Take a Positive View of a Strained Marriage
“To the married people I give instructions, yet not I but the Lord.”—1 CORINTHIANS 7:10.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN?
In what way does God yoke marriage mates together?
How can elders help Christians who have problems in their marriage?
How should we view marriage?
1. How do Christians view marriage? Why?
WHEN Christians get married, they make a vow to God. This is a serious responsibility. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6) Jehovah is the Creator of marriage, so he has joined, or “yoked together,” married couples. (Mark 10:9) Marriage mates are yoked together regardless of the laws of a country. Servants of Jehovah should view their marriage vow as he does. This is true even if a couple were not his worshippers at the time they were married.
2. What questions will be discussed in this article?
2 Marriage can result in great happiness. But what can we do if we are not happy in our marriage? Can such a marriage be strengthened? What help is there for couples who do not have peace in their marriage?
WILL IT BE A HAPPY MARRIAGE OR NOT?
3, 4. What can happen if we make an unwise decision when we choose a marriage mate?
3 When a Christian’s marriage is a success, it makes the Christian truly happy, and it honors Jehovah. But if a marriage fails, it can cause much more than intense sadness. Single Christians who follow God’s direction will be able to begin marriage in a fine way. But a person who makes an unwise decision when choosing a husband or a wife may have frustration and sadness. For example, some young people start dating before they are ready for the responsibilities of married life. Others find a mate on the Internet. They marry quickly and soon are in an unhappy marriage. Others commit a serious sin while they are dating, and they start their married life with little respect for each other.
4 Some Christians do not marry “only in the Lord” and suffer pain because their mate is not a servant of Jehovah. (1 Corinthians 7:39) If you are in this situation, pray for God’s forgiveness and help. Jehovah does not remove the difficulties caused by past mistakes, but if a person is sincere and admits that he did wrong, Jehovah can help him to endure. (Psalm 130:1-4) So do your very best to please God, and “the joy of Jehovah” will strengthen you.—Nehemiah 8:10.
WHEN A MARRIAGE IS IN DANGER
5. What kind of thinking should be avoided in an unhappy marriage?
5 If some are unhappy in their marriage, they may wonder: ‘Do I really want to save my marriage? Maybe I would be happier if I could just marry someone else!’ They may dream about leaving their mate and think: ‘I want to be free again! Could I get a divorce? Even if I cannot get a Scriptural divorce, I could separate from my mate and enjoy my life again.’ Instead of thinking this way and dreaming about how different life could be, Christians should try to do their best in the situation they are in and follow God’s direction.
6. What do Jesus’ words at Matthew 19:9 mean?
6 If a Christian gets a divorce, he or she may or may not be Scripturally free to get married again. Jesus said: “Whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9) Fornication includes adultery and other serious sexual sins. It is important that a Christian pray to God for guidance if he or she is thinking about getting a divorce when neither mate has committed fornication.
7. What may people think if a Christian marriage fails?
7 When a marriage fails, it may show that a person’s relationship with God is weak. The apostle Paul asked this serious question: “If indeed any man does not know how to preside over his own household, how will he take care of God’s congregation?” (1 Timothy 3:5) When both mates say they are Christians and their marriage still fails, people may think that the couple say one thing but do another.—Romans 2:21-24.
8. What must be wrong if a Christian couple decide to separate or divorce?
8 If a Christian couple are planning to separate or divorce for unscriptural reasons, there must be something wrong in their relationship with Jehovah. It may be that one mate or both mates are not applying Bible principles. If they both trust in Jehovah with all their heart, they should be able to save their marriage.—Read Proverbs 3:5, 6.
9. How have some Christians been rewarded for staying with their mate?
9 Many married couples have had so many problems that they thought their marriage would fail. But even some of those couples have been able to make a success of their marriage. Christians who have a difficult marriage and do not quickly decide to leave their mate are often rewarded. For example, think of what can happen when a husband is an unbeliever. The apostle Peter wrote: “You wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:1, 2) Because of a mate’s good conduct, the unbeliever may accept the truth. Christians who save their marriage and stay with their mate honor God, and the whole family can be blessed.
10, 11. What changes may cause difficulties in a marriage? A Christian may be sure of what help?
10 When they get married, most single Christians choose another baptized Christian to be their mate because they want to please Jehovah. Even then, circumstances may change in a way that they did not expect. For example, a husband or a wife may begin to have serious emotional problems. Or a mate may stop preaching and become an inactive publisher. Something similar happened to Linda, a zealous publisher and loving mother.a (See footnote.) She felt helpless when her husband began to do wrong things. He did not repent for what he did, and he had to be disfellowshipped. Christians who are in similar situations may feel that their marriage is hopeless. What should they do?
11 You may wonder: ‘Do I need to keep trying to save my marriage no matter what happens?’ Nobody can or should make such a decision for you. But there are good reasons for not giving up on a marriage that seems hopeless. Christians who endure a difficult marriage because their conscience will not allow them to leave their mate are very precious to God. (Read 1 Peter 2:19, 20.) By means of his Word and his spirit, Jehovah will help Christians if they do everything they can to strengthen their marriage.
THEY ARE READY TO HELP YOU
12. How will the elders feel about us if we ask them for help?
12 If you are having problems in your marriage, you can ask for help from experienced Christians. The elders are shepherds of the congregation, and they will be happy to show you God’s counsel in the Bible. (Acts 20:28; James 5:14, 15) You and your mate will not lose the respect of the elders if you discuss with them a serious problem in your marriage and ask for their help. They will love and respect you even more because they see that you really want to please God.
13. What counsel do we have at 1 Corinthians 7:10-16?
13 When a Christian who is married to an unbeliever asks for help, the elders can use Paul’s counsel: “To the married people I give instructions, yet not I but the Lord, that a wife should not depart from her husband; but if she should actually depart, let her remain unmarried or else make up again with her husband; and a husband should not leave his wife. . . . For, wife, how do you know but that you will save your husband? Or, husband, how do you know but that you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:10-16) What a blessing it is when a mate becomes a servant of Jehovah!
14, 15. When might a Christian wife decide to leave her mate? Why should a Christian pray about the matter and examine her feelings honestly?
14 For what reasons might a Christian wife “actually depart” and leave her husband? Some have chosen to separate for these serious reasons: refusal to provide for a family materially to the point where the family was left with no money or food, physical abuse got so bad that a mate felt that her life was threatened, or a mate’s actions made it impossible for the Christian to serve God.
15 To stay with or to leave our mate is a personal decision. But Christians should pray about the matter and examine their feelings honestly. For example, is the unbeliever the only one preventing the Christian from serving Jehovah? Or is the Christian also responsible in some way for not being regular in personal Bible study, in meeting attendance, and in preaching?
16. Why should Christians not make quick decisions about divorce?
16 We should not make quick decisions about divorce. Our relationship with God is precious to us, and we appreciate and respect his gift of marriage. As Jehovah’s servants, we want to keep his name holy by not making decisions that would cause people to think badly about him. For this reason, we would never want to betray our marriage mate by planning to leave him or her so that we can marry another person.—Jeremiah 17:9; Malachi 2:13-16.
17. When can it be said that “God has called you to peace”?
17 Christians who are married to unbelievers should do all they can to keep their marriage strong. But after all efforts to save the marriage have failed, Christians should not feel guilty if their mate who is not a believer decides to leave them. “If the unbelieving one proceeds to depart, let him depart,” wrote Paul. “A brother or a sister is not in servitude under such circumstances, but God has called you to peace.”—1 Corinthians 7:15.b (See footnote.)
TRUST IN JEHOVAH
18. Even when it is not possible to save a marriage, what good can result if we try to save it?
18 When we have a problem in our marriage, we should pray for courage and always trust in Jehovah. (Read Psalm 27:14.) Earlier in this article, we spoke about Linda. For many years she had tried very hard to save her marriage, but it later ended in divorce. Does she feel that her efforts were a waste of time? “Not at all,” she says. “My efforts gave a good witness to others. I have a clear conscience. But the best result is that those years helped our daughter to stay strong in the truth. She became a zealous, dedicated Witness of Jehovah.”
19. What may result if we make efforts to save our marriage?
19 A Christian woman named Marilyn is happy that she trusted in God and made extra effort to save her marriage. She said that she was tempted to separate from her husband because he did not provide for her materially and he also put her relationship with Jehovah in danger. In the past, her husband served as an elder. Then he got involved in some unwise business activities. He began to miss meetings, and the couple stopped having conversations. A terrorist attack in their city frightened her so much that it became hard for her to be with others. But she realized that she too was responsible for the problems they were having. She and her husband started having conversations again, began their family study again, and began to attend meetings regularly. The elders were kind and helpful. Soon it was as if their marriage had a new start. They were very happy. Later, her husband was given congregation privileges. She said that it was a painful lesson to learn, but it had good results.
20, 21. What should we be determined to do in our marriage?
20 Whether we are single or married, we should always have courage and we should trust in Jehovah. If we have problems in our marriage, we should do everything we can to solve them. We should remember that married couples are “no longer two, but one flesh.” (Matthew 19:6) And if we stay with an unbelieving mate even though there are difficulties, we may have the joy of seeing that one come to serve Jehovah.
21 Whatever our situation, we should always act in a way that gives a good witness to those who are not members of the congregation. If we have very serious problems in our marriage and feel that we want to leave our mate, we must honestly examine our reasons. We should also pray intensely, meditate on the Scriptures, and ask for help from the elders. But most important, we should be determined to please Jehovah God in everything we do and show real appreciation and respect for his wonderful gift of marriage.
a Names have been changed.
b See “Keep Yourselves in God’s Love,” pages 219-221; The Watchtower of November 1, 1988, pages 26-27; September 15, 1975, page 575.
SOME EXPRESSIONS EXPLAINED
Scriptural divorce: A divorce that God allows if one mate has committed fornication and the innocent mate does not extend forgiveness
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If a Christian couple trust in Jehovah, they should be able to save their marriage
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Difficult marriages can become very successful
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Christians who have a difficult marriage and do not quickly decide to leave their mate are often rewarded
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The elders will love and respect you even more if you ask for help with your marriage
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Always trust in Jehovah and pray for courage
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Jehovah blesses Christian mates who work hard to save their marriage
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The Christian congregation can give us comfort and help from the Bible