Whether between believers or the heathen, marriage was ordained by God and has one fundamental purpose – to show forth the glory of Christ in his relationship to the Church. Statistics¹ give the reasons over which Kenyans commonly divorce as the following:
(i) Withholding conjugal rights for a protracted time without valid reasons such as pregnancy, illness, child-birth, etc. – 26%
(ii) Long-term failure by the husband to provide materially for the family – 20%
(iii) A wife’s neglect of her within-the-home responsibilities or wastefulness of material property – 17%
(iv) Extended and unexplained absence from home by any one of the spouses – 15%
(v) Adultery – 9%
(vi) Alcoholism – 6%
(vii) Cruel treatment, especially when ‘excessive’ or ‘unjustified’ (some tribes believe that, within reasonable limits, a husband can beat his wife for ‘serious’ offences) – 4%
(viii) Witchcraft directed against a husband or wife – 2%
There certainly are more reasons for divorce not captured above, but be as it may, Scripture commands that no man would put asunder that which God has put together (Matthew 19:6). Yet, because of our fallen nature (Romans 3:23) and our hearts’ selfishness (Mark 7:21; Jeremiah 17:9), many violate the above command.
We are well prepared to guard our marriages from divorce if, with humility, we first acknowledge that we are sinful (Romans 3:10-12). That, save for the help of God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 10:13) as he sanctifies us (John 17:17; Galatians 2:20; 2 Peter 1:2-4), we wouldn’t last another minute together. Then we can depend on the mercies of Christ at work in us and, by so doing, live with our spouses as fellow recipients of saving grace and Spirit-given endurance.
Why should anyone fight for their marriage, even when it might seem pointless to do so?
The Origin of Marriage
Genesis 1 and 2 tell us about the beginning of all things. God created the heavens and the earth and all their inhabitants with the aim that they would glorify him. But, unfortunately, man sinned and subjected all creation under a curse (Romans 8:18-23). Marriage, along with all of reality, now fails to reflect as much of our Maker’s glory as it ought.
Should my marriage get bumpy and rocky, it is wise to ask if I have forgotten the mandate set for the union by its Author (Genesis 1:24-25). Godly marriage convictions can only be as strong as the devotion to the Author of marriage is deep.
Whoever invests time and energy in seeking to understand the will of God for marriage (Matthew 19:4-6, Hebrews 13:4) while single will save themselves the failures prevalent to distorted worldly perspectives as it concerns marriage.
Paul Ephesians 5:21-33argues that Christ’s relationship with the Church is the blueprint for godly marriages (Ephesians 5:21-33). That bears practical implications on the respective roles of husband and wife. Husbands, for example, are commanded to love their wives in the same manner that Christ loves his Church. This love is sacrificial (1 John 3:16), selfless (Philippians 2:1-11; John 15:12-13), and servant-like (John 13:14-15).
The bar could never be higher, and yet whoever would fail to look to this example of Christ and his Bride would no doubt lack the strength to endure till death alone “does us part.” Christ never forsakes his Church, prone to sinning as we may be. He is the example by which we must live, depending on his grace.
Alertness to Deception
You have heard the phrase, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Envy is natural to sinful man, and too often, our discontented hearts covet that which is another’s, supposing it better. Many have neglected covenant partners because of seemingly greener grass elsewhere.
Suppose you had a neighbour who watered his yard more diligently than you do yours; wouldn’t his lawn look lovelier than yours? And if ever you swapped houses, he, being diligent, would turn your not-so-pleasant lawn into yet another lovely one, and you, being lazy, would ruin his once lush garden. The grass can only be greener on the other side because the hands are folded in slothfulness on this side.
There is no perfect spouse out there, and there isn’t a marriage that thrives without the work being put in. Husbands are commanded to love their wives and live with them in understanding (Malachi 2:14-15; Colossians 3:19; Ephesians 5:25; 1 Peter 3:7). Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:24; Colossians 3:18). Obeying these commands can sometimes feel as hard as tending a garden under the sun’s scorching rays, but they are the only means by which the fruit of a blissful marriage is produced.
Before concluding, it might be worthwhile to pay attention to the necessity of separation in some cases. Unfortunately, there are times when couples find themselves forced apart due to persistence in sinful behaviour. The hope is usually that a spouse or both would mend their ways, enabling a reunion.
A marriage marked by abuse (physical or mental) is not safe for the victim. We should neither conform to today’s world’s quick-to-quit attitude that lacks any regard whatsoever to the permanency of marriage nor champion the kind of persistence that is sometimes oblivious to real physical and mental dangers. Separation is sometimes the grace an abusive spouse needs to help jolt them out of their folly and pride.
In extreme cases, divorce is warranted. Scripture grants the possibility of divorce, but not without the caution that one would have to remain unmarried (Mark 10:1-12; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
The Lord forbid that you, if single, would pursue marriage unprepared. The stakes could never be higher than that God seeks glory in your marriage union. It would be better to remain single than to trample the glory of God underfoot by hurting a spouse. Whether single or married, pursue obedience in all things, for by this means alone is our Maker glorified through us.