Friend, we understand that marriage is not easy. The relationship that most brightened life can threaten us with the greatest disappointment. We believe that God ordained the unique relationship between you and your spouse. Your husband-wife relationship is very precious to him (Matthew 19:6).
We found this passage in the wisdom literature of the Bible that we believe may be especially helpful to you as your marriage experiences strain. Here it is:
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)
Don’t you appreciate how honest the Bible is? This verse tells us implicitly that life is hard. It includes toil, falling, adversaries, and even the general discomfort of feeling cold.
But Scripture doesn’t leave us pessimistic.
This passage also reminds us that life includes many wonderful gifts. One of those gifts, which sweetens the sourest experiences of life, is companionship. The most committed unique experience of companionship is marriage.
Marriage is a mysteriously wonderful gift from God to help us endure the hardest parts of life, to sweeten the bitterest of times, and to provide rest and comfort. God decided at the outset of creation that two are better than one (Genesis 2:18).
But what happens when marriage becomes the hardest part of life?
What happens when this unique bond turns bitter?
What happens when lovers drifts apart, when both fall?
We know this happens; too often the two cords woven together by young love, eventually fray under the pressures of life.
This passage from Ecclesiastes gives us a clue into the true glue that holds a marriage together. This passage seems to say that two are better than one, but three is best. Notice how all the talk of two concludes with, “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
In the bond of marriage, there must be three cords, not just two, for it to retain the strength it needs to endure. Let me explain.
The very first marriage suffered great tension also. Adam and Eve were a match made by Heaven, literally (Genesis 2:18-24). Though they had one another, they also lived in a loving intimate relationship with God. He walked with them in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8).
Strife entered their marriage the moment they turned their back on God (Genesis 3:9-13). Their union with the third cord snapped, and their own bond weakened (Genesis 3:23-24).
Any marriage that now exists is the union of two imperfect people—two sinners, dare we say it. Physical attraction, vows, and even the mysterious “true love” have quite a bit of power, but often not enough to hold a couple together. These things are not sufficient to make a marriage be what it was designed to be.
The third cord is a Person. It is Love himself—the Author of marriage and Giver of all good gifts. In the book of Ephesians, Paul writes that marriage is the shadowy representation of the relationship between God and those who belong to him (Ephesians 5:21-33). Marriage is a living object lesson of the union, companionship, and love that God offers each of us. It is designed to point us to our need for a soul-companion whose love knows no end, who never fails, who will never leave.
In the greatest demonstration of love known to humanity, the God who walked in the garden, came to us in the person of Jesus.
He knew our love was stained with selfishness, weakened by pride, and that if our hearts were never mended and we remained at odds with God, we would incur the just punishment of our Maker. And so, he laid down his own perfect life, suffering for all our pride, selfishness, backbiting, manipulation, lying, and the rest.
For anyone who trusts in Jesus for forgiveness, turning from their sin, he vows to them his love, seals his vow by giving them his Spirit to be with them always, clothes them in his righteousness as a wedding garment, and tells them the day is coming when they will live with him forever in the new heavens and earth. There, God and man will walk together, never to be separated again.
Knowing we would fall, and for all our toil we would only meet suffering at the end of life for our rebellion against God, he intervened in our lives. He gives us Jesus—the cord that cannot break, the companion that cannot fail.
Because of our sin and selfishness, we each bring a frayed “cord” to the union of marriage. There is only one perfect cord, the Lord Jesus, who gave himself up for all who trust in him.
Only by being united to Love himself can we truly be loving people. You could say that the third strand that makes the two not quickly torn apart is love. But biblically speaking, love is a Person we must know, not a force or power we possess. To know Jesus means we receive his sacrifice for our sins and enter a lifelong relationship of trusting him with our lives (Galatians 2:20).
Knowing Jesus doesn’t make marriage easier; he makes marriage stronger, sweeter, and able to bear the pressures of life.
The two frayed cords don’t have to draw strength from each other, but can look to their Maker, their Savior, and the Author of love for what they need.
Friend, if your marriage is suffering, begin by trusting in Jesus and asking for his wisdom and strength to make your marriage what he intends it to be.