“Marriage Never Works—You Have To Work It.”

Part III in a series on wisdom

Knowledge is knowing what to do; wisdom is doing it! We need wisdom to build a successful marriage. Proverbs 5:18 reminds men to “rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Whether married for years or just days, we are to continually celebrate and delight in our wives.

Most desire a happy marriage. Unfortunately, desire alone is not enough; it takes action. Considering the number of men today who want a happy marriage, and that would be most—far too few actually arrive. Why? Many do not make ongoing investments into their marriage. Relationships are like checking accounts: words of healing and encouragment are deposits in to our emotional bank account; whereas words of anger and insults are withdrawals. If there are more withdrawals than deposits, the account not only loses value but it can create emotional bankruptcy. Love hopes for and believes the best in our wives. We may not always see the best in them, but we trust that it is there and we encourage it to grow.

I believe that God often places us with those we can help, and the opposite is true. Don’t view a challenging marriage as something to run from, but rather, as something to run to. It’s not the difficulties in marriage that defeat us—it’s generally our attitude and response to the problems that determines whether we succeed or fail. When life becomes challenging, we often blame our marriage and say, “This isn’t working.” Marriage never works out—you have to work it out. Anger, resentment, bitterness, frustration, and un-forgiveness produce negative, unproductive attitudes; they have no place in the marriage relationship. Instead of bringing unnecessary baggage into the relationships, we should be lightening the load.

We need to learn to pray for our wives rather than to get angry, to understand rather than become impatient, and to love unconditionally rather than to walk away. Within this secure and nurturing framework, the marriage can thrive. If you’re aware of any issues that may prevent the development of a healthy relationship, I encourage you to begin working on them today and save your marriage before it has a chance to fail. Make a healthy marriage your priority—it will not happen on its own.

If you are single, remember…who you are when single will be who you are when married, at least initially. For this reason, it’s vitally important to develop qualities now that you’ll want to continue to develop throughout marriage. Marriages that begin with right intentions but end in divorce often fail to continue to nurture and strengthen the relationship.

It’s no surprise that more than fifty percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. I believe this number would be significantly lower if basic principles were acknowledged before marriage, as well as after. Love doesn’t leave people—people leave love. True love is not just an ecstatic feeling; it’s a decision that we make to remain faithful to our commitment. Marriage was intended to be a commitment based on love, surrendered to service, and built on perseverance.

A newsletter from Focus on the Family stated that when a research team studied 5,232 married adults who were interviewed in the late 1980s, they discovered that 645 of them were unhappily married. Five years later, these same adults (some divorced, separated or still married) were interviewed again. The study revealed that two-thirds of the unhappily married spouses who remained together were actually happier five years later. The opposite was true for those divorced. Although divorce was a temporary escape from pain, it introduced new emotional and psychological difficulties. In a nutshell, unless problems are severe (e.g. on-going adultery, or deception) and/or life threatening, weather the storm—it’s well worth it.

Proverbs 6:32 warns, “The man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys his own soul.” Adultery not only pertains to the physical act, it can refer to our thought life as well. Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Adultery, mentally or physically, breaks the bond between a husband and a wife. The spiritual union of two people was never designed to be broken.

Nothing is more detrimental to marriage than adultery…just ask those who have experienced it. The enemy doesn’t show a couple the pain and anguish, or the years of regret that adultery brings; he deceives them with the temporary enjoyment of illicit sex and a false sense of freedom from responsibility: “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell” (Proverbs 9:17-18). If the full story was known beforehand, no doubt different choices would be made.

I’m not trying to overwhelm you, but the consequences of sexual sin are tragic. If we candy-coat this issue and fail to see it for what it is, we can easily be misled. Unfortunately, many forget that poor choices have long-term consequences. Married or single, if you sense that you’re heading in the wrong direction, simply repent and ask God to re-direct you. For some, its not too late to rebuild your marriage. He is faithful to lead those who want to follow.

Shane Idleman is the pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship. KTLW (88.9FM in Lancaster) features his radio program at 7am on Saturdays, and Sundays at 6:30pm beginning in February. Westside Christian Fellowship meets Saturdays at 5:30pm at 6015 W Ave. J-8. For more info., visit WCFAV.org, or call (661) 524-6610. Shane’s books, articles, & radio program can be found at ShaneIdleman.com.