At almost every marriage ceremony that Todd Shupe has attended, the words “What God has put together, let no man separate,” are often spoken by the pastor or person conducting the ceremony. Rings are also exchanged by the happy couple. The rings are essentially a circle which has no beginning or end and is therefore a symbol of infinity. It is endless and eternal — just the way love should be. The wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. This is because the vein in this finger was believed to lead directly to the wearer’s heart.
According to Todd Shupe, marriage is a holy sacrament and a three-way covenant between the husband, wife and God. However, the National Survey of Family Growth and PolitiFact.com estimated that the lifelong probability of a marriage ending in divorce is between 40 and 50 percent. A key factor that affects rates of divorce is the importance of religion to the couple. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:24-27 to build our house on the rock. Remember, your first responsibility is to love God, then your spouse and then your children. Not even your own children should come between a married couple.
Below are five steps for a healthy marriage.
1) Start with God: Both members of the couple should accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior and make Him their main priority. God is love and a loving marriage must include God. Remember, we follow God; God does not follow us.
2) Pray for and with each other: Todd Shupe encourages you to pray each day for God’s blessings to be poured out abundantly on your spouse. Pray for protection and wisdom for them. Pray that their words, actions and thoughts that day will bring glory to Him. Also, pray with your spouse; this shows each other that you want to seek His face and understand His will and are putting Him first. You will also learn the particular concerns of your spouse and this will help you to develop your prayers for your spouse in a more focused manner.
3) Husbands, honor your wives: Husbands should treat their wives with honor and respect. Treat your wife as you would want your mother, daughter or sister to be treated. Honor her with your words and actions. Loving words are nice, but loving actions mean more. You don’t need to buy expensive jewelry to accomplish this. You do need to study your wife and find out what she enjoys and try to provide it. The more she observes you trying to please her, the more she will want to please you. So, if you attend an opera show with her, she will be much more likely to attend a football game with you. Don’t push it; let the Holy Spirit work on her. According to Todd Shupe, a pertinent scripture in this regard is Ephesians 5:25. It reads, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
4) Become one body: Genesis tells us that a man will leave his parents to join his wife and become one body with her. This means that the two shall cease to have separate lives and have one life together. If your spouse is unhappy, then that means half of you is unhappy and you need to address it.
5) Forgiveness: Couples will always disagree and argue. However, it is essential that we are slow to anger and quick to forgive. If we do not forgive others for their sins, then how can we expect God to forgive us for our sins (Matthew 6:15). We all make mistakes and married couples will inevitably disappoint and anger each other, but we must offer each other grace and forgiveness. We may be hesitant to offer forgiveness for a “repeat offense,” but don’t we seek God’s forgiveness for our repeated sins? Todd Shupe believes that when you let go of bitterness and offer forgiveness, you are truly freeing yourself.
God clearly does not want man to live alone. He gave Adam a partner to live with him. In the same way, God will — or has — given you a partner. I encourage you to love, honor and forgive your spouse and make God the focal point of your marriage. May God richly bless you, your spouse and your marriage!