There are those who would contend that marriage itself is grounds for divorce. Some statistics on marriage indicate failure is about fifty percent. Believe it or not, it is possible to live together “till death do us part” and have a rewarding and happy relationship. I would like to suggest five steps that are necessary to receive from marriage all that God intended that we receive.
1. God must be in the life of both parties. Marriage is an institution designed by God. This is true even though most people in the world today leave Him out of their lives. When two people enter marriage without God in their lives, they will react to the challenges of marriage in a selfish manner. This is through no fault of their own. It is because they were born sinners and they have a selfish nature 1. Because of this, we want our own way in everything possible. After accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have the love of God shed abroad in your heart and you can truly love others 2. God comes into your life when you pray to Him, asking Him to be your Lord and Savior 3. When He comes into your life, you can and should allow Him to take all bitterness, anger, and guilt away. Then you can learn to allow The Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and actions. This is a necessary first step to receiving all that God wants you to receive from marriage.
2. You must conduct yourselves according to God’s order in your relationship to each other. This order is very unpopular today. When I spell it out, you may say that’s— “Not for me.” However, if you are trying to do things your way and it isn’t accomplishing what you want, may I suggest you try it God’s way. God says in the bible, the Christian wife is to submit herself to her husband in everything 4. The idea off submitting our will to anyone is discouraged and ridiculed by most in the world today. But remember, if this is something you decide to do, you are doing what you want to do. It is your choice. You do it because God tells you to do it, and you want the blessing and happiness that comes from this decision.
Christian husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. They are also told to live with their wives according to knowledge. In fact, the husband is told to love his wife as himself 4.
The word “love” is often misused, it needs defining. The love we are capable of, after we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, is the type of love that caused Jesus Christ come to this earth, to suffer and die for the sins of all mankind—my sins, your sins. This type of love caused Him as He hung on the cross for our sins to pray to God The Father, “Father forgive them (those who abused Him and nailed Him to the cross) they know not what they do” 5. This is the type of love that does what is in the best interest of the one loved, which in marriage is the husband or wife. This is a love that will make it easier for a wife to submit to her husband in everything. This is the type of love that a husband is told to have for his wife. When either husband or wife fails to relate to each other in this way they cannot have the best that marriage can provide.
3. Learn effective verbal communication. Effective verbal communication requires good speaking and listening skills.
Listen carefully. One of the most important aspects of verbal communication is listening. If we respond to a suggestion or comment before the speaker has opportunity to fully express thee thought we are extremely rude and the Bible says we are foolish 6. If we are going to listen to “rebut” what the speaker is saying rather than to “understand” what they are saying we will not hear what we need to hear in most cases.
A soft answer is an asset. In a confrontational situation a soft answer is the one that will cool the situation down and enable you to have effective communication 7. Harsh words will often stir up anger.
Tell the truth. Somehow we think it is more loving to hide our feelings from those we don’t want to hurt. However, a relationship built on hidden feelings, hopes or fears is built on very shaky ground. The saying, “say what you mean and mean what you say,” is supported by many Biblical instructions 8.
Believe what you hear. If your husband or wife tells you something in a discussion, believe what they say. Nothing is more frustrating when trying to discuss a subject than, to have the person you are talking to hear what they want hear or think you are going to say, rather than hear what you said. Many times people who have been married for many years don’t really know each other because they won’t believe what their partner says. In many cases after a few years the partner quits communicating.
Stick to the subject. If you have a tendency to throw in a thought on an unrelated subject while discussing an issue, break the habit. If you and your spouse are disagreeing over why the electric bill is so high and one of you says “You don’t love me anyway,” you are not sticking to the subject. Talk about whether you love each other at another time, if that needs to be discussed—for now talk about why the electric bill is so high.
Believe you are on the same side. It is much easier to resolve differences, make plans or share a disappointment if you both are committed to the fact that you are on the same side. You are not only on the same side you are “heirs together of the grace of life” 13. That’s a beautiful description of marriage, if you think about it—“heirs together”. If you are both Christians, you are not only on the same side, you are going to stay there if your commitment is to obey God’s commands to you.
4. Be committed to the relationship. Many have entered into marriage thinking they might as well give it a try. When the first attraction has died and the work of making a marriage begins, they want out. These thoughts are addressed primarily to those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. If you or your spouse has accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, divorce should not be considered except in the case of sexual immorality or abandonment, and even then all efforts should be made to maintain the marriage 9. As Christians there should be a firm commitment to the relationship. To facilitate communication, these two points should be understood and repeated as often as necessarily, ”I love you” and “divorce or separation are not an option for me” this should be the case in every Christian marriage except as stated above.
5. Develop a mutually comfortable sexual relationship. There are Christians who feel the sexual relationship between husband and wife is in some way dirty, unwholesome, and unhealthy, should be enjoyed as little as possible, and seldom if ever discussed openly. There is no basis for these thoughts in the Bible that I am aware of. The Bible presents the marriage relationship as a sexual relationship. The expression “become one flesh” is made in reference to the sexual relationship 10. The apostle Paul makes it clear that neither the husband nor the wife should fail to provide for the sexual needs of the other 11. Solomon instructed his son to rejoice with the wife of his youth and to “enraptured always with her love” and only her love 12. The scripture is very specific and complete concerning types of sexual relationships that God says are sin. In the sexual relationship between husband and wife, the scripture fails to condemn any type of sexual stimulation. The husband is told to dwell with his wife according to knowledge 13. The wife is to reverence her husband 14. Between the husband and wife who are expressing their love for each other sexually— “any sexual caresses or stimulation that is enjoyable to both and physically harmful to neither, is acceptable to God”.
Remember the most important consideration in love is “what is in the best interest of the other”.
1 Romans 3:23, Isaiah 53:6 2 Luke 10:27, Romans 5:5 3 Romans 10:9-10, Acts 2:21 4 Ephesians 5:22-23, 1Peter 3:1-7 5 Luke 23:34 6 Proverbs 18:13 7 Proverbs 15:1, 16:21 8 Leviticus 19:11, Colossians 3:9 9 See “Marriage Divorce & Remarriage on this Webb page 10. Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, 1Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 5:31, 11 1Corinthians 7:1-51 12 Proverbs 5:18-19 13 1Peter 3:7 14 Ephesians 5:33
Robert A. Grove