FAITH AND REFLECTION — I am called upon to speak with couples who are experiencing marital problems with increasing frequency. I expect the reason for the increase is bilateral. First, as I have advanced in years and counselling experience, I have become more viable and trusted. Second, marriage relationships are experiencing more problems, earlier on, with an increasing number of marital terminations.
Preparing for marriage is helpful. Proverbs 24:27 says, “Develop your business first, before building your house.” Most clergy employ some form of pre-marriage counselling with the engaged couple, but it never really covers all of the bases. And as much as I believe both in and enjoy meeting with couples before marriage, ministerial expertise has never been much of a match for full-blown infatuation.
In ancient times, when the Bible was being recorded, arranged marriages were very common, so there isn’t really very much in the Bible that would correlate with our modern-day dating and marriage. However, as I have said so often, where the Bible does not deal with a particular, it will always present a principal that addresses the particular. Choosing a marriage partner is no exception.
To begin with, watch out for character traits. Proverbs 22:24 warns, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered.” Just two chapters later in Proverbs 24:30-34 we find precautionary comments about laziness and work ethic. Incidentally, negative characteristics revealed during the dating phase will typically escalate following marriage.
There is a story about an old farmer who was upset with his hired man because he was using a lot of oil in his lamps to go courting his girlfriend in the evenings. He told the young man, “When I was courting my wife, I went in the dark and didn’t use any oil at all!” The young man replied emphatically, “Yes, but look what you ended up with!” I doubt if the story has any factual basis, but it does present a valid point; our eyes should be open!
For believers in Christ, it is of paramount importance to be married to someone who will not only work and walk through life, but also worship with us. 2 Corinthians 6:14 admonishes Christians not to be “mismatched with unbelievers.”
Even when attention is given to the selection of a spouse, there is no guarantee that the road will always be smooth – in fact, there is every guarantee that it won’t be! Someone said that marriage teaches you loyalty, forbearance, self-restraint and a lot of other qualities you wouldn’t need if you’d stayed single.
“God created marriage. No government subcommittee envisioned it. No social organization developed it. Marriage was conceived and born in the mind of God.” – Max Lucado