Why Marriage Fails

I am writing this on the occasion of my wife’s and mine 42nd wedding anniversary.

By today’s standards we married quite young.  She was 19 and I was barely 21.

We have one son and daughter-in-law and three precious grandchildren.  God has blessed us beyond measure, yet at one point in our marriage we nearly divorced.

The circumstances that led up to the “almost divorce” are largely irrelevant because they amounted to the single most important reason marriages fail, that of self-centeredness.

Because we both were self-centered, there was plenty of sin where I sinned against her and she against me. Sin complicates everything and we learned that the hard way.

At the time, we would not have called it sin. We knew of God, but we did not know God simply because we had not been born again (John 3:3-8). I doubt either of us thought we’d ever fight, much less contemplate divorce, and the pre-marital counseling we had (in the church in which we married) simply wasn’t realistic nor did it prepare us for much of anything.

14095972_10208989877137463_3172001838895308492_nSo, why did we stay together?

I would say the first thing was recognizing we took vows, the traditional kind; you know, the good times, bad times, sickness and in health kind of vows.

Somehow, even though we did not know God, those vows mattered and we grasped, perhaps vaguely that divorce was somehow wrong. We see it now as God’s grace working in our lives even though we did not know him in a personal, applicable way.

The crisis of considering divorce was actually another sign of God’s intervening grace working in our lives because it led us to him.

There came a time through various means that we both realized we had been born again. We also began to realize being born again meant much more than salvation and it had a bearing on our marriage and parenting. We began to understand that the gospel is of first importance and (1 Cor. 15:3) that it has application beyond salvation.

For the first time it mattered what God’s Word said about sin, marriage, children, finances, conflict, sex, and most importantly, worship. We learned, not all at once, that you cannot worship yourself and worship God at the same time.

If you worship yourself, you are bound to be self-centered and be all about your needs, your wants, and your desires. If you worship the God of the Bible, you will be more concerned about what He wants and what He says in his Word about what your priorities should be. You will, if you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, obey God even when you do not feel like it.

When God and his Word become central in a marriage the worship of self is weakened, though not fully destroyed this side of heaven. When the worship of self is weakened the worship of God is strengthened, as is the marriage relationship, because now what God says in His Word is more important than my needs, wants, and desires.  It’s not any more complicated than that and this leads to a marriage that can be relatively conflict free and even happy.

Christian marriages fail and marriage counseling fails because either one partner or both can never quite get over their self-centered worship disorder.

I’m happy to say, today, that I am grateful to God for the crisis He brought my wife and I, because it led us to him and a very happy marriage even after 42 years.

The Intoxicating Pleasure of Sin

As we’ve been working our way through The Drama of Marriage series, we came to Genesis chapter 3. We learned there’s an “open secret” within every marriage—and that “open secret” is sin. Below is a little breakdown on the way sin works. Rarely does it prance into your marriage declaring its presence, but tends to seduce. It likes to be crafty and subtle—kind of like the serpent. And this is why sin easily destroys marriages. It creeps in unnoticed and unannounced. Whether you’re single, married, or desiring the other, I wonder how the below works itself out in your life.

     “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
                                                   -Gen 3:6


What makes sin so intoxicating it its ability to offer more than one immediate pleasure. In Genesis 3, D. A. Carson observes Eve being enticed by sin in three ways. Its appeal was sensual, aesthetic, and sapient.


Eve saw that the tree was “good.” It was good for food and offered much physical satisfaction. Before the fall, the consumption of food was not necessary for survival. Eating was a gift from God for the purpose of physical pleasure. However, the lie of sin produced an action. She saw it was good for food and ate. She became convinced that eating fruit from this particular tree would be more pleasurable than the taste of any other fruit in the garden.


The tree was “a delight to the eyes.” It was satisfying her physical sense through visual appeal. In the midst of temptation, she was already being offered some degree of pleasure. Though she had not yet sinned, here we begin to discover the difficulty of resisting temptation. It has an offer of satisfaction before it has satisfied. Temptation is often the bait of sin. The images have passed through our eyes and the smell has already lofted into our noses. It’s no wonder Paul speaks of taking every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:4-5). What brings us to the kitchen is not the knowledge of cookies being baked, but the intoxicating aroma filling the house.


Every good lie must have a hint of truth. What made The Fall so insidious was the deception that Eve would become wise. There was truth to this. Eve would know good and evil, but the lie was this; Eve would not come to know good and evil in the same way God did.

Carson uses the following example to illustrate. When his wife had cancer, her doctors knew the kind of cancer she had. They were familiar with its terrible effects and mutations. They knew what the cancer was capable of doing. They knew its morphology and its many potential outcomes. They knew how to combat the cancer, and what kinds of treatments were necessary. The doctors had studied and interacted with the disease for years. They knew its color, its physical appearance, what it would be like in five years, and what it had looked like the previous year. No one knew this cancer better than these doctors… except his wife.

There was a way his wife knew this cancer in which the doctors could never know it. She knew it physically. She knew the way it felt and the way it made her change. The doctors never had to house the disease in their bodies, creating an incubation in which it could thrive. They never hated it mentally, much less, emotionally. It never affected their families the way it affected hers. The point here is that having an intellectual knowledge of the disease is not even close to the physical, emotional, or mental reality of having it grow in your body.

And this is the way in which Eve would come to know good and evil. She would only know it in a twisted sense. She would only know what the disease of sin would allow her to know. She would never know it as God knew it. And this was the deception. She thought she would become a peer with God. What a lie.

So What?

Sin has not changed. It’s still the same. Its aroma lingers in our noses, its sound in our ears, and its throbbing in our hearts. There’s no physical, emotional, or intellectual ground on which this disease doesn’t utterly consume. It deceptively and insidiously captures all senses. It intoxicates them and convinces us that we can be a peer with God.

And this is the secret that’s not so secret. Sin is subtly working its will in your marriage, and every relationship for that matter. Once we come to recognize this truth, we stand a much better chance of battling well. Christ has defeated sin once and for all, but its effects are still powerful. The great truth of Genesis 3 is not so much the reality of sin, but God’s promise that He would one day end the serpent and his power (3:15). He’s already done this through the cross work and resurrection of Christ, however, we still live in the “now, and not yet.” As such, we must fight, knowing that sin is ever-present— ready to seduce, lie, contort, and destroy—offering promises it can never deliver.