Desperate Housewives was an Emmy award-winning popular series that began airing on ABCin 2004. Set on Wisteria Lane in the fictional town of Fairview the series tracks the lives of four housewives, following their domestic struggles and dysfunctional marriages while mysteries involving their husbands, friends, and neighbors unfold in the background. The title alludes to Henry David Thoreau’s oft-quoted words “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
This Sunday, we are continuing a series on “desperate households”. The plan is not merely to identify the problem, but to provide very practical solutions.
Today, the lives of quiet desperation are lived behind the doors of many, if not all, homes in America. Never in the history of the United States have so many households been under such deep and persistent attack, such that the existence of at least 25% will be terminated prematurely. The good news, however, is that 3 out of 4 will survive. The vows may say, “’til death do us part,” but the reality is that for at least one in four, both Christian and non-Christian alike, marriage will end early. And many who do stay together ‘til death, only do so in the midst of great pain and struggle. The promise of “happily ever after” is today viewed as little more than a fairy tale by some.
The world gives us few good models of marriage to follow. Most typically, people try to copy the model of their parents marriage. The big problem, however, is that most of us come from dysfunctional homes. Our parents have often failed in theirs. Families on TV and in movies are typically even more dysfunctional. The world proposes numerous failed models, from patriarchal, to matriarchal, to open, to gay. Blessed is that unique child who grew up in a functioning loving home, where both parents sought what was best for the other, treated one another and their children with love and respect, and modeled the love of God in their marriage.
Sadly, most couples have never learned how to be married. They either copy their parents or react against their parents’ marriage. More and more, people see their parents’ marriages dissolving. You are so fortunate if you come from an intact home, but even still, there is no handbook for marriage with a set of rules. Oh, many will tell you their ten rules for a happy marriage, but the problem is that the rules keep changing and no one can keep them all. Hollywood has shown us how hard it is to stay married.
There is a disease that infects and can ultimately kill a marriage. That disease is selfishness. We write songs praising it: “I did it my way”. We see the first marriage, that of Adam and Eve, destroyed by it. Seldom are we conscious of the disease when we are sick with it. The only way to cure it is to ask our spouse’s forgiveness as soon as we realize that we are indeed the one who is wrong or who might possibly be wrong. Learning to apologize (and really mean it) is the single most critical skill for staying happily married.
In a good marriage, there are many moments of self sacrifice by one partner or the other. In a bad marriage, one or the other or both, has said, “I want my way”. “My needs come first”. If one of you does this, perhaps the other can keep the marriage together, but it will neither be easy nor fun. If both of you worry about yourselves first, your marriage will be doomed. Unfortunately, the advice you will get from the world and many of your friends will be to take care of your own needs first. Such selfishness will be a cancer that eats away at your marriage.
We need an owner’s manual for living. The Bible is that manual. It gives the antidote, which has multiple parts.
Antidote Part One: When all else fails, read the directions.
Jeremiah 29:11-13: 11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
God’s definition of marriage: Marriage is a sacred covenant (not a legal contract) made with God as a witness.
Malachi 2:14: the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth… she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
Do not just read the manual – use the manual.
Antidote Part Two: Shared Submission
The key to a successful marriage is agreeing to take less than your share.
The world says marriage is a 50/50 proposition. The Bible says it is 100/100.
Ephesians 5:21: 21Submit to one anotherout of reverence for Christ.
- Both are to give 100%:yielding their wills completely to the other
Philippians 4:4-5: 4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your forebearance (willingness to be taken advantage of) be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Jack and Bonnie)
- Husbands are to give 100%:be willing to sacrifice everything for their wives
Ephesians 5:25-28: 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
It is easy to say the words, :I love you”. It is hard to change your plans when we want to do something for yourself. It is even hard sometimes to do something as menial as taking out the garbage or some other task that your wife wants you to do. It is especially hard to apologize and ask forgiveness when you have an inkling that maybe you were a little wrong. People think that the old line from the movie Love Story is somehow from God, “Love means never having to say you are sorry.” Just the opposite is true. God desires us to have such a sensitive heart that we apologize even when it is not clearly our fault. Jesus did not defend himself before Pilate when he stood innocent before him, and died as the ultimate apology to God who was the one who was actually sinned against. He is to be our model when we read, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her.” Anything that comes between you in your marriage is the enemy, whether that is a friend, a family member, a possession, or some cherished activity that one or the other of you does.
- Wives are to give 100%:live for their husbands
Ephesians 5:22: 22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Trust is hard when you become convinced that your husband only cares about himself. Yet trust is often the very thing that brings him back to his God-given role of your protector. The verb “to husband” means to care for and cherish. If a wife is cared for and cherished and made to feel that she is the number one priority in her husband’s life, he will likely not have a problem trusting him. Antidote Part Three: Shared Ownership
- Shared ownership of one another:each gifts his or her body to the other
1 Corinthians 7:3-5: 3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
The world’s pattern for sex is self gratification. Look at the Internet. Pornography follows the world’s rules. God’s rule is simple – sex is for the pleasure of your spouse.
- Shared ownership of possessions:each gifts his or her possessions to the other
Acts 4:32-34: 32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. Do not say “This is my money” in a marriage, everything is “ours”.
- 3. Shared ownership of children:each shares responsibility for raising the children
Proverbs 1:8-9: 8Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 9They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
Ephesians 6:2-3: 2“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—3“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Antidote Part Four: Shared Faith
- The only way to submit to one another and share everything is submit to Jesus first.
Ephesians 5:21: 21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
- The only way to have a sacred covenant with your spouse is to have a sacred covenant with God
Revelation 3:20: 20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
Conclusion: The only way to experience “happily ever after” is to accept the antidote: a sacred covenant in which two people share themselves and all they possess as they dedicate everything to Jesus.