The Marriage Knot 

knotHow Married People Can Be Happyknot

Jen & Tim from David McAbee on Vimeo.

When young couples come to my office for pre-marital counseling or just a visit regarding marriage, etc. one of the first thing I say to them is that statistics show one of three marriages end in divorce or separation.

Then after their jaw drops open, I quickly say - - however, in the state of California it is one out of every two. That is - like "every other one" ! It was humorous on one occasion when the young lady I was speaking to asked, "But what about - so and so - naming the couple that I had just performed the marriage for 3 weeks ago. Are they still married? The reason it was so funny was she understood the statistics to mean every other one that I performed

We have to make our marriage work. Marriage just like anything - be it playing a musical instrument, a sport or a hobby has to be "worked at it". Nothing comes from nothing. So, why would marriage be any different? God ordained that a man needs a woman and a woman needs a man. He ordained that when the two come together through this mystical terminology of love, they then begin that walk down - what I call the Lane of Happiness. Yes, married people can be happy. Not only is that what it is all about that is the bottom-line.

But, I add marriage is a high-risk career. I use the word "career" because that word means "what is carried along" I say it is "risky" and because of that God has in His wisdom provided men and women with certain guiding principles to insure them with success.

Someone said, "Indeed, narrow is the gate to marital bliss and few there be who enter therein." But with consciousness of its hazards and a determination to avoid them, by the grace of God, you can make a grand success of your marriage. At least, that is my prayer for you.

How many people appear to be happy on the surface. Looking on the outside I can tell you they are happy. But, the inside of them, one can tell they are not as happy as they appear. We do put on a great front for our friends, for our neighbors, for our church family and for our business associates. If, by chance, you are one of these people I want you to know there can be a change. Take off the mask.

Marriage must be a real career. In Genesis 2:24, the words are: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh." - a career forever and ever. Another translation puts it this way: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall become united and cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh." (Amplified) See also Matt. 19:5; 1 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 5:31-33)

Now the opposite of a career is a short-term relationship. I refer you to the words of Mark in 10:2-9.


Jesus left that place and went to the region of Judea, crossing the River Jordan. Crowd came flocking to Him, and He taught them, as He always did. Some Pharisees came to Him, and tried to trap Him. 'Tell us', they asked, 'does our law allow a man to divorce his wife?' And Jesus answered with a question, 'What commandment did Moses give you?' Their answer was, 'Moses gave permission for a man to write a divorce notice and send his wife away.

Jesus said to them, 'Moses wrote this commandment for you because you are so hard to teach. But in the beginning, the time of creation, it was said, 'God made them male and female, and for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and they two will become one. So they are no longer two, but one. Man must not separate what God has joined together.

"When they went back into the house, the disciples asked Jesus about this matter. He said to them, 'The man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against his wife. In the same way, the woman who divorces her husband and marries another man commits adultery.'" (Luke 10:10-12)

In these 12 sentences we have what Jesus says concerning divorce and the law. What Jesus says is true. We must, therefore, interpret what Jesus said for us individually - as circumstances arise. But, basically, God has said that one choose a mate and they are to stay together forever and ever and ever.

I have a newspaper article with a picture showing a man and his wife who have been married 78 years. Wow. Among the things stated in the article: "They lived by a few simple rules. Embrey believed he husband should be the wage earner; and the wife, his helpmate. When both work, they get contrary about their money. The first thing you know, the marriage is torn up. Julia, also feels that a wife should be a good cook; it helps keep a man in shape. Among other things (dropping an arm over his wife's shoulder) he made this observation about marriage today.

"People in this day and time say, 'If I don't like this one mate, I can get another one.' I don't approve of that, he said, they take an oath when they marry that they'll take good care of each other, and stay with each other, through thick and think; and that's what we did. The next caption says "with no cross words."

Another newspaper clipping written about the same time comes from a psychologist who says that the article I quoted above is all-wrong. You should have a trial period for five years to see if you like the arrangement or not.

bride and groom

Among other things, this article suggests an apprentice period in which a couple contemplates marriage to test their compatibility. Instead of getting unhappy spouses to adjust to the institution of marriage, it may be much more to the point to change the institution, at least make it more flexible. It was even suggested that funds be taken out of paychecks and put into fund to help in the event of a breakup.

Well, I think you know what I think about that! Between the two extremes is God's Word. God says that in the beginning, a man was created by God and from his rib a woman was taken.

As I say in all my marriage ceremonies, "She (your wife to be) was taken from a rib. Where is the rib located? She was not taken from the head to subdue him. She was not taken from the feet to be ruled by him. She was taken from a rib. Again, where is the rib located? It is located under arm….for protection.

Now, as I wrote earlier, I mentioned that we must make marriage a career. The meaning of the word "career" is interesting. It comes from a Latin word, "carrus". It means a wagon; literally, something that carries one along a road. In this sense, marriage is a career. It is a wagon - and you have hitched your wagon to your star of love. This wagon is to carry the man, his wife and their children along all of the highways to heaven.

The dictionary says of the world "career" that it is a course of professional life or employment, which affords opportunity for progress or advancement in the world. According to this definition, marriage certainly qualifies as a career. History bears this out. Every good thing that a man has done is a result of the fingerprint's made by a virtuous mother and his loving wife.

Now, how, then can married people be happy? They can take marriage as a career. If you have not taken your marriage as a career then you can determine right now to make it such.

For the man it entails this. Providing for your wife. This means both a "roof over her head" and financial provision. Having children. Education of the children in what we call "the nurture and admonition" of the Lord.

For the woman it entails this: Bear and nurture children. Educate them. There is homemaking and house keeping. These are not extra-curricular activities. These are essentials, which are being ignored by many women today to the detriment of the family.

I like these words: "Marriage is a career" It differs from all others inasmuch as it demands for its success a great combination many virtues and qualities peculiar to many particular careers. For example,


Marriage demands the patience of the teacher,
The training of the psychiatrist,
The diplomacy of the statesman,
The justice of the Supreme Court Judge,
The sense of humor of the good comedian,
The self-sacrifice of the good doctor,
The "customer=-is-always-right" of the successful department store salesman
And the list goes on and on.

We must bring into marriage - just, let's say - half of the determination that we had when we were in school trying to make that good grade, or mastering that sport or developing hobby.

If you are married today, you're married because in recent years (whatever time frame) by you were "bitten by the love bug". You became madly in love. The problem is many marriages have not been built on the love-bug bite. Satan counterfeits love! That is one reason why we do not have happy marriages.

If you are married (or if you are thinking about marriage) I would like to submit to you some suggestions for living in "Happy House".

We have to start with LOVE. Love is natural. It is the starting of man's being. If you ask me for the definition of love - - in 15 words or less. I can do it in one word. That one word is the name of my dear wife, Nancy. However, in some encyclopedias the word "love" is not found. Years ago Cole Porter had a song, "What is this thing called love?" It is something that you feel and do something about. Someone said it is like some disease - you either have it or you don't.

A happy marriage is the recognition first of all that it is of God. God performed the very first marriage. He created man in His own image and then as we mentioned earlier created female. He blessed them (married them) and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth." God wanted them to be happy.

So desirous was God that His people be happy that two of the Ten Commandments (that is a high percentage) have to do with marriage. (Exodus 20:14-17) The two commandments are these: "You shall not commit adultery" and "You shall not covet your neighbor's house, neither shall you desire his wife." These two sentences from the Word of God tell us how desirous God is that people have a happy marriage.

Now here is an interesting fact. The first couple went aground. They floundered because they ended their relationship with God. Simply they betrayed Him. Marriage is not just between two people, it is between three. How so? Simply stated it is also with God.

Let me illustrate. The scene was my last wedding performed on the beach in central California. During one part of the ceremony I stooped down and drew in the sand, (Sounds familiar when we recall Jesus stooped down and with his finger drew in the sand?) What I drew was a triangle. At the top of the triangle I wrote GOD, in the lower left I wrote the groom's name and on the lower right side of the triangle I wrote the name of the bride.

I called to their attention the distance of the space (base) of the triangle between their two names. It was considerable, because the triangle was quite large. Then (try to follow me) I drew "an arrow" above the groom's name with the arrow pointing to the top of the triangle where the name God was earlier drawn.

I did the same on the right side - an arrow pointing toward "God" at the top. My next remark? As each of you get closer to God, the distance between you grows shorter. That is the base of the triangle becomes narrow. It all goes back to relationship with God and with one another. The devastating factor at the first marriage performed in the Garden of Eden by God. 1-2-3-4 ways to a happy marriage has to begin with.



in your marriage. We have already looked at that, but let me add that when Jesus came to earth ("came" because He was with the "Father" at the creation.) the first miracle he performed was at a wedding! He saved the wedding from a catastrophe because the refreshments had run out.

Another component has to be


the way things are.

Many couples appear to be happy - they are really in love. Of course, that term is the prime factor. Yet, something seems to happen and the question then asked is: "Hey, Mr. and Mrs. ….what tent are you living in? What tent? Yep - there are two. One is Con-tent the other is Dis-content.

Even though God is taken into their home (some on a part-time basic) there is never a Settling phase. Serenity is absent. The Bible says it this way: "Be content with whatsoever you have."

If true happiness is to achieve in marriage then both couples must have a real spirit of contentment. …the opposite of which is grumbling. No home can be happy if one or both are grumblers.

A third component is

Appreciation and Understanding

Which cannot be underestimated.

There is that inner cry to be "appreciated". If you want to live in "Happy House" this art must be developed. Today's living has become so complex that we just overlook the hopes and self-esteem of our mate.

A wife must tell her husband what a great guy he is, even if he comes home from work and blows his cool. He is still a grand guy. The same for the husband. His wife needs to hear from his mouth that her hair is pretty…that the dinner was special. True, the little things in life are important.

Fourth (as if there are only four!)

Expressions of Love

There are many expressions. I have several ideas, some of which I have shared with couples in my office. I recall one lady telephoning me several days later saying, "I tried (such and such) and pastor it really worked!"

You must not just feel, "I love you", but one must SAY, "I love you" Never, never let a day go by without saying that. It is so simple, yet so powerful! When was Nancy was going to the graduate school working her Masters in Religious Education her dorm lady told her (after hearing of her engagement) "Never let a day go by without saying 'I love you' at least once." And she never has. Ok, perhaps once. I am not really sure of this, but it does make a good story. We had not been married long when one night in bed she ribbed me and waking me up said, "Honey, I forgot to tell you I love you today." "That wasn't really necessary" I said. "I know" she replied.

Try some creative ways to let your spouse know that you feel love. Try some love notes. Use originality and put your love notes everywhere you can. How simple, but how much it has done for marriages. In that manner Nancy, my wife, really upstaged me. I was in the middle of a jungle in the country of Haiti. I opened up a brand new box of 35mm film - obviously sealed at the factory. Took the metal can in my hand, opened up the screwed I and out came love note. She had unsealed the box and inserted the love note in the metal film container. Did I smile or not?

On the other hand once (this is gross) I unrolled the toilet paper a little bit and put a note between the sheets…and, yes, of course, there is the refrigerator.

Make great use of pictures. Put up a picture on a wall or somewhere in a private place where your wife will see it. That picture will represent a special time when you two were really having a great time. Change the picture from time to time. It will spark interest. Pictures work, surprises work!!

Then, last but not least, take advantage of special occasions. Birthdays are extremely important, because had that spouse not had that day then obviously you two would not be together. Anniversaries special events are all expressions of your love and they will help your relationship a lot!

No marriage is completely perfect. That is because it is made up of imperfect people. Like that guy who came to my office looking for a perfect church. I told him that even if he found one - when he entered it would not be that perfect place.

As couples really strive to understand one anther then when problems, frustrations or issues arise, they can through their devotion go one another get through and become better mates . That is the fresh air intake to what might have become a stale relationship.

One said years ago, "Our nation is sadly in need of a rebirth of the simple life - a return to the days when God was a part of every household, when families rose in the morning with a prayer on their lips and ended the day gathering to place themselves in His care. A goddess home is build upon sand. It is an inviting breeding-ground for moral decay and crime."

Married people can be happy. I trust that you are a happy couple; but, if not, or if you are not as happy as you would want, why not start right now doing something about it? You may not achieve total happiness in six or eight hours as one would benefit from taking a capsule of timed medicine, but you will have begun. That seed of happiness, which you've planted, will grow and grow. Water it with your determination to have the happiest home in the world. Marriage is of God. Try it - you'll like it.

I trust that as you engage in this prayer, the words on your lips will be audible - the audible act for what is in your heart - namely, that you are going to have God come in your home. You are going to make room for Him. May it never be aid that there was no room for Him at the inn of your address.


Heavenly Father, a we bow and pray to you
we are grateful that you ordained that man and
woman should so come together and be united in holy
marriage. I pray that the home made up of this or these
readers would be that place that so radiates the
presence of God that it truly be "God's House"

Come in today. Come in to stay and God, in the
Name of Jesus, I ask that your Holy Spirit
move through these two to become
truly one in you.


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