by Jill Jackson
Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount by making a distinction between two people: one who built his house on the rock, the other on the sand. He said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).
One living the Christian life must build a deep spiritual foundation to withstand the elements that will come (i.e., the rains, floods and winds of persecution, temptation, false doctrine, trials, and heartache). The security of the foundation determines whether the house will stand firm or be destroyed and swept away by the elements. The wise man hears the teachings of Christ and recognizes his truths are the only foundation for a good life. Because of this understanding he builds his house upon the rock. He is a hearer and a doer (cf. James 1:22-25). His obedience to Christ’s teachings shores up his house, and protects him from the elements that attempt to weaken faith and devotion.
In contrast, Christ describes the foolish man. Like the wise man, he hears Christ’s teachings, but they do not prick his heart to action. He builds his house on the sand. His devotion is superficial and has no strength for enduring the elements. As a result, his house falls when external pressures arise.
A Christian marriage will experience storms as well. The elements of temptation, trials, heartaches, selfishness, etc. will threaten the devotion pledged in love. Many marriages are crumbling apart like a house built upon the sand.
Why are marriages falling apart? With This Ring: A National Survey on Marriage in America, lists the following as common reasons for divorce: “lack of commitment, too much conflict and arguing, and infidelity.” What then defines a successful marriage? Commitment? The absence of conflict? A faithful spouse?
We need to define a successful marriage with more than simplistic ideas. After all, couples can remain married because they’re committed to wanting to go to heaven, or to not letting their children come from a broken home, but that doesn’t mean they’re committed to loving one another. Couples can live with the absence of conflict because they’ve come to live separate lives under one roof. This is not the same as having the absence of conflict because they communicate their needs and respect one another’s feelings.
One may be faithful to her spouse sexually, but is that where the definition of faithful begins and ends? According to Webster’s, “faithful” also encompasses “having or showing true and constant support or loyalty, firm in adherence to promises.” One may not betray her spouse, yet that doesn’t mean she’s been faithful to honor and cherish, to put her spouse's needs first, and to love in good times and bad. Successful marriages are more than the years a couple accumulates together, more than superficial commitment, artificial peacefulness, and faithfulness in some areas.
When I think of a successful marriage, I think of my father’s parents.They were married over sixty years. They had nine children, all of whom are faithful Christians. They loved each other until my grandma drew her last breath in 1995. She was skinny as a rail, yet so strong her hugs would cut off your air supply!
In her final years her memory was affected by dementia. The majority of household tasks fell onto my grandpa’s shoulders, but he was no stranger to hard work. He was always cheerful and just seemed to take things in stride.
I loved to hear my grandpa’s story about their nightly ice cream ritual. After dinner he would prepare two bowls of ice cream. One bowl always had a smaller portion than the other. He’d set the small portion in front of her, and put the larger portion at his place at the table. She didn’t understand that he gave her the smaller portion because she could never eat the larger one. So when he’d put the ice cream away, she’d switch the bowls while his back was turned. When he’d turn back around, he’d see her grinning ear-to-ear clutching the bowl with the bigger portion. Despite knowing what would happen, he did this night after night. Perhaps he just wanted to see her smile, and catch a glimpse of the woman she once was . . . the one who held his heart for all those years.
Though they endured storms of life, they always seemed happy. They were faithfully devoted to each other until they passed from this life. Are these not the warm thoughts we’d like our own grandchildren and future grandchildren to be able to express about our own marriages (cf. Proverbs 20:7)? What a spiritual blessing to leave such a legacy to those in your family!
What was the secret to their success? They built their house of love on the rock. Their marriage stood the test of all the elements because their spiritual foundation was deep and strong. The Bible, and the truths therein, was the most beloved book they owned. It meant something to them. They obeyed Christ’s teachings and loved one another as Christ loved the church. They held fast to the hope God gives for those who follow his commands.
Faithful devotion such as this is no accident, but it’s the sort of marriage any couple is capable of enjoying and should strive for. What then, does a successful marriage look like? Two imperfect people, who know without God they’re nothing and have nothing. Two imperfect people who commit to loving their spouse like Christ loved the church. Two imperfect people who make God’s word and will the deciding factor for their decisions. Two imperfect people who build their house of love on the rock of Jesus Christ. Two imperfect people who, when they pass from this life, will be together in eternity.
What Makes for a Happy and Lasting Marriage.