Once upon a time a knight in shining armor picked up his princess on his white horse and they got married and lived happily ever after. So says the fairy tale. Is marriage always like that?
An older man was once asked by a younger man, "How many happy years have you been married?" The older man replied, "Twenty." The young man was surprised. He thought for sure the older man had been married for a long time. The older man said, "O yeah! We've been married for fifty years of which twenty of them were happy." How sad!
There may be more truth to that older man's take than what many wish to admit. Why is that so? Why does marriage sometimes seem so tough for couples?
When I do premarital counseling I usually ask this question, "What makes marriage work?" The young couple (and sometimes older couples) look all starry eyed and answer the question with answers like "love", "just wanting to be together", etc. But then I give them my answer. "What makes marriage work? Sin makes marriage work. You have to work hard at having a successful happy marriage. You are both sinners and have to work hard at getting along."
After they give me the raspberries for the trick question, they seem to understand what I am saying. Marriage is God's idea. He came up with it. After creating the animal population and Adam, there was not found a helper suitable for Adam. Then He created the woman, Eve. After taking a rib and fashioning it into a woman, He brought her to the man and Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:23-24).
Think about it! Ever since the Fall of mankind, a man and a woman, both sinners coming from two totally different upbringings, are now placed in a relationship where they are expected to become one flesh. Each was raised with different values. One may have come from a home where Christ was central; the other did not. One may have had frugal parents; the other may have had parents who racked up a lot of debt. You get the point! Two sinners are told marriage is forever. Make it work!
The odds are against every marriage from the beginning. We are raised in an environment where marriage is no longer respected as it has been in the past. People choose to live together thinking that they will not have to face the same problems as those who do the marriage thing. Yet, don't forget, marriage was and is God's idea.
The problem is we do what we do because God made us with natural impulses, a desire to procreate, a need for companionship, etc., but we don't always want to do it the God way. And most likely, we try to do it without God's help.
Solomon says it well in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." Hmm, a three stranded cord is not quickly torn apart. Do you think Solomon might be on to something?
When God is central in the marriage, it makes it pretty tough to break up the marriage. I mentioned the sin thing. Don't you think that if you have two people in a marriage sold out to God, confessing their sins, that the whole "until death do us part" thing might really work. They could possibly live happily ever after. Oh sure, there will be struggles along the way, but God's thing done God's way seems to be the best way to go!