Loading...
Color Strip

Marriage Workbook

By Craig Caster

WEEK 1 - GOD’S PURPOSES FOR MARRIAGE

DAY 2 - IN THE BEGINNING…

In the beginning, God created man and woman, and then designed a state of union for the two that we know as marriage (Gen. 2:24).

Genesis 2:24, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The world’s definition of marriage has changed radically, but God’s original design has not. An honest look from a biblical perspective will cause us to admit that most of the changes have not been godly, and that marriage and family have suffered greatly. And again, the primary reason is our ignorance of God’s Word, particularly His design and purpose for marriage. Even though this information has been available, people are not instructed, or discipled, on the principles of marriage.

A lack of biblical teaching, or actual rejection of God’s authority, leaves couples to follow the world’s influence, or their own path. Over time, there has been an estimated 400 percent increase in couples living together without the commitment of marriage. It is now quite acceptable for a woman to be impregnated, or adopt a child, without the presence of a husband or male partner. Homosexual unions are on the rise and considered an acceptable environment for raising children. Many of our role models are found in popular media, publications, and magazines that elevate Hollywood types who are leading the way in these areas. 

But don’t let cultural trends discourage you about marriage. Satan would love to paint a bleak picture, but know that God is greater and more powerful. Recent research is showing that among people who choose to marry, the commitment is still strong and brings great happiness and fulfillment. A new book, The Good News About Marriage1 has debunked the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce, both in secular life and within the church. Research reveals that 72% of married people are still with their first spouse (p. 21), and that 80% of all marriages are happy (p. 44). Among Christians active in their faith, they discovered that weekly church attendance alone lowers the divorce rate significantly by as much as 25 to 50 percent of the annual overall divorce rate (p. 67). And “In fact, when both spouses said ‘God is at the center’, fully 53% of those couples were at the highest possible level of marital happiness” (p. 78). These statistics should give us great hope, and motivate us to seek God’s will in our marriages.

During the year 2014, statistical research has indicated that nearly 40 percent of families in the United States are classified as single-parent. But remember, this includes people who are widowed, divorced or building a family without a spouse. Close to 39 percent qualify as blended families (people with children who remarry after divorce or a death), and a little less than 3 percent are headed by grandparents. This leaves less than 20 percent in the category defined as traditional family, which means with the original husband and wife. And without being harsh or judgmental in any way, we believe the traditional family is the one perfectly fashioned according to God’s design and will. Although “traditional” excludes divorce, we also know that God understands and considers both blended and single-parent families as part of His permissive will. God is 100 percent behind anyone who desires His help, and in these situations He still “works all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Eph. 1:11).

In today’s society, we are seeing God’s design for marriage and family not only undergoing change, but actually under attack. In 1944, Webster’s Dictionary defined marriage as: “a state of being married, being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife; mutual relationships of husband and wife for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family.” By the year 1996, Webster’s definition had evolved to: “the state of being married, wedlock, the act of marrying, or a ceremony being married; close union.” What brought about the changes and what does it mean?

The changing definitions demonstrate the gradual erosion of the spiritual foundation for marriage in our society. Key words in the first definition such as, “being united…as a husband or wife,” indicates becoming one with a person of the opposite sex. This comes straight from the Bible (Gen. 2:24). As this study progresses, it will reveal definitions from God that define His original design for a man and woman in marriage, not practices resulting from humanistic ideas or worldly culture.

The 1944 definition from Webster refers to a “mutual relationship,” which implies given or felt by one another in equal amount to meet each other’s companionship needs. “Founding and maintaining the family” means to establish a firm basis for promoting a certain quality of life and conduct, and for raising children. You must admit, when looking at changing definitions and current statistics, that key concepts have been altered and that marriage and family is deteriorating. God’s design is hardly recognizable in most households.

All believers need to be convinced that God is the creator of marriage, and that His will and purpose for marriage has never changed! It would be a dirty trick for God to design something so important, wonderful and complex as a marriage, and then say, “Hey, figure it out on your own.”

Marriage is tough, isn’t it? It’s not easy. Married since 1980, I know, it is work. Praise the Lord, as you discover His truth and apply biblical principles, and as you abide in Christ, it gets sweeter. And that’s what God wants. He wants it to become sweeter every year.  With each year that passes, I am more in love with my wife, and I can tell you she is with me, too. And that’s how God wants it to be.

When we invest the time to learn God’s truth, what His purposes are in marriage, and we maintain and practice these principles, marriage becomes richer. And that is how God intended it to be; He wants to be glorified in our marriages. He desires to prove His love to us by showing that He is with us, and for us.

THE RIGHT EXPECTATIONS FOR MARRIAGE

Everyone, no matter who you are, enters into marriage with expectations. They may not be written out, but they are there: expectations about what you deserve, and what you should or should not be expected to give.

Fact File

Expectation - means the anticipation or notion of something happening, an expected standard.

You have heard the saying, “love is blind,” well it is. From dating to entering into marriage, each person is showing their good side as romantic love carries them along with the expectation that it will stay that way. However, when the honeymoon is over and you are living together, one sinner with another, reality sets in and what you experience is NOT what you expected.

Self-Examination 1

Husband and wives, what did you expect from your marriage, or from your spouse? Write this out separately, then come together and compare your notes.

I entered into marriage with my wife bringing perspectives and expectations that were not even close to God’s truth. Let me just share a couple of them with you. One of my perspectives was that she was lucky to have me. I really thought that. I thought I was a catch. What a fool. She was the catch. I also had the expectation that weekends should be mine for whatever I wanted to do; at that point my hobbies were racing, diving, and I enjoyed fishing and hunting.

I told my wife when I married her, “Weekends are mine. If I don’t have something planned, then we’ll do something together.”  I actually told her that, and she still married me. And I just thought that’s the way life was.

Another expectation was spending “my” money the way I wanted without any involvement from her. I also wanted her to stay beautiful and meet all my physical needs. And I expected her to take care of the kids, and to keep my house clean. Now, that wasn’t too hard, right? NOT! Does that sound fair? And you ladies are thinking, that sounds a lot like my husband!

Those were a few of MY expectations of marriage, and of my wife, because I didn’t know any better. How do we learn how to be husbands and wives? As mentioned, we remember what our parents did or didn’t do and just follow dad and mom’s lead, and we kind of evolve from there. This can be even more confusing when you come from a single-parent or blended family, or were raised by grandparents or in a foster-parent home. And what about homes where a parent, or both parents, are mostly absent because of having to work so much? I think you get the point.

We all marry with wrong expectations, resulting in disappointment, dissention, and unfulfillment. During our first two years, my wife spent most of her time trying to change me. Some of you can relate. I mean, she kept trying to point out my weaknesses, which irritated the heck out of me. I now realize that my expectations were extremely selfish and far from God’s will, but I didn’t know then. And I made them clear before our marriage, so why would she keep trying to change me? My wife was doing all the things that women typically do to change a man. I’m not going into detail, but you know your secrets, don’t you, ladies? I’ll share more on this as the study progresses.

Anyway, my wife and I had both become Christians, and were attending church, when we participated in our first marriage retreat. I thought, “Oh, I’m going. Finally that woman is going to hear what she’s doing wrong because, I know this, the Bible doesn’t teach a wife to keep trying to change her husband.” I knew that much, I thought. So, I went with the idea that my wife was going to hear what she was doing wrong. And guess what she was thinking? So we both went, thinking we were going to hear something that would change the other person.

When we went to the retreat, praise the Lord, the speaker taught out of the Bible. And both of us completed that weekend in absolute amazement at how much God has to say about what it means to be a husband, and to be a wife. The way we thought, how we treated one another, how we accomplished everything, was so far from what God’s Word has to say, that we both left that weekend so touched by God. I called the leader and said, “Dude, you just blew my wife and me away. I need help.” And this man discipled me over the following year. You don’t just go on a weekend retreat and say, “Okay, I got it now.” That is wishful thinking, and is deceitful and foolish.

My wife and I could say, “Oh, we went to a marriage conference.”  But how much did we retain and then begin to work into our life? That is the question, right? So my wife and I both got involved in this ministry, started studying the Bible, and God did such a miraculous transformation in our marriage that we could not help but share with others.

At this point in my Christian journey I did not know about the concept of discipleship, a specific learning process, and the significant part it plays in applying spiritual truths.

I started sharing with people the things I was learning, and eventually my pastor called me and said, “Hey, what are you telling people? You’re blessing them, and they say you are really ministering to them.” I remember thinking, “Wow, God can use an idiot like me.” Then my pastor asked me, “Would you pray about starting a marriage ministry?”

So my wife and I started a little Bible study on marriage that went from three to more than 30 couples over a three-month period. God began to do such a miracle in our lives and the lives of others. I thought, “Okay, God, this is awesome.” Then I began to really press in and study all I could about marriage in the Bible. We witnessed over and over that when people are really committed to do God’s will and follow what His Word says as husband and wife, they will experience healing and blessing. And I thought, “This is a ministry I’m going to do the rest of my life,” but after three years, God led me to become a lay youth pastor. I remember thinking someone had made a mistake. Remember, God always has a plan.

I spent four and a half years as a lay youth pastor. But in God’s perfect school, I look back and see what He has done in my life, how He put me into these circumstances to equip me to teach and disciple people not only about marriage, but about parenting as well. Working with youth gave me unique insights and perspectives on family. God was preparing me to touch hundreds of thousands of people. That was His plan; but I had to embrace what He taught me and apply the principles before I could see the hand of God at work and gain true biblical knowledge.

I am not lifting myself up or bragging about anything, for I have nothing of myself to offer. I only know that as I trusted God and applied His principles, I experienced what He did in my life, and family! And that is what God wants; as I have said before, He loves showing off through us.

WRONG EXPECTATIONS

If you go into marriage with the wrong expectations, and you do not know how to maintain your marriage according to God’s Word, it’s not if you are going to have problems, it’s how many.

As an illustration, think about this. You spend $30,000 on a car, and you have an expectation that this expensive car is going to look and run as good as the day you bought it for at least 20 years. You believe that because you spent so much money it would run the entire 20 years on the same tank of gas, that oil would not need to be changed, that the brakes and tires would last, and it would stay shiny without any cleaning or waxing?

If that was your expectation, what would happen the first time you’re driving down the freeway and run out of gas? You get out of the car, you’re all upset, and thinking, “What’s wrong with this piece of junk?”  The Highway Patrolman pulls up and you say, “It just quit running.”  He says, “Put the key in the ignition,” and tells you that you are out of gas. And he’s looking at you, a grown man, like you’re on drugs or an idiot.

“What do you mean, out of gas? I have to put gas in the car?” After you get towed to a gas station, and $90 later, you find out it’s only going to take you 250 more miles until you need a refill. You are irritated. When you finally get to the point of accepting that idea, you get a blowout. You’re on the side of the road again, and encounter another officer who says, “You’ve got bald tires!” Tires? So you take the car to the shop and find out that you need tires and brakes. Another $1,200 and you are flipping out. Six months later, the car starts smoking and you are back in the shop. You didn’t put oil in it.

Can you see that if you have the wrong expectation, you will be frustrated and begin to believe that you have been cheated or ripped off? That’s what you would naturally believe. And the fact is that you didn’t get cheated at all. You had the wrong expectation of what that car was supposed to do and your responsibility to keep it maintained.

Today many feel like they got cheated in marriage. When husbands and wives come in for counseling, you can see it when they sit down. They are at both ends of the couch, looking at me like, “Man, I got a bad deal here!” It is all over their faces and body language. After learning from them what they were expecting to give and receive from each other, I can understand why they are so unhappy and unfulfilled.  And, yes, we make some dumb mistakes, but a lot of the mistakes we make in our marriages are simply due to wrong expectations.

God has given us the maintenance manual, His Word. The Bible has all we need to build and maintain a fulfilling relationship. You never get to a place in marriage where you can say, “Oh, I’m done. I don’t have to invest in my wife or my husband anymore.”  It is a continuous investment in one another through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Read the following Scriptures and write out what they say about investing time to learn God’s will and expectations.

2 Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

Proverbs 21:2, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts."

Psalm 19:8, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;"

As you go to God’s Word, learning about His purposes for marriage and your companionship needs as husband and wife, and commit to following His instruction, you will reap the fullness in marriage that God has planned for you. When you find yourself in a miserable situation, not experiencing joy and peace, Christ says,

Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Jesus does not say go to worldly psychology or philosophies, or your parents’ examples, or friends, but come to the Lord and to His Word, and there you will learn biblical wisdom, which will give you godly expectations.

Jesus is the best example of having a single-minded focus on fulfilling the Father’s will. As you read the Gospels, you will notice that the religious leaders tried to steer Him off track, but Jesus knew the only thing that mattered was to fulfill what God says, therefore He said,

John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.”

John 5:30, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”

John 4:34, “…My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”

Jesus came to do His Father’s will, to execute His plan and purpose. Notice that His FOOD was to do the will of the Father. And so you need to see life in that way, which includes tending to your marriage.

Read the following Scriptures and write out what they say about God’s will, and what we are supposed to do.

Romans 12:2, " And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

Ephesians 6:6, “…not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”

As Romans 12:2 says, we all must prove what the “will of God” is, and the only way to do that is to know His Word.

You are not logged in so your progress will not be saved. Log in or register for free.

1 Shaunti Feldhahn and Tally Whitehead, Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2014).