“Rejoice with the wife of your youth.”—PROVERBS 5:18.
1, 2. What question will we consider, and why?
ARE you married? If so, is your marriage a source of happiness, or are you experiencing serious marital problems? Have you and your spouse drifted apart? Are you enduring married life but not enjoying it? If so, you likely feel sad that the warm marital bond you once enjoyed has cooled. As a Christian, you surely would like your marriage to bring glory to Jehovah, the God you love. Hence, your present circumstances may well be a source of concern and heartache to you. Even so, please do not conclude that your situation is hopeless.
2 Today, there are fine Christian couples who once had marriages that were merely surviving, not thriving. Yet, they found a way to strengthen their relationship. You too can find more contentment in your marriage. How?
DRAWING CLOSER TO GOD AND TO YOUR SPOUSE
3, 4. Why will marriage mates draw closer together if they strive to draw closer to God? Illustrate.
3 You and your spouse will draw closer together if you strive to draw closer to God. Why? Consider an illustration: Imagine a cone-shaped mountain—wide at the base and narrow at the top. A man is standing at the foot of the northern slope while a woman is standing on the other side, at the foot of the southern slope. Both begin to climb. When both are still near the mountain base, a long distance separates them. Yet, as each climbs higher and higher toward the narrow summit, the distance between them becomes less and less. Do you see the reassuring lesson in this illustration?
4 The effort you put forth to serve Jehovah to the full could be compared with the effort it takes to climb a mountain. Since you love Jehovah, you are already trying hard to climb, so to speak. However, if you and your spouse have grown apart, you may be climbing opposite sides of that mountain. What happens, though, when you continue to climb? Granted, a considerable distance may separate you at first. Nevertheless, the more effort you put into drawing closer to God—into climbing higher—the closer you and your mate become. Indeed, drawing closer to God is the key to drawing closer to your spouse. But how can you actually do that?
When applied, Bible knowledge has the power to strengthen your marriage
5. (a) What is one way to draw closer to Jehovah and to one’s marriage mate? (b) How does Jehovah view marriage?
5 One important way to climb, as it were, is for you and your spouse to heed the counsel on marriage as found in God’s Word. (Psalm 25:4; Isaiah 48:17, 18) Consider, therefore, a specific point of counsel stated by the apostle Paul. He said: “Let marriage be honorable among all.” (Hebrews 13:4) What does that mean? The word “honorable” implies that something is esteemed and precious. And that is exactly how Jehovah views marriage—he esteems it as precious.
YOUR MOTIVATION—HEARTFELT LOVE FOR JEHOVAH
6. What does the context of Paul’s counsel about marriage show, and why is that important to keep in mind?
6 Of course, as servants of God, you and your spouse already know that marriage is precious, even sacred. Jehovah himself instituted the marriage arrangement. (Read Matthew 19:4-6.) However, if you are currently experiencing marital problems, just knowing that marriage is honorable may not be enough to motivate you and your mate to treat each other with love and respect. What, then, will move you to do so? Note carefully how Paul addressed the subject of showing honor. He did not say, “marriage is honorable”; rather, he said, “let marriage be honorable.” Paul was not merely making an observation; he was giving an exhortation. * Keeping that distinction in mind may help you find added motivation for rekindling esteem for your spouse. Why is that the case?
7. (a) What Scriptural commands do we carry out, and why? (b) What good results come from obedience?
7 Consider for a moment how you regard other Scriptural commands, such as the commission to make disciples or the admonition to meet together for worship. (Matthew 28:19; Hebrews 10:24, 25) Granted, carrying out those commands may at times be a challenge. The people to whom you preach may respond negatively, or the secular work you do may leave you so exhausted that attending Christian meetings is a struggle. Even so, you keep on preaching the Kingdom message, and you keep on attending Christian meetings. No one can stop you—not even Satan! Why not? Because your heartfelt love for Jehovah moves you to obey his commandments. (1 John 5:3) With what good results? Sharing in the preaching work and attending meetings gives you inner peace and heartfelt joy because you know that you are doing God’s will. And those feelings, in turn, renew your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) What is the lesson here?
8, 9. (a) What may move us to obey the exhortation to honor marriage, and why? (b) What two points will we now consider?
8 Just as your deep love for God moves you to obey the commands to preach and to meet together despite obstacles, so your love for Jehovah can move you to obey the Scriptural exhortation to “let [your] marriage be honorable,” even when that appears to be difficult. (Hebrews 13:4; Psalm 18:29; Ecclesiastes 5:4) Additionally, just as your efforts to share in preaching and in meeting together bring rich blessings from God, so your efforts to honor your marriage will be noticed and blessed by Jehovah.—1 Thessalonians 1:3; Hebrews 6:10.
9 How, then, can you make your marriage honorable? You need to avoid behavior that will damage the marital arrangement. In addition, you need to take steps that will strengthen the marital bond.
AVOID SPEECH AND CONDUCT THAT DISHONOR MARRIAGE
10, 11. (a) What conduct dishonors marriage? (b) What question should we consider with our mate?
10 A Christian wife some time ago noted: “I pray to Jehovah for strength to see me through.” Through what? She explained: “My husband strikes me with words. I may not have visible bruises, but his constant cutting remarks, such as ‘You’re a burden!’ and ‘You’re worthless!’ have scarred my heart.” This wife brings up a matter of grave concern—abusive speech within marriage.
11 How sad it is when spouses in Christian households hurl cruel words at each other, causing emotional wounds that are not easily healed! Obviously, a marriage marked by hurtful speech is not honorable. How is your marriage faring in this regard? One way to find out is by humbly asking your spouse, “What effect do my words have on you?” If your mate feels that time and again your words have caused emotional wounds, you must be willing to change the situation for the better.—Galatians 5:15; read Ephesians 4:31.
12. How could one’s worship become futile in God’s eyes?
12 Keep clearly in mind that the way in which you use your tongue within the marriage arrangement affects your relationship with Jehovah. The Bible states: “If any man thinks he is a worshipper of God but does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he is deceiving his own heart, and his worship is futile.” (James 1:26) Your speech cannot be separated from your worship. The Bible does not support the notion that whatever happens at home is of little consequence as long as one claims to be serving God. Please do not deceive yourself. This is a serious matter. (Read 1 Peter 3:7.) You may have abilities and zeal, but if you willfully hurt your spouse with cutting words, you dishonor the marriage arrangement and your worship may be viewed by God as futile.
13. How could a marriage mate cause emotional pain?
13 Marriage partners also need to be alert not to cause emotional pain in less direct ways. Consider two examples: A single mother frequently phones a married Christian man in the congregation to ask him for advice, and they talk at length; a single Christian brother spends considerable time each week working together in the field service with a married Christian sister. The married individuals in those examples may have proper intentions; yet, how does their conduct affect their respective spouses? A wife facing such a situation said: “To note that my husband gives so much time and attention to another sister in the congregation hurts me. It makes me feel inferior.”
14. (a) What marital obligation is highlighted at Genesis 2:24? (b) What should we ask ourselves?
14 It is understandable that this spouse and others who face a similar situation in marriage feel hurt. Their mates ignore God’s basic instruction for marriage: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he will stick to his wife.” (Genesis 2:24) Of course, those who marry still respect their parents; however, it is God’s arrangement that their foremost obligation is to their spouse. Similarly, Christians dearly love fellow believers; yet their primary responsibility is to their spouse. Thus, when married Christians spend inappropriate amounts of time with or become overly familiar with fellow believers, especially those of the opposite sex, they put strains on the marriage bond. Could that be a reason for tension in your marriage? Ask yourself, ‘Do I truly give my spouse the time, attention, and affection that rightly belong to my mate?’
15. According to Matthew 5:28, why should married Christians avoid giving inappropriate attention to someone of the opposite sex?
15 Moreover, married Christians who give inappropriate attention to those of the opposite sex who are not their mate unwisely tread on dangerous ground. Sad to say, some married Christians have developed romantic feelings for those with whom they have become overly familiar. (Matthew 5:28) In turn, such emotional bonds have led to conduct that dishonors marriage even more. Consider what the apostle Paul stated about this subject.
“LET THE MARRIAGE BED BE WITHOUT DEFILEMENT”
16. What command does Paul give regarding marriage?
16 Immediately after Paul gave the exhortation to “let marriage be honorable,” he added the warning: “Let the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge sexually immoral people and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) Paul used the term “marriage bed” to refer to sexual relations. Such relations are “without defilement,” or morally clean, if they are experienced solely within the marriage arrangement. Therefore, Christians heed the inspired words: “May you rejoice with the wife of your youth.”—Proverbs 5:18.
17. (a) Why is the world’s view of adultery irrelevant to Christians? (b) How can we follow the example set by Job?
17 Those having sexual relations with someone other than their spouse show gross disrespect for God’s moral laws. True, many today view adultery as fairly acceptable behavior. Yet, whatever other humans may think about adultery should not influence how Christians regard it. They realize that in the end, not man, but “God will judge sexually immoral people and adulterers.” (Hebrews 10:31; 12:29) Hence, true Christians cling to Jehovah’s view on this subject. (Read Romans 12:9.) Recall that the patriarch Job said: “I have made a covenant with my eyes.” (Job 31:1) Yes, to avoid even one step on the road that could lead to adultery, true Christians control their eyes and never look longingly at a person of the opposite sex who is not their mate.—See the Appendix article “The Bible’s View on Divorce and Separation.”
18. (a) In Jehovah’s eyes, how serious is adultery? (b) What similarity is there between adultery and idolatry?
18 In Jehovah’s eyes, how serious is adultery? The Mosaic Law helps us to appreciate Jehovah’s feelings on the matter. In Israel, adultery and idolatry were among the offenses that carried the death penalty. (Leviticus 20:2, 10) Can you see a similarity between the two? Well, an Israelite worshipping an idol broke his covenant with Jehovah. Similarly, an Israelite committing adultery broke his covenant with his spouse. Both acted treacherously. (Exodus 19:5, 6; Deuteronomy 5:9; read Malachi 2:14.) Hence, both were reprehensible before Jehovah, the faithful and trustworthy God.—Psalm 33:4.
19. What may strengthen one’s resolve to reject adultery, and why?
19 Of course, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law. Yet, recalling that in ancient Israel adultery was viewed in a serious light may strengthen Christians in their resolve not to commit such an act. Why? Consider this comparison: Would you ever enter a church, get down on your knees, and pray in front of an image? ‘Never!’ you will say. But would you be tempted to do so if you were offered a large sum of money? ‘Unthinkable!’ you will reply. Indeed, the very thought of betraying Jehovah by worshipping an idol is repulsive to a true Christian. In a similar way, Christians should be repulsed by the thought of betraying their God, Jehovah, as well as their spouse by committing adultery—no matter what the incentive to sin might be. (Psalm 51:1, 4; Colossians 3:5) Never do we want to commit an act that would cause Satan to rejoice but would bring grave dishonor to Jehovah and to the sacred marriage arrangement.
HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR MARRIAGE BOND
20. What has happened in some marriages? Illustrate.
20 Besides avoiding conduct that dishonors marriage, what steps can you take to rekindle your respect for your marriage mate? To answer, think of the marriage arrangement as being a house. Next, think of the kind words, thoughtful deeds, and other expressions of honor that marriage partners extend to each other as the decorative items that add beauty to a house. If you feel close to each other, your marriage resembles a house adorned with decorations that give it color and warmth. If your affection diminishes, those decorations gradually disappear, leaving your marriage as bleak as a house without any decorations. Since you desire to obey God’s command to “let marriage be honorable,” you would be moved to improve the situation. After all, something precious and honorable is worth repairing, or restoring. How can you do so? God’s Word states: “By wisdom a house is built up, and by discernment it is made secure. By knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious and pleasant treasures.” (Proverbs 24:3, 4) Consider how these words can be applied to marriage.
21. How can we gradually strengthen our marriage? (See also the box “How Can I Improve My Marriage?”)
21 Among the precious treasures filling a happy household are such qualities as true love, godly fear, and firm faith. (Proverbs 15:16, 17; 1 Peter 1:7) They create a strong marriage. But did you note how the rooms in the above-quoted proverb are filled with precious treasures? “By knowledge.” Yes, when applied, Bible knowledge has the power to transform people’s thinking and to move them to rekindle their love for each other. (Romans 12:2; Philippians 1:9) Hence, whenever you and your spouse sit down together and calmly consider a Bible passage, such as the daily text, or a Bible-based article in The Watchtower or Awake! pertaining to marriage, it is as if you were examining a lovely decoration that can beautify your house. When love for Jehovah moves you to apply in your marriage the counsel that you just examined, you are, as it were, bringing that decoration into the rooms of your house. As a result, some of the color and warmth that you once enjoyed in your marriage may return.
22. What satisfaction can we have if we strive to do our share in strengthening our marriage?
22 Granted, it may take considerable time and effort to put those decorations back in place one by one. Yet, if you strive to do your share, you will have the deep satisfaction of knowing that you are obeying the Bible’s command: “In showing honor to one another, take the lead.” (Romans 12:10; Psalm 147:11) Above all, your earnest efforts to honor your marriage will keep you in God’s love.