My wife, Terrie, and I were blessed to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary last December. Every day—and more—I thank the Lord for Terrie and the gift of being her husband. Proverbs 18:22 is absolutely fulfilled in my life through her: “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.”
A marriage that endures through the decades is the result of God’s grace through two people who are committed to one another. Sometimes as I counsel couples, I’m reminded of how important it is when it comes to marriage to keep the basics in mind. If we forget the basic truths about biblical marriage, we easily make assumptions that, over time, undermine the marriage relationship.
Here are 10 basics—in no particular order—that every married Christian should remember:
1. We are passionate about the things we work on and think about the most.
Good marriages take effort. It requires real work to understand your spouse and honor and love him or her. A spouse who is passionate about a strong marriage thinks about his or her spouse often and constantly invests in the relationship.
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. —1 Peter 3:7
2. Focusing on your needs only will ruin a marriage.
Every husband has unique needs, as does every wife. Ephesians 5 speaks to the individual nature of each spouse’s needs as it commands wives to honor their husbands and husbands to love their wives. But don’t miss the obvious—the command to each spouse is to meet the other’s needs, not to focus on his or her own needs.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. —Ephesians 5:22, 25
Charity…seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil. —1 Corinthians 13:4–5
3. Most marriages will hit a “wall.”
Sometimes a couple is surprised by a season of difficulty in their marriage. Because they never expected it to happen, they assume their marriage is already as good as gone.
If, when you encounter such a season, you recognize that every difficulty can be worked through with the grace of God, biblical truth (perhaps including wise counsel) and a couple determined to strengthen their relationship, you’ll get through it and often be stronger for it.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. —Ephesians 3:20
4. Refusing godly counsel is to reject God’s plan for safety.
Early in our marriage, Terrie and I made a commitment that if either of us ever felt we needed marriage counsel, we would both get it. During times of extreme pressure in ministry, we have occasionally gone to someone in ministry longer than us with a strong marriage to ask for counsel on keeping our marriage strong even as we invest in the work of the ministry together.
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety. —Proverbs 11:14
5. Satan is a liar.
And he will do everything he can to convince you that his lies are the truth. Distrust all “certainties” that don’t emphasize the power of God and permanence of marriage.
…He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. —John 8:44
6. Good people go through difficulties.
You know those marriages you look at and just know are perfect? They aren’t. Every Christian marriage is comprised of two sinners. Even godly Christian couples have difficulties. What sets their marriages apart is that they are committed to work through the difficulties.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. —Mark 10:9
7. God is against divorce.
Actually, He hates it. Remember that before you throw the word divorce around in an argument. Terrie and I committed before we were even married that divorce wasn’t an option or a part of our vocabulary. (If you have already been through a divorce, you know how devastating it is, and of course, God desires to give you help and healing. But for your current marriage, remember this truth.)
And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away… —Malachi 2:15–16
8. Children do suffer greatly when divorce occurs.
Every couple I know who has decided to get a divorce during marriage troubles tried to downplay in their own minds the effect it would have on their children. And they were always wrong. Children almost always perceive the divorce as somehow their fault, no matter how often their parents tell them otherwise. And they always suffer.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. —Ephesians 6:4
9. Church attendance is no replacement for Bible application.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no replacement for church attendance either. But merely attending church for 20 years doesn’t make a strong marriage. It takes applying biblical truth to do that.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. —James 1:22
10. Bible love bears, believes and hopes at all times.
Many of the tensions or disagreements that arise in any relationship can be overcome simply with biblical love. The world’s definition of love is very much based on feeling—how your spouse makes you feel. But biblical love is a choice—to bear all things, believe all things and hope for all things. This is a love that only God can give and that God does bless.
Charity…beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. —1 Corinthians 13:4, 7