“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” Matthew 19:6
As God designed the relationship of marriage in creation, He designed it to reflect His loving commitment to us as His people. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul reminds us that the relationship of husband and wife is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and His Church. God’s unfailing commitment is seen in His constant forgiveness. It constantly restores us spiritually, physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
God’s commitment and care is part of everyone’s hope. Commitment in marriage affects not only the couple and family, but also friends and the entire community. Divorce leaves everyone feeling at least a little broken and empty. Even marriages that are filled with turmoil experience loss when commitment fails. Without commitment, you cannot have security in a relationship, and without security, love cannot be freely given and vulnerability becomes far too risky.
+ Commitment +
One of the most amazing statistics we see among our church workers is the steadfast commitment that couples have to one another. That commitment is not as common in our society today as we might wish. Quite simply, we not only have couples that have been married a long time, but we also see that these couples are focused on keeping it that way. This model of commitment is a unique strength and a wonderful reflection of God’s commitment to us that benefits our congregations and communities.
+ Commitment To What? +
The challenge that faces us even as we look at this wonderful commitment is, “What are we committed to?” That question arises because, though these couples are ferociously committed to each other, the marital health of these same couples is under extreme stress and the satisfaction experienced by these couples is far from biblically ideal.
As we survey our workers and their spouses, a slim majority of our couples have marriages that are healthy, strong, and growing. A large minority is either struggling or facing the real danger of marital unhealth. As is common for many couples, those struggling most are couples just starting a family, couples with high schoolers, and couples moving into the “empty nest” phase with children leaving home. We shouldn’t be surprised—these are understandably stressful times. But we do need to be aware, and we need to see how we as a Church can help strengthen these couples and give them resources and opportunities that will help them understand their stress, work through their struggles, and strengthen their relationships.
Commitment is critical, but commitment without growth, health, and expressions of love diminishes the gift God wants marriage to be. As I work with pastors coming out of seminary, I try to focus on the priority of caring for spouse and family. The District offers Marriage in Ministry retreats every year to build stronger marriages. We offer yearly Wives of Pastors’ Retreats. We are encouraging more frequent gatherings on the local level for wives and couples to gather for fun, encouragement, and support. We want to build on this commitment with relationships that can take on stressful times, with couples that are committed not only to staying together, but to reflecting the fullness of Christ in His forgiveness, love, compassion, and care. It’s a tall order and worth every effort.
Learning, striving, and growing as a husband myself,
Rev. Richard Snow, President, Nebraska District LCMS