Last week we looked at the history of courtship in our country and how it has lead to the stereotypical failure of today’s “dating”. So, how should our young use their time before getting married? Well, for starters, we can train our children to “prepare” for a possible marriage by having our daughters give themselves over to headship of Jesus Christ and groom our sons to behave like Christ. With this mindset put to practice, we’ll have godly princesses who will be able to prepare themselves for their (godly) prince charming.
The union of a man and a woman as husband and wife is the foundation for the home and family. Marriage was instituted by God when he declared in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to himself.” In Genesis 2:24 God said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and they shall become one flesh.” This suggests that God’s plan is for man to be the husband of one wife, and for the marriage to be permanent.
To further illustrate this point, in the New Testament, Jesus was asked about marriage and divorce, He quoted two passages from Genesis. “Have you not read that he who made them in the beginning made them male and female and said for this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together let man not separate” (Genesis 1:27; 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6).
In the United States today 1 in 3 marriages results in a divorce. This was not God’s plan, and those couples that get a divorce can suffer the rest of their physical and spiritual lives. The unfortunate thing is if the marriage produces children, they suffer the most.
Marriage is a holy union founded by God and is not to be dissolved at the will of man. The gospels record four statements by Jesus concerning divorce. In Matthew 5:32, we read, “Whosoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery” also we read in Matthew 19:9, “Whoever divorces his wife except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her commits adultery.” It is extremely clear from these two verses that the only way a divorced person can remarry is if their mate committed adultery. The sad thing in our country is that our divorce laws grant divorces for almost any reason.
I implore our young people contemplating marriage to realize it is for life. Next to obeying the Gospel, it is the most important decision you will make in your life. What is the recipe for a successful marriage? There are many components to this very complex question. When a man and a woman marry, each has to give up a fair amount of freedom and independence. This process necessarily requires a great deal of self-emptying and compromise. They need to realize compromise is a very important component of marriage.
I believe a successful marriage requires that the husband and the wife be Christians. I realize that on occasion a Christian can marry a non-Christian and have a happy marriage, but this situation is very difficult on the Christian as well as their children. This concept is well illustrated in the Old Testament where God’s children married outside their faith and in a short time turned to idol worship.
I suggest that all married couples, young and old, read and meditate on the following: “…and if one prevails against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The married couple should realize the “third cord” needs to be God. Where else could they go to find comfort when they are being overpowered by debilitating illness, financial difficulties, family problems, or the weight of the world on them? With God intertwined in their life as the “third cord” they can overcome all difficulties and have a successful marriage.
In closing, all married couples need to ask themselves this very important question, Can my marriage possibly find true fulfillment without the extra binding of God as our third cord?
-by Don Adair
Ed Harrell once said he was counseling a married couple, when the husband told him he just didn’t love his wife anymore, therefore was not happy with the relationship. Waiting for some scholarly advice, Harrell replied, “You don’t have a choice in the matter because God commands that you love your wife”! He is exactly right.Love should be part emotion and will driven. The peerless Apostle Paul is clear and direct in his instruction to husbands in Ephesians 5:25-33 when he says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (RSV). He continues with the analogy of man loving his wife as he does his own body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.”
My wife and I have been married for 27 years and she is still as pretty as she was in 1981 to me. I’ve gained a few more pounds, gotten grumpier, and have some wrinkles on my face, but she still loves me and I, her. Most of my friends from college are now divorced because the pilot light was out in their marriage, no foundation to build on, just memories of how they were attracted to each other when they were young. Somehow over the years they drifted apart from their commitment to each other. Obviously one or both did not take God seriously when he commanded them to continue their relationship for the rest of their earthly life. That is why it is so important for us to teach our children that marriage is for a lifetime.
One verse that has always humbled me in this regard, is I Peter 3:7: “Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered.” I’ll have to admit, selfishly, one reason, but not the dominant one, I try to honor my wife, is because I want God to hear my prayers, and he will only do so if I’m treating my wife with the love and respect that the Lord commands, and that she deserves. Above all, if you treat your wife with shame, dishonor, and unfaithfulness, you’re risking your salvation. Is that not a good reason in and of itself?
In this assignment, Terry wanted to sidestep the mudslinging that often goes on in the counseling sessions. He assigned each participant to write at least five things he or she had done to mess up the marriage and how their actions had caused the problems they were facing. This is a powerful exercise because, in my experience, by the time couples approach a preacher or elder for help in their marriage, they aren’t looking to change themselves but to change their spouse.
I think I’m going to take a new approach when someone asks me to counsel them in their troubled marriage. I’m going to refuse to take part in that. Instead, what I’ll offer is opportunity to sit down with anyone and simply discuss what the Bible says about how they should be acting in their marriage and perhaps laying out some plans to actually accomplish those personal goals.
Here is the point. I have come to realize that God didn’t include the passages on marriage to teach me how to tell Marita how to act in our marriage. Rather, He included those passages to teach me how to act in my marriage. God didn’t write the Bible to teach me how to fix all the problems everyone else has. Rather, He is teaching me how to rely on Him so He can fix my problems.
II Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (ESV). It doesn’t say, “Do your best to present your spouse to God as one approved…” It says to present yourself.
I understand our responsibilities to restore sinners and confront error. However, first and foremost we have the Bible so we can work on ourselves, not others. Frankly, I think this is a truly practical approach. The reality is a marriage counselor can’t fix your spouse. You can’t fix your spouse. In fact, you can’t fix your marriage. You can, however, work on you. You can surrender yourself to God, surrender your marriage to God and just work on doing things His way. Maybe your spouse will never reciprocate, but you will still be right with God. And, in truth, you will be making your marriage better.
So, if you’re praying that God do something in your marriage, approach things differently and say, “Don’t fix my marriage, fix me.”