Christian authorities and bodies view marriage as a state instituted and ordained by God for the lifelong relationship, generally between one man as husband and one woman as wife. Traditional Christians consider marriage as the most intimate of human relationships, a gift from God, and a holy institution.
It is easy to think that only “other people” get divorced. That your own marriage is somehow immune/ exempted to heartache, infidelity and fights over who gets the house, the car, the dog. After all, how many of us would walk down the aisle if we believed our relationships would end up in divorce court?
Truth is no relationship comes with a lifetime guarantee. Even men and women who grew up in stable homes, who attend church and consider themselves Christians, who promise “until death do us part,” can have it all fall apart.
We have to stop asking of marriage what God never designed it to give like perfect happiness, conflict-free living, and idolatrous obsession. Instead, we can appreciate what God designed marriage to provide i.e. partnership, spiritual intimacy and the ability to pursue God together.
The most common misconception Christians have about marriage:
Finding a ‘soul mate’ i.e. someone who will complete us. The problem with looking to another human to complete us is that, spiritually speaking, it’s idolatry. We are to find our fulfillment and purpose in God and if we expect our spouse to be “God” to us, he/she will fail every day. No person can live up to such expectations.
Everyone has bad days, yells at his/her spouse, or is downright selfish. Despite these imperfections, God created the husband and wife to steer each other in His direction. E.g. when your wife/husband forgive you and accept you, you learn to receive God’s forgiveness and acceptance as well. In that moment, he/she is modeling God to you, revealing God’s mercy to you, and helping you to see with your own eyes a very real spiritual reality.
While it’s easy to see why God designed another centered union for a me-centered world, living that way is a challenge. So when bills pile up, communication breaks down and you’re just plain irritated with your husband or wife, herewith are reminders to aid ease the tension:
- God created marriage as a loyal partnership between one man and one woman.
- Marriage is the firmest foundation for building a family.
- God designed sexual expression to help married couples build intimacy.
- Marriage mirrors God’s covenant relationship with His people.
These points demonstrate that God’s purposes for marriage extend far beyond personal happiness. God isn’t against happiness per se, but that marriage promotes even higher values. God did not create marriage just to give us a pleasant means of repopulating the world and providing a steady societal institution to raise children. He planted marriage among humans as yet another signpost pointing to His own eternal, spiritual existence.
If happiness is our primary goal, we’ll get a divorce as soon as happiness seems to wane/decline. If receiving love is our primary goal, we’ll dump our spouse as soon as they seem to be less attentive. But if we marry for the glory of God, to model His love and commitment to our children, and to reveal His witness to the world, divorce makes no sense.
Couples who’ve survived a potentially marriage ending situation, such as infidelity or a life threatening disease, may continue to battle years of built-up resentment, anger or bitterness. So, what are some ways to strengthen a floundering/struggling relationship or even encourage a healthy one? Here are some practical tips:
- Focus on your spouse’s strengths rather than their weaknesses.
- Encourage rather than criticize.
- Pray for your spouse instead of gossiping about them.
- Learn and live what Christ teaches about relating to and loving others.
Young couples in particular can benefit from this advice. After all, many newlyweds aren’t adequately prepared to make the transition from seeing one another several times a week to suddenly sharing everything. Odds are annoying habits and less-than-appealing behaviors will surface. Yet as Christians, we are called to respect everyone including our spouse. When we are frustrated or angry, instead of pulling back, we must still pursue our partner under God’s mercy and grace.
Any couple can have a successful, happy and holy marriage. With a Christ-centered relationship, an other-centered attitude and an unwavering commitment to making it work, your marriage can flourish just as God designed.
Scripture teaches that marriage is ordained by God and part of His original design for us as well as a foreshadowing of our eternal relationship with Him.
(Heffernan, C. (….). God’s Design for Marriage. Focus on the Family).