The often cringeworthy reports of celebrity divorces being played out in acrimonious detail on the home pages of mainstream news media do not do marriage any favors. On a sub-conscious level, the unsuspecting public may silently swear off embarking on such a risky venture, or see it as merely a temporary contract with a built-in expiration date. Whether the celebrity couple announces the news of their divorce as did Jeff Bezos with the touching tweet, "If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again," or the joint statement by Justin Theroux and Jennifer Aniston that the breakup was, "mutual and lovingly made," the fact remains that a sacred oath and tie has been broken, and sadness and disappointment are inevitable.
If press reports and statistics are to be believed, more and more couples will choose to cohabit rather than marry. Yet the desire for most adults to get married remains unquenchable. People are still marrying in droves and looking forward to their Big Day with much enthusiasm. However, statistics can serve to breed uncertainty about the future by prompting the following questions:
- Is marriage really necessary?
- Can marriage today last a lifetime?
- How can I avoid divorce?
Yet, for marriage to succeed, it requires the polar opposite of doubt, fear and dread. It requires nothing less than passion not just for the couple involved but the institution itself. Marriage was originally a covenant relationship created by God. He set it in motion and laid down the principles for its smooth functioning. Ultimately, marriage in this earthly realm is a type and foretaste of the spiritual marriage yet to be consummated between Christ and His bride, the church.
Agape love, as opposed to eros love, is the vital ingredient for marriage to thrive. It refers to the unconditional, self-sacrificial love best described in 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT) – It, "never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." God demonstrated this love towards us by seeking after us when we were spiritually lost and destined for eternal separation from Him. Eros love is driven by physical desire and romantic yearning. Yet, we have all been captivated by the romantic dramas in which love is portrayed as the thrill and excitement of the chase during dating and courtship with the film's dénouement being the wedding itself. Very few films chart the highs and lows of married life after the wedding.
The Bible makes it clear that the role of men and women seeking marriage are to be distinct – the man is to do the seeking and the woman is to prepare herself to be chosen. She is typified as the woman of virtue whose price is above rubies (Proverbs 31:10). By all means, the man is still reliant on her consent if indeed he is a true gentleman and not a ruffian who refuses to take "no" for an answer. The advice in the Song of Solomon echoes down the corridors of time – "not to awaken love until the time is right" (2:7, NLT).
Because so many women don't value themselves highly enough, they' re quick to respond to a man's advances. Yet, one of a woman's greatest assets is her feminine mystique. The harder it is for a man to secure a woman's love and loyalty, the more he will treasure her when he finally wins her heart. Also, when a woman pursues a man, she effectively denies him the thrill of the chase, and the deep satisfaction of searching for buried treasure. Indeed, "he who finds a wife finds a treasure..." (Proverbs 18:22, NLT).
Once the marriage vows are exchanged ("until death do us part"), the work of sustaining the marriage continues. It's easy for a marriage to become stale, boring and lacking in passion because the parties fail to recognize that there is continuing work to be done. For example, once the man has found his treasure, he is to handle and care for her in such a way that she becomes as radiant as she can be. Every wife is a precious jewel of inestimable value which comes in a gift box from heaven with the inscription "handle with care." The apostle Paul commanded husbands to love their wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). Jesus bore the afflictions of the cross to gain his bride (all those who accept the offer of salvation through his blood), and he continues to make intercession for her (Hebrews 4:14-16). Similarly, a husband is to carry the burdens of his wife – not just financial burdens but being willing to listen to her, and constantly re-assure her that she is loved and appreciated. In turn, wives are to honor their husbands by respecting their God-given authority as the head of their homes and by supporting them in their life's work and visions. A husband and wife need to be on the same page from the start of their union when it comes to a shared vision for their lives together.
Intimacy (in-to-me-see) is fostered by face to face communication and is what helps to strengthen a couple's bonds. It is possible to live together and yet be virtual strangers because of poor communication. Just as Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts (Revelation 3:20), and will not force his way in, we must keep the door of our hearts open to our spouse. Many couples close the line of communication when they refuse to forgive one another for past hurts. This will result in a cold, stultifying marriage or ultimately, divorce.
Why not let Jesus be your marriage counsellor? If you follow the principles in his Word and his perfect example of love for his bride and how that love is to be reciprocated by her, you will experience a marriage made in heaven, and hopefully avoid the devastation of divorce.
–Dr. Carla Cornelius is a Director and Editor at Jesus Joy Publishing. Her Ph.D. in Biblical Counseling has equipped her to trace humanity's problems back to faulty thinking and values which fly in the face of the Maker's instructions. She has a passion for exposing the distortions of truth spun by the media and popular culture which leave sick souls in their wake, souls desperately in need of spiritual detoxification. She is the author of five books including Culture Detox: Cleansing our minds from toxic thinking, Captive Daughters: Breaking the chains and No Way Out: Keys to avoiding suicide.