By Irvin Himmel
It is an indisputable fact that an alarming number of marriages are failing. Every divorce is a testimony to lack of success. Many marriages fail that remain legally intact. Separations may occur because of disagreements even when there is no divorce. The fact that a husband and wife continue living under the same roof is no proof of real togetherness. A couple may remain in the same house only to fight, quarrel, and make life miserable far themselves and others around them.
Some marital problems would puzzle one with the greatest of wisdom, but the major causes of failures are not so complex.
1. A marriage may fail because it is viewed as a purely human arrangement. We must remember that it was God who ordained the husband-wife relationship and gave laws to regulate it. Matrimony originated in the divine decree of Gen. 1:27, 28: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it . . .” Read also Gen. 2:18-24. It is God who joins partners in marriage (Matt. 19:3-6). Gospel preachers stress these facts in marriage ceremonies.
If we may judge their convictions by their attitudes and actions, many people must feel that God has no control or voice in marriage. Some men and women mate without marriage, living much like animals. They are led by physical drives, switching partners at will, having no higher purpose than gratifying carnal passions. Others are careful to comply with the laws of the state, but they recognize no higher laws. All who leave God out of the picture by ignoring His laws for marriage could not be expected to attain real success in that relationship. To view the husband-wife connection as purely human in every sense is to act as if marriage is only a human arrangement, therefore to conclude that we may do whatever we please and it is not any of God’s business!
2. A marriage may fail because it is not considered as a lifetime contract. Naturally, people who leave God out would be expected to regard marriage lightly. But some who claim to believe the Bible do not take marriage seriously. No doubt ignorance plays a role in this. Jesus said, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” Many have not read. They claim to believe the Bible but are unfamiliar with what it teaches about the permanence of marriage.
People must be taught that God does not approve everything that the state approves. God designed marriage as a lifetime agreement. To overcome the looseness of attitude that manifests itself strong teaching is needed on such passages as Rom. 7:1-3 and Matt. 19:9.
3. Some marriages fail because the partners have no common spiritual bond. Marriages with the heathen were highly detrimental to the Israelites long ago. When Ezra learned of such marriages among the Jews, he plucked off the hair of his head and his beard, and sat down in utter astonishment. Ezra entreated the people to put away their “strange wives” and “such as are born of them.” The birth of children by heathen women did not make the marriages any less abominable (Ezra 9; 10). In Nehemiah’s time the same situation prevailed. The Jews had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. The children spoke half in the speech of Ashdod. It was a terrible evil. Nehemiah reasoned, “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? . . . even him did outlandish women cause to sin” (Neh. 13:23-27).
Today, the laws that governed ancient Israel are not in force, but serious problems can arise when one partner is trying to be loyal to Christ and the other is not. It is difficult enough to overcome obstacles when both husband and wife are endeavoring to follow the Scriptures; a Christian who marries out of the faith creates a built in potential for failure.
4. A marriage may fail because true love is lacking. If a couple genuinely and deeply love each other, problems can be solved, mistakes will be forgiven freely, and selfishness will be put aside. The husband who sincerely loves his wife will be tender and kind. He will love her as his own body, or as he loves himself, “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (Eph. 5:28, 29). The wife who loves her husband will submit to him and reverence him (Eph. 5:22, 33).
All marriages are not based on love. Some are based on the desire for financial security, or maybe a longing for social prestige. Some couples marry merely because of physical attraction. And sometimes people marry out of spite, but in the end they spite themselves!
5. Many marriages fail due to lack of preparation. In relatively few things do any of us succeed without adequate preparation. The following are some .areas in which preparation is needed for marriage: (1) physical-the body should be kept strong and healthy; (2) emotional-one may be physically mature but too emotionally immature for marriage; (3) moral-“keep thyself pure” (1 Tim. 5:22) is good advice for anyone at any point in life, especially for one who expects to enter marriage; (4) intellectual-one should know his or her responsibilities and how to fulfill them; (5) financial-do not expect to begin with a dream house fully furnished, but realize that there must be some means of a livelihood; (6) spiritual-this is the most important area of preparation for disciples of Christ who contemplate marriage.
A lot of couples, particularly younger ones, jump into marriage with little or no preparation. To make a marriage succeed, planning and determination toward that end are necessary from the beginning.
To realize before wedlock why many marriages fail should help to avoid pitfalls. I urge teenagers to study this article carefully. All who plan to marry should ask themselves what kind of a marriage they really want. If one desires a messed-up affair, that can be arranged with ease. If he wants a happy, meaningful, and glorious marriage, it will take the right attitude, sincere and continued effort, respect for God’s laws, and deep love with understanding.
Truth Magazine XIX: 41, pp. 650-651
August 28, 1975