Controversy and conflict are pervasive in our daily lives, in our culture, and throughout the world community. This book may be controversial for you, but that could be good. You may find some of the choices God calls you to make will be extremely difficult and may be in conflict with things you’ve previously thought and believed. This book contains ideas about marriage that most people don’t want to hear, much less live by; however, this book is intended to lovingly confront you and challenge your thinking about marriage.
I encourage you to persevere and just read—give it a chance. You earn the right to critique this book after you read it all to the end. Some readers may feel this book puts forth an impossible standard for people to follow in a committed relationship, but I hope you will find that such a conclusion is neither intended nor true.
This book is about preparing yourself for marriage, determining who you should choose or accept to marry, learning how God looks at marriage as revealed in Scripture, and discovering the means by which you can remain married. It has been written for you. We are about to have a deep conversation about your thoughts and fears related to dating, marriage, separation, divorce, remarriage, and your eventual judgment before God.
For a moment, let me address what is not the purpose of this book. It is not up to me to tell you what is right or wrong. It is not up to me to judge you or your past or current relationships. It is also not my purpose to condemn your lifestyle as a failure if you do not follow every element of God’s Design for Marriage. My only active goal in this book is to convey to you what I have learned
through a long and intense study of God’s Word and through prayer and meditation. In this book you will be exposed to something that can help your relationship, be it a new relationship, a current marriage, or a union no longer legally in existence. There are no guarantees that this book
will lead you to a “soul mate” or to a perfect spouse. There is also no guarantee that this book will fix your marriage or cause reconciliation after separation or divorce. Healing, forgiveness, correction, and restoration are not things I can give you. However, in this book you will learn about God’s Design for Marriage and about all the ways His plans for marriage can enrich relationships.
The seven elements of God’s Design for Marriage are covered in the first two parts of this book. In Part 1 we’ll look at the first element of God’s Design for Marriage—Total Submission to God, a means of turning your life over to the Lord. I have broken down this element into a discussion related to spiritual maturity, purity, and prioritizing God ahead of all other people (including yourself) and all other matters in your life. Then there is a discussion about attraction, life before marriage, the secular way (without God) of forming and maintaining relationships, and then God’s way of forming and maintaining relationships. We will also look at dating and associated pitfalls. Additionally, I will discuss what Biblical courtship is all about and whether and for what purpose it can be utilized in today’s culture.
In Part 2 of the book we look at the remaining elements of God’s Design for Marriage, the first of which is Leaving and Cleaving. Specifically, this element requires separating your marital household from the household of your parents. Their influence is replaced by the primary influence of your spouse, and your dependency on your parents is replaced with your trust in your spouse. The result of this transition is a husband and wife cleaving to each other, becoming one flesh.
The third and fourth elements of God’s Design for Marriage are the Husband’s Role as the Spiritual Leader of the family and the Wife’s Role as Helper and Companion. These two separate roles enjoy complete equality and importance entirely consistent with the principles behind the Equal Rights Amendment. In God’s eyes, these distinct and not extinct roles are truly and completely equal in value, worth, and utility. The beauty of the roles working together in an energizing cycle can bring marital contentment and spiritual growth much quicker and better in quality than any legislation or constitutional amendment requiring equal rights.
The fifth and sixth elements of God’s Design for Marriage are Love and Respect. We will identify and explore these two primary responsibilities of husband and wife respectively. Both responsibilities are provided not as requirements but as choices for us to make, suggestions or options to help us.
Then, we can focus on Mutual Submission between husband and wife. The seventh element of God’s Design for Marriage, mutual submission, is the energizing cycle of giving and receiving essential to marriage. From mutual submission comes unity with God, and what results is unselfishness in the sexual realm as well as conflict resolution though peaceful and loving skills you can develop.
In the final section of the book, Part Three, we will look at the ways in which marriage is likely to come under attack or succumb to darkness. We will explore together the cultural influences related to or causing separation and divorce along with the question of whether there exists a right to remarriage after divorce. Pastors, priests, ministers, and those counseling couples in troubled relationships too frequently ignore these matters. Finally, we will look at invaluable resources to help your relationship emerge out of darkness and into the light, so that separation and divorce can be completely averted.
The controversy caused by a book like this may flow from the secular world’s assertion that the standards outlined in God’s Design for Marriage are out of touch with our modern reality, a claim that reflects the belief that God’s Word should change with our culture’s beliefs andbehaviors. The contrary view, the one tendered in this manuscript, is that our loving God has provided guidelines for a successful and purposeful marriage, guidelines from which our culture has strayed away, not slightly, but in a huge way. Marriage is not always easy. Let’s just say that statement is a gross understatement. Often the roots and the course of a marriage do not follow God’s Design, and often God’s overall purpose for a married couple is not taught in churches. As a result, trouble can be expected along the path of marriage. If newlyweds are not aware of God’s Design for Marriage or, if aware, simply don’t follow God’s Design for Marriage, trouble can and will emerge. Following God’s Design assures blessings. Being unaware of God’s Design or not following God’s Design allows a couple to block God’s intended blessings. Some marriages are like driving a car without the benefit of a driver’s education class, without power steering, ABS, navigation, traction control, and power brakes. Other marriages are like driving a fully loaded tractor-trailer down a steep mountain without any brakes and rapidly approaching a sharp ninety-degree curve at the base of the mountain. Unless you know how to bring an eighteen-wheeler to a stop as quickly as possible, the future holds utter disaster.
It is necessary to emphasize that some elements of God’s Design for Marriage may be easier to follow for some individuals than others. There are some elements which one couple will struggle with and another couple may find unproblematic. Every human being is unique, and thus every couple is layered with the uniqueness of each spouse. Even though many couples will encounter similar situations and scenarios, each person may react differently.
Even for those educated in the seven elements of God’s Design for Marriage, couples remain potential victims of the negative power of temptation, human weakness, immorality, and sin. As I said before, marriage is not easy. God will allow, if not provide on occasion, tests and trials intended to strengthen couples. There will be consequences of past sin to complicate marriage, the necessary friendship between a husband and wife, and the foundational commitments in the relationship. Additionally, there will be temptations, which can attack even the most ostensibly rock-solid model marriage.
God’s Design for Marriage does not provide a foolproof model for an absolutely blissful marriage, because it provides a model of perfection that few, if any, can claim to emulate. We simply are not perfect, so do not read this book and expect to have a perfect marriage. But by following God’s Design for Marriage you can expect to have a much better marriage – a marriage that has the potential for restoration even after adultery or another sin-induced trauma, a marriage in which forgiveness and understanding are more available, and a marriage in which God can heal wounds and lead you and your spouse to achieve the otherwise unachievable.
Just as I am driven by my commitment to answer my call from God, marriage is also about answering a call, a call to commit to another and to love sacrificially. Making God the foundation of the marriage, submitting to Him, and maintaining an unwavering commitment to a spouse combine to comprise the glue that keeps marriage together through the most difficult times. Rest assured, every married couple will walk barefoot across the coals of fire-blazed torment before their marriage will be refined as purely as gold. Without these three ingredients, most people will walk away from the fires in marriage and will later repeat the same cycle again and again. What was possible will be lost. Therefore, be mindful that regardless of what difficulty may be unfolding in your relationship at this moment, God is available to provide you and your spouse with unending grace and with a path for you to follow. This path may seem impossible to some, but nonetheless it is a simple path where you will make choices either consistent with the guidelines God has provided or consistent with the other forces that can dominate your earthly existence.
It is so easy to get married. Many couples marry without having any understanding of what marriage will require of both individuals. Some of us in marriage and divorce ministriessometimes jokingly propose there should be levels of testing required by the government before issuing a license for a couple to enter the sacred institution of marriage. In my pre-Christian thinking, I suggested, usually in jest, that marriage should be based on an automatically renewable annual contract, like a lease, with an option for dissolution after thirty days written notice – no need for messy divorces. However, through study, prayer, meditation, and submission to God I discovered that we have something even easier available to all of us – the possibility of not needing divorce at all. The need for divorce can be diminished if a couple simply follows God’s suggestions for courtship before marriage and the seven elements of God’s Design for Marriage thereafter.
Indissoluble marriages are possible, but the responsibility for this type of relationship is not just on the couple—it is also a responsibility of pastors, priests, ministers, and other spiritual leaders in a church’s pre-marital program. The church must assess a couple’s spiritual maturity and understanding before facilitating a marriage and pronouncing a couple husband and wife. Officiating servants of God act through God’s power and should be responsible for determining whether the couple can knowingly and voluntarily enter into a sacred covenant with God. Dedication to a premarital ministry is either lacking or non-existent in most church communities. Current divorce rates, even among Christians, show great failure in fulfilling this responsibility. Therefore, this
book is also intended to serve as an encouragement to pastors, priests, and ministers to be attentive and responsible before pronouncing a couple husband and wife.
Very few books identify for troubled married couples some of the essential considerations that should be evaluated before choosing to separate or divorce. I have met with countless individuals who, while going through the grinder of separation or divorce, wish they had known earlier what happens to the heart in the process of turning it into sausage. There are amputations inherent in every separation and divorce, the tearing apart of one flesh that is inevitable and unavoidable. Additionally, children are always affected adversely, in varying degrees, in the process and are more likely to continue the cycle of divorce in their own lives. Yet all of these searing hardships can be avoided by staying the course in what seems to be an impossible passage.
Only by looking at the entire scope of marriage—before, during, and after—are individuals and couples adequately equipped to make sound choices related to marriage, separation, divorce, and remarriage. The purpose of this book is to present God’s Design for Marriage in order to better equip you in allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you in your exercise of free will and to better inform you of the consequences of some choices you may be considering.
Regardless of your faith, denomination, religion, or whatever belief system you do or do not follow, I pray that God will bless you in the journey made available through His Word and highlighted through this book, and that He will open your heart and mind to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you read each successive chapter. I commend you for developing the courage to participate in the journey this book offers, especially if you are not a Christian. If you already feel confronted or fearful, I encourage you to put those feelings aside, open your heart and mind, andread with a curiosity that just might open some doors for you.