Nineteen years ago I married my best friend. Nine children, another baby on the way, 13 moves, and many adventures later, I can honestly say that I have no regrets! We live in a culture where God's design for marriage and family is being rejected for a more "liberated" lifestyle of "sexual freedom." Instead of getting married, we cohabit or hook-up. Although both Abe and I grew up in Christian families, this mindset has even infiltrated into our extended family. And sadly, Christians are divorcing at the same rate as the rest of the world. It struck me recently, that many large churches now display banners on their lawns offering seminars to help deal with divorce. The church at large seems to be wrestling with the very same issues that the rest of the world faces! Instead Christian marriages should be shining examples to the rest of the world, right?
I remember my Bible teacher in high-school saying that marriage only gets better with age... he was more in love with his wife now, than the day he married her. I am thankful for his godly example, as well as for the godly example I saw in my own parents. Unfortunately, marriage in our day is not often emulated.
Why is marriage, even among so-called Christians, failing? Are Abe and I just fortunate, being an exception to the rule of many broken vows all around us? I don't think so. I believe God wants us, as believers, to have radiant marriages that display to the world that marriage WORKS when we build it on Christ and on the principles of His holy Word. Here are a few "non-negotiables" I came up with to build a strong marriage in the Lord:
- Make Christ the center of your marriage. Marriage isn't usually the picture of a happily ever after fairy tale. Most of us experience hardships, disappointments, financial difficulties, sickness and heartaches somewhere along the way. If we put our complete hope and trust in our husband, we will be miserably disappointed; after all, he is a sinful human-being, just as we are. In the early years of my marriage the Lord taught me that instead of trying to change Abe into the ideal husband through nagging and complaining, I should instead focus on my relationship with Christ. I believe is is vital that we seek our joy and fulfillment in Him (Christ), not in him (our husband).
- Live according to God's design for marriage as outlined in His Word. We live in a day when many women, like their husbands, are working outside the home. Many still try to have children at some point, and struggle to keep it altogether. They end up placing many responsibilities on their husbands to help with the daily managing of their homes, and wonder why they are left feeling tired, empty and dissatisfied with life. God's design is for the husband to lead and provide, and for the wife to follow and submit. Even many Christian women struggle with the word "submission,"which literally means "to voluntarily place oneself under." It is a radical concept to our culture. Somehow it is often seen as an outdated word that somehow applied only to our grandparents! But our issue is really with God, who designed us right from creation to be submissive to our husbands. And although our culture portrays that a submissive woman is a weak, spineless doormat, submission actually requires much strength and self-control. It is only a strong woman that is trusting in the Lord who can forego her natural, selfish inclination to want to demand her own way, instead of following her husband's leading.
- Be your husband's suitable helper. In Genesis 2:20, woman was called to be man's helpmate. We each have a unique opportunity to use the gifts God has given us to help our husbands. Each of us will do this differently. Proverbs 31:12 states that the virtuous woman "does (her husband) good and not evil all the days of her life." We should live to love him and seek to do him good at every opportunity. This is a life long calling! Psalm 144:12 refers to women as pillars. As women, we are to be strong and steady supports in our marriages. (This often challenges me- it is easy to become fearful, fretful and tearful at times, isn't it?)
- Be your husband's best friend! Abe is the person I would rather be with than anyone else in the world. There are many people that will tell you that you need to have weekly date nights or regular romantic weekend get-aways in order to maintain a good marriage. Although these things aren't wrong, I don't believe they are truly necessary either. We haven't done either on a regular basis, but what we do daily is TALK! We talk about everything... Even when Abe traveled for many years, we made the commitment to talk to each other daily for sometimes several hours. Sometimes I am surprised to hear a wife comment that she doesn't really know what her husband does for a living. She has never taken the time to understand his world. Shame on her! Just think how honored (and respected) he will feel if she would understand his work and ask him intelligent questions. I promise it will bring you much closer to your husband. This will also give you the privilege of encouraging him, praising him and praying for him.
- Don't let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26) Make a vow to always go to sleep at night as friends. You may, at times, have to agree to disagree, but don't ever go to bed with hatred in your hearts towards your spouse. Anytime you go to bed with anger in your heart, you allow the devil to get a foothold into your marriage. Better to confess your sins before one another and before God, so He will continue to reign in your marriage.
Of course these are only a few ways, but I do believe they are important ones. For further study in our God ordained roles as women read and study Proverbs 31, Titus 2:3-5, Ephesians 5:22-24, I Peter 3:1-5, and Colossians 3:18.