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Friday, April 9, 2010

Marriage Needs Transcendent Reasons to Last

There was a time when marriages lasted. It was more common to be widowed that divorced. It was unusual that your children would have different last names. You expected to stay with your spouse "until death do us part" and you promised your spouse that he or she better not make you hasten his or her death.

Marriages weren't perfect. People still struggled through difficult times. But that's the point: they struggled through those difficult times. They worked hard to stay together. What has changed?

I believe that each couple for whom I have performed a wedding ceremony intended to stay married for life. In most cases they thought the love they had for each other would never fade. They believed that their loved ones would never hurt them. They didn't realize that both of these things would change after marriage. The type of love they had for each other changed. There were times when loved ones were negligent and hurt them. So, they thought it is all over. They didn't know that this is just the process of life. It is the process of growth.

Three things kept marriages together for many, many years. The first of these was example. People grew up in an agricultural society. Mom and Dad needed each other to survive. They needed each other's work. They needed the children to work. They did all of this together. They were in relatively small homes where just about everything was shared. The children saw how their parents made it through the good and tough times. They applied their parents' principles to their own problems when they got married. They knew it was better to stay together. They knew they needed their spouses to survive.

The industrial revolution came along and changed much of that. Dads were absent most of the time. They came home so tired that they had little time for Mom and the children. The example of seeing parents work through tough times faded away. Of course, WWII didn't help. Women found that they could support themselves outside the home. Soon, both husband and wife knew they could survive without each other. They decided to split rather than work through tough times.

Marriages were also kept together by tradition. Your neighbors were all married. You told your children that they would all be married someday. Marriage was so traditional that it was unusual to know someone who had never been married. Everyone you worked with remained married. That was one of the reasons that widows were honored. They had been faithful to the end. It was a right of passage. The tradition has faded since 50% of marriages end in divorce today. (This does not mean that 50% of the people who have been married got a divorce. Some of the people have gotten multiple divorces.) Everyone knows people who have been divorced. It is no longer traditional to stay married.

Faith kept many marriages intact. God wants His people to remain faithful to Him and to each other. He set principles of a devotion to Him and to the spouse of your youth. He said that He hated divorce. (He does not condemn the divorced but it is painful to the people who are divorced. Never forget that God hurts when we hurt. He hates those things that hurt us.) Faith was the strength that many couples used to get through the tough times.

You can nothing about the example you received from your parents. They may have been great or sorry examples for marriage. That is not your responsibility.

You can do nothing about tradition. All your neighbors and co-workers may be divorced. They may want to talk you into joining their ranks. However, you can do something about your faith. You can devote yourself to the Lord and pray that by His strength that you and your spouse will love each other and work through all difficulties. You can pray together so that you are bonded deeply in spirit. You can go to church this Sunday. You can find a small group (or Sunday School class) within your church that you will get involved with. You can hold on to Him and know that He will hold you together.

You see, you need something more transcendent than your love for each other. You need God's love for you to hold you together. This is something you must agree upon together.

Today I am praying for marriages.
Proverbs 18:22 (NIV)
22 He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.

Colossians 3:19 (NIV)
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Proverbs 5:15-20 (NIV)
15 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer-- may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. 20  Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?

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