September 20, 2017

Divine Marriage Counseling

By W. Frank

The Song of Solomon celebrates the beauty and blessings of marital love. It is inspired by the architect of marriage -God. This most intimate, intense relationship known among men was made in heaven and given to mankind for his good. Marriages today are in trouble. "At least one in every five U.S. couples needs professional counseling. . . . Marital distress has become the number one mental-health problem in this country" (Reader's Digest, November 1986, p. 161). With almost 1 in 2 marriages ending in divorce, the Song of Solomon can provide divine insight that will help us enjoy and enrich the marital bond.

1. A Life-long Union. Solomon indulged in polygamy, but the ideal from the beginning is one man joined to one woman for life. Solomon and his Shulamite bride extol the bliss of being joined together in a physical and spiritual union. "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" (6:3, NASB; see 2:16).

Marriage is where a man and woman are joined by God as one flesh, to share a life of mutual love, honor, fidelity, forbearance and friendship (Gen. 2:24). Marriage is not a 50150 proposition, but a 100/100 mutual partnership of total commitment to make the marriage work. Jesus reaffirms this (Matt. 19:4-9). It's no longer "me" but "we." Marriage is not looking at each other as much as it is looking together in the same direction. To "become one flesh" is a process, where two personalities blend together to enrich, support and compliment the other.

"Leave and cleave" is God's way; sometimes parents and in-laws (or the out-laws) have a hard time cutting the apron strings. But they must be careful not to mettle in or upset this new relationship.

2. Growing, Intense Love. A "let's try it and see how it works" attitude will not make a marriage work. A house is made of brick and stone, but a home is made by love alone.

"Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it; if a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, it would be utterly despised" (8:6-7). The growing, all-consuming power of love in marriage is sacred and beautiful. A "seal" shows ownership of a cherished possession. She asks to be Solomon's most prized treasure, which would influence his thoughts ("heart") and actions ("arm"). Love's influence will smoothly lubricate the marriage. Love can be as powerful and absolute as "death." Love is zealously exclusive and possessive as the grave ("Sheol"), in the good sense of mutual, genuine care. Love's passionate energy always shines through, like "fire." Love isn't quenched by challenges, but has invincible power to persevere against all odds. We must learn to trust in the Lord to develop such love, since He is its author and support. "Marriage is for those who love God and one another." The Shulamite bride states that love is priceless. It cannot be bought at any price. Marriage is not as much finding the right person but being the right person. Money problems are a major source of marital strife. Superficial material things cannot prop up a marriage for long. A couple can live in a house and be strangers because they gave each other lots of things but not each other. "Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, than a fatted ox and hatred with it" (Prov. 15:17).

3. Communication. Solomon and his bride repeatedly extol each other as "my darling" (2:2, 10) and "my beloved" (5: 10; 7:11). Verbal affirmations of love come from the heart, helping to maintain intimacy while preventing us from taking each other for granted. When should we tell our wives we love them? Before some one else does! Let's not be like the groom that said to his bride, "I said I loved you today, and if I ever change my mind I'll let you know." Words of love and appreciation cost nothing, but are a priceless treasure (Prov. 25:11).

We need to recognize and discuss little problems before they become big ones. "Catch . the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom" (2:15). The "little foxes" of little irritations and unresolved misunderstandings will fester and be recycled in bickering bouts and critical cut downs. We can send a marriage to an early grave with a series of little digs. Communication degenerates into irritated lashes and defensively raised voices.

Husbands, are you insensitive, unperceptive or uncaring of your wife's feelings and viewpoint? A man who abuses his headship to show he wears the pants in the family, in reality doesn't. Find out what's important to your wife and let her know you care and want to be helpful. Wives, do you sometimes like to second guess your husband's judgment? Do you threaten his leadership role by being bossy, critical or overly demanding? The story is told that a gas station attendant was filling up a couple's car. They looked as if they hadn't talked for the last 200 miles. When he was about to clean the husband's side of the windshield, which was the driver's side, he quipped, "Don't wipe my side! All the driving is done on her side!" Wives, when you feel like criticizing your husband's decision, just remember who he decided to ask to marry!

Trivial things need not explode into major fights. The underlying cause of tension must be identified, discussed and solved. Husbands, since you're the head, take charge and have a "marital summit" to discuss how your marriage can be improved.

Praise works wonders. It helps us to see the good in each other, so we'll not dwell on our spouse's shortcomings. Solomon praised his bride: "like a lily among the thorns, so is my darling among the maidens" (2:2); "how beautiful and delightful you are, my love, with all your charms! " (7:6; see 2:15; 6:9) Loving compliments communicate her precious, irreplaceable worth. She said of him, "How handsome you are, my beloved, and so pleasant!" and "my beloved is dazzling and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand" (1:16; 5:10). Wives, be your husband's number one fan. When spouses magnify each other's flaws, this sows seeds of discontent. Sincere compliments help us see the wonderful, positive traits in our spouse. It helps to remind us why we fell in love with them.

4. Maintain Personal Appearance. Solomon and his bride extol each other's comely appearance (1:8; 2:2; 5:10). "You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes" (4:9). Sex is not dirty or wrong. It is God's idea (Prov. 5:15-19; Heb. 13:4). It is lawfully enjoyed in marriage. The lust of sinful men pervert the beauty of this intimate act.

Personal hygiene and a pleasing appearance is important: "the fragrance of your breath is like apples" (7:8). We're not attractive if we go around the house looking like Mr./Mrs. City Dump. Ladies, it's important to be a good housekeeper, but if you always smell like you've been dipped in Pine Sol, this isn't the perfume of romance. We need not let ourselves go as the years pass by. A pleasing appearance is a good investment.

5. Keep the Honeymoon Spirit Alive. Marriage is much more enjoyable if we make a fuss over our spouse instead of fussin' at them. She said of Solomon, "He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love" (2:4). He obviously made a fuss over his bride. Husbands, do you continue to romance your wife? Is it obvious to others that you've put your wife on the pedestal of your heart? What did we do to win our wife's heart and hand? Shouldn't we do the same to keep her? Make a date with her this month! Wives, coddle your husband often. He loves the special treatment.

Solomon and his bride took walks in the countryside together in springtime (2:10). They took vacations together (7:11). Invest some time and money and to do things and go places together. Shared memories of pleasant times together will enrich and strengthen a marriage.

6. Develop Deeper Friendship. Solomon and his bride were best friends. "This is my beloved and this is my friend" (5:16). By becoming one flesh, a husband and wife become best friends. Marital friendship means we can bare our soul, sharing our innermost hopes, dreams, pains and fears without the fear of ridicule, misunderstanding or being ignored. We develop common interests. We share sorrow and disappointments, along with joys untold. We enjoy being with each other, because we're on the same side, cooperating for the common good toward a common goal.

Kind consideration shouldn't become extinct after the courtship. Solomon was deemed "so pleasant" (1:16). She was considered "altogether beautiful . . . my perfect one" (4:7; 5:2). Courtesy helps us to remember our manners, to be understanding and patient.

Let's look to God and follow His divine instructions, so we can reap the benefits of this wonderful union. I'm so thankful God has blessed me with a wonderful helper, Debbi.

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 6, pp. 163-164
March 19, 1987

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