Marriage Today

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 10
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I suppose that no one would dispute that marriage is under attack today. An increasing number of people are choosing to live together outside of the marriage bond, and many governments now recognize this in such matters as income tax, social benefits and property rights. Among those who choose to be married, divorce rates are high. In the United States and Canada, rates of divorce are 40-45%. The rates are lower in some European countries, but reach a high of 55% in Sweden. It is noticeable that divorce rates have been lower in the last few years, but this has paralleled the rise of those who choose to cohabit. Even among those who remain together, it is well-known that many marriages are unhappy and are held together only by responsibilities to children and other factors such as monetary considerations, rather than by real love. Some are literally “hanging by a thread,” so that a seemingly trivial event may well trigger a separation. Sad to say, the rates of divorce among those professing to be believers are not much better than the rates for unbelievers. We may well ask what the reason is for all this and what has happened to cause such an alarming breakdown in that which was ordained of God for man’s happiness. There are a number of factors that have influenced this bad trend, and we would like to look at some of these in the light of Scripture.
The Expectations
First of all, people sometimes enter marriage today with unrealistic hopes. The affluent society in which we live has given rise to high expectations in material things, such as a nice home, late-model cars, and exotic vacations — in short, the so-called “good life.” What their parents may have acquired after many years of hard work, some young people want right away. When good jobs are not available, or wages are not as high as they might be, disillusionment sets in, and marital discord may be the result.
The Word of God tells us to “be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:55Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5)). We are also told that “having sustenance and covering, we will be content with these” (1 Tim. 6:8 JND). On the other hand, the same book tells us that “God  ...  giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). So God delights to give to His children, but in order that they may use those things for His glory, not for selfish gratification.
The Lifestyle
Second, the film and advertising industries have had widespread influence, using such entities as television, the Internet, magazines, billboards, and brochures to give a most unrealistic view of life in a sinful world. An idealistic and impractical vista of life is usually presented, consisting of beautiful people surrounded by every conceivable creature comfort, always happy, and enjoying a supposedly delightful world. The watchword is, “You deserve it.” Once again, when reality does not match this idyllic picture, it is easy for one spouse to blame the other and for difficulties to arise.
We must remember that what we see around us today is still Cain’s world — a world formed by a man who “went out from the presence of the Lord” and then surrounded himself with everything to make him as happy as possible in a world blighted by sin, but with God left out. The style and details may have changed over the centuries, but not the outlook. This world is under a curse and is spoiled by sin. There is still much that is beautiful, because God has preserved this world from the full effects of the fall of man, but if we seek our joy in the things of this world, we will only come to the same conclusion as Solomon, who had to say, “All is vanity and vexation of spirit” (Song of Sol. 1:1414My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of En-gedi. (Song of Solomon 1:14)). Full joy can be had only in Christ, not in things around us.
In addition, the movie industry is largely formed by all that is in the world — “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:1616And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. (John 2:16)). When believers allow themselves a steady diet of such things, their thinking may begin to parallel that of the world; they become casual about sin and may begin to indulge in it themselves. This likewise has a devastating effect on a Christian marriage.
A Long-Term View
Third, the lack of a long-term view plagues many people today and has a serious effect on marriages. When the past seems to provide no answers and the future of the world looks bleak indeed, men begin to live only for the moment. “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32) becomes the principle by which many live. Sad to say, such thinking may affect even believers, who become like those who “cannot see afar off” (2 Peter 1:9). Present advantage takes precedence over future gain, and the present time takes precedence over eternity. Instead of seeking to please the Lord and being willing to suffer down here with the prospect of eternal reward, some trade all this for a few moments of present indulgence.
The Word of God is the only book that tells us to lay up our treasure in heaven and to be willing to suffer privation down here in the will of God, while postponing reward to a coming day. God in His Word gives us a long-term view, for He lives and moves in eternity. Those who find themselves in a difficult marriage may go on in it, and they will then obtain a rich reward in a coming day.
Coupled with this point is the question of looking into and being willing to obey the Word of God. If a Christian marriage is in difficulty, often the first thought is to seek counseling. This may certainly be helpful, and we would not speak against it in any way. However, I would suggest that it is much better if, first of all, husband and wife get on their knees in prayer, and then seek guidance from the Word of God. This avoids the “airing of the dirty linen” in the presence of a third party, and it gives God the glory. One of the names of the Lord Jesus is “Counsellor” (Isa. 9:66For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)), and surely He is worthy of our trust. Let us trust Him first of all to lead and guide us according to His Word, while not despising any human source that He may allow to help us.
Secular Humanism
Fourth, the web of secular humanism has permeated everything in Western society and has brought with it a self-centered attitude that says that the endpoint of everything ought to be the happiness of man. This in turn spawns a fixation on self, which always brings unhappiness. As a faithful brother in Christ once remarked, “The natural man would suggest that marriage is a 50-50 proposition. But in a Christian marriage, each should be 100% for the other and both 100% for the Lord.” But when two people come together and both are “takers,” it is a recipe for disaster.
Coupled with this is the fact that many come to marriage today with very immature ideas about what marriage is and what is needed to make it work. A happy marriage requires hard work by both husband and wife. Another has put it well:
“If a man and a woman are to live together well, they must take the plant of love to the sunniest and securest place in their habitation. They must water it with tears of repentance or tears of joy; they must jealously remove the destroying insects and pluck off the dead leaves that the living may take their place. And if they think that they have any business in this life more pressing that the care and culture of this plant, they are undeserving of one another, and time’s revenges will be swift and stern.”
Some come to marriage today with unresolved problems in their lives and unjudged, sinful attitudes and tendencies in their characters, personalities and lifestyles. They expect that marriage will automatically solve all this and bring them happiness. In fact, it only compounds it, for the spouse may bring some of this baggage too, and each will exacerbate the defects of the other. The only remedy is to seek grace from the Lord to confess these things as sin and be an overcomer.
The Woman’s Role
Fifth, the feminist movement and the changing role of women in the world of today has placed a strain on marriage. While Scripture does not positively forbid a woman’s working outside the home, yet it is clear that God intended the woman to “rule the house” (1 Tim. 5:14 JND) and, in general, to have her sphere of influence in the home. The strong tendency in the last forty years for women to work outside the home as a regular thing has, in many cases, deprived children of a mother’s care in their younger years and caused discord in the home. The modern adage, “You can have it all,” has been found not to be true for women, despite the hype given to it. I was at a medical meeting some years ago and was impressed with the title of one talk being given: “Super-woman, super-mom, super tired!” There may be times when the wife and mother is compelled to work outside the home, but we need to remember that the wisdom of man is never better than the wisdom of God.
However, we must recognize that a lack of proper leadership on the part of the husband often contributes to a woman’s wish to work outside of her home. Two extremes are possible. On the one hand, some young men today do little to prepare themselves for marriage and its responsibilities. The wisdom of God says, “Prepare thy work without, and put thy field in order, and afterwards build thy house” (Prov. 24:2727Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house. (Proverbs 24:27) JND). The man ought to be the provider, and he should take that responsibility seriously, beginning long before his marriage. On the other hand, some men become “workaholics,” idolizing their work to such a degree that their wives and children are neglected. They may make a good salary, thus being good providers in one sense, but at the same time neglect the moral and spiritual well-being of their families. When a wife is left alone for long periods, she begins to feel “taken for granted” and unappreciated. Both of these extremes can foster a desire on the part of the wife to seek to work outside her home.
The Claims of God
Finally, and of supreme importance, the giving up of God’s claims and the authority of His Word has had an incalculable effect on marriage. This sad tendency touches not only the marriage relationship, but also many areas of our lives. Over the past fifty years or so, the Word of God has gradually but steadily been neglected and ultimately forced out of the public domain. It has been replaced by man’s thoughts, which in most cases are the exact opposite of the wisdom of God in His Word. This turning away from God’s Word has had its most profound effect in countries that had embraced Christianity, for when light is given up, man becomes worse than those who never had light.
Marriage was ordained of God, and He has given in His Word direction and guidance for that relationship. When His Word is abandoned, the effect is similar, in natural terms, to one who buys a piece of machinery, but then throws out the instruction and repair manual supplied by the manufacturer. It is no wonder that it does not function properly.
In our day, with all of the assaults being made by Satan on marriage, we need more than ever to look away from the tendencies of this world and the wisdom of man. We are never wiser than Scripture, and God, who wants our ultimate blessing, will give us what is needed, in order that even in today’s world, our days may still be “as the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deut. 11:2121That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:21)).
W. J. Prost