Many people, including Christians do not realize that the very first covenant that God made with man was the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman. You will find that covenant in Genesis 2:18-25.
Not only is marriage the first covenant that God made with man, but it is also used repeatedly to describe the relationship between Jesus and the Church. In Mark 2:18-22 Jesus was asked why his disciples were not fasting like the disciples of John and the Pharisees. In his response, Jesus compared himself to a bridegroom and his disciples as the wedding guests. In Isaiah 54: 5-7 we are told that our Maker is our husband and we are His wife. Revelation 19:6-9 describes the marriage supper of the Lamb of God in which Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is His bride.
Obviously marriage is a sacred institution that God the Father and God the Son took very seriously. Like most things that God takes seriously, there are benefits for our obedience and penalties for our disobedience. A good and harmonious relationship between a husband and wife is often described as a blessing while at the same time a poor and troublesome relationship between them can be a curse:
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. Prov. 12:4
He who finds a wife finds a good thing
and obtains favor from the LORD. Prov. 18:22
A foolish son is ruin to his father,
and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.
House and wealth are inherited from fathers,
but a prudent wife is from the LORD. Prov. 19:13-14
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. Prov. 25:24
A continual dripping on a rainy day
and a quarrelsome wife are alike;
to restrain her is to restrain the wind
or to grasp oil in one’s right hand. Prov. 27:15-16
An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain. Prov. 31:10-11
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life, Eccl. 9:9
Therefore, it should be no surprise to see the results of a recent study on marriage that came out of Cardiff University. According to the report, married people lived longer. Women in longer and happier marriages experienced better mental health and men experienced better physical health.
On the contrary, those in strained relationships fair worse than those that are happily married and even worse than single people. Those couples that had rockier marriages and those that ended in divorce had a greater chance of dying at a younger age.
The study concluded that:
A good relationship will improve both physical and mental health and perhaps the thing to do is to try to avoid a bad relationship rather than not getting into a relationship at all.
The one thing the report didn’t cover is what makes a successful marriage. So for what it’s worth, I am going offer up some nuggets that have helped my own marriage. But first allow me to give a little background to help explain the advice to be offered.
When we got married on July 30, 1971, I was 19 and my wife was 20. Our first 7 years were pretty rough. If it hadn’t been for the fact the neither of us believe divorce is an option, we made a commitment to make our marriage work. If it wasn’t for that commitment, it would have been very easy for us to have ended the marriage during those rough years. What made the difference was that I finally realized that I was responsible for many of the issues that rocked our boat. This caused me to take a long hard look at myself and our marriage and I knew that I, not her, needed to make some changes.
The first change that I made was to put Christ first in our marriage, my wife second and myself third. Up to that point in time, I placed myself first and expected her to do the same. In the secular world, you always see pictures of 2 wedding bands, when in reality it should depict 3 wedding bands, one for the husband, one for the wife and one for Jesus Christ who firmly holds the other two rings together. This was the most important change I made to our relationship.
Secondly, I discovered that true love for my wife is best defined as what I can do to please her, not what I wanted her to do to please me. As I began to put Christ first in our marriage, I quickly saw that we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church – sacrificially:
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, Eph 5:25-26.
Not only did Christ give Himself up for the church (His bride), but He often sacrificed His time and rest when the church needed Him. In Matt 14, we read about when Jesus heard the news about the death of John the Baptist, He wanted to withdraw to a quiet place to rest and pray. However, we was followed by a crowd that begged for His attention. Rather than take leave to meet His personal desire to rest, He turned to shore and began to preach to the crowd. It was here that He performed the miracle of feeding the crowd with a few loaves of bread and fish.
Another example of Christ’s sacrificial love was in John 13 when He lowered Himself to be the lowest of servants to wash and dry the feet of his disciples. Even though Christ was God incarnate, He demonstrated what it means to love one another as He so often taught.
After the Last Supper with the disciples, Christ retired to the garden to pray about the upcoming crucifixion. He did not want to do go through the horrible ordeal that was before him, but as the bridegroom of His church, He sacrificially put the good of his bride (the church) ahead of his own desire:
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matt. 26:39
Following Christ’s example, I have learned over the past 39 ½ years of marriage that love is sacrificing my wants and needs for those of my wife. There are many things that I enjoy doing that I have willingly given up because she did not enjoy it and it took time away from her. One of the household chores I really hate doing is the dishes, but I also know that she doesn’t like doing them either, so most of the time, I will do the dishes so she doesn’t have to. I put her likes and dislikes ahead of my own. Often I will quietly go out of the way to do something nice for her. I don’t seek recognition for doing it as my reward is seeing her expression of appreciation and pleasure.
One of the largest causes of divorce these days is that no one wants to work at their relationship with their spouse. Scripture never tells us that marriage is all about emotions and feelings and that it’s just a walk in the park. Like all good things in life, it takes work. I often see people that work hard on those things that they enjoy like sports, hobbies, crafts, etc, yet they don’t put forth the same effort into making their marriage work. After all, both partners have to realize that they are sinners and as such they make mistakes and tempers will flare. It is important during these times to remember that Christ is also part of that relationship and we need to treat each other knowing He is there with us.
I’m proud to admit that my wife is more than just my love or helpmate; she is my best friend and confidant. There is no one in the entire world that I would rather spend time with than her. Next to my relationship with my Lord and Savior, my relationship with my wife is the most important thing to me. Consequently, I am willing to work as long and hard as necessary to keep my marriage working.
I pray that all of you take my advice on marriage seriously. If you do, you are more likely to have a long and happy marriage and receive the blessings from God with a longer and healthier life and the Cardiff University study confirms.
Marriage Is Good For You, Red Orbit News, Jan. 28, 2011.