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What Did You Expect?

Paul David Tripp

Reviewed by: Ralph A. Rebandt

Date posted: 02/05/2017

What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp. Crossway, 2015 (redesigned). Paperback, 288 pages, list price $17.99. Reviewed by OP minister Ralph A. Rebandt II.

What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp is not just another book on marriage. It is a constructive book about a destructive nature, the sin nature. The author correctly reminds his readers that we live in a fallen world, so when we enter into marriage, what do we expect?

Regardless of zip code, all people live in a “bad neighborhood”—a sin-infested neighborhood—and Tripp uses illuminating metaphors to convey his point. He paints a compelling picture of our words, motives, and actions in this fallen world as weeds, filth, and garbage. Remarkably, though, the author draws an excellent distinction between the imperfect and the sinful. There are things, though not sinful, that result from a fallen world: miscommunication, an awkward look, a misplaced memory. When a spouse does something that is a result of living in a fallen world (such as get tired from a hard day and fall asleep), the response from the affected partner will often be sinful. People get tired, so what should we expect?

Tripp reminds his readers that the Bible is not an encyclopedia, arranged by topic. Running to the biblical passages on marriage to solve marital issues ignores the wealth of wisdom that the entirety of Scripture provides on the subject of the human condition, the nature of the human struggle, and the divine solution. So Tripp encourages his readers to learn from the “vast amount of biblical information about marriage not found in the marriage passages.”

This book lays the theological foundation on which marital advice should be built. The concepts of fall/redemption, already/not yet, put off/put on, and vertical/horizontal provide insight urging the reader to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Without this foundation, there is no reason to expect constructive change.

Tripp provides a candid description of the “worlds” that people bring to a marriage. Two worlds come together, yet each person expects a partner who will complement, complete, and enhance his or her own world. The effort to draw one’s partner into one’s own world will at least result in disappointment.

But the author reminds us that there is a more profound problem: God wants to bring the couple into a different world than either of the two brought to the marriage. He will use each spouse as spiritual sandpaper to accomplish this. Those irritations and frustrations that come from fallen partners are there to conform us to the image of Christ. Tripp states that “in a fallen world, very few things are corrected by inaction.” It takes repeated confession and forgiveness, not to mention grace and forbearance, to stay on top of the weeds that grow every day. Inattention results in devastation. God-honoring marriages don’t coast. What did you expect?

This book will benefit new couples intending to marry, and is highly recommended for pre-marital and marriage counseling. It is a serious and rewarding read for both happy and struggling marriages, and is recommended for Bible study groups. It is a brilliant work discussing the effects of the fallen world we call home and the impact it has on everyday life.

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