In this book we have discussed the various experiences that couples go through as they live out their lives as married people. We began with the early days of finding the right spouse and the excitement of the new marriage relationship. We continued with the issues of developing intimacy and solidifying our union. Finally, in this last chapter, I would like to share with you some of the priceless benefits awaiting those who remain together in Christ for a lifetime.
The Silver, Gold and Diamonds of Winter
Traditionally the most precious metals and stones have been silver, gold and diamonds. In our modern age these are being replaced by other costlier elements, but for the sake of this lesson I would like to label the three blessings of a long married life as silver, gold and diamonds.
The Silver of Married Life - Wholeness
Wholeness is the complete opposite of loneliness. It was the primary spiritual and emotional gift that God gave to Adam after he was created.
Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him."
- Genesis 2:18
The gift of marriage is the gift of potential wholeness. You often hear people trying to express this idea when speaking of their spouse and their experience of marriage (i.e. he fulfills me; she makes me feel complete). Again, the Bible expresses this sentiment with its own special words in Genesis 2:24:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
Note that the cleaving (being glued to) must be continual in order to produce the eventual result of having "one flesh" or "wholeness." Wholeness in a couple does not happen on the wedding day or in the honeymoon suite. Wholeness is the product of a lifetime of intimacy, a lifetime of dying to self in a thousand little ways, and a lifetime of mutual service and encouragement.
Some think that wholeness is about sexual fulfillment, but wholeness goes beyond the physical union married couples have. We become whole or one in mind, soul and body to the point that even others see the wholeness of our union. And what a precious thing wholeness is for the couple that experiences it!
Wholeness enables a couple to influence their families into second and third generations. How many families are anchored by the love and wholeness witnessed in an aged couple of grand or great-grandparents? Their wholeness is an ideal against which every other relationship in the family is measured. Their unity represents the center, the home and the security of family and what is right, true and good. Their wholeness is the shared treasure of that family.
Wholeness gives strength for adversity. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Solomon refers to the bond of friendship, but his words could easily be applied to marriage as well.
9Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Wholeness provides the kind of strength we need to deal with all the good and bad variables of life. For example, someone to rejoice with as well as someone with whom we can share sorrow. Joy is multiplied and sorrow is divided when we are whole.
Even death is better faced after living a life where we have been whole. There is less regret because we have known the ultimate experience that we, as humans, were meant to experience. As the British poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."
In the end, all the songs of youthful love and all the movies and books with romantic themes appeal to that particular yearning that all people have to be whole. A lifetime of faithful partnership in marriage yields the precious silver of that wholeness that Hollywood and Madison Avenue only dream about.
The Golden Treasure of Married Life - Peacefulness
Peacefulness is the opposite of stress or anxiety. It is the most sought after state for the individual mind in our society. Drug companies sell billions of dollars worth of pills to calm our nerves and soothe our anxieties. Every year more book titles come out claiming to have found the way, the cure, the system, the diet or the exercises that will somehow bring us peace. But none of these things have been able to replace or improve upon the peacefulness that is produced by a lifetime of happy married living.
Marriage moves people into a constant flow of concessions and adjustments that promote the healthy minds and attitudes necessary to have peacefulness. In Philippians 4:7, Paul says that God's peace is the peace that surpasses understanding. God can and does calm our spirits through faith in Christ for reasons and in ways we do not always perceive. Marriage has this effect on us as well, except that we know and can describe the reasons. It is not beyond our understanding, it is within our grasp, and that is part of the pleasure of this peacefulness.
We are at peace because we have found a soulmate, and because of this there is no longer any searching. We are at peace because the adjustments and fine-tuning of our relationship have been completed and we can enjoy the ride. We are at peace because we have obeyed God's most basic command to establish a home and family, and remain faithful to that goal for a lifetime. We are at peace because we have maintained the vows of sticking with our partner through thick and thin and as a result have been rewarded with the peace that comes from this. Being at peace with our partner also helps us be at peace with the rest of our family and society as well. Paul says, "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another." (Romans 14:19).
Marriage is the basic framework for personal peace because it is within this relationship that we have a lifetime opportunity to edify (or build up) another person at close range. A constant effort to support, encourage, serve, forgive, satisfy, delight and share makes for a peaceful heart, mind and attitude.
The golden gift of peace is most often found in individuals who have been blessed with a long and happy marriage. For those who posses it, it is a constant joy and blessing that affects their homes, their families and all they come into contact with. For those who are younger, this treasure is a worthy goal to pursue through every stage of married life.
The Beautiful Diamond of Hopefulness
Hopefulness is the opposite of fear and discouragement. Regardless of the wholeness and peacefulness we experience in a lifetime relationship, there comes a time when that union is over. This is why the wedding vows say that the marriage is to last until death parts the couple. The diamond of hope is reserved for those who not only have maintained a lifelong union in marriage, but have also been united to Jesus Christ by faith and obedience as well.
Advanced age brings special problems and challenges. For example, there is the long illness of our partner or caring for a spouse while we ourselves are not well, there is the difficulty of placing our partner in a long-term care facility or even dealing with that ourselves. Added to these worries are the constant concern for our own children and their well-being. Of course, there is always the reality that our lives are nearly at an end. These are just some of the problems facing elderly couples. However, these things are balanced with the very real hope that the best is yet to come when we finally see the Lord Jesus Christ, in the twinkling of an eye, after we die.
The diamond of hopefulness brings us great comfort in the knowledge that:
Separation is Not Forever
Christians only "sleep" the Bible says, because one day they will awaken at Jesus' return. In every scene where the Bible describes people who are in heaven, those people have retained their identities. For example, Jesus mentions Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as being in heaven, and as themselves there (Matthew 8:11).
The hope that we will see one another again is a sure one for a Christian couple and this expectation eases the many painful experiences that we encounter as we approach the end of physical life.
No More Suffering
The emotional, physical and spiritual drawbacks along with the limitations of this life will be eliminated in heaven. Where there is no sin, there is no suffering or death. Where there is no tempter, there is no temptation and consequently no struggle (Revelation 20:10 - Satan will be punished forever; 21:4 - no tears or pain in heaven).
Christians can look forward to a time when they will consciously have no pain, suffering or sin, and old age is the final stage before reaching this point. Couples united to Christ know that suffering and pain will one day be replaced with heavenly joy and a powerful new glorified body equipped for eternal life.
Perfect Oneness in Christ
The Bible tells us that marriage is only a reflection, only a preparation for the true relationship between Christ and the church that we are called to be a part of. Couples in Christ can look forward to perfect wholeness as they are made part of the Godhead sitting and ruling with Christ at the right hand of God (II Timothy 2:12). They can also anticipate perfect peace, because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). And lastly, married believers await perfect unity between themselves because no matter how good their married relationship was on earth, the type of relationship they will have as glorified saints in heaven will be even better.
Just like a diamond, given with great hope at the moment of engagement, that continues to shine throughout a lifetime and keeps its glitter even when the couple is old and grey. The diamond of hopefulness will also provide its beautiful sparkle and value for all those who put their faith in Christ Jesus. Even when the end comes, that hope and that promise will shine forth brightly beyond death and the grave.
I pray that the Lord blesses each person that has read this book with the joyful silver of married wholeness, the golden treasure of personal peace and the rare diamond of brightly shinning hope as you remain faithful to Christ and your beloved.