February 8, 2012

Fighting For Marriage

This year I have already been confronted with several couples in our church family who are struggling in their marriages. In one case, I've talked to a husband who's beside himself - wondering when & how his wife (of one year) has "fallen out of love" with him. And even more recently I had someone approach me for counsel, wondering if their marriage ended if 1) God would be mad at them and 2) if they would be disqualified from serving in the church. The reason I feel so compelled to start a discussion about this has to do with something I've noticed in all of these situations. The common thread was painful, clear, and consistent: The white flag of surrender was already being raised up the pole - someone was already screaming, "Retreat!" - they were just giving up. In almost all of these situations I didn't feel like they were seeking the counsel of how to save their marriage, but more looking for someone to affirm their decision to simply bail out. And in any and all of these cases - past, present, and future - I refuse to encourage, affirm, condone, or gratify that decision.

[Please note: I am not asserting (or believing) that all marriages that come to an end are because people just flippantly gave up or walked away. I know several people who love the Lord with all their being who fought tooth and nail to save their marriage...and it just didn't work. This article is not broad-sweeping, all-encompassing truth.]

We live in a country and culture where not only do MORE than 50% of marriages end, the statistic doesn't change, budge, or waver in the Christian church. Did you catch that? Over 50% of marriages INSIDE the Body of Christ come to a tragic, sad, and often cataclysmic ending. This has to change! And the only way it can change is if we begin digging to the root of WHY so many marriages are failing and falling apart. This is the discussion that has to take place - the conversation we have to be willing to take part in together. So, allow me to break the ice.

The first major reason I believe and perceive so many marriages are sabotaged from the beginning is because couples - as individuals and together - do NOT understand what they're getting into. Scripture is clear that marriage is a COVENANT between a man and a woman. Not only that, it's a covenant between a man, a woman, and God! A wedding is 2 people publicly declaring that "We are committing to each other, to you, and to the God that created us and brought our lives together, that we are in this for the long haul. ALL in! Period." This is the whole purpose behind "'til death do us part". We're saying, "I am committing to YOU - no one else - for the rest of my life on this earth." And it's not just some legal issue - it's a spiritual, emotional, whole-life decision. Scripture says that a husband and wife "become one flesh" - "they are no longer two but one flesh". And this is why Jesus said, "What God has brought together let no man separate." Don't miss that enormously significant piece of the marriage puzzle: GOD HAS BROUGHT TOGETHER! Holy matrimony, Batman. And I believe that so many people are walking away from their marriages today with less angst or struggle than walking away from a car lease because they don't understand the monumental significance of this covenantal commitment in the first place.

What are your thoughts?
Do you know someone who got married...and you knew it was doomed from the beginning?

More to come...


Linda said...

Thanks for addressing this, Brian. So very much needed in our present age. Mike and I have been married for 30 years and I will admit it is WORK. But it's work that has some very special outcomes and blessings. The key being we both knew it was forever and we don't have an option to back out. That's a big step for a couple to take but if you're not willing to do that...then don't. Don't enter into this most blessed covenant WITHOUT truly committing to LIFE together with God at the head of your marriage. Life with all the good/bad/ugly...everything...in it for the long haul. Praying for couples and their marriages. With God's grace it works. Go beyond yourself in your marriage and God will amaze you in all that HE can do through you as you both uphold your committment to one another and to HIM.

Brian Johnson said...

So, the sanctity of marriage isn't even sacred to 50% of couples INSIDE the body of Christ? And what of the other 50%, how many feel trapped in a marriage because of finances or "the kids"?

Sharp said...

Our experience is like Mike and Linda's. We told each other up front, "Divorce is not an option. We are in this forever. Period." That's what marriage is. You are committed until one of you stops breathing. If you can't stand across from your betrothed at the altar with that kind of understanding of marriage, then call it off. It will not last. This is 24 years of experience talking. And it ain't because we are lucky. Oh how I despise when people say, "You can't understand. You just got lucky." We have worked hard and loved each other when we weren't lovable at all. It's by God's grace and our daily (sometimes hourly) sacrificial devotion to each other that we are still here. Not dumb blind luck, thank you very much!

Of the last several weddings I have attended, all but two have ended in divorce inside of three years. One lasted less than a year. People stay committed to a TV program longer than a year! It has gotten to where I don't like attending them any more because they feel like catered family reunions held to validate cohabitation, not a public commemoration and celebration of a sacred event.

And yes, we saw most of them coming. The two lasting exceptions were kids we knew had a good grasp of the commitment and responsibility - and they are committed believers, too.

Brian Mayfield said...

Great words of wisdom! Thanks guys!

Keena said...

Brian, I see it all too often. And, to tell you the truth, it scares me.....I have been married a little over 5 years(happily) but the thought nags at me at times...."Will my marriage be another statisic?"

dayna said...

Well said. I think one of the biggest problems these days is that people often go into marriage with the thought of "if it doesn't work out we will just get a divorce, it's no big deal" But marriage is a very BIG DEAL! Committing to God and each other for a lifetime is huge. People today just don't take commitment seriously. "Divorce" is not a word we use in our house. It just isn't an option. Sure you are going to go through hard times when one or the other is sick or you might have financial difficulties and the mind set of most folks today is to bail when things are tough, it certainly seems easier than sticking out, but to me that is what commitment is all about. Truthfully I believe there should be no "quicky" marriages like in Vegas or "quicky" divorces either. I believe everyone should have to go though some premarital counseling to get married and then go to counseling before being allowed to get a divorce. If people spent more time, effort and money on the marriage and not just the wedding things would be much better. I once worked for a photographer and we used to photograph weddings and more often that not the people who had the most lavish and extravagant weddings were often getting divorced before the ink had time to dry on the marriage certificate. Those who could barely afford a photographer or concentrated on the simple church ceremony before God and a few friends often came back years later for baby and family photos.

mywoobie said...

There are so many thoughts running through my head. Brian-thanks for sharing your heart and I look forward to reading more.
I'm noticing more and more that couples are expecting the wrong things from marriage. It's all over the map. When those "things" are what they think they want or not what was expected, they bail. Divorce might not have been in their vocabulary, but then life gets hard and bye-bye.
I fought tooth, nail, arms and legs for my marriage, but God gave him free will and he bailed. Our marriage wasn't bad either, but life went a direction that he didn't expect and bye-bye.
It's so hard breaking regardless of a couple's situation and I HATE IT (and satan too)!! People-satan is winning right now but I know that God wins the future.
Alison--Al to you :)

alice said...

Prayers, prayers and more prayers Brian. Even if only one of the two want to save their marriage I recommend the book "The Power of a Praying Wife"  or the power of a praying husband by Stormie Omartian. 
The following is a excerpt of the book. 
A fulfilling marriage is never out of reach when it is entrusted to God. The Lord can heal and renew even that which we consider to be broken. Whether your marriage is thriving or struggling, these devotions and prayers will encourage your heart and help your relationship be everything God designed it to be. 
When I started this book in 2002 my intention was for the Lord to change or fix Ray but instead the Lord changed me, oh it was not easy and I told the Lord but Lord look, see he is the one etc., etc.... Gradually I realized it's impossible to give yourself in prayer without first examining your own heart. 
It is work,  hard work but with God's help it can be done. 
Ray and I will celebrate 35 years this year and it truly is and was possible because of His grace for us and prayers going up to our Great God and His Glory coming down. 
God bless you Brian and THANK YOU!. 

Brian Mayfield said...

Wow! Thank you all for sharing and adding to this conversation.

Captain Caveman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff and Vicki said...

If one begins to justify the impact of a divorce... I would encourage he/she to ask a child who has been through the throes of a divorce. A divorce is like an earthquake that touches the numerous friends and people who knew the once married couple. Unfortunately, if children are involved the aftershocks continue for generations to come. This is true especially when the parents are not reconciled to work together for the sake of the children. The statistics of divorced couples being civil with one another are few and far between. Trust me...the children are aware of what is going on more than one would realize. Silently a child is trying to find a way to bring the parents back together and when the plan fails the child blames oneself. My parents divorced when I was 13 years old- sadly there is still bitterness and no reconciliation after 30 years.

Can the Lord bring healing and restoration to a marriage? or to the aftermath of a divorce? Absolutely! Nothing is impossible with the Lord. God is still in the miracle healing business. Seek out Godly marital counsel, divorce recovery,and counseling for the children. Immerse oneself in God's word and pray without ceasing. Comfort, healing, peace, renewal and assurance will be boundless when one seeks and longs for the face of his faithful heavenly Father.

karen said...

Sorry, I'm behind, but I have some encouragement for those reading. When my husband and I were engaged we went through premarital counseling. At the time I, probably like so many others, didn't think I needed to but did so since it was required. One thing our pastor said to us that has made an impact is to commit to going to a marriage conference once a year. Since having our second child, this hasn't happened EVERY year, but we try. (When things have been tight financially, we still make it a priority because we see it as an investment in our future.)
For me, what I believe our pastor was trying to instill in us was that we NEED to make time for US. Life gets crazy busy and I think so many couples put work, kids, extracurricular "to-dos" first because after all, your spouse will always be there...right? So many times we don't think to put our spouse first, only to be surpassed by God. He needs to be a priority. He needs you to make time for him.
Last year we didn't go to a marriage conference but instead took a long weekend trip away from everything and read "Love and Respect" together. We discussed the chapters and listened to what each other needed or what we felt the other was doing well. I have to say, I think that was better than any conference we've been to. We had time to talk about so many issues, but had a book to guide us through some important topics.
My biggest advice...don't get so busy with life and kids that when you slow down and look at your spouse, you don't know what's been going on in his life. Make him a priority!

mywoobie said...

Regarding Karen's comment - Several years ago I was in a newlywed class. Several couples came in and told us about their many years of marriage. One couple stated this same suggestion that Karen posted - one marriage seminar/weekend a year and they are still married. (Brian-Ken & Becky, Jeremy's parents)