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A Sunday school teacher who was talking to her fourth grade students about marriage asked the class if they knew what the Bible said about marriage.
One little boy raised his hand and said, “Yes. The Scripture I am thinking of is, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”
Judging by the way a lot of marriages go these days, you can almost understand why he would say that. Someone has said that marriage is like a three-ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering. J. Paul Getty, one of the richest men who ever lived, said that he would give his entire fortune for one happy marriage (and he was married five times).
So is a happy marriage even possible? Can a man and woman fall in love and live happily ever after, like they do in the fairy tales? I believe the answer is a resounding yes.
Now, I am not suggesting that a marriage will be problem-free or won’t face challenges. Every marriage comes under pressures and difficulties and hardships. But I do believe it is possible to have a very fulfilling marriage. I believe I can speak with some experience on this topic for several reasons.
First, I have seen divorce up close and personal, although I have never been divorced myself. My mother was married and divorced seven times. And anyone who says that divorce doesn’t affect the children has never had parents who were divorced. I have seen what divorce can do. In fact, it was the very thing that caused me to have great determination to find the right woman and have a successful marriage.
Our marriage has been tested like anyone else’s. We have faced mighty storms, the most devastating being when our son died. Many marriages don’t survive that. But we looked to God, and He is getting us through it.
Marriages come under attack. Marriages face pressures. Marriages face hardship. The question is, on what foundation are you building your marriage? At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock” (Matthew 7:24–25 NLT).
Have you ever built a sandcastle on the beach? They are so much fun to put together. But then some waves come in, and it is gone. That is what happens to marriages that are built on sand. They will not survive. But a marriage that is built on the rock not only will survive, but it will get stronger through these things. Notice that Jesus did not say, “If the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house …” Rather, he said, “When the rain comes. …” Into every life a little rain must fall, the saying goes. Sometimes it is a light drizzle, and other times it is a mighty hurricane.
Every marriage will be tested. Every marriage will go through changes. So we want to build our foundation on Christ.
When a couple comes to me for counseling, I will first ask them a few questions. I will begin by asking whether they are both Christians. Almost always the answer is yes – that is why they have come to see me, they say. Next I will ask them whether they believe the Bible is the Word of God. Again, the answer is usually yes. But the third question is not as easy for them to say yes to: “Are you willing to do what the Bible says, even if you find it difficult?”
Quite frankly, if they cannot answer all three questions in the affirmative, the conversation is over. The fact of the matter is their situation probably isn’t different; they are facing the same problems other couples are facing. I have pretty much heard it all and seen it all, and I believe that most of the divorces that have taken place did not need to happen. Of course, there are exceptions – but I have seen marriages in the worst shape imaginable be put back together.
We need to think about marriage biblically, not emotionally. We can’t take our cues from our culture. What does our culture know about marriage, after all? And what does Hollywood know, where marriages often last only a few days or weeks? I am not looking to celebrities or secular culture to tell me how to have a successful marriage. Instead, I turn to an authoritative source, and that is the Bible. We need God’s help.
Having a successful marriage does not happen by accident. The moment you begin to neglect a marriage, it is going to start unraveling. You have to constantly be doing everything you can to keep your marriage strong and not take it for granted, even for a moment.
One day when our lives are over, there will be only three things that really seem to matter. Those are faith, family and, to a lesser degree, friends. We won’t be fretting about how the business is doing or how much money we make. It won’t matter much to us in that day. But I believe we will think about God and about our families. And in far too many cases, there will be regrets. So instead of waiting for that day to come, deal with it now.
When you make a commitment to a person to be married, you want to honor that commitment. I wish we could take the very word “divorce” and strike it from our vocabularies. It is brought up far too quickly, far too easily, and far too casually. Wedlock should be a padlock. And if a marriage is miserable, the fault lies with the participants, not the institution.
Is your marriage built on the rock, or is it on the rocks? Build it on Christ.