2008-06-18 - Summer Questions
2008 #1: Marriage Struggles
Hebrews 13:4, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge."
We begin the summer questions series today, and as with years past, I answer the first question that arrived first. You can still send questions. I do not have enough yet to fill out the Summer, so please do if you desire. This question is one I have struggled with. I don't feel I know the situation well enough to answer it directly, but in responding, I will try to give some general principles.
Question: "After 28 years of marriage, I left my husband. Mainly because he would not move with me to another city when I had an opportunity for a new job. I needed to make more money to help my child go to college and he refused to help out financially. I had tried to make the marriage work, but he was unwilling to change or to go to counselling. Finally, I couldn't carry the burden any longer and made the decision to leave. Since that time, he has gone through hard times. I have been dealing with the relief of not having to deal with him and his problems any longer, yet I feel the guilt of going against my wedding vows. When I read the Bible, I feel that I have sinned against God because I could no longer carry the burden of a bad marriage. How does one deal with a broken marriage when trying to live a Christian life? Thank you."
I don't think anyone would deny that a marriage has times of joy and times of struggle. This is seemingly written in the definition of marriage. Today, also seemingly written into the definition of a marriage is its ending when either, or both, parties are unhappy. This is not the Biblical view of marriage. "Let marriage be held in honor among all," Heb. 13:4. The Bible takes a very serious view of marriage. It is a solemn contract (covenant), with vows, and is not dissolved simply by mutual consent.
From your question, I cannot discern if your husband is a believer or not, nor can I determine if you remain married or have divorced. I don't sense that there is cheating involved, and so I will begin by applying the 1 Corinthians 7 principle that as long as no infidelity has occurred, as followers of Christ, bound together in the Lord, having vowed before the Lord to unite before Him in the holy union of marriage, to separate - for any reason except that given in 1 Cor. 7:5 - is sin.
Marriage commitments require the partners to tenderly love one another, be faithful to one another, bear with one another's infirmities, and throughout the various stations of life to study to please, assist, and provide for one another. This commitment is for life, and it is not an easy task. Pop psychology has worked its filthy, selfish lies into the church and convinced many that if they are not happy, or if something better comes around, God is OK with our doing what gives us joy. This is not the case in marriage especially, because marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His Church - It is a picture of the relationship between the bridegroom (Christ) and His bride (the Church and its individual members).
Christ is the husband, and He chooses His bride, and the bride consents to be His. It is the picture of grace and faith. The spiritual relation between saints and Christ is called a marriage. Jesus is the Husband, and the saints are the spouse. From eternity, the saints were loved and chosen, and betrothed in the Covenant of Grace. In time, they are invited, consent to be His, and are united to him by the Spirit and by faith. Christ and the saint have a mutual interest in one another, intimacy, and Christ as the husband rules, protects, and provides for His bride, leading His bride into righteousness, and all unto His ultimate glory. Some passages I suggest for consultation where this is spelled out are Matthew 22:1-14, Ephesians 5:30-32, 2 Corinthians 11:2.
The words of our Lord are not without import here. Jesus says in Matthew 19:6 (Mark 10:9), "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." It is clear that our Lord held marriage in high honor. The fact that He did His first miracle at a wedding feast, turning water into wine, is significant simply because He was there at the wedding. When he says "let no man separate," I think that also includes lesser things, such as money, and that leaving for a better-paying job (I understand there are other reasons also), does not fulfill or honor the vows taken in marriage, or the covenant established therebefore God.
I don't like writing that, because I can picture you saying, "You don't understand how difficult things were. He was unsupportive, money was so tight, and he had been unloving for so long. I felt all alone when he was right next to me. You don't know how much I put up with, to try to make this work." I am sure that you can say even more than that, and I understand that. It does not change the covenantal bond of a marriage. Marriage is a struggle, and it is to our sanctification in the end. What if Christ did not honor His bond to us because we were hard to deal with, or kept falling into sin? The truth is that we are unfaithful to the Lord more than we would wish to admit, and yet He never withdraws His love. He has established His covenant with His children, and He tenderly loves us even when we are not so lovable. As our relationship with Christ is pictured in marriage, so must we also seek to love our spouse as we have been loved.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Editor's Note: The questions in this series are stated in the exact form sent by the readers - unedited, unproofed, in order to remain true to the reader's original wording.