A good marriage isn’t all heaven; it’s only a vehicle for getting there faithfully...
What God Has Joined Together (Number 23)
Dividends of devotion
By Bill And Heather Krick
It was over. “Today I am terminating my selection process!”
A chuckle rippled through the audience as Bill spoke these words of finality 17 years ago as a part of his self-written wedding vows. “What God has joined together” (Mark 10:9) in exclusive commitment that day He also has kept fused with a bond more powerful than the best commercially rated adhesive available.
Research has confirmed the overwhelming benefits of a long-term marriage. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology found that a happy, healthy marriage may benefit a cancer patient even more than chemotherapy. 1
A faithful and stable marriage provides a stronger immune system, more successful recovery from surgery, better pain tolerance, and lower risk of cardiovascular disease. 2 Interestingly, cohabitation doesn’t provide the same health benefits, nor the same satisfaction.
One study showed that only 36 percent of cohabitating couples said both partners are “very satisfied,” while 57 percent of married couples reported the same. 3
Faithfulness is loyalty, fidelity, allegiance, constancy, dependability, trustworthiness, steadiness. It means being “true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc.,” 4 not shirking duty, and putting your spouse first when you don’t feel like it. With a sense of wonder, we just celebrated the fiftieth wedding anniversary of Heather’s parents.
We experienced firsthand what 50 years of marriage contributes to a family. Like a “peg that is fastened in [a] secure place” (Isa. 22:25), their long, stable, happy marriage provides security not only to their children but also to their grandchildren.
God uses a strong and lasting union to strengthen society and witness to others, revealing Himself to humanity. Ellen White observed: “Through . . . the deepest and tenderest earthly ties that human hearts can know, He has sought to reveal Himself to us.” 5
“One well-ordered, well-disciplined family tells more in behalf of Christianity than all the sermons that can be preached.” 6 Such a family silently says: “We’re happy. We are not hankering for something else, not wanting to flit like a butterfly from one flower to the next. We are content with God’s arrangements.”
Society, however, seriously questions this exclusive system and its potential for happiness and success. According to Gallup’s research, more than half (52 percent) of American young adults ages 20-29 say that they see so few good or happy marriages that they question it as a way of life. 7
A Pew Research study revealed that nearly 40 percent of Americans of all ages believe that marriage is becoming obsolete. 8 Legislators in Mexico City even proposed a two-year marriage contract, where spouses would not need to make long-term commitments to faithfulness, but would be able to renew after two years if they felt happy. 9
In her book The Monogamy Myth, noted author Peggy Vaughan states that 60 percent of married men have committed adultery, and 40 percent of women; since there is some overlap, 80 percent of all marriages will be touched by infidelity. 10 Faithfulness seems to be on a journey toward extinction, but it definitely pays off, even in tight circumstances.
Abigail and Nabal: Faithfulness Pays Off
Somehow Nabal, whose name means “foolish” or “senseless,” had married beautiful Abigail, virtuous and wise, whose worth was far above rubies (1 Sam. 25; cf. Prov. 31:10). The primary recorded incident in the married life of this wealthy couple took place while David was fleeing from Saul and heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep.
David and his men had protected Nabal’s shepherds, and he now asked for the favor to be returned in the form of food for his men. Nabal shot back with a rude and selfish reply that infuriated David.
Here Abigail entered the story. Marriage to Nabal could not have been easy, but “little did Abigail realize in her daily ministrations to Nabal that she was developing a clearness of spiritual perception.” 11 Faithful Abigail was in tune with God and ready to do whatever it took to get her husband out of trouble.
Hurriedly she loaded all kinds of choice, already-prepared food onto donkeys and sent her servants ahead to meet David. Upon meeting him herself, she respectfully took the blame for her husband’s behavior, not glossing over the uncomplimentary truth about Nabal, but in fact saving him without his knowledge.
David humbly accepted Abigail’s tactful rebuke and gifts, averting disaster.
Faithful marriages bless society through their children. Healthy homes produce emotionally healthy children who become the building blocks of a robust society. According to Ellen White: “The heart of the community, of the church, and of the nation is the household. The well-being of society, the success of the church, the prosperity of the nation, depend upon home influences.” 12
Children from divorced homes face enormous hurdles. Robert Emery, author of The Truth About Children and Divorce, simply says, “They’re devastated.” 13 The benefits of “What God has joined together” extend far beyond the two marriage partners.
What if, in this imperfect world, we face a divorce, or find ourselves in less-than-happy relationships, or are single? God’s faithfulness still meets us right where we are. He offers Himself to us, a glorious relationship with Him transcending any other relationship, and helps us through any trouble we may be facing.
Notice these two promises: “For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name” (Isa. 54:5). “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:11-13).
Our “selection process” did indeed terminate 17 years ago, but the dividends of devotion continue to enrich and bless our lives daily. Thank You, God, for establishing marriage. We see the benefits of faithfulness in committed families all over the world. Help us to be faithful too.
Marriage and the Family
Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship. For the Christian a marriage commitment is to God as well as to the spouse, and should be entered into only between a man and a woman who share a common faith.
Mutual love, honor, respect, and responsibility are the fabric of this relationship, which is to reflect the love, sanctity, closeness, and permanence of the relationship between Christ and His church. Regarding divorce, Jesus taught that the person who divorces a spouse, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.
Although some family relationships may fall short of the ideal, a man and a woman who fully commit themselves to each other in Christ through marriage may achieve loving unity through the guidance of the Spirit and the nurture of the church. God blesses the family and intends that its members shall assist each other toward complete maturity.
Increasing family closeness is one of the earmarks of the final gospel message. Parents are to bring up their children to love and obey the Lord. By their example and their words they are to teach them that Christ is a loving, tender, and caring guide who wants them to become members of His body, the family of God, which embraces both single and married persons.
(Gen. 2:18-25; Ex. 20:12; Deut. 6:5-9; Prov. 22:6; Mal. 4:5, 6; Matt. 5:31, 32; 19:3-9, 12; Mark 10:11, 12; John 2:1-11; 1 Cor. 7:7, 10, 11; 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 5:21-33; 6:1-4.)
5 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 10.
6 Ellen G. White, Ye Shall Receive Power (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1995), p. 247.
10 Peggy Vaughan, The Monogamy Myth (New York: William Morrow, 2003). See also David Barash and Judith Lipton, The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People (New York: Henry Holt, 2002).
11 F. D. Nichol, ed., The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Asssn., 1954, 1978), vol. 2, p. 574.
12 Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 15.