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Chapter 2.

How's your spouse?

How many of us can truly say that our marriages are perfect? How many of us co-exist in marriages long dead, or opt out through the mechanism of divorce? The divorce statistics strongly suggest that the marriage relationship is almost as hard to survive as skateboarding on the fringe of a busy freeway. It seems inevitable that many marriages will come to grief, but when it does happen, most of us find it somewhat surprising almost unexpected, and everyone wonders what caused the breakdown.

Why is it so difficult to have a happy and sound marriage? Why is it that many people, being afraid of commitment, choose what seems to be the easy option of living together without being married, only to find it doesn't work any better than the marriage commitment itself? Tough, questions, but not easy answers!

Don and Pam

Take Don and Pam as typical examples of many couples I have seen divorced over the last 25 years. Love blossomed quite early for them and they married at twenty. Although they had planned the wedding, Pam was already pregnant. That was her first error because it put many pressures upon them. Don had some strange ways but Pam thought she would be able to change those. That was her second error, firstly because one person can never take responsibility for changing another, and secondly, because Don was not too interested in changing anyway.

Five years into their marriage they were a bustling family of six. Like many people who marry early, Don and Pam found things very tough economically and Don worked very long hours as an insurance salesman to try to make ends meet they even relocated their home interstate, so that Don could take up a better paid position. Because of Don's busyness, he has let Pam battle through many family hassles on her own. They each did a great job in what they were doing, but there was little chance to develop the type of relationship that every marriage needs. Can you see any similarities here to marriages that you know about?

Although Pam appreciated what Don was doing in his job, she resented fact that she had to be everything to the children and that Don was not really doing his job as a father. Pam had a strong sense of survival for herself and her frequently ill children and she began to independently control and organise most family matters. Don became more a meal ticket than anything else. Don and Pam grew further apart because of all of these things and because they didn't ever get their marriage relationship established in first place.

All that is very normal you might say! Just like our neighbours down the street. Everyone has those battles early in their marriage. True. But, let's see what happened next.

Don's limited relationship with Pam continued. He was not around enough to have fun with his family and get to know them. Their relationship began to falter. They never ever had developed a good friendship. Consequently their relationship began to break down sexually, emotionally and in many practical ways. Don's work pressures were too great and Pam was not managing very well in her solo efforts at parenting. Don and Pam drifted further apart and divorced some years after.

A typical modern marriage? A sign of the times? Perhaps. But need it be that way? No, it need not be that way, if the ways of God in scripture are followed. God designed marriage for the mutual benefit of men and women, said he liked what he designed and gave men and women proper ways to live together in marriage. The key to all this is continued commitment to these ways.

Don and Pam's marriage could have been restored if they had both ( or even one initially) had committed their ways to what God says in the Bible. If your marriage is in a similar position to that of Don and Pam, or on the way to being so, then the first step is to find your way to God through Jesus Christ, God's son. To know, about Jesus Christ, see Chapter 20 and for the way to know him, see Chapter 25. This is the first step in beginning to overcome any marriage problem.

Len and Carol.

We will come back to Don and Pam later, but let us take a look at another couple, Len and Carol, who had different beginnings and a different life. Len had the good fortune to be born to Christian parents who taught him right ways from a young age. Carol came to believe in Jesus ( as most of us do ) out of her need to have something or someone to hang onto, this happening for her during the turbulence of her teenage years. Her parents immediately noticed the difference and came to know Jesus too! Such is the power of Christian living

So Len and Carol, prior to their marriage, had both given their lives over to Christ and were allowing themselves to be guided by his wisdom and instruction in the Bible and by the presence of the Holy Spirit living in them. Chapter 20 provides an explanation about the Holy Spirit.

Len and Carol went through many of the same difficulties as Don and Pam in establishing their home and their life with the responsibilities that children bring. However, their problems never reached the crisis stage because their problems had answers, through the support of fellow Christians and the guidance of God's word in the Bible. They knew how to forgive, have patience and to love each other, even when they weren't too lovable at all. Financial problems were provided for by having faith in God's promises to provide for their every need. Because these things worked for them, they taught them to their children, so that their lives could also have a firm foundation.

What makes the difference?

Two marriages, but with entirely different results. Don and Pam were just as highly motivated to have their marriage succeed as were Len and Carol. However, they tried without the help of God to do the many things that are required of a husband and wife. Try as they might, they could never have had the fullness of life experienced by Len and his wife.

The best family life results when both are Christians and where the husband takes the primary responsibility for his family, with the wife supporting him in all ways. Don had neither of these advantages, which left Pam to assume responsibilities which were both beyond her ability and the way that God orders family life. For an explanation about the ways of God read Chapter 21. Moreover, without the benefits of God's strength and wisdom to provide the patience, peace and love that are only available through a personal experience of Jesus, selfishness, anger and indifference are easily able to enter in, almost unnoticeably.

What about Christian marriages?

But, you the reader could be saying that you have seen Christian marriages that have ended in divorce. Certainly true! So fancy giving up all the things that you want to do just to give Jesus a go and then have your marriage fail anyway. Fair enough! I believe that what this really shows is the degree of difficulty we face in our marriages, especially when we consider the forces that are against us in the form of Satan and his demons ( see Chapter 23 ) and the very nature that we have inside us. See Chapter 13.

Most Christian marriages fail through lack of knowledge about the right things to think, do and say. So this points all the more to our need for a knowledge of Jesus and his ways as the basis for all marriages, because he is the only one that has the power to control and defeat the effect that satan has on our lives. Chapter 22 explains how God's power is used to overcome the power of Satan.

How about your marriage?

But you may be saying that your marriage is a mess and you don't want to even try anymore with your spouse. Everything good that you try to do is just criticised or ignored. Nothing seems to work, no matter what you do. Who I would say to you is this.

Jesus, when he came to earth to live, suffered every insult and criticism imaginable and was eventually crucified, partly because men did not understand and believe what he was saying. He suffered far more than any other person ever has in all of history, so he knows and understands what suffering is all about.

What you need to know is that because of his experience on earth and because of his knowledge of man, he understands your every difficulty. But he also knows the way out of your difficulty and will constantly offer to help you through it, enabling you to stop carrying your own burdens. He says to you now through his words in the Bible " come to me, all you who are weary an burdened, and I will give you rest." ( Matt 11: 24 ) so there is great hope for everyone, including you, no matter what the situation. Some of life's problems can seem like great insurmountable mountains, but climbing over them or overcoming them in some way, all involve the action of taking a first step. You may have guessed it. The first step in overcoming any problem is getting to know Jesus Christ. Even now this step is possible for you . Part Three of this book will show you how to proceed in making that decision.

The spirit of man is important.

One final but important point. Chapter 19 explains the idea of salvation and what this does for the person who accepts Jesus Christ into their life. The difference in immense. It is best explained this way. People in the world generally consider human beings to have a body and a soul. Our body is obvious because we can see it. Our soulish parts include our mind, emotions and will, all of which are somewhat visible through our actions. What most people do not know is that there is another aspect to every human being, that being our human spirit. When a person becomes a Christian and thus has salvation, a profound change takes place, because this human spirit, along with the soul and the body, receives new life from the Holy Spirit of God.

It is through the Holy Spirit of God within the human spirit of man that all things come from God to man. If you don't have the spirit of God within you, then you do not have the possibility of the fullness of life that God offers. (and no possibility of everlasting life either) it's as simple as that. As the roadway sign says, "no God - no life. Know God - know life."

Your spirit and God's spirit.

The significance for the married person is this. If you have the Spirit of God, then you have the basis for the best of all things in life. If there is unity between the partners in the marriage through the spirit of God, then unity in soul and body will follow. Chapter 3 explains this idea further in terms of the sexual relationship of the marriage.

How is your spouse?

So how is your spouse? How are you with your spouse? In the light of all that has been said, are you doing all you can for that person you love dearly, ( or put up with! ) that person who is trusting you for that oneness in their life. Introduce yourself to Jesus Christ! He already knows you and loves you, warts and all. Then introduce your partner to him. You'll be amazed at the wonderful things that happen as you trust him with your lives.

What this chapter has said.

The fullness of marriage can be best experienced where both partners both have Jesus Christ in their lives.
The consequences of not knowing Jesus Christ in this troubled world, can result in difficulty and even divorce in some marriages.
Divorces that occur in Christian marriages only highlight the forces apposing marriage and the absolute commitment needed by both partners to Jesus Christ and his ways.

Difficult marriages can be repaired by an active belief in Christ, particularly when coupled with appropriate counselling.  God's spirit dwelling within a person is an essential commodity if the fullness of life promised by God is to be experienced.  The fullness of God through Jesus Christ is available at any time. See Chapter 25 for details.