The only thing worse than being lonely in singleness is being lonely in marriage.
-Dr. John MacArthur
This is the fourth in a series of short and serious essays written first and foremost to my own children, my nieces, and my nephews, though ultimately to all interested parties. I would have written it regardless, however as I am facing surgery in the near future to obtain a biopsy in search of possible cancer, it did take on a new level of urgency.
I write this as it is my great desire that young people and those gravely contemplating marriage, as well as pastors, ministers, and others who have been given the privilege of performing the marriage ceremony will discover and seriously consider these ideas. I hope to be of some aid in the prevention of further marriages that are unfit for His Kingdom. I believe that our often casual approach to marriage, as a church and as a society, has been and continues to be a tremendous hindrance to the world.
In my confoundedness, regarding the issue of confusion over marriage that surrounds much of the organized church, as well as my clients in Biblical counseling and various associates, I began to explore our humanity in search of the patterns of convolution that may have lead us to this present state- this economy in which the divorce rate within the church equals and stands ready to surpass the divorce rate outside of it.
To begin, I believe, as a society we have been operating under the faulty assumption that when we attach God’s name to anything we have joined together it is assured that He has done it. In this case, we must be more careful.
We have established in a previous essay that Christians must enter the marriage covenant only out of a desire to honor God in it and to love Him better because of it… Because we love Him first and best. If this is the position from which one proceeds- the primary motive of one’s heart- any endeavor including that of marrying or purposefully remaining single is a worthy one, and the many trials common to us all may be efficiently and effectively managed- as well as can be in a messy world of imperfect people. (See Matthew 5:17-37)
I may never understand how it happened that those other than God’s chosen people, those foreigners and aliens of whom He speaks, unbelievers, ever bought into the idea of marriage- except for the abuses we humans are prone to allow which I have noted and included in this article.
Before proceeding further we must recognize that marriage was instituted before The Fall of Man- before the world changed into something altogether different than what it had been previously. It happened before sin- before we would need a new heart to hear God, to make a choice for God, to relate to God.
We must also acknowledge why marriage was instituted. According to His Word, it was for two reasons. The first stated, to keep Adam from being alone, and the second to provide for Adam a helper suited to him.
With respect to the first reason, it is hard for me to imagine that Adam was lonely as these were pre-fall days in literal Paradise. Adam was with God in every sense of the word. This being the case, it would seem to indicate that there is a difference in being actually alone and feeling the emotion of loneliness. As for the second, it seems that marriage is a means of providing to a man someone to help him along on his journey with God. (See Genesis 2, Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliott)
When we are engaged in a relationship to please God, out of our love for God first, we will be always striving to live in a way that increases our partner’s sense of security, enabling our loved one to feel respected and safe within the relationship. Still, it should be noted that there are most certainly cases in which a person may consistently pour into a relationship all the godly love he or she is able in Christ and in his or her own humanity to give, and the partner will be unresponsive. (See I Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 13)
This happens often in our present society for a variety of reasons, including the one stated in a previous essay- the partner is not a genuine Believer. Another is mental affectation such as a personality disorder or a mood disorder, and definitely worth noting as it is becoming pervasive in our society is post traumatic stress disorder, often due to former abuse and/or neglect. There are physiological basises for some diagnoses and these are easily documented. All imental health ssues require particular medical, psychological, and theological intervention to aid in a person’s healing before the normal parameters for relationship are effective.
The seven patterns of thinking and behavior that I indicate in this article are readily products of any ordinary sinner but are especially prevalent in those who endure post traumatic stress, personality, or mood disorders, and/or other mental affectations. (Please see, Character Disturbed by Dr. George Simon, Facing The Shadow, and Don’t Call It Love by Patrick Carnes The Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan Allender, The Haunted Self by van der Hart, Nijenhuis, and Steele, Trauma and Recovery by Judith Lewis Herman, M.D.)
Some of these persons are Believers and simply need the Truth of their mental situation revealed and made plain to them in Love and they will acknowledge the issue and begin to put in the work necessary to move toward a healing, though becoming well is sometimes a lifetime endeavor. Many are unbelievers and some are given over to evil and will remain in the throes of their illness for an indefinite length of time, possibly for the whole of their lives. (Again, see 1 Corinthians 7)
I have identified these seven behavior patterns, and there may easily be more, in which we engage with little hesitation that will often lead to the formation of marriages that are not truly glorifying to God or simply are not of God or of His kingdom. These patterns often co-exist or overlap one another.
The first is using marriage as a means of escaping our present reality. This is a prevalent problem. Many of us desire to alleviate some difficult situation, perhaps one of neglect, abuse, or poverty. Sometimes we seek to flee our feelings of loneliness, insecurity, or fear of abandonment. Usually, as the former generally assist in creating the latter, we are attempting to find relief from both- circumstance and the painful emotions generated as a result.
Another is our tendency to use marriage as a means of salvation. We are designed to know God. We are meant to recognize our weaknesses and our failings, and to long for someone bigger to save us from ourselves and subsequently to whom we may offer our worship- and yet we are prone to attempt first any path other than submission to a Holy God. We can see that this easily facilitates our persuading ourselves that another human being is the perfect answer.
A third issue is the misuse of the marital union to elevate ourselves into the position of savior. There are many who long to be the one who is bigger, stronger, more fully capable than the other. Many are desiring to be the rescuer and in this way seek to feel more powerful, noble, or to fill the need to be less cognizant of their own shortcomings. Often, these people would rather be worshipped than worship.
Next is the misuse resulting from an unholy desire to own or control another human being in the same sense that one owns and controls an inanimate object. This is a pollution of the healthy voluntary custody a husband and a wife should have of one another- one similar to that mutual possession enjoyed by God and the children of His salvation.
Also, we often use marriage as a means to exercising an obsession such as one with tradition (a man-made idea of what is right or expected), or an obsession resulting from an intense fascination with another inspired by something other than healthy respect, or from an infatuation with romance itself, or with specific sexual behaviors.
Many use marriage as a vehicle for having children and for safely and legitimately rearing a family and building a home. Before you are tempted to declare that I have lost all credibility, please understand that I mean to say that desire for a home, a family, a child or children, while they should be an anticipated outcome, should never be the primary reason for a marital union.
And last but certainly not least, and a pattern seeming to overlap the others in a large number of instances, is the use of marriage as a corrective measure. For example: Parents will often encourage marriage as a means of relieving their own emotional or financial stress, hoping to be rid of some burden or another they perceive to be due in part to their older child’s being unsettled- unmarried. Often this happens when a parent is suffering financially and sees a potential monetary gain or at the least a relief from the literal cost of a still dependent older child, or when a parent perceives a child as promiscuous or rebellious, or has a child who no longer subscribes to parental influence, or a child who has discontinued involvement with the organized church.
Too, on many occasions, adults will convince themselves that a sexual perversion of one kind or another, including that of addiction to pornography, fantasy and/or masturbation, as well as preferences for someone or something outside of what God has declared to be the natural prescribed order, will surely release its grip- its stronghold- if they marry. It is true that many enter marriage believing (or because others are convinced or are wishing for them) that some discomfort or another, or some sin issue, will cease if a marriage takes place.
Again, to enter a marriage relationship for any of these reasons is an abuse of the institution of marriage and generally will result in the abuse of one’s spouse.
My own counseling work with more than fifty individuals as well as with couples suggests that these patterns are definitely in use, are increasingly wide-spread, and have managed to create an extensive set of secondary problems.
I have described seven observed patterns. I am unsure that any one is more detrimental to us than the other.
All presented are in my estimation convolutions of the original intention for marriage that is put forth in The Bible.
Obviously, I believe from the study of God’s Word, a Biblical concept of marriage is one that only God’s chosen and saved children need pursue, and that God’s chosen and saved children must pursue either purposeful Biblical marriage or purposeful Biblical singleness; for we are not our own and it is our duty to strive to live in accordance with what we know is right; what we know is according to His will as He has revealed it in Holy Scripture.
In conclusion, it is clearly most necessary for Christians to be as certain as we can be of our own faith, to be continually seeking after the heart of God before contemplating joining our lives with others; and that the entering of any relationship, particularly the relationship of marriage, be done with an awareness of the other’s position with God in Christ, as well our own. (See 2 Cor. 13:5)
Notes: Please see Genesis 2, Matthew 5:17-37, Matthew 19:1-11, 1 Corinthians 7, I Corinthians 13, 2 Corinthians 13:5, Character Disturbed by Dr. George Simon, Facing The Shadow, and Don’t Call It Love by Patrick Carnes, Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliott, The Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allender, The Haunted Self by van der Hart, Niejenhuis, and Steele, Trauma and Recovery by Judith Lewis Herman, M.D., Brief Thoughts of Love- first essay in this series, Brief Thoughts Regarding Human Sexuality- second essay in this series, Brief Thoughts on Marriage- third essay in this series)
Copyright 2017. L.L. Shelton.
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