Lesson One
Deciding on Happiness in Marriage

Someone once quipped, “Marriage is like a besieged city; everyone on the outside is trying to get in and everyone on the inside is trying to get out.” Humor can often soften life’s harsh realities. However, though we may gloss over the truth, we cannot erase it. Recent statistics show that an increasing number of couples – approximately 1/3 – are concluding that marriage is not worth the effort.

Are Christians exempt from these growing marital problems? Unfortunately, they are not. Isaiah 53:6 reminds us that all are prone to go astray. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). A godly heritage does not make anyone immune to temptation, and we must face the fact that – even for Christians – a successful marriage takes work.

This is not to say, however, that believers don’t have a distinct advantage over non-believers; they do, for Christians should know where to find the answers to the problems that confront them. God’s Word sets forth the principles needed for guiding a marriage toward success. Let’s look at three general concepts that form the basis for a scriptural outlook.

First, God is an all-wise creator. “As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him” (Psalm 18:30). This verse assures us that God’s wisdom is perfect and the Christian may be confident of His choice for a life partner. He makes no mistakes. God will choose, or possibly has already chosen, the person who can best meet the husband’s needs, and whose needs the husband can best meet. The assurance of this promise rests on a prior knowledge of God’s reliability, or faithfulness. His provision for salvation and His daily protection are reminders – God cares for His children and will aid them when they ask. Consequently, if problems arise, God’s child can look to Him as a “buckler.” Even a mate’s imperfections may be a tool to help the Christian grow toward Christ-likeness. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Marriage is a binding union till death separates the partners. “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). Marriage is not only a legal contract but also a contract and vow made before God. Divorce cannot be an escape for those who know Christ. Some may ask, “Didn’t Moses sanction divorce in the Old Testament?” Christ answered this question in Matthew’s Gospel. He restricted the Mosaic law by specifying that adultery was the only basis for divorce. “He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:8,9). This passage does not imply that adultery necessitates divorce. Forgiveness, though difficult, is the preferred route. Christ explained that the Israelites’ hard hearts motivated Moses’ sanction.

This point brings us to another question. What if divorce has already taken place? If such is the case and the Christian has not yet remarried, according to Scripture he does not have the freedom to do so. Though he is legally free from his former spouse, God says that he may remarry only if his former spouse dies. “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man” (Romans 7:1-3).

“But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:11, 15, 39).

If, however, a remarriage has already occurred, there is no way to right the wrong. “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery (Luke 16:17,18). The Christian must ask forgiveness and rely on God to make his second marriage successful. He must also realize that certain avenues of service are now closed to him (“A  bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; [For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?] Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things” 1 Timothy 3:2-11); nonetheless, it is God’s will that he honor his present contract. 

Happiness is the believer’s responsibility. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” He was right. The Christian couple must strive daily to create experiences that will enhance their marriage and solve the irritations that arise. To do so they must realize that problems need a cooperative, not a condemning, attitude. As they arise, family problems should not be exaggerated or ignored. Exaggerating a problem will destroy communication, and ignoring it will cause bad feelings to fester. When something is wrong in the house, the owner doesn’t burn the house down; he fixes what is wrong. The same principle holds true in a marriage. When something is wrong, Christians talk it over and solve the problem; they do not threaten divorce.

These three principles may be helpful in problem-solving: 

First of all, the Christian attacks the problem – not the person. 

Second, he keeps things in their proper perspective and doesn’t make mountains out of molehills. (The forgotten matches at a family picnic should not cause a blow-up. The car lighter will start the fire just as effectively.) 

Third, he takes one day at a time. 

When a problem arises he deals with it specifically. He doesn’t remind his partner that she may have irritated him yesterday, nor does he wave past mistakes in front of her. Instead, he tries to turn these potentially problematic situations into a happy time by utilizing his creativity. (For example, a wrong turn on a vacation jaunt can be the start of a new adventure. The creative person concentrates on what he can see and learn from this mistake rather than on the few minutes lost.) 

Today, car accidents, heart attacks, and various other tragedies claim the lives of thousands of people daily. It would help all Christians to remember that God has blessed them greatly by allowing them to enjoy the company of those they love. Because the Christian does not know what God has for him in the future, he should live each day with his loved ones as if it were the last.

Fill In the Blank or Answer the Question:

1.     Lesson One is titled “Deciding on ___________________ in Marriage.”

2.     Approximately one-third of married couples are concluding that marriage is ______________________________________________ .

3.     Are Christians exempt from marital problems? ___________ .

4.     A successful marriage takes ____________________ .

5.     ______________________ sets forth the principles ________________ for guiding a marriage ______________________________ .

6.     God is ____________________________________________________ .

7.     In Ps. 18:30, what does the word “buckler” mean in Hebrew? __________________ . What does it mean in a regular dictionary? __________________ .

8.     Who can a Christian depend on when seeking a life partner? _________ .

9.     What two things remind us that God cares for His children?

A.   His provision for ______________________ .

B.    His daily ____________________________ .

10.  Marriage is a binding union till ________________________________ .

11.  _______________ can not be an escape for those who know Christ.

12.  The Israelites’ ________________________ motivated Moses’ sanction.

13.  God says that one can remarry only if their __________ spouse ______ .

14.  If a second marriage has already occurred, the Christian must ask

______________________ and __________________________ to make

the second marriage ______________________ .

15.  For the man, certain avenues of service are now __________________ .

16.  _____________________ is the believer’s ______________________ .

17.  The Christian couple must strive daily to:

A.   _____________________________________________________ .

B.    _____________________________________________________ .

18.  Problems need a _____________________ , not a _______________________________________ .

19.  Exaggerating a problem will __________________________________ .

20.  Ignoring a problem will ______________________________________ .

21.  When something is wrong, Christians

A.   ___________________________________________

B.    ___________________________________________

C.   They don’t _________________________________

22. Three problem-solving principles: (1) attack the ___________ not the __________ (2) keep things in ___________
(3) take ______________ .

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