We have all heard the
story of the shipís captain who carefully piloted his vessel
through dangerous waters by steering it exactly by his compass.
Yet his vessel hit the rocks and sank. At the inquest, the shipís
compass was salvaged and carefully examined. It was found that
someone, while cleaning the wooden case, had carelessly left a
tiny fragment of a steel knife lodged in a crack. This had
deflected the needle just enough to cause the great ship to stray
from its course and strike the rocks.
Many a marriage has been wrecked
because one or both partners believed something which deflected
the marital compass. Beliefs can be decisive. Truth can save, and
error can ruin. Oneís marital voyage is important enough to make
certain that every idea lodged in oneís mind is verified by an
authoritative standard of truthóthe Word of God.
An article in a Readerís Digest
proclaimed "Five Myths that Can Wreck a Marriage." The
principal point was that wrong ideas one believes can wreck a
The corollary of this axiom is
equally valid: truths that one believes can change a marriage and
make it happy. If believing falsehoods can damage a marriage,
believing inspired truths will certainly tend to restore its
happiness. This is the Bible principle of righteousness by faith,
the most profound insight into how human nature functions that has
ever dawned on the world.
Paganism says your salvation
depends on the things you do. Some supposedly Christian groups
have failed to comprehend that genius-idea of the New Testamentóthat
salvation depends on believing what is true. (Good works follow
faith.) A marriage partner who has never seriously looked for good
things in his or her spouse may divorce him or her and never
realize that beneath what appears to be a rough exterior is a
potential gold mine. Is it possible that an ornery spouse can turn
out to be a treasure? One fairy tale tells of a princess who
reluctantly kissed an ugly frog, only to discover a handsome
captive prince within the hideous creature. The story is
imaginary, of course, but the principle it enunciates may not be.
Can an agape kiss turn a "frog" of a spouse into a
princess or prince? Read on.
The following truths that can save
a troubled marriage are derived from a source that is
unimpeachableóthe Bible. It may sound simplistic to say that
they work, but they do if they are carried out in faith and
looking to God for guidance:
- God invented marriage in the
beginning, and He still joins two people to become one
whenever we let Him lead. Satan tries to break up marriages
because he hates anything God is involved in. The Lord brought
Eve to Adam, and Jesus drew a lesson from this: "What God
hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Matthew
19:6. As surely as night follows day, we can expect that Satan
will try to put them asunder because he hates whatever God has
done. But the whole point of the Bible is that Christ has
conquered Satan, "paralyzed" him (see Hebrews 2:14);
"destroy" is paralyze in the original. If we can
believe that God has joined us in our marriage, and that He is
stronger than the devil, a thousand difficulties may be solved
"But my spouse and I are Ďunequally
yoked togetheríóthe very thing God says shouldnít be! (See 2
Corinthians 6:14.) How could God have anything to do with joining
Are you really sure that you are
"unequally yoked"? "What knowest thou, O wife,
whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man,
whether thou shalt save thy wife?" 1 Corinthians 7:16. What
appears to you to be an unbeliever may turn out to be a beautiful
child of God, just as an ugly caterpillar may turn out to be a
gorgeous butterfly If oneís unbelieving spouse ever does become
a believer, it means that in His foreknowledge God has counted him
or her to be such all along, for the Bible says that He
"calleth those things which be not as though they were."
The sooner oneís faith stands on
Godís side, the sooner He may be able to work effectively.
Whether such good news applies to your marriage only He can tell
you and whisper to you as you kneel alone before Him in faith and
contrition. He will! Just listen.
Donít forget that God sometimes
sends us choice gifts in unattractive wrappings. Jesus, for
instance, was born in a cowpen with the chickens and the goats.
Take a second look at the "gift" you may be thinking of
throwing away. There might be a treasure in it.
"But I am divorced and now
remarried! Which marriage am I to believe God joined
together?" The true answer may be, both. Mistakes in the past
do not deprive us of Godís mercy and guidance. Now the Lord
says, "Go, and sin no more." John 8:31. "God may
well have overlooked bygone periods when men did not know him; but
now he calls on all men everywhere to reform their lives."
Acts 17:31, NAB. Donít compound one mistake by making two. If
youíve broken one personís heart, donít break anotherís.
"Houses and riches are the
inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the Lord."
Proverbs 19:14. Thatís the same kind heavenly Father who notices
when a sparrow falls to the ground. He has a kind hand in oneís
marriage, for Jesus says we are worth "many sparrows"
God will bless your marriage in
spite of Satanís efforts to break it up, if you will let Him.
Such blessings are the real ground on which hope can be built; and
if hope is possible, all kinds of difficulties can be solved.
- Your spouse may be a jewel in
the rough, only waiting the touch of the Master. When the true
love of Christ operates in a person, he or she is inevitably
transformed. Paul lists a catalog of people who were typical
of the Corinthians: "thieves, . . . drunkards, . . .
slanderers, . . . swindlers," and some "guilty of:
adultery or of homosexual perversion." 1 Corinthians 6:9,
10, NEB. Then he adds, "Such were some of you. But you
have been through the purifying waters; . . . justified
through the name of the Lord Jesus." Verse 11. The
"good news" that Paul proclaimed worked! It is no
less effective now. In many cases, all that a troubled
marriage needs is that genuine good news. The best one to give
it is the believing spouse.
- Often unpleasant personalities
are such because of a secret irritant, an unresolved personal
problem that has embittered them. Usually the root is a
failure to understand that God has been a Friend instead of a
divine Enemy. What makes people ornery is feeling that God is
against them. This is why Paul pleads, "In Christís
name, we implore you, be reconciled to God!" 2
Corinthians 5:20, NEB. Many an unhappy person has begun to
sing when that reconciliation takes place at the deepest
levels. Even disappointments of the dark past can be seen in a
new and more realistic perspective when the light of Godís
love illuminates those tragic mysteries.
- God has ordained that certain
advantages be built in to every marriage, but they are often
neglected or misunderstood.
- Praying together every day
cements two hearts together as nothing else can do. In our
modern world of double jobs and careers, overtime, TV, and
frenetic amusements, this simple custom has all but died
out, and with it has died out a lot of marital happiness.
One of the cardinal principles of
the successful Alcoholics Anonymous program is the acknowledgement
before God and oneís fellows that "I canít control my
drinking; I need the help of a Higher Power." You can form
within your own four walls your own local chapter of Troubled
Spouses Anonymous. In marriages that leave God out there is a
spiritual dimension lacking. Those who resist this truth
frequently reap the fruit of their unbelief in tragic and
When husband or wife can honestly
admit to the other, "This is beyond us; let us invite the
Lord to come in and bless our unhappy home," they are
beginning to get out of the woods. The Lord is a divine Gentleman;
He will not push His way into your home uninvited. When the two
disciples were walking to Emmaus one evening, the resurrected
Jesus joined them on the way, incognito. When they reached their
home, they rather casually invited Him to come in and stay with
them. He made as if He must go on. Not until they
"constrained Him, saying, Abide with us," did He
"tarry with them." Luke 24:28, 29.
This little incident throws a flood
of light on Godís relationships with us. Indeed, He wants to
come in and bless our homes with His happy presence as a Guest,
but He must be
invited. Thatís what daily kneeling together in
prayer is all about. No matter how awkward you may feel about
doing it, do it, and believe the truth: He accepts every sincere
invitation, and never bawls you out because you have waited so
long to begin.
Christian families do not partake
of daily food until they have invited the Unseen Guest to each
meal. Statistics are not available, but I venture to say that it
is extremely rare that a couple split up who humbly seek God
together daily. They may still have perplexities and irritating
problems, but they know a new inner strength, and they can cope.
- When parents divorce, the
children are usually the worst losers. If parents reflected
on the fact that their children are the product of: their
union, they might think twice before seeking a divorce.
When a marriage breaks up, the
child often feels that he is somehow to blame. Depending on his
age, he realizes that he is the product of his parents, and he
reasons, "If the marriage that brought me into this world is
a failure, perhaps I too am a failure. Hereís nothingí goingí
nowhere." He can even feel a sense of unfairness that he is
doomed to live, while the love which produced him is doomed to
die. This is one reason why many children of divorced parents have
a low sense of self-esteem. It is easier to adjust emotionally to
the physical death of a parent than it is to the death of a
marital oneness responsible for their very existence.
The realization that a child in a
happy home is more likely to develop into a well-adjusted, happy
person should be a strong incentive for parents to work toward
furnishing a happy home.
- It sometimes happens that a
hard-to-please spouse becomes manageable when the other
spouse voluntarily surrenders in a conflict. Jesus gave some
counsel on what might appear to be an entirely different
subject, but which is uncannily appropriate in todayís
milieu of marital discord and divorce courts: "Agree
with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way
with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the
judge." Matthew 5:25.
It may sound strange to suggest
that a spouse is an "adversary," but that is what many
are. In such a situation you can see it is possible to win an
argument and lose a marriage.
Although the Bible says,
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands," it
adds immediately, "as unto the Lord." Ephesians 5:22.
"The husband is the head of the wife" only in the sense
that "Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour
of the body." Verse 23. There is gentleness and humility in
Christ, for He says, "I am meek and lowly in heart. "
Matthew 11:29. This may be a difficult lesson for many men to
learn, but they will discover that, if they put it in practice, a
wife will find it much easier to "submit" to her
husband, yet welcoming his husbandly headship.
A wife can cut a thousand Gordian
knots of tense bitterness by giving in on a matter that does not
involve a moral principle, even if she knows she is right and her
husband is wrong. Some men only learn the hard wayóby making a
mistake. If this turns out to be the case, she will show true
wisdom if she holds her tongue and refuses to say, "I told
Stop centering your attention on
your own happiness and turn your marriage into a ministry of
love to others. Many a marriage is miserably unhappy simply
because it is a selfish union. The love that brings happiness
to a married couple is a love that wants to make other people
happy. Serve together in some regular ministry to needy
people. Together put yourselves out in lifting othersí
burdens, and you will very likely find your own burden become
lighter. Youíll end up taking the deadlock out of wedlock.