Jenny and I are closing in on our wedding anniversary in a few days’ time. After so many years of marriage the celebrations are downscaled significantly, but the celebrations in the heart are more powerful now than when we started out as a married couple. We met when I was sixteen and she seventeen. We became engaged on her 21st birthday and married when I was 21 and a half and she 22 and a half. God has been good to us throughout these years, sustaining us in commitment and love. Looking back, I must admit that I knew virtually nothing about marriage, yet even though a non-Christian, God’s grace abounded. Once salvation came to us, our marriage really made more sense as we started to understand and grasp the immense value and importance of Scriptures like Ephesians 5:
Eph 5:22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
In the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel we read:
Mt 1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
In verse 1 we read of Mary being “pledged” to marry Joseph. This word “pledge” means far more than what we call “engagement” today. To be pledged was the beginning of the marriage and was as legally binding as the marriage was. The only way to break off the “pledge” was through a bill (order) of divorce. This is why Joseph was known as Mary’s husband in verse 19 above, even though there was no intimacy until after marriage … see verse 25. The “pledge” was normally determined by the parents or perhaps the brothers of the woman and man. Normally this happened early in life, though the marriage was only consummated after the bride to be reached the age of twelve. The period of “pledge” was at least one year to enable the bride to be to make or have her outfit made. If a widow was “pledged”, the marriage was permitted after 30 days. The “pledge” became binding with a written contract or by the receiving of gifts from the groom to be, such as in the case of Isaac (Genesis 24:53). The bride-to-be would remain at her father’s house until the groom-to-be collected her.
I want to share a few pointers here:
There needs to be an engagement period. My feeling is that when younger it ought to be longer and perhaps a little shorter when older. My reason for saying this is that you need time to get to know each other in most ways so that your commitment to marriage is based upon sound, Biblical reasons.
Often people in “love” cannot distinguish between lust and love and between fantasy and reality. The reason I say this is because if love is dependent upon the experience of sexual intimacy or Hollywood’s portrait of marriage, there is no real and true love!
Although Jenny and I have been married for many years, I am no expert on marriage. I have prepared many couples for marriage and I have conducted many “Marriage Enrichment Courses” … but being a sinner saved by grace does not qualify any as an expert. We all have our “stupidities of self” creeping into our marital relationship. Every husband and every wife needs to remained focused on the Ephesians passage above or they will lose focus and find possible ship wrecks … even Christians!
So … every marriage will have ups and downs. Sometimes you might want to leave … run away. Normally, this is a sudden urge based upon emotions and personal feelings of hurt, not facts. When this happens, it is wise to take a few steps back and reflect upon what has happened, why it happened and what “my” contribution was towards this happening. You see, there is no perfect wife and no perfect husband. Christians know all too well that the enemy of the soul attacks something in the marriage to create tensions, anger, hurt and frustration with the hope there will be marital failure and hurt and anger within the family. This is why it’s necessary to know yourself through constantly gazing at the mirror of the Bible, remembering that as with your spouse, you too are a sinner and vulnerable to be exploited by the devil when you let your guard down. Always remember that the devil is your enemy, not your spouse.
All problems are solvable with God’s help! Personally, I believe just about every sin, hurt, and problem in marriage can be worked through by using the Bible, prayer and a willing heart. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it because in God’s eyes divorce does not count. He sees you as married to the wife or husband of your youth (naturally, this excludes the death of a spouse). Fleeing to the Lord Jesus through faith and seeking to honour Him through Him restoring your marriage will result in Him helping you through your crisis, giving you a new joy in marriage and becoming an example to be followed by those who witness the miracle God worked in your marriage.
Dear God, thank You for the sanctity of marriage. There might be people reading this note who are going through a rocky patch, perhaps even wanting to end the union. Mercifully help them. Graciously restore their marriage to flourish under Jesus’ Lordship and Reign. Amen.