Advice About Marriage to an Engaged Friend

A friend of mine was planning to marry to a man who had been divorced.

They were both believers, and his unbelieving ex-wife had left him for another man.

My friend had never been married, so she asked for some advice about how to make the marriage work.  

She told me that she knew very few happy and faithful marriages: most ended because of the husband’s unfaithfulness.  

Here’s is the letter I sent to her. (The names and some details have been changed for privacy reasons.)


Dear Mary,

The Bible teaches that marriage is a supposed to be permanent relationship. Although scripture allows for divorce, that’s not the way God intended for it work. You need to be sure that you are in this forever before you make vows before God.

This is absolutely not something to take lightly.

You need to talk to him. He needs to be sure, too. After John’s previous marriage, it’s understandable if he has reservations and concerns, but he needs to work those out before the wedding.

When John and his first wife got married, their souls were knit together by God. This is a biblical fact. God intended two people to stay together forever. When his ex-wife  divorced him, she ripped her soul away leaving a huge wound.

Marrying John means nursing a wound that may never fully heal.

It will affect your marriage. There’s no getting around it. It could have a huge impact or a small impact. But, you can’t un-knit souls. You can only tear them asunder.

Supporting John in a selfless way, serving him as you would Christ —that is an act of worship. It is worshiping God by the way you live your life. Loving him even when he is unlovable (and he will –undoubtedly– have his unlovable moments) is showing how Jesus loved the church.

It is what the marriage was intended to show.This is what can help heal that wound left by his divorce.

If God is bringing you together, you have to be ready to minister to this man where he is. You have to be willing to give him to the Lord and trust in God’s timing, to pray for him fervently.

Loving means accepting the person for who they are and letting them be honest and vulnerable with you. Scott and I have had our problems, and I keep reminding him that –no matter what– I am there for him and love him. I’m not going anywhere.

Regardless of what he does I am fiercely devoted to him.

Isn’t that what Christ does? Love us anyway?

Everyone wants to know that they are loved and accepted as they are.

Titus 2:4 calls for wives “to love their husbands.” A good description of the kind of love your future husband needs is ‘unconditional acceptance.’ In other words, accept your husband just as he is—an imperfect person” (from here).

Christ’s unconditional love for me compels me to do better. It doesn’t make me want to use my liberty for sin. I believe the same is true with our husbands. Even if it doesn’t compel them to be better, it is how we show them Christ.

“No man is inspired by his wife’s criticism to become a better man.”

“A happy marriage is a union of two forgivers” ~Ruth Graham Bell

“It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which
only Jesus Christ Himself can be: always ready to forgive, totally
understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving,
unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than
adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible
strain. The same goes for the man who expects too much from his wife.” ~Ruth Graham Bell


My dad used to say that I needed to be sure that my expectations for a husband weren’t so high that even Christ himself wouldn’t be good enough.

My dad also told me that the only person in this life who won’t disappoint you is Jesus.

That’s why you need to have your faith and security firmly planted in Him. I expect that Scott will disappoint me eventually. Not because I don’t believe in Him, but because I understand that he is just like me: flawed and sinful. Sometimes our best is still sinful. We live in sin-ridden bodies and are drawn away by our flesh. We try to focus on God, but, sometimes, we live in our flesh. It’s a daily battle.

Every man has flaws and shortcomings. If you left this man and found another, he would also have shortcomings.

The question is this: is it worth supporting this man through his shortcomings. Because that’s what love does. That’s what Christ does for us. Are the shortcomings of this man something you’re willing to live with and demonstrate the love of Christ in spite of ? Because –just like Christ loved us even when we are living a life of sin– wives are called to love their husbands even if they are living a life of sin. Here’s more info about dealing with sin in our husband’s lives. 

The book of Hosea is a prime example of how God used a flawed marriage to show His love. Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was unfaithful over and over. Hosea just kept loving her.

When I remember that that my sins could just as easily destroy my marriage and my husband’s, I am more gracious about any shortcomings my husband may have.

Godly men still deal with sin.
The wisest man: Solomon (Solomon and his many wives)
The strongest man: Samson 
(Samson and Delilah)
The most godly man: David 
(David and Bathsheba)

“I’m not wiser than Solomon. I’m not stronger than Samson. I’m not
more godly than David. I’m getting married!” ~ Voddie Baucham

Often times it is those who are following hardest after God that suffer from the most temptation. Satan doesn’t bother you if you are complacent about your faith. God can’t use someone who doesn’t care. A person who is on fire is a threat to Satan. Those are the people that Satan attacks.

This has helped me give more grace, to keep my sin in perspective and not judge others.

The difference between a sin and living in sin. Habitual sin is different than an occasional sin. Habitual sin has great consequences, one of which is that God doesn’t hear your prayers when you live in habitual sin. “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18)

Before you take your vows, you need to consider if this is a commitment you’re willing to make.  Even though scripture allows for divorce, most wedding vows do not.  They are permanence view vows.

I don’t take lightly breaking a vow made before God. So, if you’re going to commit to it, if you’re going to promise Almighty God that you’ll be together until one of you dies, make sure you understand the weight of that. If you’re not certain if you’ll stay together forever, don’t vow it. Change the vows if you’re going to consider divorce to be an option in the future.

Don’t vow one thing and do another. This is why I wouldn’t divorce Scott even if he was unfaithful.  Scripture may allow for it, but my vows before God do not. I take this gravely seriously. I vowed til death do us part, and I meant it. Once those vows are said you can’t undo them.

Here’s some recommended reading on the topic:
Husband’s role in marriage (This talks about why the husband should serve.)

Wife’s role in marriage
The Act of Marriage
Intended for Pleasure

I’m here for you anytime you need to chat, Mary. I will always try to point you back to scripture for answers.


This is just the first of many letters (maybe I’ll share more in the future). Mary did marry John shortly after this letter. They are living for God together and raising children for the Lord.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

 

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