Marriage to a Difficult Man: The “Uncommon Union” of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards

When I first saw the title of this book I thought for a moment that my wife had written a book about me without my knowing it! Seriously, this book is of great value to anyone who desires a deeper knowledge and understanding of one of God’s choicest servants in American and Christian history, Jonathan Edwards. It is also a treasure chest for those seeking to know his bride, Sarah Edwards, in a better way.

In a real sense Jonathan Edwards is both a hero and a role model for me. During Christian history classes in seminary, I would almost always ask about the marriage and family life of the particular person we were studying. It is sad to say that often the theology was strong, the influence on the world was great, but the impact upon the marriage and family life was weak, hurtful and filled with pain. I was deeply seeking a Christian role model that the Lord used mightily for His glory and the good of His kingdom that actually had a sweet, thriving and joyous family life. I found a hero and role model in Jonathan Edwards. In reading Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, Jonathan and Sarah- An Uncommon Union, Jonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thoughts as well as the writings of Edwards himself, I found him very deep (often times so deep it is hard to comprehend all he is writing) as a Christ-loving pastor/theologian and just as deep as wife and family-loving husband.

I eagerly read Elisabeth Dodds’ book Marriage to a Difficult Man and was not disappointed. She wove together the details of the Edwards’ life along with helpful information about their day-to-day actions, which caused me to grow in my esteem and respect for both Jonathan and Sarah. I do, however, disagree with some of her conclusions about both Edwards and his bride. One example is that Dobbs believes that Sarah had an emotional breakdown. Many others see this as a time of “sweet consciousness that God was present with me” in the midst of trial and hard circumstances. Despite this, the material in this book will truly shed more light on a family God has used greatly both in their lives on earth and through their powerful legacy of writing and example.

The title actually fits because being married to someone so brilliant, so godly, so disciplined and so used of God is not an easy marriage. Deeply satisfying yes, but easy no. As Dobbs observes,

“A genius is seldom an easy husband. When a great man is one who never looks at another woman, he is in some ways more taxing than a roving titan… all of Edwards’ heights and depths were brought to his wife. The object of such concentrated attention probably reached peaks of illumination few women do, but she also must have been singularly drained.”(pg. 30)

If you see Jonathan Edwards as a godly example to you or even a hero, then you will have much to gain from the reading of this book. If you are not acquainted with Edwards, his family, and the impact they made and are still making today, this is an excellent book with which to start. Even with some disagreements on Dobbs’ conclusions, I highly recommend the book.

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