Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I have friends who’ve been married for quite a long time, and still enjoy being with each other. They’ve retired now, and I’ve lost touch. But there’s something special about this couple. They are deeply committed to each other, and say so publicly. In fact, I’ve heard Jan (the wife) say, “We are together, forever, whatever”.
I have always been impressed by this confession of love and affection, and feel it is genuine. It doesn’t mean they are a perfect couple. They have had their disagreements and issues—but they have a deep-seated faith in each other, and love each other for life, no matter the cost.
I realise not every marriage is like that. Divorce and separation is a big issue these days, and reasons for break-up are very complex. But it doesn’t mean you can disregard an attitude like this couple I know and respect—in love for the rest of their lives.
Someone has said that marriage is like flies on a screen door. Those that are in want out, and those that are out want in. Getting married is something like getting a phone call in the middle of the night. First of all you get a ring, and then you wake up—and you discover that there’s a lot more. The baggage car arrives after marriage, and not before.
Why is it that so many people who get married with such good intentions end so disastrously? I’ve married quite a few people over the course of my working life. I don’t ever recall a couple saying, “Well, our intention is to have a miserable marriage.” No sensible couple wants that. But I have married some people who have had a miserable marriage. I have married some people who ended in divorce. I’m not casting judgement upon them—merely stating a fact.
Till death do us part
No marriage can ever be happy without trust. It is central to the marriage. In fact, author Dan Allender has said:
A marriage without trust is an empty well. It promises satisfaction but it never delivers. You must be able to safely trust in your mate and once that trust is lost it has to be regained often over a period of time…Trust is earned over a lifetime through small moments of faithfulness.
You also learn patience. You learn to accept one another. You know all those differences you intended to seek. Listen, the person that you will live with is the same person he was before you married him. Going down the aisle doesn’t change anybody.
The late Robertson McQuilkin was president and chairman of Columbia Bible College in the USA. He was an outstanding Christian leader, married to Muriel. Muriel shared the ministry on TV and radio as a gifted speaker. But she soon developed Alzheimer’s disease, slowly at first. But it was confirmed—and Robertson decided to resign the presidency of Columbia Bible College just to take care of her full-time.
The Board said, “No, we need you there. You can always hire someone else to take care of her. In fact, she won’t know who is taking care of her anyway.” But he said it was no decision at all. He said it was very clear: “I had made the promise 39 years ago till death to us part,” and he said he would take care of her and he did till she died years later. He said,
As I watch her descend into oblivion, Muriel is the joy of my life. Daily I discern new manifestations of the kind of person she is, the wife I always loved. I also see fresh manifestations of God’s love and grace, the God I long to love more fully.
That’s what till death do us part means. That’s the covenant that you make when you get married. It is a beautiful story of commitment and strong love. A distinguished oncologist in the USA, who lives constantly with dying people, told Robertson McQuilkin, “Almost all women stand by their men; very few men stand by their women.”
How can you have a happy marriage?
You need a new heart. Even in the Old Testament it says, “A new heart I will give you. I’ll keep from you the heart of stone.” Do you have today a heart of stone? You are angry and you believe that you have been a victim of so much injustice that your heart is hard toward God, toward your mate, maybe even toward your family. And the Bible says, “A new heart I will give you.”
In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Only someone who experiences birth for a second time can hope to see the Kingdom of God”. And it has to do with the fact that Jesus died on the cross, not just to take our sin away, but to make us new creatures. We are new creatures in Christ. There’s actually a miracle that takes place within us that is called the new birth.
Secondly, we need an honest heart. This is where it gets difficult. It’s possible to have a new heart, and you are still not honest, so in your marriage relationship you have all of these ghosts that are never addressed. There are people who have been married for 25 or 30 years and they have never addressed all of the issues that divide them. Pray God will make you an honest person, 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week. You will be a far happier husband or wife.
God wants us to change the way in which we live, with every marriage becoming better, and bad marriages becoming good, but sometimes we go through difficult days. But he promises to help us!