Marriage Failures

Scripture: Matthew 19:3-6, Luke 17:28-30, Genesis 2:18
We live at a time when millions of marriages are falling apart. Perhaps the saddest aspect of this is the millions of children of divorced parents. God's ideal is a man and woman joined by one forever.
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It is a statistical fact that in the United States today one in every two marriages is ending in divorce. We are living in a sick society, a society infected by the germs of filth that are being shown in movies, on television, in hundreds of books and magazines, and taught in our schools. Marriages by the millions are frustrated and terribly unhappy. They seem to be literally ripping apart at the seams.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the situation is the pathetic spectacle of an estimated three million plus American children of divorced parents. "America's families are in trouble, trouble so deep and pervasive as to threaten the future of the nation," declared one authority to the White House Conference on children. "Can the family survive? Students in rebellion, the young people living in communes, unmarried couples living together, these all call into question the very meaning and structure of the stable family unit as our society has known it," says a leading anthropologist.

Others warn, "No society has ever survived after its family life deteriorated." Marriage, the basis of the family relationship, may be a great blessing or "terrible torment" depending on the attitude of the two people who enter into it. Somebody asked a man this question. Do you think life is worth living? The man replied, "It depends on the liver." In holy matrimony there are two "livers" to contend with. Success is by no means automatic as the figures on our growing divorce rate indicate.

Fully fifty to seventy-five percent of all teenage marriages end in divorce within five years! The younger a person marries, the greater his or her chances of marital failure. And to compound the problems, about half of all American brides are teenagers!

How, if and when their marriage fails, it will end as one of the million divorces which occur yearly in the United States; and they will join the millions of other divorced Americans. In our country, two homes are broken by divorce for every one that is broken by death. We have the highest divorce rate in the world. In the past seventy-five years, divorces have increased five times faster than the statistical rate of marriages.

The problem is not new. Jesus was asked a question on the subject in His day. "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" Matthew 19:3. His answer is important. "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female?" And said, "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." Matthew 19:4-6.

Here is the basic Christian ideal on which home and family are founded: Two joined by God as one, in a life-long union. Some of the sweetest words in our language cluster around the thoughts of home sweet home. Words like mother, father, brother, sister, love, sympathy, security, fellowship. But unfortunately home for millions has lost this warm reassuring ring. As modern ways of living lead youth, and many not so young, away from this old-fashioned center, the home, life becomes more and more eccentric. One young woman put it this way: "Why do I need a home? I don't need a home. I was born in a hospital, educated in a college, courted in an automobile, married by a justice of the peace, lived out of a delicatessen, paper bags, and tins. I spend my mornings at the golf club, my afternoons at the bridge club, and my evenings at the movies. When I die I will be buried from a funeral parlor. All I really need is a garage."

Home was never meant to be just a place to eat, sleep, and keep one's spare clothes. When it becomes this, disaster is on the doorstep. There are many who feel that the breakdown of home and family life is the most alarming trend in modern society, and a thing as deadly, or even more so in the long run, than the atom. It is a sign of the times. Jesus said, "Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot: ... Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." Luke 17:28, 30. Sodom and Gomorrah in the Scriptures are used as a symbol of immorality and erotic sexual behavior. Peter says: "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked." 2 Peter 2:6, 7.

Impurity, marital unfaithfulness, and homosexuality were characteristic of Sodom, and part of what Peter called their "filthy conversation." The meaning of the word conversation in the King James Version is not limited to talk, but means literally, "manner of life" or "conduct."

Triangle love affairs are responsible for the breakup of many family circles. Some time ago a man arrived home from work late in the afternoon to find only his children at home. When he asked concerning the mother's whereabouts, one stated that she had gone with another man to the movies. Quite enraged by this piece of news, the father went to his bedroom, put a 38 revolver in his pocket, and drove quickly to the local cinema. There he made his way past the ticket window and tried to enter the theater. The usher's attempt to collect his ticket was unsuccessful. But the enraged husband mentioned that his wife was in the theater with another man, and that he was going in for the express purpose of shooting him. Fortunately the usher acted quickly and notified the manager. He in turn had the house lights switched on and shouted excitedly through the public address system, "If there is a man in here with someone else's wife, he had better make his exit fast, for the husband has arrived with a loaded pistol." The announcement caused quite a stir in the theater, seventeen couples rushed for the exits! You ask yourself, how can I avoid the sinister shadow of divorce and trouble from striking my home and blighting the lives of those whom I love?

Recognize home, marriage, and family as the gift of God, something which is high and noble and above all sacred. "And the Lord God said, it is not good for man to be alone; I'll make him an help meet for him." Genesis 2:18.

This statement would apply to all of mankind, not just to the male sex. But unfortunately we have come to the place where some specialists assert, "It is dreadful for a woman to spend her life, first as somebody's daughter, then as somebody's wife, and finally as somebody's mother." This authority states that the self-sacrificial, madonna-like role is unnecessary, and claims that the next thirty years will change the current roles that women play in our society. There are also some men who prefer the solitary life, but the Word of God still states, "It is not good for man to be alone." The Creator followed through to meet the problem.

"And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she is taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Genesis 2:22-24.

A well-known Christian writer points out that a rib was taken from man's side for the purpose of creating a helpmeet for him. It was not taken from his feet to be trampled upon, nor from his head that the partner might dominate and rule. But from nearest his heart that they might stand side by side as equals each the complement of the other.

Marriage, home, and family, then, is a sacred link with Eden and with the Creator, comparable with the weekly Sabbath day. These are two institutions that have come to us from the perfect world, holy matrimony, the holy Sabbath. Both are being trampled under foot today and both must be restored. Marriage, which was acclaimed to be a harbor in the storm of life, has too often in modern times become a storm in the harbor of life!

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 7:39 that a widow woman is "at liberty to marry whom she will; only in the Lord." One modern Christian writer comments, "It is only in Christ that a marriage contract may be safely formed." And Paul further counseled the Corinthians: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness: And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15.

These facts underline the principle that to bear the test of time a union must have a spiritual as well as a physical basis. To be united before God is even more important that to be united before men. "If you would have a home from which the shadows are never lifted, marry an unbeliever." A common faith, and a family altar will be a bulwark around a Christian home even in our modern strained society.

"The advice has come too late," someone will always say. "I certainly wish I had married in the Lord, but I decided a long time ago before I became a Christian myself. My husband or my wife does not share my faith. We do not see eye to eye in religion. I go to church; my partner goes to the golf course. I wish to study my Bible; my partner wishes to watch television. I would love to establish a family altar for the sake of our children; my partner does not want them to be brought up as Christians. With parents divided on religious and moral issues, the environment is bewildering for the children. It seems an impossibility to change my partner's attitude. What should I do? What does God expect of me?" Friends, here is the Bible answer to those questions: "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, let not the wife depart from the husband: But if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother have a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. ... For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" 1 Corinthians 7:10-13, 16.

It would be a good thing for all to realize that in the history of this world there has been only one "perfect" marriage! This marriage was arranged by God and performed by God between two perfect partners fresh from the Creator's hand. It didn't last! Since sin entered into our world, a perfect marriage has been impossible for the simple reason that there have never been two perfect mates to enter into a marriage contract. So it is too much to expect perfection, but all should sincerely strive for more warmth, happiness, kindness, joy, and exuberance in the marriage relationship than most have experienced. A happy, balanced, and wonderful marriage is the basis of all decent society. It can become the foundation not only of happiness and joy, but also of spiritual progress and development for those who love God and each other. It is easy for a person to pretend to be something, if he can stay away from people, and just appear at a convenient time when he is feeling really good. But a man must be with his wife all the time, and a wife must be with her husband all the time. They know each others faults, mistakes, and habits. This calls for a large amount of tolerance, patience, kindness, and love, quite apart from any romantic feelings and associations.

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