as your marriage grows in health, strength and beauty.