“Doing whatever it takes can take you where you may not want to go.” (Dr. Emerson Eggerichs)
When I (Steve) read the above statement from Dr Eggerichs’ book, Love and Respect (Integrity Publishers), it got me thinking about Cindy and my marriage. Let me say at the outset that for many years I wasn’t as committed as Cindy was to “doing whatever it takes” to make our marriage what it is today. Fortunately, God got my attention and He took me where I didn’t “want” to go, but where I needed to go —in order to start becoming the husband he intended me to become.
Over the years, I’ve learned to release many of the immature attitudes I had held onto for so long. I learned how to be more about serving and blessing my wife, than being served. As a result, I am indeed the most blessed of all men. My wife and I are closer than ever. I never would have believed that letting go of what I thought I wanted, would bring me what I truly needed. And even if Cindy hadn’t responded well, there is peace in knowing I’m living my life, as God would have me.
Over the past dozen or so years that we’ve been mentoring couples we have come to realize that a lot of the problems they’ve encountered in their marriages (some they thought were “marriage busters”) were in fact fixable as long as they were willing to go where they didn’t necessarily “want” to go —back to God’s original plan for marriage.
A big problem Cindy and I see in Christian couples today is that we’ve lost sight of God’s plan for our marriages. We believe God showed us that the mission of marriage is to reflect the heart of Christ. Until spouses are willing to do “whatever it takes” so their marriages reflect God’s heart and HIS plan, divorces within the church will continue to match or exceed that of non-believers.
The following are thoughts from Alistair Begg’s book, Lasting Love: How to Avoid Marital Failure, as he sheds insight on this issue. Alistair writes:
God’s blueprint for marriage calls for an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman as they enter into a lifetime covenant. The concept of covenant is vastly different from a contractual agreement that may be set aside at the whim of either party.
When God entered into covenant with Abraham, the solemnity of it was emphasized with a “thick and dreadful darkness” (Genesis 15:12) and a number of animal sacrifices (15:9-11, 17). The covenant promises were made under the pain of death.
Jay Adams from his book, Solving Marriage Problems, says:
Marriage involves a covenantal agreement to meet all of your spouse’s needs for companionship (on every level: sexual, social, spiritual, etc.) for the rest of your life. It is therefore, a final act.
Christians, unlike non-Christians today who enter into trial marriages, annual, renewable contracts, and the like, need not live daily under the threat of divorce. The binding nature of a divine covenant assures them that divorce is not an option. That is a wonderful difference that Christians possess. The covenant is a lifetime commitment.
Alistair Begg continues:
Despite the clarity with which the Bible speaks to this matter, many Christians appear to be confused. Recent surveys reveal that as many as two-thirds of those interviewed considered divorce “a reasonable solution to a problem marriage.”
If we are going to at all be successful in avoiding marital failure, it is imperative that we exercise our minds in the truth of the Scripture and yield our wills in submission to God’s clear directives.
Our submission to God’s design must be total and wholehearted —whether we find it immediately to our liking or not. It is in becoming obedient to His Word and His will that we discover true freedom. Consider the benefits:
- Making a lifelong commitment focuses our attention on ‘staying the course’ rather than on short bursts of enthusiasm [which is being faithfully consistent to God’s Word].
- The freedom of marriage in the Lord is rewarding. To be able to share with one another at the deepest levels of spiritual understanding is a great joy [but comes by “staying the course”].
- As husband and wife learn to put each other first, they discover the pleasures that come only when they get past living for themselves. Wives are challenged to “submit to your husbands” (Ephesians 5:22) and husbands are told to “love your wives just as Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25). If these intense obligations are defined in purely negative terms, they may seem deplorable. But seen from God’s perspective, these commands provide order and joy in a relationship. Attempting to continually put oneself first never works. But learning to put a spouse first can become a lifelong pleasure for those with hearts for God’s Word.
- Rejecting divorce as an option allows for great security in marriage. It means that when problems arise —no matter how great those problems may be —the couple will learn to return to the instruction manual of God’s Word and rely upon the help of God’s Spirit.
It’s about living out God’s principles with each other in the manner in which Christ showed us through His life here on earth and through His Word, the Bible. We are to be living examples displaying God’s love —revealing and reflecting the heart of God. “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” -Prov. 3:3-6.
It’s not always easy to let “love and faithfulness never leave you” when your spouse doesn’t do the same —when he/she treats you in ways that make you feel belittled and unloved. But as God’s word says, when it comes to love and faithfulness, “bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”
Does that mean that you aren’t to express discontent to your spouse, confronting him/her with the things she/he says or does, which needs to change? Of course you can (if you’re living with an abusive spouse, however, be especially careful in this). But when you do say what you feel is needed, speak the “truth in love” —MOTIVATED by God’s love. As you do things God’s ways, “then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”
There’s a challenge Rev. Bruce Goettsche, gives, that we want you to consider, as well:
“Have you dismissed what the Bible says about marriage because you don’t think it squares with your own view? If so, think carefully about what you are doing. Do you have any right to veto God’s desires? Does it make any sense at all to ignore the counsel of the one who designed marriage?”
Live out God’s principles in marriage —God’s way. Keep in mind that the principles for loving each other as husband and wife are the same principles outlined for us throughout the Bible. Read it. Follow what it says, and “you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God.”
May it be so!
Steve and Cindy Wright
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