Is it Really a Marriage Beyond Endurance?
Can Marriage Work? - No. 9
by Ernest O'Neill
We're talking these mornings on this station about the general subject of ‘Can Marriage Work?’ I don't know how many of you have often lain in bed at night, or sat by a lake, and asked, "Can Marriage Work? No! It cannot work! I'm driven beyond my own patience, beyond my own ability to endure. I don't think marriage can work."
Of course, our society is giving a strong negative to that question. It's saying, "No! Marriage cannot work! There's no question it cannot work." You see that in the divorce statistics. Over 50% of our marriages end up in divorce. Then we all have another shot at it, and we end up in divorce again.
The purpose of marriages
What we're trying to discuss here together these mornings is the question of whether it can actually work the way it was meant to. What we said so far was that marriage exists because the Creator thought it up. He thought it up not for our own pleasure or satisfaction, which is where many of us make our errors, but He thought it up in order to reflect His image. That you find in the Bible in Genesis Chapter 1 at the very beginning in verse 27. It says, "Let us make man in our image." Then it says, "Male and female created He them." In other words, making us man and woman was God's way of reproducing His own image in us. That is, of course, the purpose of our marriages.
God’s character in us
God's own character exists in us in two ways. It exists in us in the sense of something indestructible. For instance, we all have self-consciousness as He has. We have an indestructible personality, as He has. We have a moral conscience and moral judgment as he has. We have reason, understanding and freedom of will. We have a vocation to rule over the world and to bring it into order. Those things we possess, whether we continue to know Him or not. Those are the indestructible parts of His character.
But then the parts that are destroyed when we part company with God and begin to live life just for ourselves and for our own sakes independent of Him are His spirituality, His blessedness, His liberty and His inner spiritual qualities of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, and goodness.
All those disappear when we begin to live for ourselves. All those inner parts of His character, all those destructible parts of His nature, are the ones that He is working to reproduce in us as we go through this life. Indeed, in a sense, we aren't made with those. In a sense, He brings those into our natures and into our spirit, as we deal with Him and submit ourselves to Him.
One of the great reasons for marriage is to reproduce that great inner beauty of character in us. Of course that's why we promise in our marriage vows to take our partners "for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse," because the fact is, though there are many similarities we share with them in character, there are many dissonances, many differences, many contrasts that are so opposite to one another that we think, "How could I ever have ended up marrying this person? They drive me crazy! I can't live with them!
I remember one dear guy saying just before he married, "Well, I can't live with her and I can't live without her." I thought, "Boy, that isn't a very good basis for a start." I suppose there's some reality in it though. In some sense, each of us sees something beautiful and attractive in the other person. We don't realize that that is the part of ourselves that we see in them. We're so selfish. We're drawn to ourselves like Narcissus. We're fascinated and attracted to our own characters. But there's something beautiful and attractive in them.
Why it’s important that our spouse drives us crazy
There's also something absolutely off-putting in them, something that drives us crazy. That fact is the stuff that drives us crazy is probably the stuff that is doing most to reproduce God's image in us. It really is that we often say that the other person rubs me the wrong way, or they're constantly rubbing me the wrong way.
In fact, after the honeymoon period, we begin to think. "This person will drive me crazy! Hear her grating voice! Hear the way he drinks his soup so noisily! See the way he throws his dirty socks around. See the way she talks with such a rasping tone in her voice. See the way he is so dominating and domineering. See the way she nags me so constantly. See the way he wants his own way all the time, whatever it costs me. See the way she is determined to bring about her plans for the house, whether they suit me or not."
We go on and on. Many of us could reel them right off, a thousand reasons why we cannot live with this person another minute. We don't realize that those are the very things that God is using to drive us out of our own inadequacies, out of our own weaknesses, out of our own inability to endure and into the arms of the only person who can give us supernatural strength, the only person who can actually add beauty to our own characters. That person is our own God; His Son Jesus, whose Spirit is roaming around this world looking for a heart that needs Him.
It is probably with your own marriage. Maybe you should begin to look differently at those awkward, irritating things in the other person's character that have driven you beyond your own endurance, driven you to the end of your tether. Maybe at this point, when you think divorce is the only thing, could it be that you're just about to enter into marriage? Could it? Could it be that you're just about to enter into real love?
It is probably the case that when you married, you said, "Oh, I married for love," but really you married for lust. You married to get physical satisfaction and emotional exhilaration. You married to get security, and for someone to live with in your old age, someone who would provide children for you, and would not leave you lonely.
You knew nothing of love. Love is that thing that Jesus talked about when He said, "Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends." Love is putting the other person in place of yourself. It's walking in the other person's moccasins. It's putting yourself in the other person's shoes.
When real love starts in a marriage
Could it be that just when you feel that your marriage is about to break open at the seams, just when you feel, "I can no longer endure this person," could it be that you're about to break out of your own limited character, and you're about to begin to sue forgiveness to God, and to go to Him for the strength you do not possess? Could it be that there is about to blossom in you what all of us need and none of us can do without, a spirit and a strength that is not our own, that begins to produce in us a character and a personality that we never dreamed we could have?
It is true, isn't it? Every time we engaged in sports, running, swimming, or tennis, we only came into our true potential when we went beyond the limits of what we thought was our capability. It was only then that we found that we could do things we never dreamed we could do. Could it be that your marriage now is beginning to drive you into that realm? That the other person is rubbing you the wrong way that you need a strength and a beauty of character to endure that God can only give? Perhaps, then, He can take you beyond endurance into a beauty and exhilaration that you never knew before.
Our marriage and our attitude towards God
Of course, when you're driven beyond that, when you're driven beyond the point of desperation where you think, "I haven't the strength. I haven't the emotional endurance to put up with this person any longer," there's only one place that you can go. That is, to the person whose strength is made perfect in your weakness.
That's what God said, "My strength is made perfect in your weakness." He said, "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
In other words, believe it or not, the very problems and difficulties of your marriage partner's character can be God's ideal and certainly His permissive will to drive you into His own arms to seek the strength and the beauty of character that will enable you to live with that person for the rest of your life.
So, maybe it’s good to reflect for a moment that the purpose of your marriage is to reproduce God's image in you both.
TO BE CONTINUED