It was 27 years ago that I promised my wife-to-be, before God and witnesses, "I do." I committed my life to her, and she committed hers to me. What's happened in the cosmos since then?
Societal shifts now propose that not only was the ceremony we went through back then archaic, but that marriage itself is soon to be nonessential to society as a whole. Marriage has become almost a dirty word to a growing number in our culture today.
The fact of the matter, though, is that many aspects of marriage positively affect society as a whole. So let's ask: What's right with marriage?
Details in the wedding ceremony
In wedding ceremonies we've probably heard words like these:
"Surely there can be no greater human joy than to have a happy marriage, filled with giving and sharing. There is no deeper relationship among human beings than that achieved by a husband and wife in marriage.
"Marriage is a natural union but a divine institution, ordained of God. It was established by the Creator God at creation and derives its authority from the divine laws of God, immutable and unchangeable.
"Men and women were created with the marvelous potential of eternal life in the family of God. And as a loving Father, God gave us the institution of marriage and the blessing of a family, in which we might learn to love one another as He loves us.
"In Genesis 2:24 [King James Version] we read, 'Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.'"
Note the part where a man shall be united with his wife, not merely "relationship partner" or "significant other." It is this husband-wife union forming a right, harmonious relationship that produces, based on the God-given laws set in motion from the creation of human beings, happiness, peace, joy and other blessings.
Marriage—the great stabilizer
The wedding ceremony continues with instructions about marriage and concludes with the marriage vows. Both bride and groom take these vows, answering affirmatively to a question like this:
"Do you then [name of one in the couple] faithfully promise and covenant with God, in the presence of these witnesses, to take [name of the other in the couple] to be your lawful wedded wife/husband—in sickness and in health, in good times and in difficult times, for as long as you both shall live?"
As God intended, marriage provides stability for the family. It gives children an opportunity to see both parents. It offers a greater possibility for success in life, as afforded by support within a family structure. It thunders loudly to your own family and your community that you are committed to each other and to God to make life work.
The curse of anti-marriage philosophy
Several decades ago the common contrary-to-marriage term was LTA (living together arrangement). Many experimented with this idea only to find that "things didn't work out as planned" or "things were not as expected." Their lives and their children's lives were destabilized and unhappy.
Today, unmarried young adults face the temptation of "hooking up," or just living together. The implication is that a person can simply walk away if the other person doesn't meet expectations. While that may seem like a simple fix, the emotional instability, heartache and pain typically related to the breakup conclusively does damage that will last for a lifetime.
Self-proclaimed guardians of our social norms have labeled marriage subversive, unnecessary and harmful. Yet one young adult expressed during counseling, "I wish my parents would have just stayed committed to being married … I felt as if I as their child did not really matter to them when they gave up on making their marriage work." In spite of anti-marriage denouncements, a chaotic home that is a fatherless or motherless arena has been proven to have a negative effect on children and youth in school. The effort required to make a marriage work provides many lasting benefits.
God Himself declares in the Bible that marriage is a good thing: "He who finds a wife [or she who finds a husband] finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord" (Proverbs 18:22). Further, as we saw in Genesis 2:24, God designed marriage to be an intimate relationship between one man and one woman—and it is to be in covenant with Him (see Malachi 2:13-16; Matthew 19:4-6).
It's all about commitment
Well-known psychologist and author about marriage John Gottman insightfully wrote:
"That's one of the great things about love: When people really love and they make a commitment, they become enormously vulnerable and enormously powerful—because they care so much and it connects them to the world in such a big way.
"That's the amazing thing about all of these benefits: They are conferred by commitment. The commitment is like falling over backward and translates into making you a mensch [a person of integrity and honor] and a concerned human being—somebody who is involved in the community of mankind."
Peter Cook, as the impressive clergyman with the funny voice in the film The Princess Bride, said it so well: "Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today. Love, true love … so treasure your loves forever."
What's right with this institution?
Commitment is right. Lifelong, true love between a husband and wife is right. Family love and family stability is right. And especially, personal and marital dedication to God and His way of living is right.
You can begin to make your future marriage right by reading in the Bible what God wants your future marriage and all marriages to be. But first focus on the future wife or husband God wants you to be.