SOMETIMES marriage can seem like accumulated frustrations and unfulfilled hopes. Is it worth it? Some people stay single; some walk out; others have tender and deeply caring marriages. It's a rare marriage that has no differences of opinion. When marital conflicts arise, is there a dependable way to resolve them? If ``God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,''1 and not remote and unknowable, the answer is yes.
Whatever the challenge, prayer is a good place to begin, and what better basis for prayer than a deep yearning to know God and understand our relationship to Him? Christ Jesus gave some fundamental requirements for prayer: ``When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.''2
Real prayer means being alone with God, shutting out human opinions, silencing self-will, self-justification, self-righteousness. It means taking to Him our heart's deepest questions and listening for His answers.
Prayer isn't a matter of asking God for favors or trying to manipulate people or situations. Rather, it includes a humble acknowledgment of His all-power and omnipresence, of His infinite goodness and complete government of His creation. It includes a deep desire to yield to that gentle, stabilizing control.
When my husband walked out the front door after what I thought was a minor disagreement, I was stunned. Through the mental turmoil I reached out to God. I prayed to know that ``the Lord God omnipotent reigneth''3 -- on earth as in heaven; that He reigned in my heart and in my husband's heart, in our family and in our home. I prayed to realize that because God is good, the only thing going on at that moment, regardless of what appeared as a crisis, was the activity of omnipotent good.
I prayed in Jesus' words, ``Thy will be done,''4 confident that God's will blesses all. I longed to say only what God was putting in my heart. No doubt my husband had been praying too. When he did return sometime after 2 a.m., my few words were conciliatory; his reply was also one of peace. And that peace has lasted and grown in the years since.
What can be done to plant marriage on a solid foundation, one not easily shaken? Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``Man is the expression of God's being.''5 Prayer that consistently identifies oneself and one's spouse as God's loved children, as the undeviating expressions of infinite Love, can do much to promote marital harmony. Why? Because an affirmation of the spiritual reality of man and a perception of it help to bring that reality into view.
In truth, God maintains the relationship of His offspring to Him in perfect harmony. There is nothing restrictive, selfish, or insensitive in what He creates. He is the source of kindness, thoughtfulness, joy, patience, a sense of fair play, cooperation -- qualities so essential to a happy marriage. These qualities, appreciated and lived, support a solid marriage relationship. This spiritual dimension lifts marriage above chance, indifference, monotony. The qualities God fathers don't stagnate but constantly evolve in new and delightful ways. Whatever is not good is not from God and need not be tolerated.
When differences do surface, we can refuse to be dragged into escalating words and taut emotions and instead turn in prayer to God. Listening earnestly for His pure thoughts establishes a calm within us. Recognizing the divine influence, the healing Christ, in control defuses anger and reaction in us.
A good marriage doesn't just happen. It starts with prayer and continues with care and work and more prayer. It takes a strong commitment to support our loved one's Godlike qualities and to reject firmly whatever does not originate in the one infinite, totally good God. As tender, patient, and mutual caring undergirds marriage, hassles disappear. In their place is the beauty of a warm and growing relationship.
1Psalms 46:1. 2Matthew 6:6. 3Revelation 19:6. 4Matthew 6:10. 5Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 470.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Charity suffereth long, and is kind. I Corinthians 13:4