This is the fifth and final installment of Reflections & Lessons from 40 Years of Marriage. Today I am focusing on two aspects of the marriage relationship, trust and the enemies of marriage, that if not properly handled can end up being deal breakers. Check out the previous four posts for the first eight points.
9. Don’t break trust. Whatever you do, don’t violate one another’s trust. Trust is one of the key foundation stones of a stable marriage. Trust is solidified in a relationship through truth telling and faithful, predictable behavior. Trust is undermined by deception and unreliable behavior.
I learned this early on and thankfully Jesus came along at just the right time and saved me and our marriage. When Susan and I were married we had the inside of each of our wedding bands engraved. Mine said “Forever Susan” and of course hers said “Forever Tom.” We had pledged to one another that we would never take our wedding rings off.
We had been married almost a year and a half when one weekend I returned from a rock climbing outing and shared in passing that for safety’s sake I had removed my ring. That was devastating to her. It was the low point in our marriage, primarily because it was about much more than the ring. Taking off the ring was symptomatic of a deeper rift happening between us as I was caught up in pursuing a life and friendships apart from her.
Amazingly the very next night we attended a Bible study where we both asked Christ into our lives. Needless to say everything changed and our covenant love with Jesus reestablished our covenant relationship with one another. My entire values system was up-ended and I lost all interest in many things that were competing for my affections including rock climbing.
A violation of trust is like an earthquake. It can shake a covenant relationship to its very foundation. The greater the transgression, the greater the crack in the foundation and the more required to repair the damage.
Beware, tremors of unfaithfulness that go unchecked in the mind, can lead to a major earthquake in the relationship. Such earthquakes have toppled many a marriage. A scripture we would all do well to heed is “Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) It calls us to a sober vigilance in policing our thought life.
For more on this topic see my blog post “The perplexity and probability of restoring broken trust.” (March 19, 2010)
10. Deal ruthlessly with the enemies of marriage. – Everything in life that is valuable to us, we are careful to safeguard. What could be more precious than the marriage covenant? The enemies of marriage are rooted in unrepentant sin.
It is important to recognize these enemies: unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, lust, jealousy, control and such. Basically anything that issues from our sinful nature is an enemy. An Achilles heal in this regard, especially for men, is the tendency to nurture bitterness toward their wives.
Unfulfilled expectations are often seed beds for bitterness to grow. If a man is trying to fashion a woman into his own image and likeness he will be susceptible to this. Early in my marriage God sovereignly addressed this sin in my own life.
One morning as I was reading the Bible, God sent me a zinger to my heart when I read this verse. “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” (Colossians 3:19) It brought me to a deep repentance as I realized my guilt and self-centered manipulation in an attempt to have my way in our marriage.
Dealing ruthlessly with sin requires keeping short accounts with God and with one another. Only by being quick to forgive can we slay the fire-breathing dragon of bitterness. And only by guarding our heart with its thoughts and imaginations can we quench the raging fires of lust and unfaithfulness.
I’ve learned that the only way to really fight these enemies is through a dependence upon the Holy Spirit and God’s grace. Our human frailties are like a gravitational force field that is continually trying to pull us away from God and His ways.
That is why it is so critical to stand our ground and fight these temptations in faith. Even when things may seem at their worst, there is amazing power in believing for the best.
In 40 years of marriage, Susan and I have found that taking our stand together in prayer and confessing our trust in God’s faithfulness always releases hope and faith for better days ahead – no matter how bleak things may appear.
We pray that you might experience His faithfulness as well!
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