Marriage is the most mysterious relationship two human beings will ever know. It can be the most wonderful, exciting, fulfilling, life-giving, meaningful experience a person could ever have. And, it can be the most painful, exhausting, miserable, draining, frustrating experience anyone could imagine. I once heard someone say, “Marriage is the most perfect picture of heaven and hell we will know this side of eternity.” Some might think this is a bit over dramatic, but I agree with it completely.
Why does this particular relationship have such awesome potential for heavenly ecstasy and hellish agony? The answer is at least partially found in the unique covenant that binds the two participants. No other human relationship is defined by the words “till death do us part.”
For instance, when two friends get tired of each other’s company, one or the other can leave. If the friendship continues to deteriorate, it can be dissolved immediately by one or both of the parties. When a person becomes frustrated with a boss or co-worker, he can always tender his resignation. A teacher and her pupil only have to endure each other’s company for so long before the semester mercifully ends. Good Christian people, who find themselves sitting on a pew every week with someone they believe even Jesus wouldn’t like, can always find a new congregation in which to worship. The home of origin is a little more difficult because it lasts longer, but even in family relationships there is a light at the end of the tunnel called high school graduation. Marriage is the only human relationship designed to last forever.
The binding covenant is not the only factor that makes wedded bliss difficult. Usually the two individuals involved are as different as they can be. Take the two very different genders, male and female, and place them together. Already there is potential for disaster. In most cases this male and female have completely opposite personality types. Seldom have the couple been raised in similar families or taught compatible beliefs. Each person enters into this new relationship with unbelievable and unrealistic expectations that seem completely feasible in his/her own eyes. Neither of them may have had any training in anger management, communication skills or conflict resolution, and most have no experience or understanding when it comes to financial matters. To make it worse, probably in most cases neither of them had very good role models growing up. They may have a limited support system to turn to if things deteriorate.
One would think that Christian couples, having a common bond in Christ, would find married life easier to navigate. However, most statistics don’t support that conclusion. Being a believer, and even being raised in the church, do not seem to be enough to create a happy, healthy marriage. These Christian couples face the same struggles as those who have not accepted Christ, and their belief system alone does not give them the marital direction that couples so desperately need to survive and thrive. The church, while all along insisting that divorce is wrong, has not done a very good job training couples to live a lifetime together.
Marriages are constantly changing. Like riding a bicycle, it is impossible to just sit still. People are either going forward, or they are going backward. Marriages are either getting better, or they are getting worse. They never remain the same. What are we doing to help our marriages move forward toward what God intends them to be?