A man visited the doctor after weeks of experiencing symptoms. After careful examination, the doctor called aside his wife and said, “Your husband is suffering from a rare form of anemia. Without treatment, he’ll be dead in 3 months. However, the good news is that it can be treated with proper nutrition. You will need to get up early every morning and fix him a heavy breakfast. He’ll need a home-cooked lunch every day, and a sumptuous dinner every evening. Frequent baking of cakes, pies, homemade bread, etc., will also help lengthen his life. One more thing. His immune system is weak, so it’s important that your home be kept spotless at all times. Do you have any questions?”
The wife had none. “Do you want to break the news, or shall I?” asked the doctor. “I will,” the wife replied. She walked into the examination room. The husband, sensing the seriousness of his illness, asked her, “It’s bad, isn’t it?” She nodded, tears welling up in her eyes. “What’s going to happen to me?” he asked. With a sob, the wife blurted out, “The doctor says you’re gonna die in 3 months!”
While we may laugh at these type of jokes, this is how society at large views marriage. When things get rough, just bail out! However, is that the way Christians should view marriage? More importantly, is that the way God views marriage? Not according to Scripture!
Genesis 2:24 states that a man and woman shall be “united” [joined or glued] together and become “one flesh” through the act of marriage. Together, the words “one flesh” and “united” give us the wonderful picture God has in mind for a successful marriage. In an age of “No-fault Divorce,” this is God’s view of marriage. We are also reminded from the Scriptures that the marital relationship between a husband and wife pictures the spiritual relationship between Christ and his church [Eph 5:32].
Thus, marriage is much more than a physical relationship. Just as God is to be glorified through Christ and his church [Eph 3:21], he is to be glorified through a godly marriage as well! And this is possible only when both husband and wife wholeheartedly submit to the lordship of Christ in all areas of their lives—including marriage. Both husband and wife ought to be united in purpose and as co-laborers should seek to glorify the Lord Jesus in their lives.
However, sin prevents this from happening. Sins such as adultery, pride, lack of forgiveness, keeping records of past failures, selfish pursuits, love of money, etc., are the major causes of broken marriages today. The world is no friend of strong marriages either. The world says, “If it does not work, move on” or “You marry to divorce and you divorce to marry” or “You need to find your own fulfillment,” etc. The church at large does not seem to be very helpful either, with unbiblical teachings that focus on self-esteem rather than self-denial as part of following Christ.
So, amidst all these assaults, this post, by giving 10 points for consideration, seeks to aid those who desire to obey God’s teachings concerning marriage. If we strive to put God first in our lives, he will give us the strength to persevere even in a difficult marriage.
1. Be soaked in the Word. Colossians 3:16 calls us to let the “message of Christ dwell among [us] richly.” Psalm 1:1-2 reminds us that God’s blessing rests on those who “delight” and “meditate on his law day and night.” That’s why we must spend enough time in the Scriptures on a daily basis. We need to hear from God on a constant basis to counter the voices we hear from the flesh, the devil and the world if we seek to have God-honoring marriages. Frequent meditation on passages such as Ephesians 5:21-32 and 1 Corinthians 13 are also integral to a healthy marriage.
2. Learn to genuinely love your spouse. Ephesians 5:25 commands husbands to “love [their] wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Titus 2:4 commands wives to “love their husbands.” Even while reflecting on the command, “love your neighbor as yourself” [Matthew 22:39], one needs to remember the closest neighbor is one’s own spouse.
Yes, our spouse is not the perfect person in the world, but let’s remember—we are not perfect either! We are all redeemed sinners still living in this sinful flesh fighting this life-long battle with sin until we see Jesus. So, we need to remember just as it is a struggle for us, it is a struggle for our spouses too. However, it is great to know that God loves imperfect people and promises to give them strength to love imperfect people [1 Thess 4:9].
3. Pursue sexual purity. Hebrews 13:4 clearly issues this command: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Many a marriage has been adversely affected by pornography and adultery. That’s why constant vigilance must be maintained in what the eyes see and the heart secretly desires [Matt 5:28-30].
Sinful thoughts sooner or later leads to sinful actions. We need to remember there is no such thing as “casual flirting.” It is a sin to desire anyone other than our God-given spouse. That’s why a believer should never talk, act or dress in any manner that sends a wrong message to others. It leads to unnecessarily problems. We must always strive to “avoid sexual immorality” because “it is God’s will” that we “should be sanctified” [1 Thess 4:3].
4. Pursue sexual intimacy. While it is important that sexual purity is to be practiced, sexual intimacy is also to be practiced. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul reminds married couples of some truths concerning sexual intimacy. In verse 2 by stating, “each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband,” it is clear that he encourages sexual intimacy. He goes on to further say, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
While these verses ought not to be taken by the husband or the wife to demand sex from the other, they do emphasize the pursuit of sexual intimacy in an environment of unselfish love! In too many marriages, one or both of the spouses withhold their bodies from the other due to busyness or even bitterness! That’s not God’s design for a healthy marriage. Strong marriages are marked not only by sexual purity, but also by sexual intimacy. God has placed an entire book in the Bible called Song of Solomon to exalt the virtues of sexual intimacy within the bonds of marriage.
5. Cultivate a forgiving heart. Ephesians 4:32 teaches us this: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” As believers we must never hold bitterness in our hearts no matter the offense and must always be willing to forgive. Constant rehearsal of past wrongs has ruined many a marriage. No wonder, we are told in 1 Corinthians 13:5 to keep “no record of wrongs.” Bitterness chains people to slavery while exhibiting a forgiving spirit sets them free. Constant rehearsal of our sins being forgiven by Christ is the key to overcoming bitterness and practicing a forgiving heart.
6. Be content. Hebrews 13:5 states, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”” It is interesting to note that Hebrews 13:5 which refers to pursuing contentment follows the command to keep the marriage bed pure [Hebrews 13:4]. Two biggest issues that destroy marriages are sexual sins and love of money.
Pursuit of money, career and other worldly desires are like cancer that spreads quickly and destroys marriages [1 Tim 6:6-10]. Many disagreements between husbands and wives arise as a result of wrong pursuits. James 4:1-3 rightly gives the source of all kinds of quarrels “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
So, if one guards the heart from greedy pursuits and pursues contentment, it will help strengthen the marriage.
7. Serve the Lord together. Nearly the end of his life, after years of serving the Lord, Joshua never lost his zeal to serve the Lord. In Joshua 24:15, we read his holy resolve, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Irrespective of what others around him were pursuing, Joshua resolved to pursue the noble goal of serving the Lord.
“No matter who serves or deviates, we will serve the Lord together” should be the goal of every Christian couple as well. It is important to remember that every Christian is saved to serve. A family that strives to serve the Lord with a united heart will truly experience marital bliss.
8. Be humble. Proverbs 16:5 says, “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” Where there is pride in the marriage, there will never be peace. That’s why pursuing humility must be a daily and an on-going priority for both husband and wife. Truly while “God opposes the proud,” he also promises to “shows favor to the humble” [James 4:6].
God always blesses the humble because humility is the path Christ walked and that’s the path we are called to walk as well! Want a happy marriage? Answer is found in the daily pursuit of humility!
9. Guard our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 reads,“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” That’s why the heart must kill all kinds of wrong thoughts at the beginning stage and not let it grow and then try to deal with it. It will be too late. James 1:14-15 teaches us this principle in clear terms, “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
Philippians 4:8 is a good verse to meditate [even memorize] for couples to put into practice on a regular basis when it comes to cultivating good thoughts instead of evil ones, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
10. Pray often. On our own, we cannot keep our marriages strong. We cannot fight this warfare on our own strength. We cannot—rather dare not take our marriages for granted. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We must understand the serious spiritual warfare we are involved in. And that knowledge should cause us to get on our knees on a daily basis and keep crying out to the Lord for his protection.
Ephesians 6:18 commands us to, “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Praying in the Spirit simply means to pray according to the Spirit revealed Word and in submission to the Spirit. Without the Lord’s help, our marriages will crumble. Jesus said very clearly, “apart from me you can do nothing” [John 15:5].
So, there we go. 10 simple and hopefully helpful principles to cultivate godly marriages. With the Lord’s help through his Spirit and his Word, every marriage can be a godly marriage. It’s never too late to start afresh. In a world where Christians are constantly bombarded by temptations, God has promised his grace to those that are willing to faithfully follow him. It is very easy and tempting to give up, but God clearly calls us to persevere in our walk with him and this applies in the area of marriage as well.
Perhaps some who are reading this post are in a very difficult marriage. My heart truly goes out to you. Maybe it is a result of your own bad choices or maybe it is not. Whatever the reason, I want you to take comfort in this thought: The all-powerful and sovereign Lord is in full control.
In Jeremiah 32:27, we read God saying, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” He can deliver you right this hour if he chooses to. However, if it is God’s will that you endure through this for some more time, do not resist him. Yield to his plans and trust in his grace to carry you through this situation [2 Cor 12:9]. Continue to love your spouse and do not yield to what your flesh compels you to do.
While God in his compassion has granted biblical grounds of divorce, that’s a last option. As a Christian, one must do everything possible to bring the sinning partner to true repentance. This includes a willingness to forgive even in cases of adultery. Granted, there will be situations where nothing can be done except to go through the divorce. However, the Christian in such circumstances must still make sure that he or she is patient and has done everything possible from their end to keep the marriage together.
So, persevere. God will help you. In heaven, none of us will regret persevering for Christ. In fact, our regret will be in the fact that we did not persevere as much as we should have! So, we must constantly think of eternity which will in turn help us endure through the hardships of this temporary pilgrimage on earth.
And as a final note, a word to all believers. We need to guard ourselves against developing a self-righteous and cold attitude toward those who have been divorced or even those who have committed adultery. We must reach out in love towards them with a genuine desire of seeing them restored with the Lord [Gal 6:1]. We can do so if we remember the words of the Lord Jesus who said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” [Matt 5:28]. That statement alone from the lips of Jesus will help every Christian to realize his or her own deficiencies and thus prevent them from throwing stones at others who have failed in their marital commitments.