Marriage these days is in bad shape. Probably most of us would agree with that. We would look back to the days when our old grandparents and great grandparents were married for fifty years, some even sixty years and more, and we think they stuck together because of Victorian preoccupation of what people thought.
Marriage – today vs. in our grandparents’ day
Thank goodness we don’t have to do that now. We can do what we want. If we don’t like the person after a year we can get rid of them and marry again. It’s not quite as easy as the Eastern religion practitioners who say I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you three times but it seems almost as easy as that. A little incompatibility here and a little custody of children there — suddenly the whole thing is undone that you did on that great, bright day in the church several years ago.
Most of us know marriage is in a very different state to what it was years ago. In some ways many of us dream about the old days — maybe they did it because of what people thought — maybe they stayed together because the small community in which they lived would not put up with divorce. They thought it was heretical and outside God’s will but it certainly was good. It brought a certain stability and steadiness that we lack today.
So many of us go round and round in our minds about that. But all of us can turn from those very generalized thoughts and wonderings to our own marriages. When we turn to that many of us fasten our hand upon our hearts because many of our marriages are far from the strong, enjoyable and peaceful experiences we hoped they would be.
We have been saying that many of us have a misconception of marriage, a total misconception of it. We are working on that misconception and acting in all kinds of ways on the basis of that misconception. That’s why our marriages aren’t working. In fact we are expecting things from our marriages we aren’t meant to get at all.
Treating our marriages as if we simply made the wrong choice
So we are doing the same thing with our marriage that we often do when we buy the wrong tool for the wrong job. We buy the wrong hammer or the wrong screwdriver, or we buy the wrong car or wrong vacuum cleaner and we find it is not suitable for the job we intended to do with it. So our experience with that tool or item is utterly frustrating and unsatisfactory.
Could it be that we are doing the same thing with our marriages? We thought our marriages existed for our pleasure and satisfaction. In fact, they don’t. Our Creator made the institution of marriage and actually made us man and woman; male and female so that as it says in Genesis 1:26-27 , he could express his own image through us.
Marriage meant to be an expression of God’s nature
That’s why we are made male and female, because the male expresses the strength, courage, steadiness and determination, often the forcefulness of God. Often the female expresses the tenderness, kindliness, the flexibility, the love and sensitivity of God. Whether they are together as man and wife or together as man and woman in work or in business, they do complement one another and combine to express the total character and nature of God.
In fact that’s why God put you together with your wife, even though you didn’t know it at the time; even though you weren’t aware of that. God is always working inside your marriage to bring that about. He is able to do it.
Of course we always think, “I’m pretty naturally like God. I’m a pretty gentle person and most considerate individual.” You remember the character in the old musical, My Fair Lady, who said, “I’m a most understanding man.” We men like to think we are absolutely perfect. We don’t see why you would change one of our hairs; we are so beautiful and attractive in character. Of course you ladies also think the same.
Somebody has said man envies the power of God and woman envies the worship of God. We have a way of thinking we are absolutely perfect. There is nothing like marriage to knock that out of you.
God uses your spouse to make you more like God
Of course that’s one of the misconceptions we have. We have a tendency to regard everything in the other person that irritates us as a reason for divorce. When actuality, everything that irritates us is showing up our lack of patience; it’s showing up our irritability. It’s showing up the things in us that are not like God; the things that will prevent us living with him in heaven.
So, often it is the very worst things in the other person that drive us beyond the very human and very limited abilities and qualities that we possess. It’s those very qualities in the other person that drive us into the arms of the one who can produce a supernatural beauty and character in us which we ourselves do not possess.
How God works on us and in us
So often that is what we are experiencing. Fosdick [Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1878 – 1969] said a woman prayed for patience and then God gave her a “green” cook (a cook who could not cook). So that was God’s way of answering. She thought God will bring patience down by the hand of an angel or some night while I am sleeping, he’ll implant patience in me. God doesn’t work character in us in that way.
He works character in us almost the way he worked a perfection and beauty of character in his Son Jesus. Remember in the Bible it says Jesus learned obedience through suffering. God works that same way with us.
God is after something deeper in you and me than just happiness here in this life. He is after reproducing in us the beauty of His own nature that will enable us to be at home in heaven and not at home in hell. So He has planned that dear girl of yours carefully or He has planned that dear guy of yours carefully.
Differences in the two marriage partners is by God’s design
No, it is not an error that she is like you in some ways and not like you in other ways. It’s not an error that he is like you in some ways and not like you in many ways. That is God’s plan.
God is no fool. He knows He can drive you beyond your own limited spirit and power into His unlimited Spirit and power if He puts someone with you who drives you beyond the limits of your own ability to endure. So it is that that dear character you are married to is exactly right for you, especially if she gets to you; especially if he annoys you. Of course that is not a reason for them to keep annoying you or you to keep annoying your partner.
God’s will for us is perfect love and perfect peace in our partnerships. There is no question one stage on the way to that is where he allows the other person’s unpleasant and inexpedient, annoying characteristics to drive you beyond your own love and your own kindness into God’s arms until you begin to say, “Lord, you are working in this. I can only trust that you are. I trust you now to give me the ability to be like yourself to this person.” You then move then into real love.