Oscar Wilde said, “The world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life.”
Is it even possible to have a happy marriage? Can a man and a woman fall in love, get married and actually live happily ever after? Or is that just a fairy tale?
Certainly we don’t want to look to secular culture for our cues. If you look to celebrities in Hollywood as an example of how to have a great relationship, you will be sorely disappointed. They can’t seem to keep a marriage together for even five years. Some of them break up weeks after they get married. It is an ongoing cycle of marriage and divorce.
Our culture is definitely not giving us the answers for how to have a successful marriage. So we need to look elsewhere. We need to look to Scripture. Let’s consider the words of Jesus on the topic of marriage and divorce:
“Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6 NKJV).
Jesus was answering a question the Pharisees had asked: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” (Matthew 19:3 NKJV). They were testing Jesus, not because they wanted a real answer from him, but because they wanted to trap him. But Jesus avoided their question and instead pointed back to God’s original plan. Rather than talking about divorce, he talked about why God brought a man and a woman together in the first place.
Jesus referenced Genesis 2, which is the story of Adam’s life in the Garden of Eden. His was the ultimate bachelor pad. He literally had it made in the shade. It almost sounds like a fairy tale, but this was a real place. And Adam was a real man whom God had created. Adam’s job description was to discover all that God had made. Every day as the sun was setting, God would show up and take a walk with Adam in the cool of the day. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect situation. The only restriction God placed on Adam was not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
But something was missing in Adam’s life. In fact, God looked and saw that it was not good. I find it interesting that up to this point, as God would engage in creative acts, he saw that everything was good. But when we come to Genesis 2, for the first time God says that something is not good: Adam was alone. So God caused a deep sleep to fall on him, and God made a woman from Adam’s rib.
The great Bible commentator Matthew Henry wrote, “Eve was made by God not out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.”
So what was God’s objective in bringing Eve to Adam? We find the answer in Genesis 2:18: “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (NKJV) –or literally, corresponding to him. The Hebrew translation of this verse speaks of someone who assists another to find fulfillment. The phrase is used elsewhere in the Old Testament when referring to someone who is coming to rescue another. Eve came to rescue Adam from loneliness. She came to bring completion and fulfillment in his life. She would provide what was missing in his life up to this point.
The objective God planned for a man and a woman in marriage is a foundational truth. It may seem obvious. It may seem elementary. But I am surprised by how many people are not aware of it: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 NKJV).
The closest relationship outside of marriage is mentioned: the relationship of a child to his or her parents. This implies that if it is necessary to leave your father and mother, then certainly all lesser ties must be broken, changed or left behind. The man’s primary commitment must be to his wife, and her primary commitment must be to him. They must still honor their parents, but a leaving must take place. Otherwise, this can be extremely detrimental to the marriage.
Marriage begins with leaving. It means leaving all other relationships – not that you sever all relationships, but they are altered. They are changed as a result of marriage. I have talked to young couples who have told me that it is hard to make it financially on their own, and maybe they will move in with her parents or his. My wife and I had very little in the early years of our marriage, but we had each other, and we learned lessons that we needed to learn. And one of the best things we did was to get out on our own.
If a couple is living with his parents or her parents, they will have some problems. They are supposed to be leaving and cleaving, yet when there is a conflict, the first thing he or she will do is run to mom or dad. It gets their marriage off on a bad foot.
The process of leaving also means giving other relationships a lesser degree of importance. It is good to have friends, but your best friend should be your spouse, because that is really what a marriage is built on. God wants you to be glued to your spouse – not stuck, but glued, because you want to be.
If you want your marriage to succeed, hold on to each other. Strengthen the ties that bind. Do what you can to keep the relationship strong. Periodically ask yourselves, “Are we doing what it takes to strengthen our relationship? Are we engaged in any relationship or pursuit that could potentially put distance between us?” This is basic, but essential.
It is time to change. It is time to redirect. It is time to get back to God’s original plan.