For Better or For Worse – A Couple’s Bible Study

“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” – Matthew 10:8-9

Making a Vow

Those of us who are married probably made some type of wedding vow. You might even have written your own vows. But they all likely included some words we repeated or a question to which we answered, “I do,” “I will,” or “Yes.”

Probably the most recognized words are the ones we typically think of as the traditional wedding vows. These are the words I’ve used most often as a minister when I’ve had the privilege of officiating a wedding. They go something like this:

I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.

I like these vows, not just because they’re traditional. (As I’ve admitted before, I’m getting older and a bit old-fashioned). I like them because I think they state clearly and succinctly a biblical understanding of marriage.

Greater Purpose Than Happiness

I want to focus this week’s teaching on the “for better or for worse” portion of the vows.

I have become particularly fond of these words since my recent illness and forced retirement. In spite of my reduced physical capacities, reduced income, and resulting reduced lifestyle, my wife, Sabra, has stood by me. We took those traditional vows, and she obviously took them seriously. I am very thankful for that.

This is somewhat unusual in our current throwaway society. A society that teaches the most important thing is happiness; that the purpose of marriage is to make us happy. A society where marriage for many people has become like our cars, houses, jobs, and even our churches. If they meet our needs, and they make us happy, fine. But when they no longer do, we move on to find someone or something that does.

Unfortunately, this has become true even among many who say they are Christians. In my years as a pastor and counselor, I have observed this lack of commitment many times by couples who claim to be Christians. I have heard them say things such as: “I just don’t love him anymore” or “She doesn’t make me happy. And God wants me to be happy, right?”

That doesn’t quite fit with what Jesus taught. He said in Mark 10:6-9: “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

I see nothing there about marriage being until she doesn’t make me happy. Or until he doesn’t meet my needs. Or until I just don’t feel love for him or her any more.

In God’s view, we are married “until death do us part.”

No longer two but one. | Simply One in Marriage.

For Better or For Worse

As I studied for this teaching post, two examples of God’s plan for marriage came to my mind. One was from a book I recently read entitled, The Sacred Acre by Mark Tabb. It’s the story of Ed Thomas, a committed Christian and high school football coach in a small Iowa town. He gave credit for his becoming a Christian to the teaching and example of his mother. Her life, as well as her words, were a witness to him.

His father was an alcoholic and did not live the life of a believer in Christ, though his mother did not realize either of these things when she married him. The author of the book describes it this way:

“She did not hide in embarrassment over her husband’s drinking, nor did she ever make excuses for him…She married a man who turned out to be something other than what she had believed. Rather than moan over her lot in life or break off her marriage, she chose to go forward. At home she loved her husband. In church she prayed for the day God would turn Roy’s heart back to himself.”

Now that is following God’s Word, no matter how hard it is. That is taking “for better and for worse,” and “until death do us part” seriously. That is taking Jesus’ words–“what God has joined together, let no one separate”–to heart. The result was that after twenty years of marriage–and twenty years of his mother living for Christ and praying for her husband–Ed Thomas’ father came to Christ as his Savior. And the rest of his life exemplified it.

Reading that story made me think of my grandparents. My grandmother was a committed Christian from the time she was a little girl. She married a man who she thought shared her faith. But he also turned out to be a hard drinking, hard living man. She also chose to stay with her husband, love him, attend church faithfully on her own with my dad, and pray that my grandfather would one day come to know Christ as his Savior.

Late in his life, my grandfather was diagnosed with a debilitating and terminal illness. He asked my grandmother to pray for him and to ask her pastor to come visit him. The pastor talked to him, shared the plan of salvation with him, and he prayed to receive Christ. My grandfather was not well enough to go to church, but he asked the pastor to baptize him in his bathtub. He also asked my grandmother and pastor to study the Bible with him, until he died a short time later.

This has always been an example to me of what it means to live out Jesus’ teaching about the importance and permanence of marriage.

Beautiful Example of God’s Love

These are two examples of how following God’s Word is a blessing to our spouses. They also demonstrate how God uses our marriages to show the world how much He loves us, and how He will always love us and be faithful to us, no matter what.

I can’t tell you what a blessing it for me is to have a wife who I know believes and seeks to live by this truth from God’s Word.

If you too have been blessed with a spouse who loves the Lord and is committed to living for Him, join with me in thanking God. Ask Him to protect your marriage and help you be the husband or wife He wants you to be.

If you are married to a spouse who is not yet a believer in Christ, use His Word and these examples to encourage you. Pray, and ask God to help you to be faithful to pray for your spouse consistently, and to live as His Word calls you to do.

God speaks about this in 1 Peter 3:1-2: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives.” By the way, I am sure this applies to husbands married to unbelieving wives as well.

You can be sure that God will be working in your spouse’s life. After all, we are assured in 2 Peter 3:9 that God “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” We also know according to 1 John 5:14: “that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” So don’t give up, but faithfully live for Christ, and pray to Him for your husband or wife.

Questions for Discussion

          • Discuss some of the things God has taught you about your marriage as you read through this post. Especially talk about the importance of commitment in your marriage.
          • Recall the marriage vows you took. How do you think you have upheld them? Recommit to God and each other that your marriage is until death. This is a commitment that will see you through many hardships.
          • Talk about people who have been and are examples for you in your marriage. Discuss how you can be that type of example for your children and/or others around you.
          • Tell each other how important your spouse’s commitment to Christ and to you is. Be specific about what it means to you. If you can recall a specific time(s) when it has really helped you, share that with your husband or wife. Make sure you let them know how thankful you are.
          • Pray and ask God to protect you from Satan’s attacks on your marriage, and that He’ll empower you to remain faithful to the commitment you have made. Ask Him to help you show His grace and love to each other, so you will have His protection from Satan’s onslaughts at all times.

May God bless you in all His wonderful ways,

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Photo by krvvitaliy via pixabay (CC0), cropped/text added.
"For better or for worse." It's one of the most quoted marriage vows. But did we really mean it when we made that commitment? Does God hold us to it? | "For Better or For Worse" - A Couple's Bible Study | Simply One in Marriage.


About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.