By: Tim Challies
Marriage is under attack. Marriage has always been under attack. The world, the flesh and the devil are all adamantly opposed to marriage, and especially to marriages that are distinctly Christian. Marriage, after all, is given by God to strengthen his people and to glorify himself; little wonder, then, that it is constantly a great battleground.
I have been thinking recently about some of the foremost foes of Christian marriage and, really, the foremost foes I see creeping up to assault my own marriage. Here are 6 deadly enemies of marriage, and Christian marriage in particular.
The enemy of marriage that deserves to be at the very top of the list is this one: neglecting the foundation—neglecting the biblical foundation. The Bible makes it clear that marriage is an institution decreed by God and an institution meant to glorify God by displaying something about him. The great mystery of marriage is that the covenantal relationship of husband and wife is a portrait of the covenantal relationship of Christ and his church. Marriage is from God, about God, to God, and for God, so we neglect God at our peril. It is only when the biblical foundation is in place that we are able to rightly understand how a husband and wife are to relate, how they are to take up their separate roles, and how they are to seek to bring glory to God both individually and as a couple. To build marriage on any other foundation is to neglect the rock in favor of building upon the sand.
Prayer is our lifeline, the means through which we praise God, express our gratitude, confess our sin, and plead for help. The couple that prays together is confessing before God that they are dependent upon him, that they are unable to thrive without him. Private prayer is essential to the Christian life, and prayer as a couple is essential to the Christian marriage. Here, kneeling at the bedside or sitting by the fire, the husband and the wife meet with the Lord together, praising him for his goodness and grace, confessing their sin against him and against one another, and pleading for his wisdom and help. When prayer ceases, the couple is tacitly proclaiming that they can survive and thrive on their own, that they do not need God’s ongoing, moment-by-moment assistance. Prayerlessness is a great foe of marriage.
Another great enemy of marriage is a lack of fellowship—local church fellowship. Satan loves it when he can compel an individual to withdraw from the church; how much better when he can draw away a couple or a whole family. When a married couple leaves the church, or even pulls back to just doing the bare minimum, they are leaving the place where they are meant to see healthy marriage modeled, where they are able to worship together side-by-side, where they will find friends before whom they can open up their marriage so others can see and diagnose their struggles. Marriage thrives in the context of the local church and withers outside it.
Just as Satan wants a couple to stop communicating with God through prayer, he also wants that couple to stop communicating with one another. Free, open and regular communication is key to any relationship, none more so than marriage. When a couple is able and willing to communicate, they are able to admit and work through the difficulties, they are able to share both the joys and the sorrows that are inevitable in a life lived together. Too many couples stop communicating, or perhaps they never learn. Instead of working through issues, they allow them to remain, to fester, and to become toxic. Communication is key to a healthy marriage, and lack of communication is a perilous foe.
When a couple is dating it is rare for them to find they have nothing in common, that they have few shared interests. But as time goes on, as they become husband and wife and settle into normal life, they can so easily fall into their separate routines. Now they live alone together, two people carrying on their separate lives under the same roof. Shared interests motivate shared time, shared conversation, shared passion. It can be a hobby, it can be an activity, it can even be a television show, but it ought to be something. The neglect of shared interests is a great enemy to a healthy marriage.
God was good to provide that strange and mysterious gift of sex in order to bind a husband and wife together in a unique way. Sex is the superglue of a healthy marriage, and yet most couples are never far from neglecting it or from replacing it with pornography or something, anything else. The Bible demands that a husband and wife maintain the sexual relationship in all but the narrowest of circumstances—with mutual agreement, for a short time, in order to concentrate on prayer. There are inevitable times when nothing seems more difficult than pursuing the sexual relationship and nothing seems easier than neglecting it, but to neglect sex is to directly disobey God. To neglect sex is to disregard one of God’s great and indispensable gifts.
If Satan cannot destroy a marriage, he will at least determine to weaken it. To neglect any of these 6 things is to invite his presence and to welcome his influence.