What Is The Promise Of Marriage


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What Is The Promise Of Marriage

  1. 1. WHAT IS THE PROMISE OF MARRIAGE? L ifelong commitments can be better than engaged couples want to believe. The CONTENTS dating, caring, and affection of premarital enjoyment doesn’t A Fading Promise . . . . . . 2 have to be lost forever in A Vision Renewed. . . . . . 4 failed expectations and Four Phases Of disillusionment. Marriage is A Good Marriage . . . . . 6 worth the risk in a world where Expectation. . . . . . . . . . . 7 divorce claims one out of two marriages. Yet, to reclaim Covenant. . . . . . . . . . . . 13 the vision of what a marital Disillusionment . . . . . . . 18 relationship can be, we need to Fulfillment . . . . . . . . . . . 23 take a look at our expectations, The Actions Of Love . . 30 our motives, and our faith in God Himself. The Reality Behind The Picture . . . . . . . . . . 32 In the following pages, RBC staff writer David Egner shows us how the wisdom of the Bible can renew and rekindle the promise of marriage for very imperfect people. Martin R. De Haan II Managing Editor: David Sper Cover Photo & Design:Terry Bidgood Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.All rights reserved. © 1992,2002 RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan Printed in USA © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. A FADING different languages. PROMISE Sometimes the girls didn’t help matters. Bob had B ob stormed into his forgotten how much his own workshop, picked up dad had done for him—and a piece of wood from how little he as a young his workbench, and hurled person had appreciated his it into a pile of scrap in the own parents—until Amy corner. He and Peggy had and Marcie had become just had another fight. He almost as hard to live was so sick of it and so with as Peggy. Daddy’s unhappy. He thought about little girls were turning getting in his pickup and into demanding, driving away once and for ungrateful teenagers. all. But then he thought of 14-year-old Amy and 16- year-old Marcie. Bob was not one Bob worked hard— to analyze his sometimes 60 hours a week. He had built the feelings. But now house they lived in, as well he could ignore as the barn for the purebred them no longer. quarterhorses they raised. He had tried to give Peggy and the girls a comfortable, Bob was not one to trouble-free life. But Peggy analyze his feelings. He had had become distant and always pushed them aside unappreciative of what he so he could concentrate on was trying to do. When the work that had to be they tried to talk, it was like done. But now he could they were speaking two ignore them no longer. “Is 2 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. this all marriage amounts the dryer needed repair, and to,” he wondered, “being the window in the basement lonely and angry and was still broken. frustrated and disappointed? I feel so empty.” Sandy and Dave had Sandy felt trapped been married less than and miserable. She 10 years, and she was exhausted. Dave had gone never imagined it from job to job, never would be like this! quite finding “people who appreciate what I have to offer.” He had wanted a Her parents helped some, family right away, and but Sandy hated to ask for Sandy just learned that more unless it was really number three was on the necessary. If Dave would way. The news scrambled only keep his promise to find her emotions. She would a regular job and develop love to have another financial responsibility. Oh, child—but not now. They she had talked to him. And just couldn’t afford it. he had made such sincere It had been too easy promises—promises that for Dave to buy things he he just never kept. wanted for himself—after Now another baby was they had purchased a little on the way. Sandy felt too much house and a little trapped and miserable. Ten too much car. Sandy was years ago when she stood working as much as she at the altar and exchanged could, but the more she vows with Dave, she never earned the more Dave spent. imagined it would be like He seldom mowed the lawn, this! 3 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. A VISION Dad, and they don’t want RENEWED it to happen to them. But marriages don’t B oth Bob and Sandy have to turn out that feel angry, hurt, way. In spite of divorce and betrayed. statistics, and in spite of This was not what they the additional number of had anticipated. The unhappy relationships that honeymoon didn’t last remain intact, marriage still nearly as long as they had offers a “made in heaven” dreamed it would. The opportunity to discover the promise of happiness and real meaning and richness security and intimacy and of love. mutual care is fading away True, it will take a in the hard realities of their lot of work. But so does marriages. everything worthwhile. They are not alone. True, we’ll have to Their feelings are duplicated make sacrifices. But what in marriage after marriage. we receive in personal And divorce rates would be dividends from a healthy even higher if so many relationship far outweigh young people were not the losses. choosing to just live True, current odds together. may be against it. But In addition, 50 percent if we follow a few basic of all young adults today principles, the odds change grew up in homes that went dramatically in our favor. through the sad, bitter, True, it’s a big sometimes violent process responsibility, especially of a marriage breakup. They when children come along. saw what it did to Mom and But with that responsibility 4 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. comes the authority We need to see husbands and help of God to turn and wives filled with that responsibility into gratitude for being treasured satisfying results. in spite of all of their flaws True, there are other and imperfections. We need ways to satisfy the pangs to see the possibilities of of loneliness and feelings of two mature people who discontent. Our generation love each other deeply, not is infatuated with “love because of what they don’t triangles,” “office affairs,” know, but because they and the illusion of “safe sex.” But who on his deathbed will say he’s glad We need a vision he had the chance to enjoy sexual intimacy outside of of our marriages marriage? not as they are, but True, it may seem that as they could be. the best idea is to get out of a bad marriage before the bitterness and anger have learned the meaning destroys you. But many of a love and a forgiveness hurting people have already that endures. We need a discovered that as terrible vision of husbands who, in as a loveless marriage is, spite of children and tight an anger-filled divorce can’t finances, will find ways to put it all behind you. date their wives as they did We need to see the before marriage. We need a possibilities of people vision of people touching who will put as much into and talking and embracing marriage as they did into until parted only by death their dating relationship. itself. 5 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. FOUR PHASES provides a testing ground OF A GOOD of faith—a laboratory of the heart that has MARRIAGE promise not only for S o, what’s in it for me?” this life but for the life It’s a question worth to come. asking about People change, marriage, and not without situations differ, and reason. Just what is the dreams are shattered. But promise of marriage? the same God who made • To the high school girl, marriage made it to endure it’s her wedding day, the disappointments and a white gown, four predictable seasons of beautiful bridesmaids, life that mark all good candles, flowers, and a relationships. God can friend-filled reception. help us grow through the • To the newlyweds, cycles of (1) expectation, it’s shared vows, (2) covenant making, intimacy, friendship, (3) disillusionment, and and adventure. (4) growing fulfillment, which • To the couple married we will be considering in the 15 years, it’s children, remainder of this booklet. companionship, and Keep in mind, however, building. that the issue is not just • To those married 35 what our Lord says about years, it’s watching marriage. Solutions are found grandchildren grow, the by discovering what He has first signs of aging, and said about basic issues of slowing down. faith and character and then • To those who value God applying those perspectives above all else, marriage to the seasons of marriage. 6 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. EXPECTATION • The need for affection and sexual intimacy. • The need for companionship. • The need for family. • The need for conversation. • The need for financial security. • The need for social acceptance. • The need to leave home. “What can I expect to get Many of these out of marriage? What’s the expectations reflect payoff? My hopes are high reasonable and even and my dreams are bright. God-given desires. The But will they be realized?” problem comes, however, Let’s take a look at when we pursue these some of the more common desires with shortsighted expectations people have strategies and motives. for marriage today. Then we Many enter into marriage will turn to the Bible to see expecting it to solve their what God expects of this problems. A daughter who relationship. cannot any longer tolerate Our Expectations. the anger and coldness of Our society, both religious her father or the criticism of and secular, has established her step-mother may get expectations for the married merely to get out of marriage relationship: the house. A son who feels 1. Marriage will meet that he isn’t respected by his my needs. parents may see marriage as 7 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. a way of finding some of be content to live in the the personal affirmation he parsonage next door to longs for. Yet all too often the church, who could live those who enter into thriftily on a tight budget, marriage to solve their who would produce two problems end up in the children on schedule humiliation of a divorce (preferably a boy and a girl), court saying, “She [or he] and who would always be just isn’t meeting my needs, upbeat and happy. your honor.” It wasn’t long into his Why don’t couples see marriage before the trouble this coming? Part of the began. Becky was sometimes answer is that many of moody and sad. She wanted them assume that . . . a little money to spend 2. Marriage will without having to account change him/her. Many to him for every penny. She enter marriage with a hated speaking to any group. predetermined idea of what The first baby didn’t come they want their partner to on schedule, and she was become. They may disclose often ill. The more John it a little before the wedding, pushed Becky to fill his but it becomes all too expectations, the more she obvious soon enough. withdrew. She simply could John, a student in seminary, not fit his ideal, no matter was looking for his concept how much he pressured her. of an ideal pastor’s wife. He To avoid such wanted a woman who would mistakes, some people try be an excellent hostess, who the opposite approach. would promote him in every 3. Marriage can be as way, who could speak to free as we let it be. Some women’s groups, who would enter marriage with another, 8 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. more subtle expectation. 1. Marriage will enable They are generous in us to serve someone else’s offering their partner a needs. In writing his New great deal of latitude and Testament letter to the freedom—more than the Corinthians, the apostle partner is comfortable with. Paul made it clear that those But at a high price. They who are married can expect want even more freedom not only the joys of the for themselves. In return, relationship but also the they expect few demands responsibilities that come to be made on them. It’s a with it (1 Cor. 7:28-35). Paul live-and-let-live approach. indicated that in committing “I won’t ask any questions, themselves to one another, and I don’t expect you to husbands and wives actually ask any either.” must spend much of their Such attitudes are time working hard to please quite different from . . . one another (vv.33-34). God’s Expectations. In one sense, Paul said The Bible shows that God’s that such a relationship, expectations for marriage while not wrong (v.28), are apt to be different from actually limits the amount of our own. When God said, time that a person can spend “It is not good for man to in undistracted service to the be alone,” and when He Lord. Paul must have been created Eve as an answer very aware that much of to that aloneness, He did what he accomplished as a more than just make a traveling ambassador for provision for man’s needs. Christ could not have been The rest of the Bible shows accomplished if he had the that God has the following responsibilities and cares of expectations for marriage. a wife, home, and family. For 9 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. all of its joys, marriage has what kind of a heart God responsibilities that limit our can enable us to have if we freedom to serve God in an do our part in bringing out unencumbered way. Our the best in our mate. Lord knows that when we Marriage by its very marry, we are choosing to nature demands our own serve Him by serving the spiritual growth. For us to needs of our partner. Over live with and love someone time, we even have to learn else “for better for worse, for how to keep the marital richer for poorer, in sickness commitment from rivaling our commitment to, and dependence on, the Lord. More than any That brings us to a other relationship, second expectation. While we might enter marriage will into marriage hoping to expose our hearts change our partner, God’s and demand our expectation is that . . . 2. Marriage will growth. change us for the better. Scripture doesn’t tell us to and in health” requires that make sure our life-partner we learn to put his or her loves, respects, and gives us interests ahead of our own. all the affectional, financial, Such love is a general and physical satisfaction we biblical principle (Phil. 2:1- long for. The Bible never 4), but the closeness and promises that God will make responsibilities of marriage our mates into the kind of give us an ideal setting to people we pray they will help us learn the real be. It does tell us, however, meaning of love. 10 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. By its very nature, moral courage, true humility, marriage demands incredible patience, and commitment, risk, and tender understanding God unselfish investment. For a can give in marriage. People couple to achieve the unity will not see manipulative or and love and loyalty and fearful compliance that so blessing God expects, they often marks marriage. They must take giant strides of will see honest caring and personal growth. They must friendship. learn how and when to This kind of love requires abandon personal rights so us to focus not primarily on they can experience the our mate’s faults but on our richness that comes when own motives and actions. the true needs of others (not Such love, however, does the selfish demands) are put not give us permission to before their own desires. assume, “If I don’t demand As a husband and wife anything of you, then you learn to love in this way, won’t demand anything of they become a window me.” God’s expectation is through which others can that in the most intimate see the kingdom of God at and interdependent way . . . work. As they surrender 3. Marriage will place themselves to the Spirit and us under the mutual spirit rule of God, they become of love. The Bible makes it exhibits of the kind of clear that when a man and spirituality that God woman join in marriage, designed marriage to they become one. And the produce. Friends, children, controlling factor of their and extended family are oneness is their mutual given a chance to see the commitment to care for one kind of faithful love, honesty, another’s well-being for as 11 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. long as they both live. partner. As our God shows This commitment to love us by His own example, means that we must always love is tough when be looking for positive ways circumstances call for it. to bring out the best in our The most significant mates. It also means that of God’s expectations for after dealing with our own marriage, however, seems faults and sins (Mt. 7:1-5), to be reflected in His intent we will find timely and that . . . sensitive ways to discourage 4. Marriage will significant faults in one be a picture of Christ’s another. Proverbs 27:6 relationship to the reminds us that to be church. God’s expectation faithful, a friend must is that husbands and wives sometimes say things that will develop an enduring will be painful to hear. love by keeping their eyes The Bible does not give on the “marriage” between permission to nag, harp, Christ and His church or harshly criticize one (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:22-33). another. Proverbs says that After urging both husbands it is better to live on the roof and wives to see their than in a big house with a distinct roles defined by brawling or contentious the relationship between woman (21:9). But with love Christ and the church, the comes the responsibility to apostle Paul wrote: do everything possible to We are members of His bring out the best in a mate body, of His flesh and of rather than the worst. Love His bones. For this reason will not let us indulge the a man shall leave his immorality or support the father and mother and be destructive addictions of our joined to his wife, and the 12 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. two shall become one the background. The flesh. This is a great attendants are standing in mystery, but I speak place. The father has said, concerning Christ and the “Her mother and I.” The church (Eph. 5:30-32). soloist has just finished. These expectations of The audience is silent. The God offer great promise for minister speaks. “Please join a new or restored marriage. hands and repeat after me. I, They are expectations that James, take you, Susan . . .” lift us above ourselves, and Expectation moves call from us the kind of love into reality through the that has its source in God. exchanging of vows. The These expectations form man and woman make a basis for the covenant that solemn promises before is at the heart of marriage. God, family, and friends that they will “love, honor, COVENANT and cherish” one another until “death us do part.” By repeating vows and signing the license, a man and woman enter into a covenant relationship that embodies all that God intended for marriage. Exchanged vows also anticipate those times of married life that are always more than we bargained for. The relatives and friends are The covenant anticipates seated. The organ is playing those experiences of life in softly while candles flicker in which marriage, with its 13 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. unexpected twists and said, “For this reason a turns, reaches deeper, man shall leave his father becomes more absorbing, and mother and be joined and pulls more out of us to his wife, and the two than we ever anticipated. shall become one flesh”? “Worse,” “poorer,” and So then, they are no “sickness,” do happen. And longer two but one flesh. when they do, we can go Therefore what God has back again and again to the joined together, let not promises we made to one man separate (Mt. 19:4-6). another. Understanding “But what about divorce?” what the Lord intended someone asked the Lord. those vows to mean—at a “Isn’t that always an option? depth we could not have Can’t I keep a back door anticipated when we made open just in case it doesn’t them—will help us over and work out?” Jesus replied: over again as we experience Moses, because of the all that marriage is. hardness of your hearts, A Lifetime permitted you to divorce Commitment. When a your wives, but from the man and woman say, “I do,” beginning it was not so. they are vowing to each And I say to you, whoever other before the Lord that divorces his wife, except they will stay together until for sexual immorality, and one of them dies. The Lord marries another, commits Jesus clearly taught what adultery; and whoever God expected when He said: marries her who is Have you not read that divorced commits He who made them at the adultery (Mt. 19:8-9). beginning “made them The marriage vow is the male and female,” and verbal expression of a 14 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. lifelong commitment made life. Such a covenant allows in the mind and heart. That’s husband and wife to give one God’s design. The richest another the gift of a vowed fulfillment of the promise of love—a lifetime promise— marriage is anchored in that that will carry them through concept. When we say in the physical illness and divergent vow, “from this day forward,” interests and job pressures we mean a lifetime. This and problems with teenagers promise is not made to be and unbelievable stress broken (Eccl. 5:4). in the relationship. So complex—yet so simple. “I made a promise, and with The marriage the help of God I intend to keep it. I’m a person of my vow is the verbal word. I’m in this for life.” expression of a A Shared Identity. In lifelong commitment the fulfillment of the marital covenant, two become one. made in the mind The man no longer lives and heart. only for himself, nor the woman only for herself. A new unity, a new diversity, “How limiting!” a new family is established. some might say. Yes, such Both remain distinct commitment is limiting. But persons. Yet, from the Bible’s it also sets a man or woman point of view, two now share free to concentrate on the a mystery of oneness. The task of living out and apostle Paul wrote: adjusting and improving a So husbands ought to love loving relationship through their own wives as their the sincere give-and-take of own bodies; he who loves 15 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  16. 16. his wife loves himself. For • When she is struggling no one ever hated his own through the first trimester flesh, but nourishes and of a difficult pregnancy. cherishes it, just as the • When he is told that his Lord does the church. For job has been phased out we are members of His and she gets a promotion. body, of His flesh and • When she contracts MS of His bones. “For this or he hears the words, reason a man shall leave “I’m sorry, but the cancer his father and mother is inoperable.” and be joined to his wife, • When he must devote a and the two shall become lot of time and energy to one flesh.” This is a caring for his aged great mystery, but I speak parents. concerning Christ and the • When their youngest church (Eph. 5:28-32). child walks down the As the church is united to aisle to say her marriage Christ, so woman and man vows. become one. They walk up Yes, the man and woman the aisle a diversity—a man are one. These two unique and woman apart. They people have promised to come back down the aisle as walk the pathway of life one flesh—a shared identity. together as one in a new, Different backgrounds, shared identity. different families, different An Exclusive educations, different hurts, Relationship. The different habits—yet now, in covenant relationship the covenant, they are one . . . man and woman enter when • When he is stationed in they say their vows calls for the Middle East and she total faithfulness. Husband must stay in New Jersey. and wife are to love and be 16 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  17. 17. true to and cherish each And Paul named adultery other—exclusively! The man first in his list of the sins is to be true to his wife and of the flesh (Gal. 5:19). she to him. The Bible gives no ground on this point. Can a man take fire to his The man is to bosom, and his clothes be true to his wife not be burned? Can one and she to him. walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So The Bible gives is he who goes in to his no ground on neighbor’s wife; whoever this point. touches her shall not be innocent (Prov. 6:27-29). Current social practices “I pledge you my notwithstanding, the faithfulness.” About these covenant of marriage is words, Mike Mason wrote, with one person only. “This is how we must love Paul told Titus to have the one another, with a vowed older women of the church love that is not dependent at Crete teach the younger on happiness nor any of women “to love their the external hallmarks of husbands, to love their success. Where is such love children, to be discreet, to begin if it does not begin chaste” (Ti. 2:4-5). with the one closest to us, The seventh the life partner whom we commandment given at have chosen out of all the Sinai is, “You shall not other people in the world as commit adultery” (Ex. the apple of our eye?” (The 20:14). Jesus repeated this Mystery Of Marriage, p.106). commandment (Mt. 19:18). From this commitment 17 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  18. 18. onward, the man and DISILLUSIONMENT woman are expected to be true to each other. This is God’s expectation for marriage. And if they follow it, they will experience the wonderful promise of marriage. Because of this . . . • We will concentrate our love on our mate. • We will not be disloyal, even in little matters. • We will not initiate nor It might begin as early encourage flirtations. as the honeymoon. The • We will flee temptation. suspicion, the shadow that Oh, we will be tested. might already have been From within our own cast on the back edge of deceitful hearts, and from his or her thinking or outside, will come urges emotions. A little smudge to ignore that vow. The has appeared on her halo; promise of marriage is a little tarnish on his suit built on a covenant, on of shining armor. the integrity of our word She ignores it. But it still being intact when one keeps coming back. He’s not of us is called home. the gentle man she thought Only by remaining true he was. He forgets about to our word, and only by a her feelings. She makes deep desire to trust God’s plans without consulting plan, can we weather the him. He makes financial next important phase of commitments without marriage . . . telling her. She ends their 18 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  19. 19. arguments without discover that disillusionment resolution. keeps on coming. It appears Meanwhile, she’s during the first months of disturbed by the thoughts the pregnancy, while their she’s having. She has children are small, in career become preoccupied changes, when their children with his shortcomings. She reach the teens, during their remembers how good it felt late 40s and middle 50s, and as a single to be able to if the Lord gives them good make her own decisions health, into their 70s and and spend her money on 80s. whatever she wanted. The This is how it is with a more time goes by, the more man and woman. Neither unhappy and disillusioned can be God to the other. she becomes. Both are inclined toward Christian counselor their own selfishness. Neither Norman Wright, in his is always satisfied to find premarital counseling contentment in God (Phil. workbook titled Before You 4:11-13). Both struggle with Say I Do, indicates that every and often give in to a heart marriage goes through stages that is as sinful as the Bible of disillusionment. The says (Rom. 7:14-25). And new husband and wife run nothing exposes the flaws of headlong into a gap between human nature like marriage. what they expected of their The Closeness marriage and how it is Of Marriage. The very actually turning out. It may intimacy and shared identity occur on the honeymoon or of the marital relationship while they are arranging the can cause disillusionment furniture in their apartment. because that degree of They work it through, only to closeness exposes our 19 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  20. 20. hearts. Unlike business knows she’ll be hurt by relationships, where the his compulsive spending, roles are defined to allow but he does it anyway. for professional “distance,” In the intimacy of marriage is designed for marriage we show our oneness. The man and selfishness, our impatience, woman soon know each our insensitivity, our anger. other so very well. They We become insulting, share the pleasure of sex, punitive, wounding. The the stages of pregnancy and closeness of marriage brings childbirth, the excitement of it out. It exposes us to our purchasing a new home, the mate and, perhaps even more good news of his promotion painfully, to ourselves. We or her opportunity. They work through health or parental or teenage or The closeness of financial crises together. They become so close that marriage shows us they know how each other what our hearts feels and what the other are really like. is thinking. But this closeness has a dark side. They know the begin to realize that our mate best and the worst about is not fulfilling our longings each other. His inattention for security and affirmation and absorption with work and contentment. We feel frustrates her. Her refusal to betrayed. We trusted one listen and trust his judgment another. Yet in unexpected angers him. She knows ways marriage has exposed which words will make him not only the faults of our angry or humiliate him. He mate but also of ourselves. 20 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  21. 21. Wrong Motives For other hand, feels safe Marriage. All men and when he’s with her. women, often without After the marriage, realizing it, enter marriage neither can figure out for some unhealthy what’s happening. Suddenly reasons. Oh, they have they find themselves in a a lot of right reasons—to battle of wills over money. find companionship, to She has to play the role of have someone to love and the one who always says care for, to enter a lifelong no. She’s disappointed in relationship, to honor the him. She feels the isolation Lord. But as time goes by, it and pressure of carrying becomes obvious that even a burden that should be though “opposites attract,” shared. She married him to this can become a source be his wife, not his mother. of frustrating opposition. The marriage is in trouble Suppose the man knows because he entered into it he tends to be impulsive. with a wrong motive. Other He’s never learned to wrong motives a person may manage money. He makes carry into marriage are: compulsive purchases that • To get strength to fight keep him at the edge of an addiction. financial disaster. So he • To get away from a bad chooses a marital partner home situation. who is not only physically • To get protection from a attractive to him but who domineering parent. also is a steady, self- • To promote a career. controlled person. Before • To find much-needed marriage, she seems to like approval. his casual and spontaneous • To resolve unhealthy approach to life. He, on the sexual issues. 21 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  22. 22. Sooner or later, these Criticism is a dangerous underlying motives will show source of disillusionment up. And when they do, they when it is used to keep will lead to disillusionment attention off our own faults. that is also rooted in . . . 2. Anger. Outbursts of Destructive anger, unchecked and often Behavior In Marriage. over minor issues, attack Some of those sinful, the security of the destructive patterns may be: marriage. Uncontrolled 1. Nagging Criticism. anger is dangerous to any It is “better to dwell in the relationship. Proverbs 22:24 wilderness, than with a says, “Make no friendship contentious and angry with an angry man; and with woman” (Prov. 21:19). a furious man do not go.” This is also true of a critical Yet, when anger suddenly husband. Either may be shows up after vows are motivated by feelings of exchanged, the partner feels inferiority or a need to divert disillusioned and trapped. attention from his or her own 3. Self-centeredness. behavior. (Those addicted to When one spouse always alcohol are usually extremely has to have it his or her critical of the spouse who way, the result is contrary does not drink. They want to to the ways of God “prove” that they are not the (Phil. 2:1-4). This can be only one whose behavior is disillusioning to those who destructive.) thought that marriage would Such criticism helps us to provide someone who see why Jesus taught us to would care for them. first deal with our own sins 4. Irritating Behaviors. before “helping others” with The apostle Paul wrote that their problems (Mt. 7:1-5). love “does not behave 22 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  23. 23. rudely” (1 Cor. 13:5). So we face it when it appears when selfish insensitivities may be the most crucial show up either in public element of our marriage. or private, a spouse feels unloved. He or she feels FULFILLMENT vulnerable, undermined, disrespected, and endangered. If our “best friend” treats us like this, where can we run from our enemies? 5. Emotional Dishonesty. One spouse may deny his or her feelings of frustration or disappointment. The perceived reason may be not The key question is, “Now to “hurt” the other person. what? Now that we have The deeper motive, however, hit this rough spot in our is to protect oneself from marriage, what are we going further hurt or conflict. Self- to do about it?” The man’s protection results in a lack and woman’s commitment of truth, a lack of love, and to work through and resolve a growing distance and the issues creating the coolness that leads to deeper disillusionment is vitally feelings of hopelessness. important. It can lead to the Disillusionment appears kind of reconciliation and in every marriage. It’s acceptance that makes inevitable. To claim that it marriage worth it for life. hasn’t or won’t happen to Some of us have known us is to deny reality. How what it is like to feel the 23 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  24. 24. frustration and fear. The an alcoholic father or a marriage is stuck. It isn’t suicidal mother? Should growing. Yet we also see I now be surprised that He that running into the didn’t reach in and stop me bedroom, slamming the when I drifted into a difficult door, and staying there for marital relationship? hours is not working. He’s the One who hasn’t At this point, we need answered my prayers. He to realize that all is not lost. hasn’t changed my mate or There still is hope. In fact, taken away the gnawing our disillusionment has emptiness inside me.” actually brought us to the In his book Bold Love, threshold of the very love Christian counselor Dan and security we’ve been Allender wrote, “A sexually looking for. To cross over abused person once told this threshold of fulfillment, me, ‘When God did not however, we must . . . intervene to stop the abuser, Let Our Marital He lost any right to require Disappointment me to do anything. He owes Help Us To Face Our me; I owe Him nothing.’ Her Disappointment With words are stark and brutal, God. This step won’t be but I believe she represents easy. After all, God is the the core posture of the heart One before whom we took that struggles with God. our vows. He is the One we She simply had the angry asked to bless our marriage. courage to put words to the Yet, once again, He is the battle to understand God’s One who seems to have goodness, His response to let us down. We may ask, injustice, and the burden of “Should I be surprised? Isn’t fulfilling the royal law of He the One who let me have love” (Bold Love, p.70). 24 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  25. 25. We may be angry with on the night before His God because our marriage betrayal and death pled with is not going as we expected. the Father to deliver Him We may be holding Him from the suffering He was accountable or accusing Him about to face. Over and over, of breaking His promise of the Bible introduces us to happiness to us. But as we people whose disappointment struggle, we are at least taking with God bleeds through the Him seriously. And in our pages of their lives. struggle we can compare our Yet again and again experience with the stories of the Bible shows that other people who have been disillusionment can become disappointed with God before the doorway to fulfillment. Job finding fulfillment in Him. lived long enough to see his The Bible tells about a confidence in God restored man named Job who felt and deepened (42:1-6). that God had been unfair to Joseph lived long enough to him. It tells us about a man say to those family members named Joseph who was who had harmed him, “You hated by his brothers, sold meant evil against me; but into slavery, and then falsely God meant it for good” (Gen. accused of trying to rape his 50:20). Time after time the employer’s wife. The Bible children of Israel saw bitter tells us about a whole nation and frightening experiences of people who, after being turn into opportunities to delivered from the slave-yards witness the power and of Egypt, concluded that goodness of God. Jesus God had led them out into a endured to the point of saying barren wilderness to destroy in Gethsemane, “Nevertheless them. The Bible tells us about not My will, but Yours, be Jesus, the Son of God, who done” (Lk. 22:42). 25 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  26. 26. No one has ever suffered By His own example the betrayal, aloneness, Christ also helps us . . . abandonment, and abuse Let Our Relationship that Christ did in the course With God Become of His life and death. No Our Source Of Marital one ever experienced the Fulfillment. Followers of kind of unfair treatment Christ are in a great position that He endured when He to face the issues that have paid the price for our sins. brought disillusionment to Yet He lived and died and their marriage. Biblical rose from the dead to counselor Larry Crabb declare along with Job and wrote, “The difference Joseph and other godly men between godly and ungodly and women of Israel, that, people is not that one group in time, God always shows never hurts and the other Himself good and powerful group does, or that one and faithful to those who reports more happiness than are willing to trust Him to the other. The difference lies the end. He can do the in what people do with their same for us in our marriage. hurt. Either they do what Christ showed us by His comes naturally: use their own example that we were hurt to justify self-centered not made to find complete efforts to relieve it, caring fulfillment or security in any less about how they human relationship. He affect others and more showed us that we are made about whether they are to find our protection and comfortable; or they do what contentment in God, and comes unnaturally: use their that only in this realization hurt to better understand can we be free to love and and encourage others while submit to one another. they cling desperately to the 26 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  27. 27. Lord for promised role as a wife out of the deliverance, passionately conviction that rightly determined to do His will” motivated submission (Men And Women, p.93). is actually a way of Once we learn that our submitting herself to the ultimate well-being depends lordship and provision of on God and not on our Christ (Eph. 5:22-24). spouse, we will begin to This is not to say, experience the strength however, that godly of the Lord. Once a husbands and wives husband believes that become independent of his relationship to God is one another. It is important more important than his that we also . . . relationship to his wife, he Let Our Dependence will begin to find a personal On God Become A sense of significance that Basis For Loving doesn’t depend on his wife’s Interdependence. A responses or affirmation. He husband and wife who will begin to love her out of depend on God—who find the love that he has found their strength and sufficiency in Christ (Eph. 5:25). in Him—will not be overly Once a wife believes dependent on each other. that her relationship with Nor will they demand an Christ is more important unhealthy independence than her relationship to her or domination. husband, she can begin to God made man and find a source of security woman as unique, specially and acceptance that doesn’t gifted beings in His image. depend on her husband’s Neither of them is to rob ability to meet her needs. the other of that God-given She can begin to accept her uniqueness. But when they 27 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  28. 28. say, “I do,” they are he deny her their use. He did choosing to give themselves not try to remake her into to each other in a lifelong something she was not. We relationship. can assume that he loved her The Bible helps us to for the woman God made her understand how a husband to be. She, in turn, used her and wife can be one, yet gifts in a way that produced also be true to the unique harmony and marital person God made each to success, as well as business be. God made woman to be success. Scripture gives no a companion and helper her evidence of her doing husband can depend on. anything but respecting her Genesis tells us, “The Lord husband and his gifts as the God said, ‘It is not good man God made him to be. that man should be alone; This kind of I will make him a helper interdependence does not comparable to him’” (2:18). come easy for a generation Proverbs 31 describes an that has seen divorce become initiative-taking, God-gifted epidemic. Yet for those who woman who did just find their security in the Lord, that. She entered into an and for those who are rightly enterprise that her husband motivated, it is possible for fully supported. wives to accept and trust There was an the Bible when it says, interdependent relationship “Wives, submit to your own between this couple in husbands, as to the Lord. For Proverbs 31. God gave the the husband is head of the wife multiple gifts, including wife, as also Christ is head of good business sense. Her the church” (Eph. 5:22-23). husband apparently was not The interdependence of jealous of her gifts, nor did husbands and wives also has 28 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  29. 29. implications for their sexual When a man and woman relationship. The Scriptures marry, they have the right make it clear that husbands to expect sexual fulfillment and wives are to protect, from each other: enjoy, and share mutual Let the husband render to expectations in the intimacy his wife the affection due of the marital bed. The her, and likewise also the sexual dimension of marriage wife to her husband. is designed by the Lord to The wife does not have bring continuing pleasure authority over her own and exhilarating renewal to body, but the husband the relationship. The wise does. And likewise the author of Proverbs wrote husband does not have these words to husbands: authority over his own Drink water from your body, but the wife does own cistern, and running (1 Cor. 7:3-4). water from your own well. If one partner decides to Should your fountains be abstain for a time, they dispersed abroad, streams must mutually agree and of water in the streets? Let keep the time brief: them be only your own, Do not deprive one and not for strangers with another except with you. Let your fountain be consent for a time, that blessed, and rejoice with you may give yourselves the wife of your youth. to fasting and prayer; and As a loving deer and a come together again so graceful doe, let her that Satan does not tempt breasts satisfy you at you because of your lack all times; and always be of self-control (1 Cor. 7:5). enraptured with her love For such mutual pleasure, (Prov. 5:15-19). husbands and wives are to 29 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  30. 30. depend on one another. than within the context of When we offer ourselves marriage. Verses 4-8 tell us to one another in love, God what love does. As you read Himself is pleased. When these verses, consider how we fail, the pleasure goes they apply to your marriage. to Satan. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade THE ACTIONS itself, is not puffed up; OF LOVE does not behave rudely, L ove is both a motive and does not seek its own, is an action. Jesus Christ’s not provoked, thinks no love for the church led evil; does not rejoice in to action: His sacrificial death iniquity, but rejoices in on the cross. It will result in the truth; bears all things, the wonderful fellowship of believes all things, hopes heaven (Rev. 19). all things, endures all Paul told husbands to things. Love never fails. love their wives (Eph. 5:25). You might want to read He instructed older women this passage again. Where to teach the younger women the word love appears, put in to love their husbands your name. Now ask yourself (Ti. 2:4). In a marriage if this is how you treat your where the promise is fading, husband or your wife. This love translated into action is what it means to love. can bring the brightness People who experience back into the promise. the joy of marriage for 20, This brings us to 40, or 50 years without one 1 Corinthians 13. This “swallowing up” the other chapter about love has have learned how to work no greater application through the differences that 30 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  31. 31. lead to disillusionment But how do we do and, perhaps, divorce. They this? One way is to make a are not merely “married to determined effort to look at marriage” for the sake of the issue through the other’s marriage but because eyes. See it from that person’s it is a fulfilling, rewarding, perspective. In this case, he adventurous, loving needs to remember her home relationship for both. life and understand how They have stayed together insecure she feels when in part because of a things are out of place. She mutual willingness to needs to admit that it’s not a talk, compromise, and work major crime nor a sin to leave through their differences. a shirt hanging on the back of Let me illustrate. a chair. Then they both need Suppose there’s a to change their behavior. stalemate in a marriage. Say True, it will be hard. In the woman is a “neat freak” deeper marital issues, such and the man is kind of as rage or emotional abuse, sloppy. The differences begin it will seem impossible. But to drive them apart. She the principles of love are nags incessantly; he gets a backed by a God who is love severe case of “selective (1 Jn. 4:7-8), and by a Savior deafness.” Both withdraw. who fills us with His power. What would love do? It In some cases, Bible- would take action. Facing the centered counseling may problem and overcoming be necessary. That’s okay. fear, love would initiate the The point is that love takes kind of communication that action and trusts God to would lead to resolution, give the promise of marriage calling constantly on the help to couples who are willing of our all-sufficient God. to trust Him. 31 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  32. 32. THE REALITY the promise of heaven is BEHIND THE through faith. If you will acknowledge that you are PICTURE a sinner and cannot save M arriage is a picture yourself (Rom. 3:23; Eph. of the relationship 2:8-9), and if you will trust between Christ Jesus Christ as your Savior, and the church. Jesus called you will become part of His the church His bride, and bride. He came to earth the Bible refers to Him as to live the sinless life you the Bridegroom. The church could not live. He died on is made up of all who the cross to pay the penalty believe in Jesus Christ as for your sin. And by His their Savior. The allegiance, resurrection from the sacrificial love, and dead, God showed that faithfulness of the husband His sacrifice had been and wife is a picture of the accepted, that the penalty relationship between Christ for sin had been paid in full. and the church. The promise Your part is to believe. of their “marriage” will be “For God so loved the world fulfilled when Jesus returns that He gave His only for His bride. begotten Son, that whoever What about you? What believes in Him should not is your relationship with perish but have everlasting Jesus Christ? Are you part life” (Jn. 3:16). of His bride through faith Trust Jesus today. You in Him? Or will you be will experience the promise left behind at His coming of a wonderful relationship because you have never with Christ and can look trusted in Him? forward to the promise of The way to experience heaven. 32 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  33. 33. Get your free Bible Resources catalog! Discovery Series booklets can be valuable guides to help you learn what the Bible says about a broad range of topics. Each 32-page booklet can be used in your personal Bible study or in a small-group setting. Your free Bible Resources catalog includes a brief description of each Discovery Series booklet. To get your copy, write to us at the address below and ask for a catalog. Or follow the link below to request your copy today. www.discoveryseries.org/catalog USA: PO Box 2222, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2222 Canada: Box 1622, Windsor, ON N9A 6Z7