Next week Kathy and I will be celebrating 43 years of marriage. It’s only by the grace of God that we’ve managed it. I often kid and say, “Yes, it’s a miracle that I’ve been able to put up with her for all these years!” But the truth is probably more along the lines of her putting up with me. Yet we both know that it’s a common effort. Everyone has warts! Everyone has their rough edges and we each much learn how to bend, how to flex according to the needs and desires of the other. David Jeremiah said it well. He writes, “Marriage doesn’t get better by itself. Many people think that the joy of dating and the joy of the honeymoon will just continue unabated for years to come. That is totally unrealistic. There is what I call a gravitational pull on couples which is constantly pulling them down from the heights of the honeymoon. In other words, marriage takes work—lots of hard work. It doesn’t just happen as if by magic. That’s why the passages of Scripture dealing with marriage are not suggestions or blessings, they are commands: “Wives, submit to your husbands.” “Husbands, love your wives.” They are not optional. Rather, they are points of obedience which must be committed to if marriage is to work.”

Successful marriages are most often the result of hard work, commitment and obedience to God’s instructions in the Bible. It’s a personal matter of learning how to live a sacrificial life like Christ. Jeremiah goes on to say, “If we don’t resist the gravitational pull, and by the power of the Holy Spirit do that which is supernatural, we will not do that which will keep marriages together. The ‘work’ comes in the agonizing process Paul calls ‘renewing the mind’ (Romans 12:2), when we decide to yield to God instead of our natural desires. That is not easy, as Paul described in Romans 7. Without that hard work, the gravitational pull of the carnal, sinful nature will pull each partner in marriage into the downward spiral of yielding to carnal and fleshly desires. In order to stop that pull and get out of that spiral you must obey God. When someone says to me, ‘I just don’t love her anymore,’ what I hear is, ‘I’ve decided not to obey God any more.’ They have confused love, which is an act of the will, with the emotional and romantic feelings which follow our obedience to God. Feelings are great, but you cannot build a marriage on them. Left to itself a marriage will deteriorate as surely as the rusting hulk of an abandoned automobile which the owner stopped taking care of.”

I’d like to add that a good marriage also needs prayer. One of the most powerful ingredients for healing marriages is prayer. As old fashioned as this sounds, I still believe that a family who prays together stays together. We must pray for our own marriages and for the marriages of those we care about. Another email I received this week said this, “This devotion especially touched my heart. I continue to experience heartache caused by divorce. And pray for anyone who is struggling in their marriages. I see the pain in my son’s life caused by his divorce. And of course in his children’s lives. So I will continue to pray for people to work diligently on keeping their marriages growing.” I will too!