Read an Excerptget married What Women Can Do to Help It Happen
By Candice Watters Moody Publishers Copyright © 2008 Candice Watters
All right reserved.
Chapter One Believe marriage is a worthwhile and holy pursuit
Marriage won't meet all your needs."
"Marriage won't give you all the answers."
"Marriage won't fill the emptiness."
"You can only find fulfillment in God."
Every one of these statements is true. But they're missing something: they're missing the context of Adam's problem.
If it's true that God is all we need for fulfillment, then no one was in a better position to be fully satisfied than Adam. Until Jesus came into the world, no other human had closer and more intimate fellowship with God than Adam. He was in a prime position to find all the answers, to fill all the emptiness, and to have all his needs met in unbroken relationship with the Creator of the universe.
Still God looked down on Adam and said something out of synch with everything else He had said about His creation. At the end of each day of creation, "God saw that it was good." But about Adam, God said, "It is not good." What wasn't good? Genesis 2:18a tells us, "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone.'"
What did God meant by "not good"? Del Tackett, president of the Focus on the Family Institute, explains it wasn't a qualitative statement-as if God created a three-legged dog and said, "This is not good." He says it was an ethical statement of badness, as in "man should not be alone." Why was it not good for man to be alone? Because Adam was created in God's image. He was made to reflect God in every aspect of his existence. From all eternity God was in perfect relationship within the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For Adam to accurately reflect being made in the image of God, he could not remain alone; he had to be in relationship. Adam alone contradicted God's nature.
And so God said, "I will make a helper suitable for him." The story continues. "So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a singles group, and He brought it to the man to alleviate his loneliness."
Of course that's not what the text says. Why is it then that I so often hear this Scripture used to explain our need for just about every kind of relational structure except marriage? While it's true that God goes on to create other social structures to meet certain human needs (such as civil government and the church), He started with marriage. His specific and immediate solution for Adam's problem was a wife. Genesis says,
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Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:22-25)
One of the best explanations I've seen on this passage comes from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary:
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The inspired author indirectly reveals man's natural loneliness and lack of full satisfaction. Though much had been done for him, yet he was conscious of a lack. The Creator had not finished. He had plans for providing a companion who would satisfy the unfulfilled yearnings of man's heart. Created for fellowship and companionship, man could enter into the full life only as he might share love, trust, and devotion in the intimate circle of the family relationship. Jehovah made it possible for man to have "an help meet for him." Literally, a help answering to him, or, one who answers. She was to be one who could share man's responsibilities, respond to his nature with understanding and love, and wholeheartedly co-operate with him in working out the plan of God.
The Ongoing Creation Mandate
Only after God created male and female does Genesis say, "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." And to Adam and Eve jointly, God gives the marching orders for mankind: "God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth'" (v. 28 NASB).
It wasn't just for companionship that Adam needed Eve. God had work for them to do. And for this work, Adam needed a helpmate. In a marriage that made them "one flesh," Eve complemented Adam's abilities and made it possible for the two of them to be fruitful, to subdue the earth, and to take dominion. Theologians call this the "creation mandate." Dr. Morkin explained that within the command for fruitfulness and dominion is the framework for everything we are called to do in our work and families. When challenged that this was only God's way of "jump-starting" the world, Dr. Morken answered boldly, "The creation mandate has never been rescinded. Never in Scripture did God say, 'OK, I have enough people now. You can stop getting married and having babies.'"
God continues to call His people to this work in order to accomplish His purposes. In Isaiah 45, the prophet reinforces the creation mandate, writing,
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Woe to him who says to his father, "What have you begotten?" or to his mother, "What have you brought to birth?" This is what the Lord says-the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. For this is what the Lord says-He who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited-he says: "I am the Lord, and there is no other." (Isaiah 45:10-12, 18)
"But didn't Jesus change everything?" some ask. The redemptive work of Christ did change our perspective on much of the Old Testament, but it didn't negate the first thirty-nine books of the Bible. Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17).
"Christ's atoning work at Calvary was not, and was not intended to be, God's provision for the needs that marriage meets," writes Ellen Varughese in The Freedom to Marry. "Whether in a state of sin or in a state of righteousness, whether under law or under grace, man still needs marriage."
A Gift of Common Grace
Even if a couple doesn't acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, even if they're not aware of the creation mandate, they can still partake of the goodness of marriage. Even in a day when women don't need marriage for the same practical reasons they once did, social research reinforces the truth that God created marriage for our good. One of the best collections of evidence is The Case for Marriage by Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher. What they and others have discovered in the natural realm reinforces the timeless wisdom found in Scripture:
Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work."
Waite and Gallagher say, "The old adage 'Two can live as cheaply as one' contains more than a grain of truth. Husbands and wives usually need only one set of furniture and appliances, one set of dishes, one lawn mower.... This kind of pooling means couples can have the same standard of living for much less money or effort than can an adult living alone."
Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord."
Steven L. Nook says, "Masculinity, is precarious and must be sustained in adulthood. Normative marriage does this. A man develops, sustains, and displays his masculine identity, in his marriage. The adult roles that men occupy as husbands are core aspects of their masculinity."
Matthew 19:6 says, "So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
Waite and Gallagher again: "The promise of permanence is key to marriage's transformative power. People who expect to be part of a couple for their entire lives-unless something awful happens-organize their lives differently from people who are less certain their relationship will last. The marriage contract, because it is long term, encourages husbands and wives to make decisions jointly and to function as part of a team. Each spouse expects to be able to count on the other to be there and to fulfill his or her responsibilities."
Song of Songs 1:2 says, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth-for your love is more delightful than wine."
Waite and Gallagher say, "Married people have both more and better sex than singles do. They not only have sex more often, but they enjoy it more, both physically and emotionally, than do their unmarried counterparts. Only cohabitors have more sex than married couples, but they don't necessarily enjoy it as much. Marriage, it turns out, is not only good for you, it is good for your libido too."
The goodness of marriage comes when we surrender to the timeless institution that was endowed with meaning and purpose before we were ever born. I was pleasantly surprised that one popular writer called her book Surrendering to Marriage. What could be more countercultural than "surrendering" to marriage in a day when more and more people are bringing contemporary consumer values to everything? As rugged individualists, we are what some have called "prosumers," and we like to put our stamp on everything, to re-create things in our own image. Couples today write their own vows, keep separate banking accounts, and more in their effort to individualize and personalize their marriage. But marriage doesn't gain value by the meaning we try to bring to it. Our attempts to reshape it or improve it undermine the blessings God designed to flow from the created version-blessings not only for us as couples, but for the children of faithful marriages, for the communities they undergird, and for generations to come.
Richer Blessings in Christ
The richest benefits of marriage appear when couples submit to the sacrificial design of Christian marriage (Ephesians 5:22-31), and stick with it even when they don't sec immediate benefits. This is especially true when it means staying faithful to their vows when they are on the less pleasurable side of "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health." The best things about marriage are the things born out of sacrifice, commitment, and crucible. St. Francis de Sales said it this way: "The state of marriage is one that requires more virtue and constancy than any other. It is a perpetual exercise of mortification.... From this thyme plant, in spite of the bitter nature of its juice, you may be able to draw and make the honey of a holy life."
Even as couples embrace the blessings, marriage is bigger than any one couple. Ultimately, like everything else in our lives, it's an opportunity to give God glory. Malachi 2:15 says, "Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth."
In addition to using marriage as the means for "godly offspring," God also holds out the union between man and woman as a reflection of His relationship with His people. Isaiah 54:5 says, "For your Maker is your husband-the Lord Almighty is his name-the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth." The apostle Paul showed the significance of how each couple reflects God's marriage relationship with His people when he wrote: "'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself; and the wife must respect her husband" (Ephesians 5:31-32).
This Scripture reminds us that God created marriage for our good, and also for His higher purposes-it's ultimately about Him.
Knowing God made marriage for our good and His glory isn't always enough. Many singles overspiritualize their single state, thinking it's more holy to look only to God for fulfillment. But that's inconsistent with how He made us. Dominic Aquila, president of New Geneva Seminary, says, "We know that our physical food and drink cannot ultimately meet needs provided by the bread of life and by living water. However, we don't look at a meal spread before us and say, 'No thanks, God is all I need.' That's why a gift is needed so that celibates can have needs met that are otherwise met by Biblical marriage."
Like good food satisfies an empty belly, for most believers, good marriages satisfy loneliness and other core needs. God's command to be fruitful and multiply and take dominion of the earth persists. The work He called us to is not yet complete. The assignments of the garden still stand. And marriage is central to that work. Unless your calling would be inhibited by marriage and family, and you're especially gifted to surrender marriage and all its benefits for lifelong celibacy, marriage is still normative and the appropriate channel for your God-given desires for companionship, sexual intimacy, and the partnership essential for completing your life's work while bringing God glory.
Esteeming Marriage Alongside Celibacy
If marriage is essential to meeting our needs and central to what we are called to do in life, why does the New Testament seem to talk more about singleness? In Matthew 22:30, Jesus says, "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven."
Does this suggest God is shifting gears from His original plan for marriage toward singleness? Why won't human marriage exist in heaven? Hear what Scripture has to say:
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Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" (Revelation 19:0-9)
We will all be "single" in heaven so that we can become the bride of Christ, so that we can experience the perfect marriage. Marriage is the norm, both now and in the age to come. It's only the nature of the bridegroom that will change. In heaven, we'll turn our attention to Christ, the Bridegroom all human husbands foretell. Every marriage since Adam and Eve's has pointed to the ultimate wedding between Christ and His church (that's why it matters how we go about being husbands and wives). Heaven won't mark the end of marriage, but its culmination.
Excerpted from get married by Candice Watters Copyright © 2008 by Candice Watters. Excerpted by permission.
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