Week of Prayer for Wednesday
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This [is] now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Genesis 2:21–24.
“God celebrated the first marriage. Thus the institution has for its originator the Creator of the universe. ‘Marriage is honorable’ (Hebrews 13:4); it was one of the first gifts of God to man, and it is one of the two institutions that, after the Fall, Adam brought with him beyond the gates of Paradise. When the divine principles are recognized and obeyed in this relation, marriage is a blessing; it guards the purity and happiness of the race, it provides for man’s social needs, it elevates the physical, the intellectual, and the moral nature.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 46.
The following quote comes from an editorial published in the Bowling Green Daily News, July 28, 2002 [Bowling Green, Kentucky]. “Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his estranged wife Donna Hanover are not the only ones finding out how messy divorce can be. While a majority of divorce settlements don’t involve one party getting $6.8 million plus child support and legal fees, divorce in most cases sets in motion events over which individuals have little control.
“The research is deafening: Even strained marriages often are better than divorce. Also studies show that the benefits of divorce have been oversold. Researchers at the University of Chicago have followed up on some of the more than 5,000 married adults interviewed several years ago about their relationships. What they found is worthy of note: A good marriage takes much attention and effort.
“Commitment to a spouse and perseverance to face hurdles is the key to any marriage, whether the couple has lived together or not. While the number of marriages ending in divorce is staggering, there are still plenty of people who have found that most conflict, whether it is money, depression and even infidelity, can be resolved with communication and time.
“The effect that commitment can have on future generations is staggering. Wednesday’s [July 24, 2002] report indicating that children of divorce are more likely to end up being divorced themselves should be a strong influence on whether to break up a marriage.”
The Spirit of Prophecy has this to say about divorce: “A woman may be legally divorced from her husband by the laws of the land and yet not divorced in the sight of God and according to the higher law. There is only one sin, which is adultery, which can place the husband or wife in a position where they can be free from the marriage vow in the sight of God. Although the laws of the land may grant a divorce, yet they are husband and wife still in the Bible light, according to the laws of God.” The Adventist Home, 344.
The Commitment Factor
Though all of the following factors have contributed to the divorce rate, there is yet another—a missing preventive factor. However much these factors may predispose our society to an epidemic of divorces, such an epidemic can still be prevented if one key element is present. What element could this be? True commitment!
Problems That Lead to Divorce
What is wrong here? Probably a great many things. Divorce did not become a significant problem in the United States until after the mid-1900s. Many things have changed, which may be contributing to this problem.
The Impact of Dating
Interactions between young men and women have changed a lot since the 1800s. The role of parents, both in protecting their children from premarital intimacy and in influencing marriage decisions, is almost nonexistent today. The majority of modern Christians follow modern dating practices, which are not known to result in excellent marriages. Consider how many young people enter marriage with a background of prior romantic relationships and even fornication. How many relationships are founded on selfishness, physical attraction, and infatuation? How many marriages are entered into with serious misconceptions about the other person’s character, beliefs, and values? Certainly many Christian marriages start badly because of these things.
The Ease and Acceptance of Divorce
In prior times, divorce was only permitted when there was adultery. In the last few generations, many children have grown up in single parent homes. Thus a much smaller percentage of young people marrying have had good marriage role models in their own parents. Also, few have had much good teaching on Christian marriage.
Working Women and Temptation
In the 1800s, and even through most of the first half of the 1900s, the majority of married women were in the home, not in the workplace. Since that time, the majority of women, even of married women, have come to work outside the home, usually right alongside of men. Married women working outside the home are more financially independent of their husbands. Though we usually think of financial independence as a good thing, in marriage it makes the wife less reluctant to leave her husband and removes the husband’s guilt over leaving his wife unsupported. The prevalence of women in the workplace, including married women, has brought more temptation to infidelity to both men and women. Work often brings men and women into close working relationships and friendships that exclude their spouses. This makes fertile ground for infatuations and relationships that result in adultery.
Today, we live in a culture steeped in immorality, pornography, alcohol and drug abuse, and selfishness. This culture and its influences have strongly invaded Christian homes. It is no longer just through neighbors, coworkers, acquaintances, and books that we have been bombarded, but now it is also through radio, television, movies, and the Internet. The godless culture around us offers many new and highly effective tools with which to saturate us with temptations and godless influences.
The Marriage Commitment
Our ancestors viewed marriage as a vow before God, a vow to be taken very seriously. To break a solemn vow before God was to invite divine punishment. Churches taught that God hated divorce and that marriage was meant to be for life. Churches, schools, and the leaders of society all stressed the importance of integrity and honor and of keeping one’s promises. Men and women of honor kept their promises, even to their own hurt.
“The grace of Christ, and this alone, can make this institution what God designed it should be—an agent for the blessing and uplifting of humanity. And thus the families of earth, in their unity and peace and love, may represent the family of heaven.” Ibid., 100.
Should we not keep our vows? As modern Christians, should we regard marriage vows more lightly than did our ancestors? I think not! God does not base the marriage commitment on your feelings or on how well your partner treats you. You made a commitment—a vow—without conditions. You committed yourself to another’s care whatever the circumstances or however things might change.
God does not mince words about divorce. In Malachi 2:14–16, He states that He hates divorce, and speaks of those men who divorce as having dealt “treacherously” with their wives. How would you like to be described by God as being treacherous? In Matthew 5:32 and Luke 16:18, Jesus says that anyone who divorces his wife commits adultery and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Jesus further explains that Moses only permitted divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts—divorce was not God’s intention. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder! (Matthew 19:6.)
Where are the men of character and integrity today? Where are those who will give their word and stand by it, even to their own hurt? What about you? Husbands, as God’s appointed head of your family, you are expected to set the example for your wife and children. Are you a man on whom others can count? Do you keep your commitments?
You have vowed to love and care for your wife, whatever the situation, as long as you both shall live. Be true to your vow! Excuses, such as being unhappy in marriage, no longer feeling in love, or not being loved by your wife, do not cut it with God. Devote yourself to pleasing God in your role as a husband. Fulfill your responsibilities and, with patience, depend upon God. Often, this will transform your marriage in a way that brings glory to God. However, even if it does not, your obligation is the same. Your endurance and steadfast commitment to your vow will bring glory to God. Breaking your vow of marriage will bring dishonor on God’s name, giving “occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.” 11 Samuel 12:14.
Some of you face very hard circumstances. Some of your marriages are difficult, at best. Do you feel unloved by your husband? Have you been left lonely and unfulfilled? Have you suffered much neglect and even cruelty from your husband? Hold on to God. He sees your situation, and He cares.
Be faithful to your vows, living with your husband as a godly wife, respecting and honoring him, remaining loyal to him even when he is not loyal to you. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve, whom you live to please. Fulfill your responsibilities as a woman of God, obeying all of the Bible’s instructions concerning marriage.
Do not lose heart. Do not allow your emotions to take control and lead you to dishonor God by abandoning your marriage. I know there are some situations where true physical harm is threatened, when it may be wise for you to depart from your husband for a time—but with the hope that you may soon be able to return and resume your duties as a loyal wife. Do all that is within your power to stand by your vow.
Husbands and Wives
Duty comes before happiness. You have a duty to God and to your marriage partner. Honor God by doing what is right, whatever your spouse chooses to do. You are responsible to God for what you do. Leave your spouse in God’s hands.
“The family tie is the closest, the most tender and sacred, of any on earth. It was designed to be a blessing to mankind. And it is a blessing wherever the marriage covenant is entered into intelligently, in the fear of God, and with due consideration for its responsibilities.
“Every home should be a place of love, a place where the angels of God abide, working with softening, subduing influence upon the hearts of parents and children.
“Our homes must be made a Bethel, our hearts a shrine. Wherever the love of God is cherished in the soul, there will be peace, there will be light and joy. Spread out the word of God before your families in love, and ask, ‘What hath God spoken?’ ” Ibid., 18, 19.
“He who gave Eve to Adam as a helpmeet performed His first miracle at a marriage festival. In the festal hall where friends and kindred rejoiced together, Christ began His public ministry. Thus He sanctioned marriage, recognizing it as an institution that He Himself had established. . . .
“Christ honored the marriage relation by making it also a symbol of the union between Him and His redeemed ones. He Himself is the Bridegroom; the bride is the church, of which, as His chosen one, He says, ‘Thou art all fair, My love; there is no spot in thee.’ [Song of Solomon 4:7.]” Ibid. 26.
“A Happy or Unhappy Marriage?—If those who are contemplating marriage would not have miserable, unhappy reflections after marriage, they must make it a subject of serious, earnest reflection now. This step taken unwisely is one of the most effective means of ruining the usefulness of young men and women. Life becomes a burden, a curse. No one can so effectually ruin a woman’s happiness and usefulness, and make life a heartsickening burden, as her own husband; and no one can do one hundredth part as much to chill the hopes and aspirations of a man, to paralyze his energies and ruin his influence and prospects, as his own wife. It is from the marriage hour that many men and women date their success or failure in this life, and their hopes of the future life.” Ibid., 43.
“Most men and women have acted in entering the marriage relation as though the only question for them to settle was whether they loved each other. But they should realize that a responsibility rests upon them in the marriage relation farther than this. They should consider whether their offspring will possess physical health and mental and moral strength. But few have moved with high motives and with elevated considerations which they could not lightly throw off—that society had claims upon them, that the weight of their family’s influence would tell in the upward or downward scale.
“The choice of a life companion should be such as best to secure physical, mental, and spiritual well-being for parents and for their children—such as will enable both parents and children to bless their fellow men and to honor their Creator.
“Qualities to Be Sought in a Prospective Wife.—Let a young man seek one to stand by his side who is fitted to bear her share of life’s burdens, one whose influence will ennoble and refine him, and who will make him happy in her love.
“ ‘A prudent wife is from the Lord.’ ‘The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her. . . . She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.’ ‘She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her,’ saying, ‘Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.’ He who gains such a wife ‘findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord.’ [Proverbs 19:14; 31:11, 12, 26–29; 18:22.]
“Here are things which should be considered: Will the one you marry bring happiness to your home? Is [she] an economist, or will she, if married, not only use all her own earnings, but all of yours to gratify a vanity, a love of appearance? Are her principles correct in this direction? Has she anything now to depend upon? . . . I know that to the mind of a man infatuated with love and thoughts of marriage these questions will be brushed away as though they were of no consequence. But these things should be duly considered, for they have a bearing upon your future life. . . .
“In your choice of a wife study her character. Will she be one who will be patient and painstaking? Or will she cease to care for your mother and father at the very time when they need a strong son to lean upon? And will she withdraw him from their society to carry out her plans and to suit her own pleasure, and leave the father and mother who, instead of gaining an affectionate daughter, will have lost a son?
“Qualities to Be Sought in a Prospective Husband.—Before giving her hand in marriage, every woman should inquire whether he with whom she is about to unite her destiny is worthy. What has been his past record? Is his life pure? Is the love which he expresses of a noble, elevated character, or is it a mere emotional fondness? Has he the traits of character that will make her happy? Can she find true peace and joy in his affection? Will she be allowed to preserve her individuality, or must her judgment and conscience be surrendered to the control of her husband? . . . Can she honor the Saviour’s claims as supreme? Will body and soul, thoughts and purposes, be preserved pure and holy? These questions have a vital bearing upon the well-being of every woman who enters the marriage relation.
“Let the woman who desires a peaceful, happy union, who would escape future misery and sorrow, inquire before she yields her affections, Has my lover a mother? What is the stamp of her character? Does he recognize his obligations to her? Is he mindful of her wishes and happiness? If he does not respect and honor his mother, will he manifest respect and love, kindness and attention, toward his wife? When the novelty of marriage is over, will he love me still? Will he be patient with my mistakes, or will he be critical, overbearing, and dictatorial? True affection will overlook many mistakes; love will not discern them.
“Accept Only Pure, Manly Traits.—Let a young woman accept as a life companion only one who possesses pure, manly traits of character, one who is diligent, aspiring, and honest, one who loves and fears God.
“Shun those who are irreverent. Shun one who is a lover of idleness; shun the one who is a scoffer of hallowed things. Avoid the society of one who uses profane language, or is addicted to the use of even one glass of liquor. Listen not to the proposals of a man who has no realization of his responsibility to God. The pure truth which sanctifies the soul will give you courage to cut yourself loose from the most pleasing acquaintance whom you know does not love and fear God, and knows nothing of the principles of true righteousness. We may always bear with a friend’s infirmities and with his ignorance, but never with his vices.” Ibid., 45–48.
“Marriage of Christians With Unbelievers.—There is in the Christian world an astonishing, alarming indifference to the teaching of God’s word in regard to the marriage of Christians with unbelievers. Many who profess to love and fear God choose to follow the bent of their own minds rather than take counsel of Infinite Wisdom. In a matter which vitally concerns the happiness and well-being of both parties for this world and the next, reason, judgment, and the fear of God are set aside; and blind impulse, stubborn determination are allowed to control.
“Men and women who are otherwise sensible and conscientious close their ears to counsel; they are deaf to the appeals and entreaties of friends and kindred and of the servants of God. The expression of a caution or warning is regarded as impertinent meddling, and the friend who is faithful enough to utter a remonstrance is treated as an enemy. All this is as Satan would have it. He weaves his spell about the soul, and it becomes bewitched, infatuated. Reason lets fall the reins of self-control upon the neck of lust; unsanctified passion bears sway, until, too late, the victim awakens to a life of misery and bondage. This is not a picture drawn by the imagination, but a recital of facts. God’s sanction is not given to unions which He has expressly forbidden.
“God’s Commands Are Plain.—The Lord commanded ancient Israel not to intermarry with the idolatrous nations around them: ‘Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.’ The reason is given. Infinite Wisdom, foreseeing the result of such unions, declares: ‘For they will turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.’ ‘For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.’ [Deuteronomy 7:3, 4, 6.]” Ibid., 61, 62.
“Risking the Enjoyments of Heaven.—‘Can two walk together, except they be agreed?’ ‘If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven.’ [Amos 3:3; Matthew 18:19.] But how strange the sight! While one of those so closely united is engaged in devotion, the other is indifferent and careless; while one is seeking the way to everlasting life, the other is in the broad road to death.
“Hundreds have sacrificed Christ and heaven in consequence of marrying unconverted persons. Can it be that the love and fellowship of Christ are of so little value to them that they prefer the companionship of poor mortals? Is heaven so little esteemed that they are willing to risk its enjoyments for one who has no love for the precious Saviour?” Ibid., 66, 67.
Are you having problems? Are you wavering in commitment? Are you thinking that your marriage may have been a big mistake? Are you becoming friendly with a member of the opposite sex? Perhaps even attracted and a little infatuated? Have you “had it” with the way your spouse treats you? Are you dying inside from loneliness, lack of love, affection, acceptance, respect, or understanding? Are you now finding your mate to be totally unattractive? Is your mate not meeting your basic needs and making no effort to do so?
Seek help for your marriage problems, first from God and second from a wise Christian counselor. Stay committed to your marriage and trust God to work. Put your duty to God and the interests of your children before your own happiness. God did not promise that our lives would be easy and our circumstances always wonderful. Sometimes we must suffer for Christ; yet, relying on Him, we can give thanks in all things and rejoice always. Do not allow your commitment to your marriage to waiver. May you be found by God to be a faithful servant—one who will be more concerned about God’s glory than your own happiness, and one who will obey God and do your duty as a husband or wife, however difficult it may become.
An Unshakable Commitment
We should all enter into marriage taking our vows very seriously and seeking to please God with our marriage. Divorce should not be seen as a possible means of escape. No matter what the problems may be, how bad the relationship may become, or how strongly you may be attracted to another, purpose that you will keep your commitment to a lifelong marriage, that you will not give up, and that you will continue to work at your marriage, weathering whatever storms may come.
For the sake of God’s name, your Christian testimony, your children, and your honor and integrity, determine that you will keep this commitment and do all you can to please God regarding your marriage.
What sort of commitment should you make to your marriage? I would suggest one that includes the following elements:
- You will not seek to escape from your marriage.
- You will not look for another, and you will run from any temptation towards infidelity. You will be very careful about any interactions with the opposite sex that could possibly lead you into temptation or provoke the jealousy of your spouse.
- You will work at your marriage to make it as good as you can, for your children, for your wife or husband, and lastly for yourself.
- You will not give up on your marriage, knowing God can change both you and your spouse.
- If you do not feel love, you nevertheless, by conscious decision, will decide to love, whatever you may feel. Your actions and words will be loving.
- You will confess past wrongs and work to make amends and to restore any broken areas of your marriage relationship.
Christian marriage needs to be stable and permanent; it needs to be built upon the foundation of an unconditional, mutual covenant commitment that will not allow anything or anyone “to put asunder” the marital union established by God. To accept this Biblical view of marriage as a sacred covenant means to be willing to make total, exclusive, continuing, and growing commitments to our marriage partners. Such commitments are not easy or trouble free. Just as our covenantal commitments to God require obedience to the principles embodied in the Ten Commandments, so our covenantal commitments to our marriage partners demand obedience to the principles of the Ten Commandments that are applicable to our marriage relationships.
There is no other way to enter into the joys of Christian marriage than by assuming its covenantal obligations. When we commit ourselves to honor our marriage covenants of mutual faithfulness “till death do us part,” then we experience how God is mysteriously able to unite two lives into “one flesh.” Honoring our marriage covenant is fundamental to the stability of our family, church, and society.
Domingo Nunez is Director of Outreach Ministry for Steps to Life.