Maintain “a Threefold Cord” in Marriage
“A threefold cord cannot quickly be torn in two.”—ECCL. 4:12.
1. Who united the first human pair in marriage?
FOLLOWING the creation of plant and animal life, Jehovah God formed the first man, Adam. God later caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, and He used one of Adam’s ribs to make for him a perfect helper. Upon catching sight of her, Adam said: “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen. 1:27; 2:18, 21-23) Jehovah showed his approval of this development, yoking the first human pair in marriage and pronouncing his blessing upon them.—Gen. 1:28; 2:24.
2. How did Satan drive a wedge between Adam and Eve?
2 Sadly, before long the divine institution of marriage came under attack. How so? A wicked spirit, who came to be called Satan, deceived Eve into eating from the only tree that was forbidden to the couple. Subsequently, Adam joined his wife in what amounted to a rebellion against God’s rightful rule and good direction. (Gen. 3:1-7) When Jehovah asked the couple what they had done, it became obvious that their relationship was already strained. Adam blamed his wife, saying: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree and so I ate.”—Gen. 3:11-13.
3. Some Jews developed what mistaken view?
3 In the centuries since, Satan has used a variety of sly methods to spread marital discord. For instance, at times he has used religious leaders to promote an unscriptural view of marriage. Some Jewish leaders minimized God’s standards, allowing husbands to divorce their wives for such trivial matters as oversalting food. But Jesus pointed out: “Whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.”—Matt. 19:9.
4. How is the marriage arrangement under attack today?
4 Satan is still busy trying to rip apart the marital bond. Homosexual unions, unmarried couples living together, and easy divorces prove that he is having much success in this regard. (Read Hebrews 13:4.) As Christians, what can we do to avoid being influenced by the prevailing distorted view of marriage? Let us consider some traits of a happy, successful marriage.
Keep Jehovah in the Marriage
5. What does the expression “threefold cord” mean as regards marriage?
5 For a marriage to thrive, Jehovah needs to be involved in the relationship. His Word says: “A threefold cord cannot quickly be torn in two.” (Eccl. 4:12) “Threefold cord” is a figurative expression. When this illustration is applied to marriage, it includes the husband and wife, the first two strands, who are intertwined with the central strand, Jehovah God. Being united with God gives a couple the spiritual strength to cope with problems, and it is the key to achieving the greatest happiness in marriage.
6, 7. (a) What can Christians do to ensure that God is in their marriage? (b) What does one sister value about her husband?
6 But what can a married couple do to ensure that their marriage is like such a threefold cord? The psalmist David sang: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.” (Ps. 40:8) Our love for God likewise moves us to serve him with a complete heart. Thus, both mates should cultivate a warm personal relationship with Jehovah and find delight in doing his will. Marriage mates should also strive to strengthen their partner’s love for God.—Prov. 27:17.
7 If God’s law is truly within our inward parts, such qualities as faith, hope, and love will be displayed and will help to nourish the marriage bond. (1 Cor. 13:13) A Christian named Sandra, who has been married for 50 years, says: “What I most value in my husband are his spiritual guidance and advice and his love for Jehovah, which is stronger than his love for me.” Husbands, could similar comments be made about you?
8. What is needed to receive “a good reward” in marriage?
8 As a couple, do you keep spiritual matters and Kingdom interests to the fore in life? Moreover, do you truly view your mate as your partner in serving Jehovah? (Gen. 2:24) Wise King Solomon wrote: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their hard work.” (Eccl. 4:9) Indeed, a husband and wife must work hard in order to obtain “a good reward” in the form of a loving and lasting union that has God’s blessing.
9. (a) What responsibilities do husbands have? (b) According to Colossians 3:19, how should a husband treat his wife?
9 An indication of whether God is in a marriage is the effort both husband and wife put forth to measure up to His requirements. Husbands have the primary obligation to provide for the material and spiritual needs of the household. (1 Tim. 5:8) They are also encouraged to be considerate of their wife’s emotional needs. At Colossians 3:19, we read: “You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them.” One Bible scholar explained that the expression “bitterly angry” involves “giving them either bitter words, or blows, and denying them their affection, care, provision, protection, and assistance.” Clearly, such behavior would be inappropriate in a Christian household. A husband who exercises his headship in a loving way stimulates a readiness in his wife to be in subjection.
10. Christian wives should display what kind of attitude?
10 Christian wives who seek to keep Jehovah in their marriage must also measure up to God’s requirements. The apostle Paul wrote: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation.” (Eph. 5:22, 23) Satan deceived Eve, promoting the lie that independence from God would bring lasting happiness. Clearly, the spirit of independence is now seen in many marriages. For godly women, however, submission to their loving head is not distasteful. They remember that Jehovah appointed Eve to be “a complement” of her husband, which God obviously considered to be an honorable position. (Gen. 2:18) A Christian wife who willingly cooperates with that arrangement is truly “a crown” to her husband.—Prov. 12:4.
11. What did one brother conclude has helped his marriage?
11 Another aid to keeping God in a marriage is for a couple to study God’s Word together. Gerald, who has been happily married for 55 years, says, “The most vital ingredient in a successful marriage is reading and studying the Bible together.” He adds, “Doing things together, especially spiritual things, draws mates much closer to each other and to Jehovah.” Studying the Bible together helps the family to keep Jehovah’s standards clearly in mind, deepens spirituality, and makes for continued progress.
12, 13. (a) Why is praying together so important for a couple? (b) What other spiritual activities strengthen a marriage?
12 Happily married couples also pray together. When a husband ‘pours out his heart’ with specific requests unique to their circumstances, it cannot help but strengthen the marriage bond. (Ps. 62:8) For example, how much easier it would be to put aside any disagreement with your mate after you together beseech the Almighty for guidance and direction! (Matt. 6:14, 15) In line with the prayer, how fitting it would be for each mate to make it a resolve to help the other and to “continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely.” (Col. 3:13) Bear in mind that prayer demonstrates reliance on God. King David said: “To you the eyes of all look hopefully.” (Ps. 145:15) When we look hopefully to God in prayer, we have fewer anxieties, knowing that ‘he cares for us.’—1 Pet. 5:7.
13 Another key way to keep Jehovah in a marriage is by attending congregation meetings and by working together in the ministry. At our meetings, couples learn how to combat the “crafty acts” that Satan is using to divide families. (Eph. 6:11, ftn.) And a husband and wife who regularly work together in the ministry learn to “become steadfast, unmovable.”—1 Cor. 15:58.
When Difficulties Arise
14. What factors can contribute to marital stress?
14 Granted, the above suggestions may not sound new or original, but why not openly discuss them with your mate? See if some area merits additional attention in your marriage. The Bible acknowledges, though, that even those who have God in their marriage “will have tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Cor. 7:28) Because of human imperfection, the bad influence of this lawless world, and the snares of the Devil, even marriages of faithful servants of God can come under great stress. (2 Cor. 2:11) But Jehovah enables us to cope with such stress. Yes, it can be done. The faithful man Job lost his livestock, his attendants, and his children. Yet, the Bible says: “In all this Job did not sin or ascribe anything improper to God.”—Job 1:13-22.
15. How can stress cause people to react, and how can mates best deal with such reactions?
15 Job’s wife, on the other hand, said to him: “Are you yet holding fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9) Indeed, when tragedies or other difficult circumstances arise, the ensuing emotional turmoil can cause one to act irrationally. “Mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy,” observes the wise man. (Eccl. 7:7) If your mate lashes out with hurtful words in response to hardship or “oppression,” try to remain calm. Responding in kind might cause one or both of you to say something that will make the situation worse. (Read Psalm 37:8.) So overlook any “wild talk” that might result from frustration or discouragement.—Job 6:3.
16. (a) How do Jesus’ words found at Matthew 7:1-5 apply to marriage? (b) Why is balance so important in marriage?
16 Marriage partners need to have realistic expectations. One mate might note certain idiosyncrasies in the other and think, ‘I can change him (or her).’ With love and patience, you may be able to help your mate to make gradual improvement. Do not forget, though, that Jesus likened one who picks at another’s minor failings to someone who sees a “straw” in his brother’s eye but fails to notice a “rafter” in his own eye. Jesus urged us: “Stop judging that you may not be judged.” (Read Matthew 7:1-5.) This does not mean that serious flaws should be ignored. Robert, married nearly 40 years, said: “Being open and frank with each other and then being willing to accept valid observations may require marriage partners to make changes in their life.” So be balanced. Rather than fretting over the attributes you would like to see in your mate, learn to appreciate and enjoy the positive qualities that he or she has now.—Eccl. 9:9.
17, 18. When troubles mount, where can we turn for help?
17 Tests may come when circumstances in life change. A couple may face challenges when they have children. A mate or a child may become seriously ill. Aging parents may need special care. Grown children may move far away from home. Other changes may result from caring for theocratic privileges and responsibilities. All these changes can bring some stress and anxiety to a relationship.
18 If the strain on your marriage makes you feel that you have reached the breaking point, what can you do? (Prov. 24:10) Do not give up! Satan would like nothing better than for one of God’s servants to abandon pure worship. He would be even happier if a couple did so. Hence, do all you can to make sure that your marriage remains a threefold cord. The Bible contains many accounts of ones who remained faithful despite severe trials. For example, on one occasion, David poured out his heart to Jehovah, saying: “Show me favor, O God, because mortal man . . . keeps oppressing me.” (Ps. 56:1) Have you ever felt oppressed by “mortal man”? Whether the stress that you feel is coming from a distance or from someone close to you, remember: David found the strength to endure, and so can you. “I inquired of Jehovah, and he answered me,” said David. “Out of all my frights he delivered me.”—Ps. 34:4.
19. In what way can we ward off Satan’s attacks?
19 In this time of the end, marriage partners need to “keep comforting one another and building one another up.” (1 Thess. 5:11) Do not forget, Satan maintains that our loyalty to Jehovah is based on selfishness. He will use any means possible, including disrupting a marriage, to break our integrity to God. To ward off Satan’s attacks, we need to put our full trust in Jehovah. (Prov. 3:5, 6) Paul wrote: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Phil. 4:13.
20. What blessings come from keeping God in one’s marriage?
20 The blessings that result from having God in a marriage are many. This has certainly proved true of Joel and his wife of 51 years. He says: “I thank Jehovah constantly for my wife and our happy companionship. She has been an ideal partner.” What is their secret? “We have always endeavored to show kindness, patience, and love to each other.” None of us will do that perfectly in this system of things. Yet, let us work hard to apply Bible principles and keep Jehovah in our marriage. If we do, then our marriage will be like “a threefold cord [that] cannot quickly be torn in two.”—Eccl. 4:12.
Do You Recall?
• What does it mean to have Jehovah in a marriage?
• What should marriage partners do when difficulties arise?
• How do we know when God is in a marriage?
[Pictures on page 18]
Praying together helps married couples face challenging situations