img_3503Is it difficult to be married?

Let me think for a microsecond.


Over the years, I have told couples many times that marriage is a committed relationship in which two people join together so the Lord can grind them up with His mortar and pestle. Disagreements pop up, selfishness shows its ugly face, our pride is made manifest and then crushed. This is what happens, that is, if we want to have a lasting relationship with our spouse. It is a good thing, this pride-crushing, since the Lord hates pride. The Lord uses marriage as part of His process of bringing forth His godliness in our lives. I am skeptical when people tell me their marriage is free of arguments. To me, that means that one partner is dominant and the other remains passive in order to eliminate confrontation. Married couples need those sometimes ugly confrontations, those tumultuous laboratories, to help us learn how to love as the Lord does.

For those of you who are married, welcome to the jungle.

Raising children has much the same effect. When our children grow up and reject the values with which we have raised them, it takes a great toll on the parents’ emotions as well as our perception concerning how well we raised our kids. We learn how to love our children—our own blood—who have rejected us. Once again, our selfishness and pride are crushed. After raising our kids to adulthood, we are much more gracious to others about child rearing.

People in the United States have a romanticized idea of what love is. My experience is limited, but this seems true of any Western or Western influenced culture. However, romantic love is not the love that God tells us is necessary for marriage. It is not the love that He knows. His love is a steadfast love. It is a love that keeps its promise of fidelity.

We find it very difficult to love like this. Our shallow Western idea of love results in attachments that are easily picked up and just as easily discarded. I may have the “love bug bite me” while I’m at a party or at the store. I may fall in love with someone in aisle three. The music plays, zing goes the strings of my heart, flowers and pink hearts bloom in the sky, and it’s not long before we’re trying to figure out how to get in bed with each other.

Love, true love.

The word “love” doesn’t really mean a whole lot in our culture any more. I can love Doritos. Paint colors. Socks.

One of the symptoms of our shallow perception of love is the relative ease with which one can divorce one’s spouse. (By “ease,” I mean that there will be no cultural or societal scorn directed at you. The reality that divorced couples and their children face by inheriting multiple in-laws, however, is not easy.) I have found Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees concerning divorce to be challenging.

“And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so’” (Matthew 19:3–8 ESV).

The part of the section I’d like to draw our attention to is the last verse: “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

Oh, so the reason people get divorces, except for adultery, is the hardness of their hearts.

So, here is what happens during the first marital counseling session. We admit that our hearts our hard.

And where do our arguments come from? James has the answer:

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1 ESV). The word “passion” here is the Greek word “hedone´” which is where our word hedonistic comes from. BDAG gives this definition: “state or condition of experiencing pleasure for any reason, pleasure, delight, enjoyment, pleasantness.”1 This word is translated in other versions of the Bible as desires, lusts, cravings, and pleasures. In other words, I am fighting my spouse because I have one passion, desire, lust or craving for something and she has another—and I want my way for my own selfish pleasure.

Therefore, the second occurrence during marriage counseling is we admit that our sinful passions are at war within us.

Marriage counseling just got easier.

1Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.