Joel Belz: That’s what they meant


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, October 9th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST And I’m Mary Reichard. The seeds of marital distress can be sown early. WORLD founder Joel Belz points to God’s design for marriage.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: Recently I’ve been watching the collapse of still another marriage. Both husband and wife say they’ve tried hard and listened to all sorts of counsel from pastors, therapists, friends, and family. But they don’t see a future.

Is it really true that 50 percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce? That’s what social scientists and statisticians tell us. Other profession­als say the actual record’s not quite that bad, but “only” a third.

It’s way too many by anyone’s standards—especially for the children hammered by such breakups.

Marriage vows declare: “Till death do us part.” How can it be that something most of us once thought of as permanent has become so fragile?

My earliest serious thoughts about marriage came in the late 1950s. In spite of the fact that I saw my parents’ marriage was both solid and romantic, I recall strangely discomfiting messages from other sources. “Marriage is OK,” I heard them say. “But don’t expect too much from it. It’s hardly designed to put you into orbit.”

These skeptical sophisticates meant well. They didn’t want to see me go dreamy-eyed into the land of matrimony and end up disillusioned.

So when married and then discovered those flat spots every married person encounters, my instinctive response was to say: “Oh, this is what they meant when they warned: ‘Don’t expect too much.’”

So I didn’t. And that was a poisonous concession. Satan has wicked tricks to play—especially on those people who get close to God’s good blessings. And when a young couple gets close to the excitement of a good marriage, Satan goes all out to spoil the fun. He takes advantage of the low spots, taunting the unwary with half-truths.

We tend to fall for Satan’s destructive lie that says simply: “This is as good as it ever gets.”

In falling for that blunting of God’s good promise, we swallow the seeds that lead first to skepticism, then to distant coldness, then to alienation, then to separation, and too often to divorce itself. For it’s not a very big jump from “What did you expect?” to “What’s the use?”

This is not God’s design. Hope rises against all that gloom because we know God did intend marriage to send his people into orbit—a taste of heaven on earth. 

Marriage is his own carefully drawn picture of the relationship he wants to have with us. If that discovery comes a little late for some of us, we ought to make sure it comes early for our children.

We need to stress to them that God means marriage to be the most elegant and satisfying expression of all possible relationships between people. If they don’t experience that, they diminish God’s glory and short-change their own pleasure and delight.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.


(Photo/Creative Commons)

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