Premise: Marriage is a covenant with God, not a contract between two people. God owns marriage. He invented it.
In marriage counseling I like to use a simple chart followed by a statement to complete. The chart shows a choice of “I want” to be how Satan would have couples make decisions, and a choice of “we want” to be more likely to bring God into the decisions. After discussing I and we choices I have each spouse or potential spouse complete the following sentence:
I believe what God wants most in our marriage is______________________________________
When asked to finish this sentence, couples will usually indicate their intention to stay together and work together to make a beautiful family, and to raise smart, healthy children who will be successful in life. But when difficulties arise in their marriage, they often fall into patterns of behavior learned in childhood; patterns with which they asserted themselves and defended their personal things. However, in a marriage and family situation, self-serving thought and action will not help a couple’s ability to carry out God’s purposes in the marriage covenant.
What is needed is summed up in Paul’s description of charity in his letter to the Corinthians. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in truth; beareth all things, believeth all things; hopeth all things; endureth all things.” (1Cor 13:4-7) Then, just in case we missed the underlying message Paul added, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man I put away childish things.” (1 Cor 13:11) Selfishness, jealousy, a struggle to dominate or treating a spouse as in the place of a parent with the expectation of being served and directed, will ruin the essential cooperative relationship between parents and give children a wrong example. Childish behavior patterns on the part of parents will most likely assure that such behaviors will appear in the next generation and continue the dysfunctional pattern.
If these things are present in your marriage, waste no time in bringing them to a halt. Patience, unselfish attitudes and behavior toward each other, guarding against anger, putting a stop to evil thoughts about each other, speaking hopefully about the future, and working together to form God-directed adult decisions about family activity and needs will assure a household in which the fruit of the Spirit dwells every day. Paul made a list of attributes we would ideally find in a home committed to carry out God’s will for the family: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5: 22-24) This is how successful parents build beautiful families and raise happy children that will be successful in life. This is how couples realize the goal they envisioned in premarital counseling. A lifetime of commitment to God’s ways will make generations of success, happiness and service to God.
Most of us have seen examples of families where selfish and battling parents have not let the pure love of Christ show forth in their home; and the children suffer. Those parents are serving a vile god just as surely as those Moses wrote about in Exodus 20:5-6. “Thou shalt not bow thyself down to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
As hard as it may seem to do, every effort to create an atmosphere of love, joy and peace in the home is worth the sacrifice each parent may need to make. If outside help (counseling or psychological intervention) is needed to accomplish this goal, it is better to risk the stigma it may place on you than to let Satan take yet another generation of children away from the parental love God intended for them.
When I became a man I put away childish things! (1 Corinthians 13: 11)