Beating the Odds & Staying Married (but Happily?)

by Sally Matheny

     by Sally Matheny

Beating the Odds & Staying Married
 He was the annoying little brother of one of my high school friends. The first time I went home with my friend, he hid, then pelted us with multi-colored marshmallows.
     I’ll never forget his first three words to me. Pressing his palm to his forehead, he flexed his little arm and said, “Feel that muscle!” He acted like your typical ten-year-old, except he was thirteen at the time.
     That took place back in 1979. By 1989, we were vowing to love one another for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness, and in health—and only death could separate us.


     Wow. That’s a heavy promise. Most people can’t really imagine what the worse, poor, or sick days will be like when they’re standing there in the blissful moments of their wedding day.

     Yet, the divorce statistics are staggering, even among evangelical Christians. Studies report the chances of divorce increase with every year of marriage. So, what’s the secret of those who are beating the odds and staying married? Moreover, are they happily married?
     A plethora of sources offer marriage advice, but one must choose wisely. Our primary source must be of the highest standard.    

     So, what does the Bible say about marriage? A great article in Christianity Today answers this. After the scripture is discussed, the article concludes with a quote by author of Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas:  

"What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?"     

     Hmm…there’s a thought. Quite often, we enter marriage with high expectations of what our spouse will provide towards our happiness. Sometimes our focus on God blurs. We seek fulfillment and affirmation solely from our spouse. Because we are all imperfect humans, this strategy ultimately will fall short.

     How often do you hear people say they are not happy in their marriage? They don’t love one another anymore. Things aren’t working out as they had planned. One feels they’re carrying the whole load. Each blames the other. It’s too much work.

     Promising to love each other through the stretches of illness, the not-so-wealthy days, and the all-inclusive “worse” days, guarantees not every day is headed for wedded bliss.

     Success for a long-lasting marriage boils down to how you define love. If you base it on the world’s standards, your marriage will most likely be an exhausting struggle in which everyone loses.

An example of the purest love.
     If we vow to love one another, in the presence of God, shouldn’t we strive for His standard?  If we want an example of the purest love, we need not look any further than that of Jesus Christ.      

     Everyone has flaws. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to follow Christ’s example. 
     Daily we pour our hearts out before the Lord. Then ask Him to fill them back up with 
His power to help us love our spouses the way He does.  This is not just praying for God to give us a feeling. It takes work.     

     Yes, work. Our sinful nature has a tendency to look towards our own selfish desires first. It takes a conscientious effort to put our spouse’s needs before our own. It’s easy to love them when they act lovable. Learning how to treat a spouse with love, despite how he/she behaves towards us—that’s not easy to do at all.

     We must learn from the Master, who shows love to us when we are so unworthy. A successful marriage, one that has a continual undercurrent of joy, is based on a couple’s resolve to choose to love each other in thoughts, words, and deeds regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

     My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary this summer. Is he still annoying like he was the day I met him? Sometimes.  Have I ever aggravated him? Absolutely.

     The times we struggled the most in our marriage were the times we focused less on God and more on ourselves. Our marriage grew deeper (and sweeter!) once we stopped roller-coasting on an emotion and began intentionally cultivating our relationship. 

     Regular times of reading the Bible and praying together took our relationship to a much deeper level. Christ’s love is what binds us, what encourages us, and keeps us going when times get tough.  

     We’re beating the odds because we're not gambling with worldly "wisdom." We’ve placed our lives, and our marriage, on the winning team of Jesus Christ.  
      Are we happily married? Yes! Most days.

     On the worse days, we choose to dig deep, and stand on a firm foundation of true love.