Marriage That Works Is Work

by James Rudy Gray

Recently my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  We have been blessed with three daughters, ages 22, 20, and 16. Many things have changed and we are indeed older and sometimes feel even older than we are.

Looking back over the years, I am amazed at how poorly I have done things sometimes in our relationship. I am equally amazed at God’s grace that has brought help and comfort to us. 

In our culture today, marriage has been in trouble for many years. In fact, even some writers in the secular media have referred to us in America as the divorce culture. An even more embarrassing fact to evangelical Christians is that we have a slightly higher divorce rate than the culture as a whole.

However, in those places where covenant marriage has been practiced, we are beginning to see a significant difference: falling divorce rates. The encouraging feature of covenant marriage is that the couple thinks in terms of their covenant and staying together rather than looking for a way out.

Why do marriages fall apart? We normally think it’s because one of the partners has committed adultery or something of that magnitude, but according to Paul Amato and Alan Booth in A Generation at Risk, “more than 60 percent of marriages break apart because of creeping loneliness and boredom, or tiny unresolved resentments that coalesce into percolating volcanoes.”

It has now been pointed out in different pieces of research that when we are first married, we have a high level of marital satisfaction, but as time goes on, that satisfaction decreases and even turns into dissatisfaction. Every relationship starts out with infatuation. If the two people involved do not mature through that stage into real love (commitment), trouble will likely be the predictable outcome.

Marriage works. One set of writers has presented the case that married people are happier, healthier, and better off financially. Marriage is a God-designed organism, but marriage that works is also hard work. Romance soon fades into the routine of real-life scenarios, dislikes, conflicts, and painful realities. Romance can develop, change, and mature as the marriage matures. But that requires faith that trusts God, believes and obeys His word, and is committed to honoring and valuing the other person. Marriage works when husbands and wives work under the guidance and wisdom of God Himself.

In 25 years of marriage, my wife and I have witnessed many couples near our age whose marriages were broken. While divorce is not the unpardonable sin, it is certainly a pain that will be felt not only in the couples’ lives but also in the lives of their children.

Marriage is good because it is from God. Marriage works because of His design and our commitment to work at the relationship and develop the needed skills. I know my wife and I have been blessed beyond our efforts in our marriage. However, I also believe that is the way of grace in God’s kingdom. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). That truth is also realized in the marriage relationship throughout the seasons of change, conflict, difficulty, and joys.