Thirty years ago this weekend we were engaged and in a few months we will celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary. Even after all these years it is good for us to look at others who have walked this path before, whose long marriages have been a living testimony of God’s goodness.
Recently I attended the funeral of a man who had been married 73 years. His children, grandchildren, and all those who knew him were inspired by this couple’s marriage, their devotion to each other, their love, and their enjoyment of each other.
Every time I went to visit them I noticed one thing about this man. At 98, with an enormous family of his own and many other acquaintances, he always remembered to ask about my family by name and to discuss gardening with me. He always made the effort to really connect. Even though he loved so many others, he cared about me, too.
In fact, at the funeral it was said repeatedly that his life was characterized by love for God and for others, and I think those qualities shone through in his marriage.
Considering that, perhaps much of the current thinking about marriage has its emphasis slightly wrong. Perhaps the basis for a God-honoring marriage, even after 73 years, is simply what Jesus said: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. When Jesus told the people this, he said that all of the Bible up to that day depended on these two commandments (Matthew 22). Perhaps all of the Bible of today does, too. Perhaps, then, the indignant fuss in many quarters about marriage, how it works and should work, the relationships between men and women, and so much else, could simply be resolved by this two-fold commandment.
On the other hand, perhaps not.
Be that as it may, in practical terms we should always aim to serve God with our whole being and to be kind to our spouse and those around us. We should praise God for blessing us with these people and gratefully acknowledge that he put each one of them into our lives for our good and his glory.
But how can anyone possibly do this? I think the answer is in that couple’s wedding text which hung on their wall and formed the basis of their 73 years together:
‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.’ (Ps 146:5)
This is the answer. With this confidence in our hearts we, too, can praise God in our lives, our marriages, and our other relationships. And our praise is not only singing and talking; it is also, and perhaps even more deeply, simply trusting God enough to obey him.
With God, it is possible, although not necessarily easy, and we will be blessed if we obey him.
To help make it all practical, here are four encouraging resources. All are based on research that clearly shows that God’s plan for lifelong marriage is not only good but also truly possible, even in our society. (Most links are to my reviews; there are no affiliate links.)
- Lifelong marriage is statistically possible; the discouraging numbers quoted everywhere do not represent the actual data and there is actually good news about marriage.
- A happy marriage is attainable and we can all learn practical tips from the happiest couples.
- Striving for a good marriage is worth it for many reasons, including health. This in-depth study by CARDUS, a Christian think tank, is free but invaluable. Do read it.
- Marriage is the beginning of family, and family is Irreplaceable. But real life is messy and forgiveness is often needed.
May God bless us as we seek to praise him in all our relationships. May he keep us from temptation, forgive our failures and sins, and give us everything we need to repent and continue on, always thankful to him.
If you want to read more about marriage, here is an annotated list of Nine Helpful Marriage Books (updated to include one more) and here are links to other posts I have written for Valentine’s Day. Some of them I still find helpful and I pray that you may as well.
This post is adapted in part from a funeral message by Rev. G. Van Popta. He has also written Pure Love (reviewed here and available free online here), a series of sonnets on Solomon’s Song of Songs, which is obviously related to this topic.
Creative commons image from nyphotographic.
Disclosure: I am not compensated for recommending any of the resources mentioned.