“To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.”
Next to our commitment to God, these are the most sacred words we will ever speak. God designed marriage to a beautiful, intimate life partnership. It was the masterpiece of His creation.
But just sin destroys every other beautiful thing God created, it can turn marriage into a miserable relationship to be endured. Just as marriage is the most precious relationship we have on earth, it can also be the most hurting relationship. It can be a heartache that won’t go away.
We gain some insights into God’s answer to an unhappy marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:8-16. Paul addresses three groups of people. Caution should be made when trying to understand Paul’s counsel. He addresses a specific situation and culture. To strictly apply his counsel to every situation is unwise. Every situation warrants prayer and Biblical application. However, these are still God’s answer to an unhappy marriage…
Widows and Singles: Stay unmarried to avoid conflict.
Paul addresses ‘widows’ (those who have lost their spouse through death) and ‘unmarried’ (those who have been divorced and not remarried). Paul’s advise and counsel is to remain single. It is almost humorous: if you don’t want an unhappy marriage, don’t get married. Your happiness in marriage is at least 50% dependent on someone else. It is okay and beneficial to be single.
Paul does not suggest this to inflict loneliness on those who are single but to spare them the cares and worries involved in marriage. Not everyone has this ‘gift.’ So if a person is compelled to get married, it is okay and has its own benefits.
Christian Couples: Stay together or divorce and remain single.
Christians should try to work together to make their marriage work. Marriages made in Heaven are not to be ripped apart on Earth. Do everything to nurture and build your marriage. Every marriage has its ups and downs so stay with it.
But Paul knows that sometimes Christians will separate. Marriage was initiated with perfect people in a perfect environment (Genesis 2). But we no longer have that perfect environment nor perfect people. Sin has brought some severe consequences, including divorce. If a Christian chooses to divorce their Christian spouse, they are to stay single or start fresh with each other.
It appears that there are two exceptions to this: adultery (Matthew 19:9) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15). Both break the marriage vow. On these two conditions, the Bible indicates that divorce and remarriage is permitted.
Mixed marriages (Christian with nonChristian): Stay together or be divorced and be free.
If married to an unbeliever, a Christian should try to stay married. Your spiritual influence is an influence on your spouse and children. But if an unbelieving spouse wants a divorce, Paul counsels not to fight it. If you are divorced, you are free to remarry since it was not your decision.
Although the God allows divorce under certain conditions, He never encourages it. God’s answer is always to try to stay together. Divorce is the result of the failure of all other approaches.
How to have a happy marriage:
- PRAY. You are a warrior fighting for your marriage. Your enemy is not your spouse. Your enemy is Satan. Your greatest weapon is prayer – connecting with God. Ask God for wisdom and patience. Ask God to mold you into who you need to be. Pray for your spouse and yourself.
- FORGIVE. Wrongs happen. Even if the marriage doesn’t make last, you are going to have to forgive if you are ever going to make it. Forgiveness is for you as much as it is the other person.
- REMEMBER. If you are out of love, remember back to the time you were in love. How did you act? How did you respond? When you act like you are in love, your emotions will soon follow. Love is an action that and its feelings follow.
- BUILD. Work on yourself. Be honest with yourself – your marriage may not make it. You may find yourself alone. But you can be a better you. And you are really the only person that you have total influence over. Start there.
- STAY. It is amazing what happens when couples work through differences. Hang on. You will never have a perfect marriage. But with God’s help you can have a better marriage.
Have you discovered something to help you have a happy marriage?