“Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’” (Matthew 19:4-6)
Marriage in America is in even greater trouble now than it was when I first wrote this column thirteen years ago, so please let me resubmit it for your prayerful consideration.
The biggest problem with marriage in our nation began long before the comparatively recent controversy over homosexual marriage. It began long before the modern tendency to live together without marriage and intentionally have children outside marriage.
The core problem of marriage in our nation is divorce. Almost half of our marriages end in divorce, and despite the strong scriptural language against divorce, this failure rate applies to marriages of professing Christians as much as it does to non-believers.
Bad marriages lead to divorce. As each succeeding generation becomes more scarred by bad marriages and divorce than the one before, the respect our culture has for the institution of marriage continues to diminish. The fundamental building block of human society crumbles, our culture becomes increasingly dysfunctional and unhealthy, and tragically, most churches offer little or no help.
Folks, it does not have to be this way. We do not have to resign ourselves to this decline. Divorce is a preventable disease. Bad marriages can be healed.
I offer these key points:
- Quality premarital counseling is extraordinarily important. The points below can all be initially covered in premarital counseling. It prepares. It eliminates unpleasant surprises.
- Communication is a skill we can all improve. Most conflicts arise out of simple misunderstanding, and good communications eliminate misunderstanding. The most important tip – Let understanding what your spouse is saying be more important to you than having your spouse understand what you are saying. Listen!
- Conflict is inevitable. How you resolve conflict makes all the difference. Solve the problem while protecting the relationship. Avoidance and confrontation are poor methods that damage the relationship. Collaboration (teamwork) and compromise are both good methods.
- Share your expectations and your dreams. Encourage each other.
- Be quick to apologize and sure to forgive. Do not go to bed angry and give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-32) Do not keep a record of wrongs to bring back up in the next argument. (1 Corinthians 13: 5)
- Recognize the fundamental problem in marriage or any relationship, including our relationship with God, is selfishness. “What’s in it for me?” For a Christian, loving service to your spouse is as important as the blessings you receive in your marriage. In fact, the greatest blessing is to be a blessing. (Acts 20:25)
- Men – loving your wife means more than just providing, protecting, doing things around the house, and sex. We must show our beloved every day how we cherish and value them. (Ephesians 5:25-33)
- Women – your husbands want and need your respect as much or more than they need your love. (Ephesians 5:33) If a wife consistently communicates respect, most husbands will do everything in their power to live up to it.
- In addition to the challenge of children, we live in a world where we will face troubles with health, work, finances, and other relationships. These are all stressors on our marriage. How we respond to them as a couple reveals the strengths and weaknesses in our marriage. Solve the problems as they come, but also use those times of struggle to celebrate your strengths and address your weaknesses so you can grow as a couple.
- We all bring “baggage” into our marriage, including fears, unresolved anger issues, and disappointments from our life before marriage. You do not have to live with this baggage and your spouse should not have to live with it either. Seek healing and freedom from your past through the Lord.
- Get help when you need it. Marriage is wonderful but hard. When your car engine is missing, you take it to a mechanic. When the two of you are struggling and a solution does not come quickly, seek the wisdom of a gifted pastor, a biblically grounded marriage counselor, or a godly Christian couple. Don’t let things fester!
- Pray together every day. Christian couples who pray together daily have a divorce rate of less than one percent (1%). Living together in God’s presence is how two people become the threefold cord not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) Spiritual intimacy can be the most incredible marital intimacy of all!
- Every church, large and small, should have support ministries in place for both marriage and parenting. We are the family of God!
We can heal Christian marriage in America if we choose, starting right here in our own community. Will you do your part?
God bless you, and God bless our community.