Proverbs 18:22 “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the LORD.”
July 9th, 1988 was a day I’ll never forget. We were both 19 years old and completely naive as to what it meant to be in a marriage relationship. Looking back now, I can see why my mother tried to dissuade me, I can’t imagine one of my kids getting married at that age. We thought we knew what we were doing, we had been dating my last two years of high school, we were engaged that summer, one year later we were tying the knot. After three years of striving to remain pure, we decided if we were going to honor the Lord in our relationship, we had to shorten our plans and marriage was our way of honoring God.
The pressures of remaining pure were difficult enough for two young kids committed to their faith in Christ, throw in the uncertainty of schooling, income, and where we should live and the reality of responsibility began to become more clear.
If I could look back now and talk to that 19 year old young man, I’d have a lot to say to him, nearly 32+ years of marriage will tend to give you some insight that wasn’t there before.
Solomon seemed to have a summation that brings to light the value of a wife.
Ecclesiastes 9:9 “Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.”
Vanity is an indication of a meaningless existence. This seems to be a very depressing way of looking at life and yet even in the midst of Solomon’s rebuke on life, the wife was a source of joy. Life can bring it’s share of hardship but as we soon realize, there can be much joy as well.
Advice to the Young
- Two believers was a key to success. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14. When the husband and wife are both filled with the Spirit, they are bound together not just by mutual attraction but the Lord is the common factor. When your belief system aligns with each other, you have the same conviction, you are both moving in the same direction spiritually. I can’t tell you how many times the Lord has used my wife to bring a word of encouragement or even insight when I was struggling with stress or wrestling with sin. When a couple considers God’s purpose for their relationship, Holiness is at the center. People can have children out of wedlock, live together and consummate relationships as partners, but a relationship built on the model that God intended is one that grows the two individuals with Christ-like love in a marriage covenant.
- Don’t lose sight of each other when raising children.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.”Psalm127:3-5
Children require a large investment of time, resources, and money. The moment that little hand grabs your finger, you become exposed to a wide range of emotions. Your potential for vulnerability takes a significant leap. It is very easy to become fearful when you invest that much into a child. Fear breeds contempt if the marriage couple doesn’t see eye to eye in a parenting plan. The process of investment continues for decades. You don’t stop being parents when your child is 18, your role only changes. If you have several kids like we did, you have to wear multiple hats at the same time. From disciplinarian to counselor then to teacher and protector, the challenges can feel new every day. Don’t just have kids and hope for the best, structure your family time with them in mind and you will develop opportunity to not only teach but will draw you together as a family unit. Your kids will develop a closeness that will extend far into adulthood and your family reunions will be blessed.
3. Build trust. I cannot stress enough how vital trust is within any relationship, especially a marriage one. Colossians 3:8-10 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” Notice the encouragement of Paul? Becoming a believer isn’t a model for immediately becoming perfect in all your actions, that is up to you! The difference is that you now have a different standard of Truth to live by and you have the power of the Holy Spirit to guide you into that truth. It takes personal effort to be holy, and being honest is just one of those attributes. The godly spouse is one who brings accountability in your walk with Christ. The Lord is making you holy through this relationship and one of those processes is through correction. You have to be willing to receive this correction and the way you receive it is through good communication.
4. Learn to Communicate. This may seem obvious but it’s not. Effective communication is honoring one another while expressing your heart. Learning how to express yourself without shouting or being demeaning in your approach is what opens up dialogue that effectively works through a dilemma while not making it worse. Colossians 3:19 “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.” Bitterness occurs when you feel wronged and your perception is that the other shows no contrition concerning how they wronged you. There are times when a false perception leads to a wrong conclusion. A simple clearing of the confusion leads to a completely different outlook, and this is achieved through effective communication. My wife and I needed much help in this area as young married kids. We sought out counselors that helped us in how to treat each other with love and respect when working through a conversation and we reaped the benefits of this practice.
5. Keep the relationship pure. This can be best explained when relating our relationship to God. If we claim to be followers of Christ and recognize His supreme authority over all Creation our lives should reflect this. If I kept a small idol under my bed and occasionally prayed to it, I would defile God’s name. I would be in essence saying to God…”You are great but I don’t think your great enough”. My seeming worship of Christ would only be a hypocritical position of a false devotion. James 1:12-15 “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” The way for a relationship to slowly die is to allow something or someone else in between it. Whether it is in the mind or in practice, any compromise will lead to the death of that bond of love you share. It took me a long time to understand this and I wish I had taken it more seriously when I was younger.
6. Understand your role. I heard a radio pastor teaching on the role of the man and woman in a marriage covenant. He was speculating on a particular scripture that has traditionally been controversial but gave me new insight I hadn’t heard before. Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” In this day and age, anything that looks like it places a woman in a diminished role is completely rejected as being chauvinistic and outdated. There is such a hypersensitivity to equal rights that any rhetoric is shot down before it is even considered. This role of “submission” is not one of obedience, that is not what it is saying. The role of the wife is not to obey their husband but to submit to the position God has placed him in. God has modeled this type of relationship. John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Jesus submitted to the will of the Father, likewise the Father gave the Son all authority..Matthew 28:18 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” There is One God, co-equal—co-eternal. Submission is not taking a lesser role nor does it diminish your value, it is recognizing the quality of the other and giving them the respect that is due. In a marriage relationship, honoring through respect is the responsibility of the other.
7. Love one another. This seems obvious from the onset. You tell someone about this boy or girl you’ve met and how “in love” you are. A new relationship is one that starts with Eros love and progresses to Agape love. Husbands are particularly admonished to express this to their wives, and for good reason. Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,” It’s easy for men to stay in the Eros part of a relationship. Sex is a major driving force for men and if all they see their wives for is someone to relieve this sense of need, they will only objectify them as someone who is there to meet their needs, not someone to love and cherish. Love is sacrificial when expressed in a godly fashion. It considers the others needs over their own. Agape love is willing to give up a vice because the other asks them to, even if it is to their own hurt. The man who understands how to love this way, understands the role of a servant leader. The servant leader is the one who exhibits true strength. Jesus exemplified this characteristic perfectly by the way He showed love to us. Jesus gave so much, He humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross. This sacrificial love is one that is returned in the form of praise. We worship the Lord for the abounding goodness He has showed us, the sacrificial husband will reap great reward in his marriage if he understands this quality and practices it.
Marriage is not for the weak but to those who model it after a biblical mandate, they will reap the reward that it brings.
I must continually practice these values, for even after 32 years of marriage, life continues to throw in new wrinkles every day. Build on these values and they become common practice, then before you know it, the difficult times aren’t as difficult as they used to be.
In the end, you will see two individuals who are deeply in love and better for it. The Lord is glorified, the legacy of faith is passed down and hopefully the holiness that was gained reverberates out to others.