Marriage: the Plan, the Problem, the Potential

The Plan

We all know God’s plan for marriage, but let me review it for us briefly.

In the beginning, God created man in his own image; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26, 27). In God’s eyes, they are equally valuable, and each sex has different ways of reflecting the goodness, truth, and beauty of our Maker.

The man was created first. When God saw that he was alone, he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18-21).

The woman was made for the sake of the man (1 Corinthians 11:9), for two reasons:

To be a helper: She was to assist Adam in fulfilling the mission God had given him – to rule over the earth, and especially to care for the garden.

She was also to be suitable for him – a true companion.

That is why Adam was so happy when he saw her: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23).

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife; and the two shall be come one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Marriage was meant to be the closest, most intimate, most important, and most satisfying relationship on earth.

Later, in the New Testament, we learn also that the relationship of a man and wife is intended to reflect that between Christ and the church: The wife is to be submissive to her husband, and the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved us and sacrificed himself for us, and as he loves his own body (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Their physical relationship was intended for pleasure, for intimate communion, and for the procreation of children who would worship and serve God, in obedience to, and according to the example of, their parents (Malachi 2:15).

Sex was for married couples only (Exodus 20:14; 1 Corinthians 5:9).

Marriage was supposed to be for life. In the Old Testament, God says that he “hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16). Jesus declared, “What God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 9:9-12; see Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:10-12, 39-40).

That’s the plan.

The Problem

We all also know the problem: Marriage is not what it is supposed to be.

In America, perhaps half of all marriages result in divorce, with terrible consequences for both adults and their children, who never really recover from the pain and shock of their parents’ separation.

Of those who stay together, many are deeply disappointed with their marriages.

Why? There are many reasons, but let me just mention a few:

Many men fail to love their wives as themselves, much less to sacrifice for them. They neglect their wives and children, spending most of their time on their work or their hobbies.

All too often, they refuse to listen to their wives’ concerns or questions; they don’t want to hear any complaints; and they certainly don’t want to hear any criticism. They won’t admit their faults, and retreat into silence in order to avoid painful discussions.

Many husbands don’t exercise spiritual leadership in the home; perhaps they don’t dare to lead at all. If they do have the courage to make decisions, frequently they fail to consult their wives or listen to constructive suggestions.

Likewise, wives often do not give proper respect to their husbands. They challenge, and even contradict, what their husbands say; they question their husband’s decisions; they complain, and nag, and criticize.

After marriage, many women allow themselves to become less attractive physically than they were before the wedding, forgetting that men are visual creatures for whom appearance matters a lot.

Many wives neglect their husbands, focusing instead on the children or even their career.

Sadly, sex outside of marriage – both before and after the wedding vows are said – has become commonplace. Millions are addicted to pornography, especially on the Internet. All too many couples do not enjoy sex as it was meant to be.

The Potential

Is there any hope for marriage?

Yes! Couples can stay together, and they can enjoy a high degree of happiness and harmony in marriage.

But this depends on three things: Faith, hope, and love.

Faith is essential.

We must believe in God’s goodness: That he has given us the other person for our ultimate benefit (Romans 8:28). He means to use our marriage to draw us to himself – to show us our sin; to lead us to repentance; to reveal his forgiveness through Christ, who died in our place; to demonstrate the power of the Spirit as we rely on God to do what we cannot; to find in him the only real source of life and love.

This faith derives from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). So, we must come to him daily, reading the Bible and praying, both separately and together. Regular church attendance, small group Bible studies, and a prayer partner of the same sex will also strengthen our trust in God.

Faith builds hope: Our hope is not in this world; if it were, we would be of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19). No, we must “set [our] hope fully on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13) He alone is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1; see Psalm 62:5). We cannot expect to find happiness from another person, for we are all both finite and fallen.

Rather than seeking to receive, we need to learn to give. Let us aim to understand, not to be understood; to comfort, not to be comforted; to serve, not to be served; to love, not to be loved (Mark 10:45).

If we make God our greatest good, and desire mainly to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we shall find our true happiness in knowing him through Jesus Christ his Son (Matthew 22:37; John 17:3).

And this faith and hope will create love.

Knowing his forgiveness, we shall forgive the one who offends us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Filled with his Spirit, we shall reflect the character of Jesus, who died and gave himself for us. Like Jesus, we shall love the unlovely; like him, we shall be willing to sacrifice our own pleasure, our so-called “rights,” our time, our energy, and even our life for the person to whom God has joined us in marriage. We shall not look for satisfaction from marriage, but from knowing God, now and forever.

What is the potential of marriage? That faith, hope, and love will give us a foretaste of heaven, as we live on this earth for life with the one person whom God has given us. May God grant us all his peace, through Jesus Christ. Amen.