For Better or Worse
We’ve all heard those words, and most of us have said them ourselves in our own wedding vows.
“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part (until one of us dies)”
We walk down the marriage aisle convinced that OUR marriage is going to thrive. And sincerely we make a vow of that commitment – “For better or worse.” I mean, “What could go wrong?”
Then, after a while, some will tell you that “it can’t get any better than this,” we’re doing great, we’ve got a nice house with a white picket fence, beautiful and obedient children, a couple great cars that don’t cause us a bit of trouble, all our bills are paid and we’ve got money in the bank, my spouse is more loving and caring and compassionate than the day we got married, the house is always so clean, the laundry is always done, ironing is a thing of the past, the place is freshly caulked and painted, and really everything on the honey-do list is already done. Neither of us ever has morning breath, the toilet seat is always down, and there are never any fingernail clippings on the floor. It just seems like we’ve almost got too much time together to just sit on our beautiful love seat, sip on a freshly brewed Starbucks coffee, and gaze into each others lovely eyes. “Tony, I just don’t see how it can get any better! Our marriage is destined to last forever!”
I’m sure that’s the description that most of us have! Right?
There is, however, another category too. You see, others will tell you “it can’t get any worse.” It’s not going so well, Tony. We seem to argue all the time, there is constant bickering, we are in financial trouble, we’re in debt up to our ears, can’t even keep up with the payments, the house is in complete disrepair, we can’t afford a Starbuck coffee, and certainly don’t own a love seat! If we did, we’d have to sell it on Craigslist to pay the overdraft fees at the bank for all the bounced checks. Our cars stopped running a long time ago, the ceiling fan fell down, the kids poured grape juice on the carpet, they raised the rent again, and our dog ran away. “Tony, I just don’t see how it can get any worse! Our marriage is destined to fall apart at some point!”
You know, both of these situations are dead wrong!
It can get much worse! depending on your actions, attitude, and achievements in marriage. I’m also here to tell you that it can get much better, depending on your actions, attitude, and achievements in marriage.
A lasting marriage requires a real commitment of both the husband and the wife! That’s the understatement of the year!
About half of first-time marriages end in divorce. The odds of survival could seem to be a flip of the coin. So, how do we go from the tranquil confidence of the wedding day vow, to the vicious uncertainty of a courtroom battle?
To answer that, let me talk about 5 Main Things you should consider to help your marriage become Better, and not Worse!
Worship Together & Stay Together
Another recent survey concluded that for couples who attend church regularly, the divorce rate drops by 35 percent. And even more telling is the fact that of those couples who were married in a church, attended church regularly, and prayed together as a couple, the divorce rate was only 1 out of 1,105!
Common sense tells us that couples who go to church and pray together are in close fellowship with other people who take their marriage vows seriously too. They are more likely to get the emotional, social, and spiritual support they need from others.
Deepen Your Relationship with Your Mate by Deepening Your Relationship with God
In our over-busy, over-romanticized, self-centered, superficial culture, we too easily miss the obvious. Just as God fills and enhances our lives, He will fill and enrich our marriages, if we allow Him to.
Superficiality is the curse of a restless marriage. The desperate need of most marriages is not for more excitement, more glitz, and more activity. The soul of your marriage yearns for depth. As I develop my relationship with God, I find that He changes my perspective about everything, including marriage. Instead of looking for what I can get out of it, I am more interested in considering what I can add to it. I find I want to serve Miriam in order to bring greater glory to God. I have learned to look at my marriage as a fertile field for honoring God as I love, lead, serve, and pray for Miriam, even when I don’t feel like it.
Your marriage will do better if you both will serve God together! The moment you switch from a “I couldn’t care less” attitude, to becoming actively involved in your Church . . . the momentum shifts, and kicks into high gear! You begin to take ownership. Your care level begins to increase! All of the sudden, you see the gum wrapper on the carpet, and actually feel compelled to pick it up, you notice the lady struggling to carry her baby seat through the closed door, you see the man on crutches trying to get up the steps by the bookstore, you see the frustration and tears on the face of the parents who just lost their child to cancer . . . and you begin to weep too! Why? Because you are involved, you are serving, you care, and the Love of God is in the process of being shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost.
Jesus came to serve, rather than to be served. Jesus demonstrated the heart of a true servant, and set an example for us to follow. Each time we serve another, when we serve our spouse, we are becoming more like Christ.
Remember, The Holy Spirit Will Help You
When Jesus ascended into heaven after His resurrection from the dead, He did not leave us to fend for ourselves. He sent the Holy Spirit to help us (John 14:16).
One way the Holy Spirit supports us is by helping us pray. He crafts the words and requests in us that reflect our real desires as well as God’s. When we are so overwhelmed that we have no idea what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words … because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
ROMANS 8:26–27 NASB
Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. HEBREWS 4:16 NASB
Jesus Is Praying for Your Marriage … Right Now!
Sometimes it feels overwhelming to try to make a marriage work in the midst of all the other stresses, pressures, troubles, and heartaches of life. But, remember, you are not alone. God the Father is committed to help your marriage, and Jesus continually prays for your marriage. Did you hear what I just said? Jesus continually prays for your marriage.
Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them.
HEBREWS 7:25 AMP
Wow! Be encouraged. Right at this moment, Jesus is addressing the Father on your behalf, and on behalf of your mate and your marriage. Jesus is praying for your marriage … right now!
One of the biggest roadblocks that Satan tries to throw at Christian Marriages today is “Temptations and Affairs.” You say, “Not Me,” “my marriage is fine.” Don’t kid yourself!! You are not exempt from temptation and neither is your spouse, and I promise that your enemy will do everything he can to destroy your marriage. Wake up!
3 Commitments for Affair-Proofing Your Marriage and Lessening the Severity of Temptation!
- I will build barriers to adultery.
When Proverbs warns of the dangers of giving in to the seductions of the adulteress, it concludes with the command to stay as far away from adultery as possible!
“My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise counsel…. For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil. But in the end she is as bitter as poison, as dangerous as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. For she cares nothing about the path to life…. So now, my sons, listen to me. Never stray from what I am about to say: Stay away from her! Don’t go near the door of her house!” PROVERBS 5:1–8 NLT
In order to follow this advice, I choose to build some common sense fences to protect myself, my reputation, my wife, my children, my ministry, my church, and the name of Jesus. I have witnessed too many cases of devastation caused by someone who got too close to adultery and ended up in an affair, so I want my fences to be high. If you find my barriers too restrictive, I suggest that you and your mate come up with your own set of barriers and follow them.
- My Five Barriers to Adultery & Affairs
- Never be alone with a person of the opposite sex.
It is simple really—if I am never physically alone with a woman who is not my wife, then I cannot possibly commit adultery. I extend this rule to include not being isolated with a woman for any length of time for any reason behind closed doors. I also don’t counsel women alone. I have either Miriam or a female staff person join me. I won’t eat lunch one-on-one in a restaurant with a woman other than my wife. I also won’t ride in a car alone with a woman other than my wife.
- Always wear your ring.
Have you noticed that people on the prowl don’t wear their wedding ring? Wearing your ring makes it clear that you are not available and not interested—and it will help protect you from temptation you don’t need.
- Always build up your mate and marriage in public.
When in a conversation with someone of the opposite sex, intentionally try to inject something positive about your mate into the conversation as soon and often as possible. That makes it clear that you are happily married. I make a point of doing this because I want it to be known that I am very content.
Never complain about your marriage or your mate to a person of the opposite sex. Don’t ever joke about your mate or your marriage with someone of the opposite sex.
Keep a good picture of your mate and one of your children on your desk. Include your mate in your Facebook profile picture. Put a photo of your mate and you, or just your mate, on your laptop screen saver and cell phone.
Don’t be afraid to show your spouse appropriate affection in public.
- Never share personal, emotional feelings with any person of the opposite sex (other than your spouse).
Adulterers almost always commit emotional adultery before they commit physical adultery. The Internet has made it easier for married people to share their intimate feelings with others through the various avenues of social media.
It all begins with a “harmless e-mail.”
- Be careful how you dress and how you touch or talk to persons of the opposite sex.
Generally, men respond to looks and women respond to words and to touch. Practically, this means that a woman needs to be careful how she dresses, and a man needs to be careful what he says and does. Regardless of whether a woman wears a wedding band, if her skirt is too short, her top too tight, or her neckline too low, she is sending the message that she is willing and available. Men will see a green light, regardless of her intentions.
A man needs to be very careful how he speaks to or touches a woman. She will read the tone of his voice and respond to his words. And she’ll notice where he looks.
Don’t ever flirt with another woman. A man needs to be especially careful about touching a woman other than his wife. Grabbing her hand, giving a hug, or patting her on the shoulder can be innocent or it can be seductive. Be careful—and when in doubt, don’t.
- I will choose not to lust.
We live in a society that is crazed by sex. Men, especially, fantasize about sex, though women do, too. One recent survey of eight hundred active church members and leaders found that 15 percent of the men and 11 percent of the women admitted to marital infidelity, and 49 percent had viewed pornography in the past year. We must stop the process before it starts.
Proverbs warns that what starts with lust leads to adultery, which results in serious pain.
Don’t lust for her beauty. Don’t let her coy glances seduce you. For a prostitute will bring you to poverty, but sleeping with another man’s wife will cost you your life. Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet? So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife. He who embraces her will not go unpunished.
PROVERBS 6:25–29 NLT
In the New Testament, Jesus equates lust with mental adultery. He warns that lust will lead to corruption.
You know the next commandment pretty well, too: “Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.” But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt. MATTHEW 5:27–28 MSG
We can prevent adultery by blocking lust. In order to stay pure, as a man and as a husband, we should make the following commitments.
I Will Never …
- look at a pornographic website, video, or magazine.
- read a trashy or questionable novel.
- visit an “adult” bookstore.
- go to a so-called gentleman’s club.
- look closely at a woman (other than my wife) below her chin.
- engage in a personal phone call or e-mail exchange with a woman other than my wife without my wife’s knowledge.
- be alone with a woman other than my wife in any setting, at any time, for any reason.
- share my personal or emotional feelings with any woman other than my wife.
- view women as anything other than people for whom Jesus bled and died.
- I will invest in my marriage.
The easiest way to avoid adultery is to be so over-the-top in love with your mate that no one else could possibly pry you away.
Enjoy the wife you married as a young man! Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose—don’t ever quit taking delight in her body. Never take her love for granted! Why would you trade enduring intimacies for cheap thrills with a whore, with a promiscuous stranger? PROVERBS 5:18–20 MSG
Wise couples take all the energy, creativity, effort, initiative, time, and money that other people spend having an affair and pour it into romancing each other. Can you imagine investing your entire life’s savings into a business, opening the doors, and then sitting back and heaving a sigh of relief, as if the hard work is already done? It would spell doom for the business.
And yet, in the most valuable endeavor of our lives, as the moment of the wedding day vow fades into memory, we abandon intentionality in our marriages. The birthday flowers no longer get purchased, the kids get a hug on the way out the door but your spouse doesn’t, your time together is focused on others rather than each other, and your energy is given away to every other priority.
When you say that it can’t get any better than this, you are actually limiting God. He can do much better through you.
When you say that it can’t get any worse than this, you are discounting the deceptive means of the devil and not taking him seriously. It can get much worse.
The way you handle the next thing is the same way that you handled the last thing. It has to be handled by faith. This whole thing started in faith, it’s continuing in faith, and it will end in faith. It’s all about faith, and it always has been. Jesus even said when I return to the earth will I find faith at work. It’s all about faith. It’s also about foundation’s. Don’t let the enemy convince you that it’s going to be different this time. The same foundation that has supported your frame all this time will continue to support it in the future. You must spend time building your foundation. This is something that you have to get right. For the younger marriages, you must build your foundation from the beginning properly. For you more mature marriages, you have to maintain your foundation lest it fail, and the walls come tumbling down. Don’t think it can happen? Think again!