Too many marriages have deteriorated into a drab, dull routine. The spark and life have all but disappeared. Husbands and wives often treat each other like an old piece of furniture. Read this article and learn how to avoid making this mistake in YOUR marriage and why home is NOT the place to "let down."
GOD INTENDED the HAPPIEST people on earth to be MARRIED people! God intended it to be the most absolutely wonderful, the most altogether exciting, the most mutually rewarding experience two people can possibly share together.
Most marriages begin with high hopes. The wedding day is the happiest day of the young couples' lives. As they share the joys of this long-awaited day with relatives and friends, there is nothing to dim their soaring hopes and dreams. There is no thought of failure. They are sure their marriage will be the happiest and most successful marriage yet. Despite these high hopes, many marriages never measure up to expectations. The initial flush of happiness often fades with the passing of the years. Couples who once thought they were in love eventually come to realize they are no longer in love. Many people watch their marriages crumble and finally disintegrate before their eyes. We are all aware of the mounting divorce rate. Almost one in every three marriages ends in divorce. The teenage marital fatality rate is even higher — one out of two! However, many are not aware of an even more disturbing and yet often unnoticed aspect of our deteriorating marital picture. In the United States alone, every year there are 40,000 marriages ending in divorce involving couples who have lived together TWENTY YEARS or longer! Here are 80,000 husbands and wives who have lived together for almost HALF OF THEIR LIFETIME — who have shared the joys and faced the sorrows — who have witnessed the miracle of birth and thrilled to the excitement of seeing their children — the fruit of their marriage — grow up before their eyes — who finally reach the point they find they can't stand to live together any longer! So often, it seems, when the children grow up and leave home, the only reason to continue the masquerade of marriage is gone. Dad and Mom become just another divorce statistic. For every home actually ripped apart by divorce, there are innumerable marriages which are somehow just barely managing to hang together — that have long since become just empty shells of what once were marriages. They have deteriorated into nothing more than cold, impersonal business arrangements — two people merely sharing the same house but not sharing their lives. There are thousands of such marriages devoid of any real LOVE — where husbands and wives have become total STRANGERS to each other. This is not exclusively a problem of marriages in the world. There are marriages in God's Church where this is also true — where both the husband and wife are supposedly converted yet barely pass a civil word, where the only lengthy conversation is an argument and where the only deep feeling is one of deep-seated resentment and bitterness. Some of you reading this very article must honestly admit that you would have been either separated or divorced by now if it weren't for God's law against such. You feel obligated to "tough it out" lest you be put out of the Church. Marriage is more than merely living together. You are dutifully complying to the letter of God's law but tragically failing to fulfill the spirit of God's law — the Godly designed purpose of marriage,
How Could It Happen?
How is it possible for a couple to begin marriage filled with such hopes and eager expectations for happiness and success and then end up seeing their marriage wrenched apart? How could two people who once delighted in whispering sweet expressions of endearment end up screaming hateful vindictives at each other? How could a husband and wife who once thrilled to each other's company reach the point they can't stand the sight of each other? How can hours of scintillating conversation deteriorate into a strained silence? How can two people bound together as "one flesh" in the closest, most intimate relationship known to man end up hurling charges and countercharges in a divorce court? Is this something that strikes suddenly — unexpectedly — without any advance warning? No — quite the contrary is true. It invariably begins as a gradual, almost imperceptible, PROCESS. The roots of the problem can be traced back to the tragic — and sometimes fatal — mistake of people TAKING THEIR MARRIAGE FOR GRANTED. All marriages are subject to this tendency. The reason lies in a peculiar quirk of human nature. It is absolutely impossible for the carnal mind to maintain a sustained sense of keen appreciation for anything. No matter how wonderful and exciting something might be at first, it eventually takes its place among the other things we so carelessly take for granted. It becomes "old hat" as we say. The excitement over a new car quickly wears off. A fine, new home will tend to become just another house after several years. Even a breathtaking panorama of natural beauty will lose its initial, thrilling impact after a period of time. Everything has the tendency to fade into the passing scene — become a part of our accepted little world. Nothing escapes this debilitating and corroding process — not even your marriage. After a time, there is the tendency to take each other for granted — to become careless and even contemptuous in the way you treat your mate.
Avoid This Pitfall
HOW can you avoid this pitfall? What can you do to keep your marriage vitally alive and growing better and BETTER with each passing year? How can you revitalize a drab, lifeless marriage — give it new spark and enthusiasm? Few people seem to understand that marriage is something which must be BUILT. A happy, successful marriage just doesn't automatically happen. It takes WORK — plenty of it — by both the husband and wife. However, before any young couple rushes off to begin construction, they had better understand how to begin. The reason people begin to take their marriage for granted is that they don't understand — or fail to remember — that the only blueprint for success is that designed by the Master Architect of marriage — Almighty God. A God-centered approach to marriage is the only avenue to success. Marriage is VERY SPECIAL to God. The institution of marriage was God's final, crowning act of creative work before He created the Sabbath by resting. You can be sure God doesn't take marriage for granted. Man is unique in that he is the ONLY creature God created to experience this absolutely marvelous relationship. Every married person shares in the GREATEST of all God's physical blessings. No one has the right to take his marriage for granted. When we come to understand God's purpose for marriage, we dare not do so!
A Tremendous Responsibility
Marriage is the physical relationship God chose to be the TYPE of the spiritual relationship of Christ and the Church. Christ is the Husband and the Church is His espoused Bride-to-be married to Him at His Second Coming (II Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:32; Rev. 19:7). Husbands, do you realize you are the direct physical type of Jesus Christ in your marriage? Notice: "For the husband is the head of the wife, EVEN AS Christ is the Head of the Church" (Eph. 5:23). Your responsibility is to rule your wife as Christ rules the Church. You are to give her the opportunity to learn what it would be like to be married to Jesus Christ! You are commanded by God to love your wife even as Christ loved the Church, and GAVE himself for it (Eph. 5:25). Every husband will be judged by the standard of Jesus Christ — the PERFECT HUSBAND! Is this something to take lightly? Dare you treat this responsibility carelessly? Are you daily aware of what God expects from you as a husband? Are you diligently striving to deal with your wife as Christ deals with His Church? How often do you fervently pray for Christ to more fully live His life in you as a husband? How much of Christ can your wife see in YOU? Does Jesus Christ take His Church for granted? Would you want Christ to deal with you in the same way you treat your wife? Think about that! What would your life be like? These are questions you had better come to grips with — ON YOUR KNEES! No doubt all you wives would welcome more of Christ in your husbands. But what is your responsibility? The wife is the direct physical TYPE of God's Church. "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, AS UNTO THE LORD... Therefore AS the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Eph. 5:22-24). How about it wives? What would God's Church be like if it were EXACTLY LIKE YOU? What a sobering thought! What would Christ think of His Bride-to-be if she had the same attitude toward Him that you have toward your husband? How obedient would she be? How quickly would she respond to His wishes? How much cooperation would there be in the marriage? Would she have genuine love and deep respect for Him? Would Christ say to her, "Well done, good and faithful wife," or "I will spue you out of my mouth"? These are questions every converted wife should ask herself — ON HER KNEES!
A Sure Foundation
Any builder knows the importance of a solid foundation. Regardless of how well the building itself is constructed, if it does not rest on a stable and permanent footing, all his efforts will prove to be in vain. The critical importance of the sureness of a foundation becomes most apparent during times of great stress. Christ's parable in Matthew 7:24-27 clearly demonstrates this. It is interesting to notice that Christ makes no mention of the quality of the construction of the houses themselves. The crucial factor was the foundation. The wise builder was very careful in the selection of his building site. He made sure that the foundation of his house was resting directly on bedrock. The foolish builder made the fatal mistake of totally disregarding the fact he was building on sand. The house which was built upon sand apparently had no difficulty standing as long as the weather remained fair and tranquil. It continued for awhile. However, when it was subjected to the onslaught of the raging elements, it failed to pass the test. It could not withstand the stress and collapsed. This is true of many marriages. On the surface, they appear to be well built. They seem to have many things going for them. They hold together for awhile — possibly a few weeks or many years. As long as the marital "weather picture" remains relatively calm — as long as good times continue and no major problems arise to exert more strain than the foundation can withstand, the marriage manages to survive. But whenever the pressure becomes too great, the marriage breaks up and disintegrates There is no physical foundation guaranteed to remain intact. The only sure foundation for any marriage is a spiritual one — the same foundation the wise man chose for his house — THE ROCK — JESUS CHRIST! Here is a foundation which is tried and tested. It will never sag or collapse no matter how many storms of life beat upon it. Your marriage can withstand any problem or pressure if Jesus Christ is the Foundation of it.
Not a Private Matter
People usually consider their marriage is their own private business. They resent anyone who tries to "meddle" in their affairs or invade this privacy. Their home is their own personal domain where they can do whatever they please. This is not true! Your marriage is NOT your own! Your home is riot your little private domain where you can do whatever you please! You DON'T have the right to act in any arbitrary way. Your home is not a sanctuary for carnality. The reason? — YOUR LIFE IS NOT YOUR OWN! We all have been bought and paid for with a tremendous price — the very life of Jesus Christ. Notice Paul's statement: "What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and YE ARE NOT YOUR OWN! For ye are bought with a price: therefore GLORIFY GOD in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Cor. 6:19-20). We have been called to be the BONDSLAVES of Almighty God. Our lives and our marriages belong to God When converted, our whole center of interest and activity is to change. Instead of being self-centered we are to become Christ-centered in everything. We are no longer to live unto ourselves but UNTO CHRIST (II Cor. 5:15; Romans 14:7-8). We now have a Christ-centered approach to life. We must seek to serve Him and please Him in every facet of our lives. Christ must then be at the very CENTER of our marriages.
We naturally want to impress people. We bend our energies to create a "good impression" — to put our best foot forward. When expecting company, we always go to extra trouble in preparing the meal and grooming the house. We take added precautions in warning the kids to watch their "P's and Qs" and put on their best behavior. We want people to respect us and be impressed with our home arid family. However, when no one special is around, most people don't make any special effort to watch how they act. No one is around to impress — just the wife and kids. Yet we always have "company." There is never a time when we are alone. We are under constant scrutiny. God's eyes are everywhere, beholding the evil and the good (Prov. 15:3). Judgment is NOW on the House of God. (I Pet. 4:17.) Your marriage is being closely INSPECTED. God the Father, Jesus Christ and innumerable "watchers" (Daniel 4:17) — angelic hosts who serve those who are heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14 and I Peter 1:10-12) — are the BUILDING INSPECTORS. They are vitally concerned with the way you are building your marriage — how closely you are following God's spiritual blueprints. You had better be concerned, therefore, with the kind of impression you make in your home — whether or not people are around. GOD IS and the impression you create with Him may well determine not only where you will fit into His Kingdom but WHETHER you will even be there.
Warning signs alert us to possible danger. We immediately exercise caution in order to avert trouble. On the other hand carelessness is the major cause of accidents. When a person is alert and on guard, the chances of having a needless accident are greatly reduced. Statistics show the scene of more accidents than any other place is the HOME. They range from minor scrapes to fatal injuries. Why? At home, people become CARELESS. The home is also the scene of many spiritual "accidents" — some of which can prove to be fatal as well. You recognize the dangers of "the world" so you are cautious and on guard. After rubbing shoulders with this world's society, you can hardly wait to get home, and escape all the filth and wretchedness. Your home is a safe refuge from the temptations and pulls which are lurking "out there." You breathe a sigh of relief as you walk through the door. Home at last! No alluring temptations to flee! No carnal people to cope with! No danger here! Safety at last! Home sweet home! Down comes the spiritual guard. Off comes the spiritual armor. You can finally relax and let down. How naive! How unsuspecting! How vulnerable! But wait a minute! "Be sober, BE VIGILANT; because YOUR ADVERSARY the Devil, as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may DEVOUR; whom resist stedfast in the faith" (I Peter 5:8-9). Your home isn't off limits to Satan. He is most interested in your home. It often becomes His "home base" of operations. No sooner than God had instituted the very first marriage, Satan struck! Satan succeeded in wrecking that marriage, and nothing would delight him more than wrecking your marriage. Satan knows the importance of marriage in the plan of God, and He will seize any opportunity to sabotage it. He realizes the effectiveness of upsetting your home. It is one of the best ways of draining you spiritually — of eventually cutting you off from God. Why even your prayers will be hindered (I Peter 3:7). You can't be growing spiritually and failing in your marriage. Home is NOT the place to let down and relax — spiritually. When we let down spiritually, we begin to react carnally. This is bad enough. Our carnal nature alone produces a host of our problems. However, there is another factor. Satan loves to exploit the weaknesses of human nature. How many times have you found yourself talking to your husband or wife in a way you would NOT talk to your employer, your minister, or anyone outside your family? In the words of that familiar song — "You always hurt the one you love." Brethren, we've ALL been too careless and calloused with our mates. We have, at times, permitted Satan to drive a wedge into our marriages. Our rotten, carnal nature has spoken and acted — not the spirit of Jesus Christ. The best defense is a good offense. We need to launch a counteroffensive. If we RESIST Satan, he will flee from us. The way to resist is to open up your marriage to the daily and constant supervision of Jesus Christ. Invite Him into your home, Make Him the center of every activity. Don't permit your human nature to shove Christ aside. Never resent His presence but rejoice in it. You will then find your marriage will have the spiritual spark and vitality it needs. It will grow increasingly MORE WONDERFUL and you won't take it for granted.