Marriages are in serious trouble! The family structure is under attack and rapidly falling to pieces. Today in the United States as well as in countries such as England, Finland, Belgium, Austria, Canada, Australia and Russia there is an increase in marital separations, trial marriages, spousal abuse and violence. The high divorce rates are a warning indicator that something has desperately gone wrong in the fabric of society. Nancy L. Van Pelt, a certified family professional in the United States, wrote the following. “Although people like to get married, it is more difficult to stay married. Current divorce statistics run at about 50 percent. When both partners are under the age of 21, or have dropped out of high school to get married, the divorce rate soars to 80 percent. In spite of such dismal statistics, we continue to marry rapidly.” Highly Effective Marriage, p.10.
Here is another alarming and hair-raising quote that may surprise you. “MARRIAGE IS SLOWLY DYING IN SCANDINAVIA. A majority of children in Sweden and Norway are born out of wedlock. Sixty percent of first-born children in Denmark have unmarried parents. Not coincidentally, these countries have had something close to full gay marriage for a decade or more. Same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood. The Nordic family pattern–including gay marriage–is spreading across Europe.” Stanley Kurtz, The End of Marriage in Scandinavia, www.weeklystandard.com
Will the family structure survive the onslaught of the enemy? How do little children react to a divorce? Are they psychologically damaged for life? Too often children are the ones who suffer the most. They are the losers! Will they also pattern their parents’ example? Divorce is ugly and hurts the good and the bad.
There is a close relationship between the breakdown of the divine moral code and the untold misery and hopelessness of people today. Breaking God’s law will always result in dire and negative consequences.
Is there any hope and solution to this menacing epidemic of marital failures? Happiness and fulfillment in marriage can be restored to couples who have wandered away from the divine marriage blueprint. Even Christian couples, including Adventists who may have seemingly sound marriages, could have better and healthier relationships.
Where can one find proven counsels for a healthy and vibrant marriage? The answers are found in the Holy Bible. This “book of books” contains the secrets to a fulfilling and happy marriage. They are within your immediate reach.
General principles within the family structure:
As you consider the ideal relationship between husband and wife, remember that their love for each other is symbolized by the love between Christ and His bride—the church. This love is unselfish and boundless, seeking always the good and the happiness of the other.
Apostle Paul writes in the New Testament, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:22-24. “But it was not the design of God that the husband should have control, as head of the house, when he himself does not submit to Christ. Neither the husband nor the wife should attempt to exercise over the other an arbitrary control. Do not try to compel each other to yield to your wishes. You cannot do this and retain each other’s love.” The Adventist Home, pp.117, 118.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.” “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” Ephesians 5:25-28, 31.
As Christ loves the church, so the husband is to love his wife. In truly loving her, the husband will also be richly blessed. What is true love? Is it infatuation? NO! Ellen White writes, “True love is a high and holy principle altogether different in character from that love which is awakened by impulse, and which suddenly dies when severely tested.” The Adventist Home, p. 50. Love is a precious gift which we receive from Jesus.
In I Corinthians, chapter 13, Apostle Paul describes the wondrous gift of love in the following richly descriptive and moving words: “Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offense. Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over other men’s sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance. Love will never come to an end.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NEB)
“Children are the heritage of the Lord, and the plan of redemption includes their salvation as well as ours. They have been entrusted to parents in order that they might be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that they might be qualified to do their work in time and eternity.”
“In childhood and youth you may have an experience in the service of God. Do the things that you know to be right. Be obedient to your parents. Listen to their counsels; for if they love and fear God, upon them will be laid the responsibility of educating, disciplining, and training your soul for the immortal life.” The Adventist Home, pp. 280, 298.
Some practical suggestions for a successful married life
Watch well your words
Wise Solomon wrote, “A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” And “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Proverbs 15:1; 16:32. Do not hurt each other by a sharp look or an angry word. Do not bring up mistakes made in the past. It really doesn’t solve today’s problems. Never go to sleep with unresolved anger. If you are both angry, the sparks of passion may burn you. An unkind word under any condition cuts deep and it is hard to repair the damage. It usually leaves a scar. It can be forgiven, but it is hard to forget.
Years ago, the prophet for the last days wrote the following: “When about to speak passionately, close your mouth. Don’t utter a word. Pray before you speak, and heavenly angels will come to your assistance and drive back the evil angels.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p.82. “Let all take Christ for their example, who never spoke a hasty, discourteous word, or performed a rude action.” The Signs of the Times, May 7, 1894.
Many marriage counselors consider the failure of proper communication between husband and wife to be a major cause of family problems. Let me urge you to take time for communication. Take time to understand your partner. Take time to speak in LOVE. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are as honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” Isn’t this a wonderful truth? A kind word will go a long way toward a happy solution. Take time also to be a good listener. Determine to accept your mate unconditionally, even as you discover some weaknesses or character defects. The secret of a successful marriage lies not in having the right partner, but rather in BEING THE RIGHT PARTNER!
Make a goal of saying something complimentary and loving to your partner at least once a day. Your sincere expressions of love and appreciation will strengthen and enrich your marriage.
Keep up the courtship and don’t let the fire of love go out
In order to succeed in this regard, husband and wife need to contribute to the happiness of each other. There are many ways to make your spouse happy. About a hundred years ago, Ellen White wrote, “Continue the early attentions. In every way encourage each other in fighting the battles of life. Study to advance the happiness of each other.” The Adventist Home, p 106. This is the key to a good marriage. Surprise each other from time to time with little presents. Whatever gift you give, it is another way of saying, “I Love you.” Remember the birthdays, anniversaries, and other special days. “It is the little attentions, the numerous small incidents and simple courtesies of life, that make up the sum of life’s happiness.” The Adventist Home, p.109.
Don’t forget that some of the best presents are non-material—like the giving of yourself. Your wife may ask you to bring her a glass of water in the middle of the night. Your time is a gift of total commitment. Another example is the unselfish gift of praying for each other. Christ spoke about 2,000 years ago that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35.
Admit your mistakes and faults to one another
When you have done something wrong, be ready to admit it and ask for forgiveness. Simple words such as “I am very sorry,” or “Please forgive me!” make all the difference. Hurts can be healed if there is humility, honesty, and a willingness to admit a mistake. Be willing to forgive, as Jesus forgave His persecutors. On the cross, Christ said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Jesus showed love even toward his enemies. The wonderful woman whom God has selected for the husband is not an enemy, but a dear beloved companion. If your wife makes some mistakes, are you willing to forgive her?
Wives, are you willing to forgive your husbands when they make mistakes, even 70 times 7? Don’t forget to put this into practice. To forgive is a sign of maturity and conversion.
Do things together and share responsibilities.
This means work together, eat together, relax together, visit the discouraged and comfort the comfortless together, be a blessing to the neighbours together, and help the family of God together. Spend as much time as possible doing things together if you want to have a rich and fulfilled marriage.
Let both of you help out with household chores. Let there be a partnership in your home. Your home needs to be clean, orderly, and attractive. This will take work. Then the angels will love to visit you. From the Pen of Inspiration we read, “Order and cleanliness is the law of heaven, and in order to come into harmony with the divine arrangement, it is our duty to be neat and tasty.” The Adventist Home, p.254.
Be committed to each other for life
Marriage is a covenant with God and with one another and it is a lifelong commitment. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Matthew 19:6. Paul also writes succinctly about the permanency of marriage. “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:39.
Don’t give up when problems arise. Some days the sun doesn’t shine, it’s cloudy and stormy. Face the world together and wait on the Lord. Don’t ever say, “I made a mistake in my choice of companion.” “Though difficulties, perplexities, and discouragements may arise, let neither husband nor wife harbor the thought that their union is a mistake or a disappointment.” The Adventist Home, p.106.
Believe that God puts people together. God chose Eve for Adam. The marriage lasted hundreds of years. Was the marriage without problems? – NO! They were evicted from their home. One son became a murderer, but they survived and were faithful to each other because they were committed to each other.
Make Jesus Christ the center of your lives and the Lord of your heart and home
As the years come and go that the Lord Jesus will meet you in your joys and in your troubles, your laughter and your heartaches. There may be anxious days, those uncertain hours, those circumstances which could place you in a world of fear and seeming helplessness. God’s promise to you, as you walk hand in hand through life, is that when those clouds appear, you will be secure forever in His Love. A precious old hymn says it this way:
Under His wings, I am safely abiding;
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild.
Still I can trust Him, I know He will keep me.
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.
When family conflicts and problems arise, be sure to go to the right Marriage Counselor, the Lord Himself. He is the best One who is easily available. You don’t have to spend much time to find Him or to wait in His office for hours until your turn comes for an interview. And He doesn’t ask you for money, either, like ordinary marriage counselors do. Further, He has more wisdom. He understands your particular problem much better than any person in the world.
How do you find this Marriage Counselor? “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Matthew 7:7. God’s Word clearly teaches that those who have any problems can unburden themselves to Jesus. We can come to Him in faith asking Him to untangle the tight knots of difficulty. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. Come just as you are, weak, sinful, polluted, unworthy, and depend only on the merits of Christ.
Do not forget to have morning and evening worship with your family. The children also need to remember their loving Savior. This communion with God will strengthen the Christian. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Matthew 22:37.
It is good for husband and wife to pray together when in trouble, but it is better to pray together daily as a regular habit. Many families have established what they call the “family altar.” Remember the saying, “The family that prays together stays together.”
Remember also to worship on the Sabbath day and to meet together with believers of like faith. Love Jesus and worship Him in the congregation of the saints. As husband and wife draw closer to Jesus, they will also have greater love for each other. In other words, the love of Jesus in their hearts will automatically radiate out to their spouse and children. Our wonderful Lord and Savior performs miracles by transforming people’s lives.
If you make Christ the foundation of your home, if He is the first and last and best in everything, He will bless and uphold your marriage. May you behold Him constantly and may your love for Him grow and deepen daily. May God bless our families, is my prayer.