On the day before our wedding ceremony, I spent time in prayer thanking God for how he had fashioned Olivia and me with his own specific intentions for our lives (Psalm 139:15-16); I also prayed for God to establish this new marriage and household (Psalm 90:17). My thoughts turned to Jesus' admonition against divorce:
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:3-6)
Yes, this passage can be cliche. But what struck me wasn't the warning against breaking faith with one's wife. It was that when a man and a woman are united in marriage, it is God's act; he is the one who joins them together.
This filled me with incredible hope. If marriage were merely a worldly doing--its purpose a human purpose and its ends derived from the heart of fallen man--then it would fail. It would be as fragile and transient as the morning dew, which is consumed in the heat of the day. But it's not. And that's a marvelous thing. Marriage was intended by God, who created man in his image, "male and female he created them," first to bring to fuller expression the unity and diversity of his own nature and the dance of love between the Three Persons of the Trinity.* And as the story of fallen man's redemption plays out, God also shows that the marriage bond is the matrix for knowing and showing off the depths of his unfailing love-and-faithfulness (Hebrew chesed). Finally, the promises God has given to his chosen people under the new covenant is that they will know him in the joy and intimacy of a husband and his wife (see Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 31:34; Hosea 2:20). (Yes, that kind of knowing, too!)
And as it is God's desire to fill the earth with his images, spreading his dominion and filling its span with his reflected glory, so too does God desire the raising up of children who know and cherish him and his work of salvation on their behalf. Malachi 2:10-16 says that God made husband and wife "one in flesh and spirit" (NRSV; see also NIV) because he is seeking "godly offspring," followers of Christ formed by their parents in a home of God-glorifying love and fidelity. God even goes so far as to say, "I hate divorce!" (2:16).
This goes to show that God has a lot more interest in preserving and beautifying marriages than any human couple does. It is his doing for his renown and pleasure. So Olivia and I can move forward and press through any test that comes our way, knowing that if we humble ourselves before God, fear him, and rely on him always, we can have full confidence that God will deepen and strengthen our marriage.
*See my previous post about this from last spring.