“Unless Jehovah builds the house, it is in vain that its builders work hard on it.”—PSALM 127:1a.
1-3. What challenges do married couples experience? (See opening picture.)
“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, it is possible for husbands and wives to be happy together and to support each other through difficult times.—Proverbs 18:22.
2 It is common for married couples to experience some difficulties. The Bible calls this “tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Corinthians 7:28) Why? Everyday problems can cause stress in a marriage. Because they are imperfect, husbands and wives sometimes hurt each other’s feelings and fail to communicate clearly with each other. (James 3:2, 5, 8) Many couples have demanding jobs and are also raising children. Stress and exhaustion make it a challenge to find enough time to strengthen their marriage. Financial problems, illness, or other difficulties might slowly weaken their love and respect for each other. And a marriage that seems to be strong can be devastated by “the works of the flesh,” such as sexual immorality, brazen conduct, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions.—Galatians 5:19-21.
3 To make matters worse, people in these “last days” are often selfish and lack respect for God, attitudes that can poison a marriage. (2 Timothy 3:1-4) In addition, a vicious enemy is determined to destroy marriages. The apostle Peter warns us: “Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”—1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 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.” There will be some challenges in a marriage, but we can overcome them. With Jehovah’s help, couples can enjoy a strong and happy relationship. (Read Psalm 127:1.) Let us discuss five ways to build a strong and lasting marriage. We will also examine why love is necessary to keep a marriage strong.
INCLUDE JEHOVAH IN YOUR MARRIAGE
5, 6. What can husbands and wives do to include Jehovah in their marriage?
5 When a couple are loyal and submissive to Jehovah, their marriage will have a strong foundation. (Read Ecclesiastes 4:12.) By following God’s loving guidance, husbands and wives include God in their marriage. The Bible says: “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.” (Isaiah 30:20, 21) Today, couples “hear” Jehovah’s word when they read the Bible together. (Psalm 1:1-3) They strengthen their marriage even more by having regular family worship that is enjoyable and upbuilding. And when couples pray together every day, they build a marriage that can resist the attacks of Satan’s world.
6 Gerhard from Germany says: “Whenever our joy has been clouded by personal difficulties or misunderstandings, the counsel from God’s Word has helped us to develop patience and practice forgiveness.” He adds that these qualities are essential in a successful marriage. When husbands and wives work hard to keep God in their marriage by serving him together, they stay close to Jehovah and strengthen their relationship.
HUSBANDS WHO ARE LOVING FAMILY HEADS
7. How should a husband treat his wife?
7 The way a husband takes the lead in his family can help build a strong and happy marriage. The Bible says: “The head of every man is the Christ; in turn, the head of a woman is the man.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) What does that mean? Husbands should treat their wives in the same way that Jesus treated his disciples. He was never cruel or harsh. Jesus was always loving, kind, reasonable, mild-tempered, and lowly in heart.—Matthew 11:28-30.
8. How can a husband gain his wife’s love and respect?
8 Christian husbands do not need to demand the respect of their wives. Instead, they “continue showing them consideration” and “assign them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.” (1 Peter 3:7; footnote) In public and in private, husbands should use respectful words and show compassion. By the way they treat their wives and speak to them, husbands show that their wives are precious to them. (Proverbs 31:28) When a husband treats his wife lovingly, she will love and respect him and Jehovah will bless their marriage.
WIVES WHO ARE HUMBLE AND SUBMISSIVE
9. How can a wife show that she is submissive?
9 Unselfish love for Jehovah that is based on his principles will help us to humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God.” (1 Peter 5:6) An important way that a wife shows respect for Jehovah’s authority is by cooperating with her husband. The Bible says: “You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18) It is true that a wife may not like all her husband’s decisions. But as long as his decisions are not against God’s laws, a submissive wife will want to cooperate with her husband.—1 Peter 3:1.
10. Why is loving submission important?
10 Jehovah has given wives an honorable role in the family. A wife is her husband’s “partner.” (Malachi 2:14) When a couple are making family decisions, a wife respectfully says what she thinks and how she feels, yet she remains submissive. A wise husband will listen carefully to what his wife says. (Proverbs 31:10-31) Loving submission can bring joy, peace, and harmony to the family. As a result, husbands and wives can feel satisfied because they know that they are pleasing God.—Ephesians 5:22.
KEEP FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER FREELY
11. Why is forgiveness essential?
11 To build a marriage that lasts, husbands and wives must learn to forgive each other. When couples “continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely,” they strengthen their relationship. (Colossians 3:13) However, a marriage is weakened when a couple refuse to forget past mistakes and use them to attack each other. Just as cracks can weaken a building, hurt feelings and anger make it more and more difficult for a couple to be forgiving and work together. But a marriage becomes much stronger when a husband and a wife forgive each other, just as Jehovah forgives them.—Micah 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 Corinthians 13:4, 5, footnote; read 1 Peter 4:8.) So if we love others, there is no limit to the number of times we can forgive. When the apostle Peter asked how many times he should forgive someone, Jesus replied: “Up to 77 times.” (Matthew 18:21, 22) What did Jesus mean? He meant that there is no limit to the number of times a Christian should forgive others.—Proverbs 10:12.* (See footnote.)
13. How can we fight the tendency to be unforgiving?
13 Annette from Germany says: “If a couple do not want to be forgiving, resentment and mistrust grow, and that is poison to a marriage. Being forgiving strengthens the bonds of marriage and draws you closer together.” Be thankful and express appreciation. Look for things to commend your spouse for. By doing so, you will be able to fight the tendency to be unforgiving. (Colossians 3:15) As a result, you will have peace of mind, unity, and God’s approval.—Romans 14:19.
APPLY THE GOLDEN RULE
14, 15. What is the Golden Rule, and how can applying it strengthen a marriage?
14 Most likely you want to be treated with dignity and respect. You appreciate it when others listen to you and care about how you feel. But have you ever heard a person say, “I am going to do to him what he did to me”? Sometimes this reaction is understandable. However, the Bible tells us: “Do not say: ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me.’” (Proverbs 24:29) Jesus taught people the best way to handle difficult situations. What Jesus said 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, not the way they treat us. This means that we need to put into our marriage what we hope to get out of it.
We need to put into our marriage what we hope to get out of it
15 Couples strengthen their relationship when they truly care about each other’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 husbands and wives never do to each other?
16 Do not reveal your mate’s weaknesses to others or keep complaining about traits that upset you, not even as a joke. Remember that marriage is not a competition to prove who is stronger, who can shout louder, or who can say something that hurts the most. True, all of us are imperfect and sometimes upset others. But there is never a good reason for a couple to make each other feel ashamed, to use hurtful words when speaking to each other or, worse, to push or hit each other.—Read Proverbs 17:27; 31:26.
17. How can husbands live by the Golden Rule?
17 In some cultures, men bully or hit their wives to prove that they are strong. But the Bible says: “The one slow to anger is better than a mighty man, and the one controlling his temper than one conquering a city.” (Proverbs 16:32) A person needs great inner strength to show self-control as did Jesus Christ, the greatest man who ever lived. A man who bullies or hits his wife is a weak man who will lose his relationship with Jehovah. The psalmist David, who 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.”—Psalm 4:4.
“CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH LOVE”
18. Why is it important to keep showing love?
18 Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is the most important quality in a marriage. The Bible says: “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.” (Colossians 3:12, 14) Husbands and wives need to show unselfish love and imitate Jesus Christ, who was willing to sacrifice himself for others. If a marriage is based on such love, it will be strong despite any annoying habits, serious health challenges, distressing financial problems, and difficulties with in-laws.
19, 20. (a) How can couples successfully build a strong and happy marriage? (b) What will we discuss in the next article?
19 Love, loyalty, and sincere effort are needed for a successful marriage. When there are difficulties, mates should not give up on their marriage. They should be determined to grow closer to each other. Couples who love Jehovah and each other should be determined to resolve their problems, because “love never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:8; Matthew 19:5, 6; Hebrews 13:4.
20 It is especially difficult to build a strong and happy marriage in these “critical times.” (2 Timothy 3:1) But with Jehovah’s help, it is possible. Still, couples also have to fight against the world’s obsession with sex. In the next article, let us see how husbands and wives can keep their marriage strong.
Although couples try to forgive and work out their difficulties, the Bible says that an innocent mate has the right to decide whether to forgive or to divorce a mate who commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9) See the article “The Bible’s Viewpoint: Adultery—To Forgive or Not to Forgive?” in the August 8, 1995, issue of Awake!