I Still Do: Growing Closer and Stronger through Life’s Defining MomentsWritten by Dave Harvey Reviewed By Andy Huette
The mountain of Christian marriage books on the market testifies to the fact that marriages within the church (and, no doubt, outside the church too) need help. Nary a pastor exists who has not spent considerable time and effort shepherding couples through the travails of matrimony. While the wealth of biblical marriage resources is certainly a gift to the church, the flooded market can make the best resources difficult to identify.
In a sea of helpful marriage books, Harvey’s work is quite literally outstanding. While many marriage books are aimed at either newlyweds or particularly troubled marriages, I Still Do is more like a “ten-year checkup” (p. 22). Through the lens of three-and-a-half decades of experience as a husband and a pastor, Harvey specifically unfolds how time, aging, and the normal sufferings of life come to bear upon marriages.
The book is divided into three sections, each with four chapters. The first section, “Starting Together,” lays a foundation for the problems that fracture many marriages. The subtitle of chapter 2, “When You Discover Brokenness is Broader Than Sin,” captures the essence of the first section well. Leaning on David Powlinson’s theological anthropology (the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual elements of being human), Harvey explains that just because “sin is our biggest problem does not mean sin is our only problem” (p. 25). “Sticking Together,” the second section of the book, addresses the topics of local church involvement, grudge-holding, and sexual intimacy, which are standard fare in most premarital counseling books. What makes this section intriguing and particularly valuable, however, is that Harvey writes not for the newly engaged couple wearing rose-colored glasses, but for those who are well aware that the once-tiny weeds in their newlywed garden have sprouted into a formidable briar patch over the years. Section 3, “Ending Together,” is written with the refreshingly blunt tenor of Ecclesiastes, as Harvey shows that even the best marriages have regrets and failures, but can still be honoring to God in broken world.
The hopeful realism, particularly evident in section 3, is the greatest strength of the book. It’s the unpleasant facts of life and marriage outside of Eden that make the hope and necessity of Christ’s power so vivid. An example of this is Harvey’s exploding of the myth that a good marriage is one with no regrets. He writes, “Stay married for more than a couple of decades and you will have regrets. We’re not omniscient, omnicompetent beings who always achieve what we want. We let things slip. We battle weariness. We prioritize wrongly … as long as you draw breath you will have regrets” (p. 166). Couples who have celebrated an anniversary or two know by experience that Harvey is speaking truth. Yet he continues with hope: “The gospel meets us in the flood of that flaw-drenched place. Jesus chooses people with regrets as vessels to display his glory” (p. 166). Indeed, the gospel is glad news of redemption and a Christian marriage is not one with a façade of cheer, but one with living hope amid imperfect matrimony.
Another strength of I Still Do is its practicality. Harvey shows that the gospel is a message to be lived and must be lived if Christ is to bring healing, hope, and staying power to marriages. In addition to the practical nuggets and illustrations in Harvey’s very down-to-earth writing style, each chapter concludes with a chart of application questions. These end-of-chapter questions (which are typically skimmable in most Christian living books) are pure gold. The questions are pointed—e.g., Do I bristle at correction? (p. 57), Will I refuse to be satisfied unless my circumstances change? (p. 76)—and a biblical practice or belief is listed to correspond to each question. Even if the book weren’t well written (which it is), these end-of-chapter assessments, soaked in the wisdom of 35 years of pastoral ministry and marriage, are worth the purchase price.
A final strength of the book is its nuance. The work is thoroughly biblical, but does not treat Bible verses as bandages for marital bullet-holes. Harvey is hard on sin, yet nuanced and patient in diagnosis. He writes, “Some couples nudge their problems toward simplified solutions … some spouses just slap a ‘SIN’ sticker on the side of every issue that irritates” (pp. 25–26). Harvey calls a spade a spade when needed, but he wisely shows how fallen creation includes suffering and stresses that are not the result of personal sin. This diagnostic precision helpfully rebukes the self-righteous judgment that so often accompanies and further complicates marital stresses. Chapter 6, “When Your Spouse Suffers,” includes another exceptional application of the nuance of Scripture. Like many of the psalms, chapter 6 includes both lament and hope. He laments, “When your spouse suffers, a part of you dies … watching a spouse suffer brings sorrow that mere words cannot describe” (p. 96). And yet, “Trials are never barren. They arrive pregnant with opportunity” (p. 109). I Still Do captures biblical tensions in a way that resonates with personal experience and cultivates cross-bearing faith.
I don’t know Dave Harvey, but I feel like I’ve been graciously pastored by him after reading I Still Do. It’s a book that applies to good marriages in need of a check-up as well as troubled marriages on the brink. It’s readable, practical, and filled not only with Bible verses but with a rich, biblical understanding of marriage. It’s a book of such broad edificatory value that I held it up on a Sunday morning and recommended it to all married couples in our church. I want to get it into the hands of as many people as possible. I have no doubt that it is an instrument God will use to help couples truly love and cherish one another until they are parted by death.
Christ Community Church
Gridley, Illinois, USA
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