The Trouble with Marriage

I was reading scripture the other day and came across something I never noticed before! It’s not like I haven’t read this chapter dozens of times but I guess I just glossed over it in the past. Here’s what I found:

“But those who marry will face many troubles in this life and I want to spare you this.” 1 Corinthians 7:28

I don’t recall the pastor who married my wife and me sharing this verse with us at any point during the process!

But like with everything in the Bible this is SO true, isn’t it? Marriage is hard and troublesome and I am sure that for every married person there has been a point in their marriage where they thought they might just have been better off not getting married!

Luckily for us, however, the Bible tells us much more about marriage than this – much of it coming from the author of that quote, the Apostle Paul, who never did get married so that he could serve God completely.

I want to take a few moments today to talk about marriage and what the Bible tells us about marriage, husbands, wives, and how to get through those difficulties Paul warns us about.

Obviously marriage started in Genesis with Adam and Eve and is confirmed by Jesus who notes in Matthew 19:4-5 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]?

Further, scripture confirms over and over again that a marriage is to be a life-long covenant – not just a commitment, but a binding agreement between man, woman and God. In God’s eyes marriage is a life sentence! (Gen. 2:20-24; Leviticus 21:13-15; Malachi 2:13-16; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Cor. 7:39; Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:8-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2; Ephesians 5:31)

So if God ordains it and plans it to be a life-long commitment in relationship with Him, how can it get so screwed up? How is it that 50 percent of our nation’s marriage end in divorce when something like 85 percent of the people here say they believe in God? (Yes, I know, that’s a trick question!)

The reality is Paul is right – marriage is brutally hard and comes with many troubles. Let me dive into some scriptures, though, to show you what God says we’re supposed to be doing in our marriages.

Proverbs 31, 10 – An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.

Apparently finding a good wife is hard! Who can find one? And those who do find an excellent wife will see she is worth far more than jewels or wealth or whatever it is on which you place value. So what is an excellent wife according to scripture? Let’s read the rest of Proverbs 31:11-31 to see:

Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

In other words, she has these qualities:

  • Is good to her husband always
  • Looks out for her husband’s interests
  • Is discerning in her affairs
  • Works diligently with her work
  • Is compassionate
  • Cares for the children
  • Puts her family before herself
  • Is full of wisdom and faithful instruction
  • Is praised by her husband for her demeanor
  • Fears the Lord most of all!

Proverbs 31 is a classic about a noble wife, but there is more in scripture so let me just add a few things here:

  • Respects her husband (Ephesians 5)
  • Submits to her husband as spiritual leader of the home (1 Peter 3:1)
  • Is respectful and pure in conduct (1 Peter 3:1-11)
  • Not quarrelsome or argumentative with her husband (Proverbs 21:9)

Unfortunately, the Bible does not really have a Proverbs 31 type chapter for men and their responsibilities as husbands. The closest is probably Ephesians 5:25-33:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church”

In other words, husbands you are to serve your wives like Jesus served you. You are to love your wives the way Jesus loved you. You are to sacrifice yourself for your wives the way Jesus sacrificed Himself for you. You are to bear with your wives the way Jesus bears with you. You are to support your wives the way that Jesus supports you. You are to help your wives the way Jesus helps you. You are to honor your wives the way that Jesus honors you. You are to give grace and mercy and forgiveness to your wives just as Jesus does for you. Do you see it? Do you see how God expects you to act toward you wife?

But there’s more! Here is your list husbands:

  • Love your wives the way Jesus loves the church (Ephesians 5)
  • Do not be harsh with your wives (Colossians 3:19)
  • Do not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14)
  • Do not even lust after another woman (Matthew 5:27)
  • Love the wife of your youth (Proverbs 5:18)
  • Do not divorce (Malachi 2:16)
  • You should protect your wife (Malachi 2:16)
  • A wife is a blessing from God (Proverbs 18:22)
  • A man leaves his family to be one flesh with his wife – his complete loyalty is now to her (Gen. 2:24)
  • A husband is not independent of his wife (1 Cor. 11:11)
  • Hold marriage in honor (Hebrews 13:1-25)
  • Do not seek to be free (1 Cor. 7:22-40)
  • Be an imitator of Christ (11 Cor. 11:1-5)

So here’s my question: How are you doing in your marriages in terms of living up to these standards? Take your time to go through each point and be honest!

Paul tells us there is trouble in marriage because most of us cannot live up to the standards set by God for marriage. In fact, a lot of Christians don’t even know what those standards are or that there even are standards!! So instead of loving, respecting, honoring, sacrificing, putting the other person first, and doing everything you can to lift up your spouse, marriages are full of strife, and fighting, and passive aggressiveness, and independence, and pride, and anger, and selfishness, and certainly a lack of sanctity for the institution of marriage itself.

The bottom line is this – bad marriages are bad because they don’t have God at the center but instead have two broken people at the center of a marriage and God on the outside looking in desperately trying to help. My friends, marriage is about serving God by serving each other. You glorify God by serving your spouse – even when you don’t want to! In marriage you submit yourself to God because it’s His idea and He has blessed you with a spouse and you do so by serving your spouse the way He tells you to, which is by serving your spouse as Christ served you.

The reality is there is no such thing as a perfect marriage at least that I’ve seen in more than a half century on this planet. As fallen and broken people we can only do so much when it comes to getting relationships right. But with God all things are possible! Strong marriages – ones that can get through the trouble Paul talks about and last – are the ones that focus on God first, on the other person second, and on yourself last.

There are a lot of broken marriages out there both within and outside the Christian community. The only fix to them is to follow the instructions! God has given us a path to joyful marriages. Don’t you think it’s time to follow the directions?

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One comment

  1. oregonlaw@msn.com · · Reply

    Tom,

    Thank you for speaking about the reality of marriage. This speaks to me as a recent (not quite 5 year) husband, and should speak to newlyweds and long-term married couples too. Thank you for explaining that we are not mutants or subhuman if we have friction in our most intimate of relationships. There was no way that you could have known this while writing the post, but I really needed to hear this message.

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