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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - 10 Things That Make a Good Marriage

John Bradshaw - 10 Things That Make a Good Marriage

John Bradshaw - 10 Things That Make a Good Marriage
TOPICS: Marriage

In Germany, people might gather together before a wedding to break objects made of porcelain. At a Jewish wedding, the groom or the bride and groom might step on a glass inside a cloth bag and smash the glass. I attended a wedding where the newlyweds sawed a log together. Traditions like these are intended to bring good fortune to the couple getting married. The point being, we want marriages to work out. We want a happy couple to remain happy and to have a long and blessed marriage. Wedding vows typically include a line that says, "For as long as you both shall live". For almost 500 years, "Till death do us part" has been associated with getting married. But how's that working out?

The truth is, not great. Even though the divorce rate in the United States has dropped in recent times, it's still sky high. In 2021, there were 1,985,072 marriages in the United States and 689,308 divorces. While first marriages fail at a rate of around 40%, 67% of second marriages fail, and 73% of third marriages. In southern states, often said to be more conservative and more religious than the rest of the country, divorce rates hover right around the national average, even though every Bible in the South says that God hates divorce. In Britain and Australia, the divorce rate has increased in recent years. And while we recognize there are times people can no longer safely stay in a marriage due to their own safety or the welfare of the children, those cases are the exception and they're not the rule.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that in the United States today, one in three children lives in a single-parent family, and the number is rising. Most of those kids live in a home without a father. Now, God bless single parents who do their best and work hard, we thank God for that. But it's certainly not the ideal situation. Nearly 30% of single parents live in poverty as compared to 6% of married couples. And while many children raised in one-parent homes do well and go on to succeed, it's true that generally children who come through divorce have a harder time in life. Girls whose fathers left the home before they were five years old are eight times more likely to become pregnant as adolescents than girls from intact families.

The NIH cites research that shows kids whose parents divorce or separate are at increased risk of child and adolescent adjustment problems, including academic difficulties, disruptive behaviours - that's conduct and substance abuse problems - and depression and other mental health issues. The same research says that children and adult offspring of separated parents are over-represented in the mental health system. Psychology Today said, "Research shows that children of divorce are more likely to experience a divorce themselves. The statistics vary, but one study by researchers Paul Amato and Danelle Deboer indicated that if a woman's parents divorced, her odds of divorce increased by 69 percent, while if both a husband and wife's parents divorced, the risk of divorce increased by 189 percent".

Frederick Douglass once said, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men". Again, I want to emphasize that some kids come through the divorce of their parents okay, but we're not wise to ignore the fact that parental divorce is really hard on kids. Marriage was God's idea. In the beginning, God created Adam. And after creating Eve, Genesis says, "He brought her to the man". And Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh". "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife". "And they shall become one flesh". Adam described Eve as "the woman whom you gave to be with me".

Now, the marriage landscape is changing. People are marrying later than ever. The median age for a first marriage is now 30 for men and 28 for women. The number of U.S. adults cohabiting with a partner is on the rise. In 2016, 18 million Americans were living with an unmarried partner, up 30% in less than 10 years. Since 1972, marriage rates in the U.S. have fallen by almost 50% and are currently at the lowest point in recorded history. In 1960, the rate of marriage for women was 76.5 per 10,000. But by 2008, that number was down to 37.4 per 10,000.

So, is there any hope for marriage, an institution that's on shaky ground? We're going to look together at a divine prescription for saving marriage. Marriage is worth fighting for. The family was set up by God to be the place in which children can be raised safely and successfully, where both husband and wife can flourish, where parents and children can experience love and security. Marriage creates the family, and the family is the building block of society. Marriage is not a contract, it's a covenant.

Online legal service UpCounsel describes a covenant like this, "While a contract is legally binding, a covenant is a spiritual agreement. A contract is an agreement you can break, while a covenant is a perpetual promise. A contract exchanges one good for another, while a covenant is giving one's self to the other. Covenants are a trust-based promise that relies on your integrity and discipline. While contracts are enforceable by the courts, covenants depend on your values".

So, how can you make marriage work? Now, be sure you hear this. I don't say any of this to be critical of people who've gone through divorce. It's painful. It turns lives upside down. It's hard on kids. It's hard on in-laws. And pretty much everyone has divorce in their family. Half of my siblings have been divorced. So, this isn't to criticize. We're looking to see if there's a way forward, a way to avoid divorce and to save a marriage and a family. Okay, first, you want to marry the right person. Do your homework and be calculating about it. Not cold-hearted, but cool-headed. When you're young and in love, or in lust, or even if you're older and you're infatuated, it isn't easy to make a well-reasoned decision. And "in love" is such a nebulous concept these days. Love needs to be thought through. Love is a principle, not an emotion. And what is taken to be love is often simply misplaced need or desire.

It's important to go beyond good-looking and makes lots of money. I can already tell you what you're looking for, if you're looking. You're looking for someone who is honest. Someone who's trustworthy. Someone who, if a man, treats his mother with respect, or if a female, treats her father with respect. Someone who's employable, responsible, hard-working. And if you're a person of faith, someone who believes like you. If he or she is not the right person, move on, quickly. I've told many people that when they're considering marriage, they need to find someone really attractive, like my wife did. Okay, I have nine more points to share with you about saving marriage. Have you heard it said that marriage is hard work? Well, I don't agree. And I'll tell you why, in just a moment. I mentioned a moment ago that before marriage, it's important to make sure you're marrying the right person.

That leads us to point two. Marry someone who believes as you do. 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness, and what communion has light with darkness"? If your faith is important to you, and it's certainly important to God, marrying someone who does not believe is a surefire recipe for complication.

Now I know, someone's going to tell me their grandma married an atheist and she was perfectly happy. Or their brother married a Zoroastrian and they're like two peas in a pod. Except they're not. Grandma missed out on so much, and her children were confused, at least by having one parent who reverenced God and one parent who did not. Finding someone who shares your spiritual values is vital to the stability of your home. Someone you can pray with, who will pray for you, who will instill in children the values you want transmitted. More importantly, the values God wants transmitted.

Third, the person who marries should be sure they're marrying someone of good character. As the woman in Song of Solomon said, "Your name is ointment poured forth". He had a good name. People liked him because he was a man of character. And when it comes to marriage, character counts. And there's something just as important as finding the right person. Maybe more important. And that is being the right person. You're a male and you don't have a job? You better get one if you can. You drink too much? You ought to quit. You need to be the right person. Not a grump, not bitter, not lazy. And most importantly, you want to be right with God.

Now, you hear people say, "Oh, it's hard work marriage". I don't buy that at all. Hard work being married to the love of your life? How is that hard work? Now, life can be hard work. You go through some stuff together. It's hard when someone has an accident, or loses a job, or gets sick, or is tired, or is having a tough time. But it's not marriage that's hard work. What's hard work is you keeping yourself in check. Controlling your feelings and emotions. Biting your tongue. Turning off the football, getting off the sofa, and cutting the grass. Not spending money that you don't have. Helping around the house when you don't want to. Now, those are you issues. But marriage? If marriage is hard work, you're doing it wrong. Solve the you issues, and marriage gets a whole lot easier, irrespective of what the other person is doing.

Now, this is point five of your keeping count. Be nice. You hear story after story of people who marry someone that they think is a gift from God, only to find out later the person is a monster. No one has the right to mistreat another person. No one has the right to yell at their spouse. Absolutely never should there be anything approximating physical violence. And because you can't always tell what you're getting when you marry, ask around beforehand. Talk to people. Find out about the person's past. And don't ignore warning signs. His last girlfriend said he hit her? That's that then. Over. See you later.

One or the other was irresponsible with money? You don't need that. Too possessive? Nah, leave that trouble for someone else. You don't need it. Move on. Otherwise, you're begging for trouble. You know, you're special to God. You don't have to settle when it comes to marriage. You have every right to ask God for the right person and then not compromise. No one should marry a bunch of problems. That's one life sentence you are better off without. Now, related to this, don't say it. You can't unspeak words. You'll always regret saying something unkind or inappropriate. You can't take back words once they're out, so don't let them out if they shouldn't be said. Don't be unkind. Don't belittle the other person. Don't criticize. Just don't.

Love is like a tender plant. You've got to treat it gently. Nurture it. It's delicate. Don't say the things you know that you'll regret later. If that person is denigrating or ridiculing or cutting in what they say, then you should never let them say, "I do". Which leads me to seven. Keep it clean. No infidelity. Never. If you're tempted to get into something you shouldn't, run. Fast. Don't play with fire. Just don't. "She doesn't satisfy me". Nonsense. That's no excuse. "He isn't there for me anymore".

Now, that's serious, but infidelity isn't the solution. Get counseling. Talk to a pastor. Talk to each other. Pray together. But don't be unfaithful. It'll hurt you, and it'll hurt your children. And no porn. It's always damaging. It will always cause issues. And if you say, "It hasn't caused issues for you," I'm telling you, it has. Because you are sinning against God, and that itself is an issue. The wages of sin is death. Just read about the marriages that have been ruined by what today is an absolute plague. Pornography will destroy a marriage, and you shouldn't need me to tell you why that is. "Oh, we look at it together". No, no. No, don't do that. You're essentially committing adultery together. And it won't be long before one of you wants to take it to a place that the other isn't comfortable with. And now you're looking at major issues. Polyamory and all that? Only ever create problems. It's degrading, and it should never be considered.

Now, here's one. The guy who says, "I'm not happy with the way my spouse looks". Look in the mirror, brother. You'll almost certainly find that you're no pageant winner yourself. Or, you have three children and see how your body changes. Once you stand at the altar and say, "For better and for worse," you stand by that. "In sickness and in health, for younger and for older". You don't change because you get tired of someone. As someone once said, "Choose your love and love your choice". And keep in mind that studies show that the more people you've been intimate with before marriage, the greater your likelihood that your marriage won't work out. Which goes to show that planning to have a successful marriage should begin long before you walk down the aisle.

Now, point number eight. Be a Christian. Don't just call yourself one. Be one. Even the devil believes there's a God. You want to be committed to Christ and pray. If you want to lead a family, support a spouse financially or emotionally, raise children, you want to be filled with the Spirit of God and have Jesus living His life in you. Marriage is not a game. It's a lifelong commitment. It takes everything you've got. And it takes the blessing of God. Psalm 127 verse 1 says, "Except the Lord build a house, they labor in vain that build it". You need God in this.

A family should pray together. Husbands and wives should pray for each other and with each other. And pray honestly about yourself. It's easy to pray that your spouse should change. But if your husband or wife is just what they were when you married them, then you got what you bargained for. And you should not be disappointed. Don't think you're going to change someone. Instead, pray that you be a gracious, kind, loving, and patient person in whose arms the other one will find safety and dignity and the opportunity to be themselves. You know what the Bible says? Proverbs 21 verse 9, "Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop than in a house shared with a contentious woman". If you're a contentious woman, don't be. That's not Christian. And this cuts both ways.

Proverbs 26 verse 21 says, "As charcoal is to burning coals and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife". If you're a contentious man, you got to grow up. You got to be a man, someone who rules his own spirit. Now, if you were raised in a home where the man was the tough guy who treated everyone around him like dirt, then you should have learned then what you shouldn't be. That was a good lesson. Don't repeat those mistakes. If your dad was a drunk, don't be one yourself. If your mother was immoral, you don't have to be. Learn from that. You don't get to blame your actions on your DNA, because God is greater than all that. Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. That's 1 John 4 and verse 4. So, who in the world can live up to this? How can you be the right person? Now, here's the good news. What is impossible for you is possible for God. And I'll tell you more about that in just a moment.

It seems as though every day you hear about another celebrity marriage breakup. Yet, Denzel Washington and his wife Pauletta have been married for 40 years. Dolly Parton got married about 10 miles from where I'm standing right now, back in 1966. So, marriages don't have to fall apart. Marriage is the building block of society. When marriage goes, so does society. It's where values are transmitted, where people can find security and develop their self-worth. Now, I'm not saying everybody should be married. Singlehood is valid. There's nothing wrong with being single. But we're looking at when two people get together. The context for that is marriage. And we want that to work. Now, two more points. You don't want to hurry into marriage. Song of Solomon 2 verse 7 and 1 translation says, "Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and wild deer, not to awaken love until the time is right".

Marriage shouldn't be rushed. And when you plan to get married, point 10, get marriage counseling from a pastor or a Christian counselor who can help you consider the issues you'll face in marriage. Preparation for marriage is important. You learn to drive, you study the rules of the road. You want to study and learn before you get married. It's vital. And it's better to marry no one than the wrong one. Marriage is worth fighting for. It was established in the Garden of Eden for the benefit of those being married, for children, and for society. God, He intended marriage to last a lifetime.

When King David didn't respect his marriage, disaster. Solomon, just like his daddy. But then you have people who stuck with it, even in challenging circumstances. Joseph, who married Mary, the mother of Jesus. Salmon, who married Rahab in spite of her former occupation. Rahab became one of Jesus' ancestors. Hosea married Gomer and stuck by her through thick and thin. You know it's been said that marriage is 50/50. Well, it isn't. It's 100/100. If you're giving it 50%, that's not enough. And you don't want to expect too much of the other person. The person you married or will marry is imperfect. There has to be some understanding of that, some working with that. It's no one's job to make their spouse perfect. It is your privilege to love and be loved by that person. And even if marriage gets rocky, it can be successful.

What's impossible for you is possible with God. You read in 1 Corinthians 13 that love suffers long and is kind. Love does not envy. Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. And you say, "Wow, who can do that"? The truth is, no human being, not one ever has except for Jesus. A successful marriage, therefore, depends entirely upon Jesus being center of the home and the center of the life of both husband and wife.

Paul wrote, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her". Paul wrote about unbelieving husbands being won to faith by the witness of their believing wives. Let your heart be open to God's leading, open to the power of God's Spirit. Let your heart be surrendered to Jesus. The key to a successful marriage is the same as the key to a successful Christian experience. Christ in you, the hope of glory. God working in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. It's only God who can calm an angry spirit. Only God can give you grace to swallow hurtful words.

Only God can give you patience to deal with the idiosyncrasies of your spouse to the extent that you won't love that person in spite of them, but because of them. He can give you grace to ride out the rough waters and bring the ship of marriage into the calm waters of a safe haven. And be sure you get the free resource I'm offering you in this program. It'll help you or someone you know who needs God's blessing and presence in their home. God can do what you cannot. If you want Him to, He can, He will. And if your spouse isn't willing to pull in the same direction, don't stop praying.

I know a couple who once absolutely hated each other, but then they met Jesus and committed themselves to saving their marriage. Today, they are as happy as anyone you know. All those promises, life more abundantly, that your joy may be full, perfect peace, they're real. It's what God can do for you. Marriage is worth it. Family is worth it. The honor of God is worth it. There's a lot we haven't talked about. We haven't talked about communication, any number of other really important things. But I want you to remember what Jesus said. "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder". Can we pray together about this? Let's pray right now.

Our Father in heaven, we thank you today for marriage. It was your idea. You said in the book of Hebrews that marriage is honorable. Clearly, you are committed to its success. But right now, there are some contemplating marriage and they're concerned. Someone is in a marriage that's rocky, shaky. They're worried. They're not sure they can see a way out. I'm praying you work miracles. Miracles of guidance. Miracles of deliverance. Miracles of reconciliation. Because you can. Father, I pray you'd remind those in a difficult place to press your throne and not stop praying. To expect you to do great things. There's someone right now who's a little hard-hearted, won't go to counseling. Move that person to do so. There's somebody right now who's mean or selfish. And they could change if only they would let you give them a new heart. I pray, Lord, that that individual will allow you to make a new creature of him or her. Lord, save marriage. It's worth saving. Let mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and children be happy and fulfilled and close to you. This is our prayer in Jesus' name. Amen.

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