“…And They Lived Happily Ever After!”
“Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any and every reason?” Matthew 19:3 [NIV].
Marriage is not a ‘fairy tale’ in which both partners “life happily ever after.”
Happiness is not a commodity that comes wrapped as one of the wedding presents. Happiness in marriage does not just happen –it happens only when both partners work to make it happen. Happiness is more a matter of the will than it is of the emotions.
I just heard about a young wife in one of our churches who just left her husband and went home to her parents because she is no longer ‘happy’. I understand that it takes both partners to make a ‘happy’ marriage and I understand there are certain circumstances such as infidelity and physical cruelty that will destroy a marriage, but most of the reasons given today in the church are not one of these.
Many couples expect their partner to make them happy, when they need to turn this around and strive to make their partner happy. Divorce need not happen.
In the setting for the above scripture, the Pharisees came to Jesus with a question in order to tempt Him. “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” Jesus referred them back to the passage in Genesis 2:24,25. He said to them, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female. And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Matthew 19:4,5.
Jesus let them know that in the eyes of God the husband and the wife are now no more two individuals – for God has joined them into one. Jesus then went on to the words which are so often used in weddings, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” This means no mankind, no man-made laws, no judge, and no unhappy circumstance can break this union.
What was not said, was that there was an ongoing debate among the Pharisees as to the interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The school of Shammai held that ‘something unclean or indecent’ – meaning marital unfaithfulness as the only acceptable reason for divorce. The school of Hillel maintained that the preceding clause ‘who becomes displeasing to him’ is reason enough. Divorce could be allowed if the husband becomes unhappy with his wife. The followers of Hillel believed that burning the toast was grounds for dissolving the marriage. The wife, however, had no alternative but to stay unhappy.
Jesus clearly took the side of Shammai—which held that divorce is only allowable for unfaithfulness. Jesus then took the opportunity to point out God’s original plan and ideal for marriage. “Wherefore they are therefore no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” Matthew 19:6.
When we stand before the minister, we are not only making a covenant with each other but we are also making a covenant with Almighty God. Most of us made the following solemn promise, saying these words:
“For Better or for Worse,
For Richer or for Poorer,
In Sickness or in Health,
Until Death do us part.”
Notice that one half of the above pledge will normally bring the feeling of unhappiness. No one standing at the altar envisioned conditions getting worse. Every couple feels assured their personal economy will get better. No one wants to think about the possibility they might be facing sickness in this new family. At the wedding, all are happy.
In all marriages, there are the good times and there are the bad. When the Israelites where about to enter the ‘Promised Land’, they were told that it was a land of “hills and valleys”.
In I Kings 20, the Syrians made a mistake – they thought that the God of the Israelites was only a God of the hills; that if they could get the Israelites down in the valley, they could defeat them. God showed the Syrians that he was also a God of the valleys by defeating them totally and giving Israel the victory. Many times we also think that God is with us only when we are on the mountaintop and feeling ‘happy’.
Our God is a God who can take us through the valley—and even in the valley “he restoreth our soul.” Marriage is for life, and we are married no matter how we feel. We make up our mind, like Apostle Paul, that in “whatsoever state” we find ourself in, “therewith to be content” [Philippians 4:7-13.]
Learn to live happily ever after!
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