“Unless Jehovah builds the house, it is in vain that its builders work hard on it.”—PS. 127:1a.
1-3. What challenges do married couples face? (See opening image.)
“IF YOU put forth sincere effort and show that you want your marriage to succeed, you can enjoy Jehovah’s blessing,” says a husband who has been happily married for 38 years. Yes, husbands and wives have the potential for enjoying happy times as well as for supporting each other through difficult times.—Prov. 18:22.
2 It is not unusual, however, for married couples to experience some “tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Cor. 7:28) Why? Simply dealing with everyday troubles can strain marital ties. Hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and miscommunications caused by the imperfect tongue can be a challenge in the best of marriages. (Jas. 3:2, 5, 8) Many couples also have difficulty in coping with demanding employment while caring for children. Stress and exhaustion make it difficult for some couples to take the time they need in order to strengthen their marriage. Their love and respect for each other may be eroded by financial difficulties, health problems, or other hardships. Furthermore, the foundation of what seemed to be a strong marriage can be undermined by “the works of the flesh,” such as sexual immorality, brazen conduct, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, and dissensions.—Gal. 5:19-21.
3 To compound matters, “the last days” are characterized by selfish, ungodly attitudes that are toxic to a marriage. (2 Tim. 3:1-4) Finally, marriages have to withstand the determined onslaughts of a malicious enemy. The apostle Peter warns us: “Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”—1 Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:12.
4. How is it possible to have a strong and happy marriage?
4 A husband in Japan admits: “I was under a lot of stress financially. And because I didn’t really communicate with my wife, she also came under a lot of pressure. In addition, she recently experienced serious health problems. At times, this stress caused us to clash.” Some challenges in a marriage are inevitable, but they are not insurmountable. With Jehovah’s help, couples can enjoy a solid and happy union. (Read Psalm 127:1.) Let us discuss five of the spiritual building blocks for a strong and lasting marriage. Then we will consider how these building blocks can be cemented by love.
INCLUDE JEHOVAH IN YOUR MARRIAGE
5, 6. What can husbands and wives do to include Jehovah in their marriage?
5 The cornerstone of a secure marriage is loyalty and submission to the One who instituted marriage. (Read Ecclesiastes 4:12.) Husbands and wives can include Jehovah in their marriage by following his loving guidance. The Bible says about God’s ancient people: “Your own ears will hear a word behind you saying, ‘This is the way. Walk in it,’ in case you should go to the right or in case you should go to the left.” (Isa. 30:20, 21) Today, couples can “hear” Jehovah’s word by reading God’s Word together. (Ps. 1:1-3) They can further strengthen their marriage by means of a Family Worship program that is both enjoyable and spiritually refreshing. Daily prayer together is also invaluable in building a marriage that can withstand the onslaughts of Satan’s world.
6 “Whenever our joy has been clouded by personal difficulties or misunderstandings,” says Gerhard in Germany, “the counsel from God’s Word has helped us to develop patience and practice forgiveness. These qualities are indispensable in a successful marriage.” When couples work hard to keep God in their marriage by engaging in spiritual activities together, they are bonded to God and to each other in a close and happy union.
HUSBANDS—EXERCISE LOVING HEADSHIP
7. How should husbands exercise their headship?
7 How a husband exercises his headship can do much to build a strong and happy marriage. The Bible states: “The head of every man is the Christ; in turn, the head of a woman is the man.” (1 Cor. 11:3) The context of that statement tells husbands how they should exercise their headship—in the same way that Christ exercises his authority over man. Jesus was never tyrannical or harsh but was always loving, kind, reasonable, mild-tempered, and lowly in heart.—Matt. 11:28-30.
8. How can a husband win his wife’s love and respect?
8 Christian husbands do not need to demand repeatedly that their wives show them respect. Rather, they “continue dwelling with them according to knowledge [showing them consideration; understanding them, ftn.].” They “assign them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.” (1 Pet. 3:7) In public and in private, husbands show by their respectful words and compassionate actions that their wives are precious to them. (Prov. 31:28) Such loving headship wins a wife’s love and respect and brings God’s blessing on the marriage.
WIVES—SHOW HUMBLE SUBMISSION
9. How can a wife show humble submission?
9 Unselfish, principled love for Jehovah helps all of us to humble ourselves under his mighty hand. (1 Pet. 5:6) One important way that a submissive wife shows respect for Jehovah’s authority is by being cooperative and supportive within the family circle. The Bible says: “You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord.” (Col. 3:18) Realistically, not all of a husband’s decisions will be to his wife’s liking. Yet, if his decisions do not conflict with God’s laws, a submissive wife is willing to yield.—1 Pet. 3:1.
10. Why is loving submission important?
10 A wife has an honorable place as her husband’s “partner.” (Mal. 2:14) She provides valuable input concerning family decisions by respectfully expressing her thoughts and feelings yet remaining submissive. A wise husband will listen carefully to his wife’s expressions. (Prov. 31:10-31) Loving submission, in turn, promotes joy, peace, and harmony within the family, and gives husbands and wives the satisfaction that comes from knowing that they are pleasing God.—Eph. 5:22.
KEEP FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER FREELY
11. Why is forgiveness essential?
11 One of the crucial building blocks of an enduring marriage is forgiveness. The marital union is strengthened when husbands and wives “continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely.” (Col. 3:13) On the other hand, the marriage relationship is undermined when a couple keep a mental record of old grudges and often use them as ammunition for fresh attacks. Just as cracks can weaken a building, grievances and resentment can develop in our heart, making it increasingly difficult to be forgiving. By contrast, strong marriage bonds are forged when husband and wife treat each other in a forgiving way, as Jehovah treats them.—Mic. 7:18, 19.
12. How does love cover “a multitude of sins”?
12 True love “does not keep account of wrongs.” In fact, “love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Cor. 13:4, 5, ftn.; read 1 Peter 4:8.) In other words, love does not put a limit on the number of sins that we can forgive. When the apostle Peter asked how many times he should forgive someone, Jesus replied: “Up to 77 times.” (Matt. 18:21, 22) He was showing that there is virtually no limit to the number of times a Christian should forgive others.—Prov. 10:12.*
13. How can we counteract a tendency to be unforgiving?
13 “If a couple do not want to be forgiving,” says Annette, “resentment and mistrust grow, and that is poison to a marriage. Being forgiving strengthens the bonds of marriage and draws you closer together.” To counteract a tendency to be unforgiving, work on having a thankful and appreciative disposition. Make a practice of giving your spouse sincere commendation. (Col. 3:15) Experience the peace of mind, unity, and divine blessings that come to those who have a forgiving disposition.—Rom. 14:19.
APPLY THE GOLDEN RULE
14, 15. What is the Golden Rule, and how is it of practical value in a marriage?
14 No doubt you like to be treated with dignity and respect. You appreciate it when your thoughts are acknowledged and your feelings are taken into account. But have you ever heard someone say, “I will give him a taste of his own medicine”? While such a reaction might at times be understandable, the Bible tells us: “Do not say: ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me.’” (Prov. 24:29) In fact, Jesus recommended a more positive way of handling difficult situations. This rule of conduct is so well-known that it is often called the Golden Rule: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.” (Luke 6:31) Jesus meant that we should treat people the way we would like to be treated and not repay unkindness with unkindness. In marriage, it means that we need to put into the relationship what we hope to get out of it.
15 Married people strengthen their relationship when they are sensitive to their mate’s feelings. “We have tried to put the Golden Rule into practice,” says a husband in South Africa. “True, there are times when we’re upset, but we have worked hard to treat each other the way we would like to be treated—with respect and dignity.”
16. What should marriage partners not do to each other?
16 Do not expose your mate’s weaknesses or harp on his idiosyncrasies—not even jokingly. Remember that marriage is not a competition to find out who is stronger, who can shout louder, or who can think of the most cutting remark. True, we all have flaws, and sometimes we upset others. But there is never a justifiable reason for either a husband or a wife to use sarcastic and demeaning speech, or worse, to shove or hit each other.—Read Proverbs 17:27; 31:26.
17. How can husbands live by the Golden Rule?
17 Even though in some cultures men who bully or hit their wives are viewed as manly, the Bible states: “The one slow to anger is better than a mighty man, and the one controlling his temper than one conquering a city.” (Prov. 16:32) It takes great moral strength to imitate the greatest man who ever lived, Jesus Christ, and to control one’s spirit. A man who verbally or physically abuses his wife is anything but manly, and he will lose his relationship with Jehovah. The psalmist David, who himself was a strong and courageous man, said: “Be agitated, but do not sin. Have your say in your heart, upon your bed, and keep silent.”—Ps. 4:4.
“CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH LOVE”
18. Why is it important to keep cultivating the quality of love?
18 Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is the most important quality in a marriage. “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, humility, mildness, and patience. But besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.” (Col. 3:12, 14) Self-sacrificing, Christlike love is the mortar that binds the building blocks of a sturdy marital union. It makes the marriage unbreakable in the face of irritating personality flaws, daunting health challenges, distressing financial crises, and challenging in-law issues.
19, 20. (a) How can couples successfully build a strong and happy marriage? (b) What will we consider in the next article?
19 True, it takes loving devotion, loyal commitment, and earnest effort to make a marriage succeed. Rather than abandoning the marriage when difficulties arise, marriage partners should be determined to make their relationship thrive—not just survive. Christian couples who are devoted to Jehovah and to each other are motivated by their love for God and for each other to resolve their difficulties, for “love never fails.”—1 Cor. 13:8; Matt. 19:5, 6; Heb. 13:4.
20 Building a strong and happy marriage is particularly challenging in the “critical times” in which we live. (2 Tim. 3:1) But with Jehovah’s help, it is possible. Still, couples also have to contend with the world’s rampant moral decay. The following article will consider what husbands and wives can do to fortify the spiritual defenses of their marriage.
While couples try to forgive and to work out their difficulties, the Bible allows an innocent mate the right to decide whether to forgive or to divorce an adulterous spouse. (Matt. 19:9) See the article “The Bible’s Viewpoint: Adultery—To Forgive or Not to Forgive?” in the August 8, 1995, issue of Awake!