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.
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:
of all, the Christian attacks the problem – not the person.
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.)
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.
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
C. They don’t _________________________________
problem-solving principles: (1) attack the ___________ not the __________ (2)
keep things in ___________
(3) take ______________ .
Answers to Lesson 1 Index Lesson 2 Home