The Family Breakdown—Facing Up to It
“I NEVER would have thought of divorce five years ago,” said a thirty-one-year-old secretary in India. She continued: “I would have suffered through an unhappy marriage until I died. But I heard of other women who were divorced, and then I met one, and that gave me the strength to try.”
Remarks of this nature are also being heard with increasing frequency in other parts of the earth. Family breakups are definitely on the increase. In Sweden there are six divorces for every ten marriages, in the United States about five divorces for every ten marriages, in East Germany about three divorces for every ten marriages and in Finland less than three divorces for every ten marriages. Why are so many married people refusing to stay together?
The comments of the young woman from India well illustrate that there has been a change in attitude about preserving a marriage despite difficulties. No longer is divorce so frowned upon as to restrain marriage breakups. Prominent persons who are often before the public are among the many getting divorces. This has lent a certain label of respectability, making it easier for people to accept the idea of divorce for themselves. Furthermore, there has been a liberalizing of divorce laws in various countries. All these factors have contributed toward making divorce appear like an easy way out of a serious marriage problem.
The women’s liberation movement, too, has had its impact upon the family. It has caused some women to feel that a career is more important than being a housewife and a mother. Work in the home has come to be viewed as unrewarding drudgery. Even in certain lands where women used to have little say, there have been changes. There some wives demand greater voice in the marriage, but their husbands are unwilling to yield. Soon this leads to serious problems. For a wife, freedom through divorce may become more desirable than having to submit unquestioningly to the dictates of a husband.
The fact that many wives are part of the labor force has also contributed toward weakening families. At work, such wives may get considerable attention from other men. Sometimes this may lead to their finding another man who is more attractive to them than is their own husband. As a result, their marriage may end in divorce.
In lands where inflation continues to be a problem, husbands and wives often get into heated disputes about financial matters. Such arguments can develop to the point where it seems that only separation or divorce could bring relief from the unpleasant situation.
THOSE WHO ENJOY A UNITED FAMILY
Yet many married people do remain together for life, and they are happy and contented. Why is this?
Often the reason for success in marriage is that both husband and wife follow sound principles. There is clear evidence that the closer such principles correspond to what is presented in the Bible, the stronger are the family ties. A married man in Las Vegas, Nevada, found this to be true in his case. He remarks: “Before my wife and I started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I am sure that our marriage would not have lasted another month. That’s how bad things had become.”
But why are the Bible’s guidelines so helpful? They are based on more than human wisdom. The apostle Paul, who for years observed the wholesome effect that the Scriptures can have on people, wrote: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Yes, God is the source of the wisdom contained in the Scriptures. As man’s Maker he knows what is in our best interests and will promote our greatest happiness. That is why we can trust the guidance that the Scriptures provide. This guidance has also passed the test of time.
What the Bible says about marriage and family life is very realistic. It does not raise false expectations; it frankly acknowledges that marriage is not without problems. We read that those who marry “will have tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Cor. 7:28) At the same time the Scriptures show how to handle family difficulties successfully, as we shall see.
Furthermore, the Bible deemphasizes material things, encouraging contentment and the pursuit of spiritual treasures. For example, at 1 Timothy 6:7, 8 we read: “We have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” How many disputes over financial matters married couples could avoid by living accordingly!
The counsel of the Scriptures promotes the highest regard for the marriage arrangement. There is such admonition as the following: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Heb. 13:4) Besides counsel on maintaining an honorable marriage, the Bible also presents sound reasons for avoiding sexual immorality. In an unvarnished way the Scriptures warn of the dangers to one’s health, family and, most importantly, to one’s relationship with Jehovah God. The man pursuing an immoral woman, for example, is compared to a ‘bull being led to the slaughter.’ Then we read: “He has not known that it involves his very soul,” that is, his life as a person.—Prov. 7:22, 23.
The Bible also sets forth the rights and responsibilities of husband, wife and children. When its admonition is applied, all members of the family enjoy a dignified standing. They feel needed and appreciated. Therefore, they enjoy being together.
So that you might see how fine the principles of the Bible are, we invite you to read the next article. We feel sure that you will be encouraged to note that wholesome family life is possible even at a time when family breakdown is a serious problem.