Why marriages don’t last

Sociologist Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University suggested that the majority of divorces occur within 10 years of the time of marriage because “most people who are unhappily married figure that out quickly.” 

There’s typically more to divorce decisions than happiness, but there is little doubt that our culture has elevated personal happiness to an unrealistic and deeply misguided level of importance. This likely contributes significantly to the pervasive reality of divorce.

Faulty expectations for gregariousness can make life a miserable story. It takes maturity to understand and grow through struggle, sadness, disappointment and hardship. Here’s a simple fact: Marriage is not supposed to make you happy; it’s meant to make you married.

Marriage is not about a feeling of love but an agreement to love. It takes work for marriage to work. Many marriages would improve if husbands and wives placed a greater value on the role of commitment reflected in their wedding vows. 

“Commitment is having a long-term view of marriage that helps us not get overwhelmed by the problems and challenges day-to-day. When there is high commitment in a relationship, we feel safer and are willing to give more for the relationship to succeed” (Dr. William H. Doherty).

Consider 5 commitments for a good marriage.

Steve Cornell

Love’s grand finale

 

“Do everything in love” (I Corinthians 16:14). How can we do this? Go back to the best definition of love available to us: 

I Corinthians 13:4-8

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV).

Those who practice this kind of love minimize conflict because love is anti-rivalry. Playful rivalry keeps life interesting and fun but when rivalry becomes selfish it violates true love and destroys unity and community. 

A closer look at love

1. Love is patient: It is long-suffering. It restrains anger when provoked. Patience is more than passive waiting. It’s active restraint in the moment of provocation. God is patient (Romans 2:5; II Peter 3:9).

2. Love is kind: It reaches out in good will with acts of care and concern. Love not only patiently forebears, but through kindness, actively pursues. Loving people are distinguished by their kindness. God is kind — even to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35-36; Titus 3:4-5)

3. Love does not envy: It does not resent the blessings of others. Envious people engage in evil rivalry. The envier gloats over the harm or misfortune of the envied. Enviers delight in evil.

4. Love does not boast: Love corrects the desire to call attention to self. A loving person is not a windbag or braggart. He does not parade himself. Love is willing to work anonymously. It needs no limelight or stage, applause or recognition.

5. Love is not proud: not puffed up; not arrogant; not full of oneself. A loving person does not think more highly of himself than sober judgment dictates (Romans 12:3).

6. Love is does not dishonor others: It is not rude. It is respectful of others.

7. Love is not self-seeking: It does not insist on its own way. It is not self-absorbed.

8. Love is not easily angered: It is not easily agitated nor easily provoked. Loving people are not hot-tempered, short-fused people.

9. Love keeps no record of wrongs: Love seeks forgiveness and reconciliation. When hurt badly, this part of love is hard to practice.

10. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: This rules out gossip, slander, and Schadenfreude (delight in the downfall of others).

Love’s grand finaleLove always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres.

There is nothing love cannot face and endure. Four verbs (protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres) offer repeated emphasis on how love brings everything under its influence. Love is tenacious and faithful. Love is positive and hopeful. Love is brave and noble; it never fails.

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us” (Ephesians 5:2).

Steve Cornell

7 purposes for marriage

  1. Completion (Genesis 2:18)
  2. Companionship (Genesis 2:18; Malachi 2:14)
  3. Continuance (Genesis 1:28) of the human race)
  4. Coregency (Genesis 1:28)
  5. Care (Exodus 21:10-11; 1 Corinthians 7:15Ephesians 5:25-33)
  6. Communication (Genesis 1:27) of God’s image and Ephesians 5:25-33 – Christ’s and His Church)
  7. Constraint (I Corinthians 7:3-5)

Marriage is God’s gift to humans. It was given to resolve the problem of human loneliness by providing complimentary companionship between a man and a woman (“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24-25). As originally designed, it is meant to be an exclusive (leaving) and permanent (cleaving/be united), one-flesh relationship.

Jesus affirmed the original plan for marriage when he said, “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).

We learn from Jesus that marriage is intended as a life-long relationship (what God has joined together, let man not separate). Brides and bridegrooms honor the teaching of our Lord when they solemnly promise to love, honor and cherish, and remain faithful to each other for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death separates them.

Equality is reflected in the first marriage as the man and woman were created in the image of God and given co-regency over the created order (Genesis 1:26-28). For believers in Christ, marriage is a covenant of companionship between two spiritually equal human beings (Galatians 3:26-28). Yet equality does not eliminate roles in a marriage relationship. Nor do roles in marriage diminish the call to mutual love and respect.

According to Scripture, the husband bears primary responsibility to lead the home in a God-glorifying way. His leadership clearly involves authority and should be honored by his wife and family (Ephesians 5:22-24, 33; 6:1-3). His authority, however, must be based on love (see: Ephesians 5:25, 33, w/ John 10:11-13; I Corinthians 13:4-8a) and thoughtful consideration (see: Philippians 2:3-5).

Scripture warns against husbands who treat their wives with insensitivity (see, I Peter 3:7). Husbands must never forget that they are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Cultural limitations or biases should not be placed on this command any more than on the command for wives to respect their husbands.

Steve Cornell

Dating and Relationship Advice

Dating tends to be a time when people conceal information that marriage will inevitably reveal. This is one reason why we need to guard our hearts and use our brains.

Let your head lead your heart

Do not give your heart to anyone until your head has processed the necessary data to tell you that you are making a wise decision. If you give your heart to a bad relationship, it will be very difficult to talk your head out of it.

Someone once recommended that we should focus on becoming the person that the person we’re looking for is looking for. Start by becoming the person that your future spouse needs. This will more likely lead you to attract and be attracted to the right kind of person.

Develop a mature understanding of love

When couples understand that marriage is not about being in love but an agreement to love; not about feeling loved but truly valuing each other, then they will find the path to deeply meaningful companionship. And (as a result) they usually experience the feelings of love that follow the choice to be loving.

One of the greatest obstacles to loving companionship in marriage is our cultural obsession with personal happiness as a fundamental right – if not, a sign of true mental health. Don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting we become stoic realists skeptical of pleasure and enjoyment. But I am saying that true and lasting satisfaction come from a refusal to treat felt needs as the highest priorities of life.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Phil. 2:3-5).  

Steve Cornell

SeeThe path to great relationships

3 essentials to marriage

When a couple takes the traditional marriage vows, they acknowledge three essentials parts to the relationship of marriage.

Marriage is a relationship of extraordinary care (I promise to love, comfort, honor, and cherish), sexually exclusivity (forsaking all others), and permanency (as long as you both shall live) between a man (to be your husband) and a woman (to be your wife).

1. Extraordinary Care

In the vows, a couple of promise to “love, comfort, honor, and keep” each other in any of life’s circumstances: “in joy and in sorrow, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health.” Couples making this promise don’t intend to care for each other only when times are good. They promise to care for each other when times are bad as well. And if, at the time of the wedding, one of them refused to make that promise, few would be willing to go through with the ceremony.

2. Sexual Exclusivity

When a couple marry, they promise to “forsake all others” and be “faithful” to each other—sexually.  Faithfulness in marriage is so fundamental to the marriage agreement that when the vow is broken, most marriages go into a free fall.  Infidelity ranks as one of the most painful experiences of a betrayed spouse’s life.  Anyone who knew at the time of their wedding that their spouse would eventually have an affair would refuse to marry that person.  It’s that important to remain faithful.

Affairs do not harm just marriages—they also harm children. A child also feels betrayed by a parent who cheats and then lies about it. Can you think of a worse example to a developing child than an unfaithful father or mother?

3. Permanence

A couple who marry promise to remain together “as long as we both shall live,” and that promise is essential to marriage for a host of reasons. The most important reason is that stability and continuity are required for raising children successfully. If a couple were told on the day of their wedding that they would divorce when their children were young and needed them the most, they would stop the ceremony. Even if a couple knew they could only avoid divorce until their children became adults, I’m not sure they would agree to be married. That’s because marriage creates interdependence — both spouses come to need each other in order to thrive. A divorce at any stage of life rips them apart, damaging both of them.

 

Forgiveness is an act of worship

Have you ever thought of forgiveness as an act of worship?

Jesus said, “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25).

Forgiveness is the choice not to hold things against another. Forgiveness is absent when one holds things against another. This is what we call resentment and it is a root cause behind many personal and societal problems. It’s the tendency to bear grudges and it often leads to revenge.

Holding against

Many people go through life collecting grievances (perceived or actual) and then storing them in their memory bank — specifically, in what I call their grudge account. Rather than forgiving an offender, they choose to nurse their anger; to lick their wounds and to sludge in their grudge.

This way of life is rarely traveled alone because misery enjoys company. It validates our resentment when we can find people to commiserate with us in our grievances by swapping grudge stories. Some throw pity parties to seek solidarity with others in their resentments.

Those who habitually collect perceived rather than actual grievances are in a different category. These people behave in narcissistic pathologically paranoid ways. They’re narcissistic because they think people think about them more than people do and pathologically paranoid because they imagine people are continually against them. They people who are self-destructively self-absorbed and must come to even deeper levels of repentance by embracing Jesus’ call to self-denial.

“Forgive him?!” “Not after what he did to me!”

But Jesus’ words “Forgive him” are hard to hear when you’ve been badly hurt. I recall more than once, people responding, “Forgive him?!” “Not after what he did to me!”

Does Jesus ask us to become morally neutral about the wrongful and damaging behavior of others? Is he asking us to pretend nothing happened and let our offender off the hook?

One thing is clear from Jesus’ words, whatever else forgiveness involves, it’s the opposite of “holding something against” someone. Forgiveness requires an act of “letting go” or “releasing”— a refusal to “hold against”.

Empty your grudge account

But this act of releasing is not a superficial or feigned act of erasing or ignoring the wrong committed against us. Letting go of an offense does not require moral neutrality about right and wrong. We’re not required to let the offense go into some imaginary zone of forgetfulness.

Forgiving is an act of worship that takes place in the presence of the God who is the righteous judge of all the earth. Forgiveness is an act of releasing the offense to the God who said, “Do not take revenge, …but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

I am suggesting that forgiveness is first and foremost a matter between you and God, not you and your offender.

When someone hurts us, we tend only to see the horizontal significance of what occurred. “This is about me and the one who hurt me!” we insist. For those who worship God, however, life is primarily about God and secondarily about them. In the rest of Mark 11:25, Jesus reminded us that even our grievances must be dealt with in relation to God: “…if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Do we earn God’s forgiveness?

When Jesus related forgiving others to God forgiving our sins, was he suggesting some form of conditional or earned system of forgiveness? Is this a quid pro qo arrangement (favor for favor)? No! Our forgiveness from God is based on God’s undeserved favor received through Jesus Christ. It’s not that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others, but that God expects His forgiven people to forgive. When forgiven people don’t forgive, God is not worshipped— He is dishonored (See: Matthew 18:21-35).

This is where worship connects with forgiveness. When we forgive, we “let go of” instead of “holding on to” or “holding against.”

Forgiveness is an act of releasing to God the hurtful actions and consequences of the wrong done to us. God has sole prerogative of vengeance (Romans 12:19). If the one who hurts us is to be punished, it is God’s right to punish him. When sinned against, turn to God and worship Him by acknowledging His authority as Judge. Acknowledge that any judgment against the one who wronged you is His right — not yours.

Forgiveness as worship is not surrendering or neutralizing our sense of morality and justice. This is not a cheap “letting off the hook” of the one who hurt us. It’s not a mental exercise in forgetting or a feigned effort to trivialize evil by saying, “O well, we’re all sinners.” It’s an act of worship before the final Judge.

On this view, forgiveness is not solely about me – what happened to me and who did it. It’s about God—who He is and His authority as Judge.

Worshipping God, not using Him

Forgiveness is an act of releasing to God what rightly belongs to him. Since God is “the Judge of all the earth who will do what is right,” releasing to God places the offence in the purest context of judgment. Forgiving is releasing the grievance and the offender to God’s all-knowing perspective and to the perfect balanced of justice and mercy. This honors God by placing matters into His hands and His timing.

But this approach to forgiveness must not be corrupted into a “God will get you” mentality. Worship is not an effort to use God; it’s an act of humbling yourself before Him.

When forgiveness becomes worship, the offended person humbles herself before God honoring and confessing Him as judge and trusting Him to uphold His judgment as He chooses and in His time.

Unexpected blessing

In this act of “letting go” or “releasing to God,” the one who forgives is also released and empowered to live out the radical prescription of Romans 12:20-21: “On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. …. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Punishment of wrongdoers

Please don’t leave this subject with the final words from Romans 12. The connection with Romans 13 is important in any discussion of forgiveness. According to Romans 13:1-4, sometimes God executes His wrath (compare 12:19) and punishment of wrongdoers through the agency of human government (see esp. Romans 13:4). This strengthens the point that forgiveness is not a matter of moral neutrality.

When the one who wrongs you receives punishment from a God-ordained authority, it’s right to support and honor the role of government in punishing wrongdoers (see: I Peter 2:13). We honor this role of authority for the glory of God and the good of society. Yet endorsement of just-punishment must never be sought as a means for vindictive and vengeful intention. If tempted toward this response, turn to God is worship based on Romans 12:18-21.

When we’ve been wronged and the punishment of the wrong-doer becomes a matter for human government, we cannot sincerely support such punishment with the right spirit until we prayerfully apply the teaching of Romans 12:18-21.

An invitation

This is an invitation for those who bear grudges to worship God as the only rightful judge of evil. Turn your grudge over to the Judge! Recite His deep moral opposition to the evil committed against you and surrender every desire for revenge to His prerogative in punishing evil (Romans 12:19).

If God chooses to (or involves you in) mediating His judgment through ordained human authority, honor and support those authorities for fulfilling their divine role (see: Romans 13:1-4), but check your heart against seeking false and destructive satisfaction through personal revenge.

The connection between Romans 12 and 13 offers the important reminder that forgiveness does not require a surrender of our sense of right and wrong.

We need the grace of God to apply these truths with sincerity and humility.

Prayer

“God, please help me to worship you when I’ve been hurt by others. You have forgiven my sins and each day I remind myself that you have not dealt with me as my sins deserve. I release my grudge to the Judge and trust you with the outcome.

Steve Cornell

See: Moving From Forgiveness to Reconciliation