By R. Gary Jones
The need to build and maintain strong marriages has never been greater since it is one of the primary means by which we pass our faith in God’s Word to the next generation. However, such a powerful and important part of God’s plan is the constant focus of Satan’s attacks, and to be successful, we must be prepared to negate their work.
The knowledge of how to maintain a strong marriage is not innate. It comes through a desire to display the love of our Lord by being a helpmate in the life of another person to whom we choose to bind ourselves in an act of Christian love. Jesus calls us to serve one another, and for marriage to succeed, servanthood is an absolute mandate, but how do we learn these roles if not in the church? People will commit years of their life and thousands of dollars to obtain college degrees, but the majority will not spend even one week studying and preparing for a relationship of far longer duration, greater importance, and often more difficulty. There is no common understanding of the word love except in Scripture.
The only certain means of making a marriage work is to put the well-being of one another above that of our own and have Christ as the foundation. Therein lies the problem, especially for cohabitating couples, since there is no firm commitment to sacrifice their own selfish rights. This lack of commitment will invariably produce competition and inflict emotional pain that will lead to strife and destruction. The apostle Paul describes this struggle in Romans 8:5-6: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Pure and simply spoken, marriage was created to bring glory to God. He must be the purpose of our union, or it has no hope of working in the manner that it was intended.
As pastors and marriage counselors for over thirty years, my wife and I sometimes feel like we have seen it all when it comes to successes and dysfunction in marriage. Although our social environment has radically changed in the past thirty years, we continue to believe in Ecclesiastes 1:9, which says, “What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Tips to Prevent Marriage Erosion
Do not be unequally yoked. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” When you are unequally yoked in your faith, it affects every area of your marriage. Being unmatched always creates a divergence in how two people see boundaries in life and generally limits the believer’s ability to walk out their God-given calling in the Body of Christ. At the least, it creates tons of dissension, frustration, and disappointment.
Understand the godly roles of men and women. God has given the role of the head of the family to husbands. To wives, He has given the role of the helpmate. Dr. Ed Cole, the founder of the Christian Men’s Network, was well known for his adages on marriage. Here are just two: “Being a male is a matter of birth; being a man is a matter of choice.” “When a man acts like a child, it forces his wife to act like his mother.”
Although these are somewhat humorous, the Ephesians 5 model of a man’s role in marriage is the most misunderstood by men today. If men aren’t taught by the church or family how to translate this commandment into action, it limits their ability to be the leader God commands. His role in the family cannot be delegated to the female, and a family with no godly male leadership will always be unstable.
Understand the power of agreement. The importance of agreement in marriage cannot be overstated, and this article cannot do justice to the matter. I strongly encourage you to get the book The Power of Agreement by Dr. Ed Cole for valuable tips on taking authority over disunity in the family. Matthew 12:25 gives us clear and unequivocal direction on the subject: “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.’”
Establish boundaries around your marriage. It’s an essential biblical principle that directly impacts our family, friends, sports, phones, hobbies, and television. After a couple says “I do,” their priorities in life must change, and every commitment should become subject to mutual consent. Dr. James Dobson’s book Love for a Lifetime: Building a Marriage That Will Go the Distance identifies key issues that work against a lifetime marriage.
Learn to speak the same language. After love, the most misunderstood element of marriage is our ability to communicate effectively. In their book Speaking of Love, Fred and Anna Kendall present the importance of our language and the manner in which we speak: “By language, in all its facets, people love in peace or go to war. They sing hymns in harmony or shout insults. They express love or hatred. Within the intimate world of marriage, language in all its facets is how couples live together in peace or in pain.”
It is essential for a couple to learn how to raise their communication skills to the highest level since it is here that intimacy and oneness are established. Here, you begin to know your partner’s likes and dislikes, especially as it involves the most intimate areas of the sexual relationship.
Also, in Ephesians 4:29, Paul writes, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Be goal oriented by developing a long-term view of marriage. Marriages will pass through seasons of life, and they are totally different from the day of the wedding ceremony.
Have fun together and commit to a regular date night or vacation alone.
Take time to start each day in prayer. In the evening, asking, “How was your day?” will often produce an understanding of events that you didn’t see on the surface.
Finally, become adept at speaking the following statement from deep within your heart, “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?”
Marriage is the most powerful institution in our social environment for adults and children, equally important to systematic education in a school or university. Ultimately, it promotes and supports the health, wealth, and well-being of every child and adult in our world. In other words, it’s a very big deal. Another well-known adage from Dr. Cole is, “As the family goes, so goes the nation.”
In the absence of a wholesome family of origin, our role must be learned and understood through premarital counseling before we take on the responsibility of meeting the needs of another person. Our brain does not mature physically or spiritually until we are about twenty-five years old; therefore, many decisions we make before that age are filled with emotion and must be tempered with caution through mentoring. Premarital training by a certified counselor is an essential key to a lifelong marriage.
Dr. Gary Jones and his wife, Linda Kay, live at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, and are frequent guest speakers on the marriage relationship. He holds undergraduate business degrees from Northeastern University in Boston and graduates degrees in International Finance from NH College. He also holds a Doctorate in Christian Counseling. Their passion includes pre-marital counseling, mentoring, and life coaching. His avocation also includes a serious love for open ocean sailing. They have seven children and fourteen grandchildren.