Marital struggles, infidelity and divorce are not new. The Bible is full of examples of failed marriages. But it does seem that the number of Christian marriages struggling to survive is growing at an exponential rate. If having a Christ-honoring marriage matters to you, knowing why so many are struggling is important. Here are five reasons.
- Examples are disappearing, and commitment is no longer cultural.
Fewer people have access to know and interact with living, breathing couples who have honored their vows in lifelong marriage. Thankfully, divorce is not the unforgivable sin, and divorced people are not damaged goods for God. God can and does use them all the time. We, however, still need to see people who marry well and stay married for their entire lives. These increasingly rare examples of faithful commitment often leave couples wondering if being happily married for a lifetime is even possible. Fifty years ago, whether or not you were a devoted Christian, marriage was held in high regard. Love stories that lasted over lifetimes were admired by men and women alike. To struggle together, raise families and grow old hand-in-hand was the story of many people’s grandparents. Fiftieth wedding anniversaries were common, and there was a strong negative stigma surrounding divorce. None of these are true anymore and it has had an effect.
2. Opportunities to sinfully connect with others besides one’s spouse are incalculable due to social media.
Again, not to sound like a broken record, but think about this. Just a few years ago, if you wanted to check in on an old girlfriend, you had ask somebody for her number. Immediately, this would’ve raised some eyebrows and, even in moments of weakness, the potential reactions curbed a lot of sinful thoughts from ever becoming actions. Now, in complete anonymity and secrecy, your former love interests are just a few screen touches away. An innocent hello or “like” on a picture is all it takes to restart interaction that can be deadly to a marriage. I realize this may sound a little paranoid, and I’m well aware that adults can – and do – have completely appropriate and innocent relationships with people they once dated. But as a pastor, I’ve just heard too many horror stories of people innocently “reconnecting” online, only to find themselves in physical or emotional affairs. It happens and it is happening more and more.
3. People are living closer to the ragged edge.
Divorcing is never good, and it is always linked to bad decisions. Bad decision-making does not happen in a vacuum. People who make bad decisions often do so because they lack emotional and spiritual health in their lives. Emotional and spiritual health require a life that is balanced, nurtured and lived at a pace that is realistic and God-honoring. Unfortunately, for many, proper pace and balance is non-existent. People are swimming in debt to fund a lifestyle the culture says will lead to happiness. Debt means pressure; and pressure (over time) creates the perfect environment to choose unhealthy ways to “escape” or find relief. Bad eating habits, lack of restful sleep, substance abuse and bad time management begin to build. When time is scarce and busyness fills our moments, there is then little time for slow, quiet reflection before The Lord. Little to no time with Him creates spiritual dryness and discouragement, and eventually this leads to apathy and indifference. When a man or woman is tired, under pressure and not spiritually nurtured, they will begin to look to their spouse for relief. A relief which no other human, even a devoted spouse, can provide. When their misguided efforts come up empty, they become disappointment and resentful of their marriage. This is precisely why people will say of their failing marriage, “I’m just not happy,” or “I’ve fallen out of love with you.” Unhealthy living leads to unhealthy loving…which causes unhealthy leaving.
4. Sex continues to NOT deliver, yet the world continues to believe it can.
According to world, sex solves all our problems. If a person can have more and better sex with beautiful, exciting partners, then life will truly be fulfilling. This is literally how our culture sells and celebrates sex. There is just one problem; it is absolutely not true. Think about it. Have you ever met a man in his mid-fifties who said, “you know, last year I finally had enough sex to make me truly happy. I left my wife to pursue younger women. I was on my fifth affair, and suddenly I was completely content and deeply fulfilled with life.” It sounds ludicrous, because it is. No one ever finds total fulfillment when they look for it in sexual relationships. God, the creator of sex, did design it to be a powerful and pleasurable part of our lives. But He did not make it the end-all of our purpose on this earth. The world tries to deny this by chasing more sex with more people in more ways. But it never delivers, because it cannot. Yet, like never before, it is always in front of us. And, as the prevalence of illicit sex grows, so too does our divorce rate.
5. Christians are trying marriage without Christ.
This is, in my opinion, the primary reason Christian marriages are failing at an increasing rate. Let me leave the discussion about marriage for a moment to discuss a larger issue. There is no hope to living the Christian life without a personal relationship with Christ which brings the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit of God into one’s life. Without this, Christianity becomes an empty religion filled with helpful moral codes and commands, but empty of transformative power. Now apply this to marriage. Having a pastor perform your wedding, attending church together and even praying before meals most certainly does NOT constitute a Christian marriage. It may look Christian on the outside, but without His Spirit ruling and reigning in a man’s and woman’s hearts, you can forget having a love for a lifetime.
Discouragement is never good or useful. I didn’t write this list to erase hope or just offer negative commentary. I wrote it to articulate a brief, but honest, wake up call. Soberly acknowledging the truth, even when it’s hard, is important. If any of these factors are present in your life, treat them seriously and get the help you need to make sure they don’t destroy your marriage.