“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
When pastoring in Pennsylvania early in our ministry, my wife and I liked to visit new and interesting places throughout the northeastern part of our country. We especially liked the historical sites, and there were plenty within an easy day’s drive.
While Sabra was well along in her pregnancy with our first child, we decided to make one last journey before she was born. We knew our lives would soon change dramatically, and this might be our last trip for a while.
Some friends had mentioned Mystic, Connecticut, an early American seaport with many of its original buildings, ships, and other interesting sites. And we decided it would be the perfect destination for our final pre-children trip together. It did not disappoint.
A History Lesson…A Life Lesson
Along the main street, we stopped in at a little shop that made rope for use on ships in the early days of our country’s history. A costumed guide in period clothing walked us through the rope-making process, explaining that each rope began with three strands of yarn. Taking one strand in his bare hands, he demonstrated how it could easily be pulled apart. But when the three strands were twisted together, he told us, they became strong enough to hoist heavy bundles of cargo or hold a sail to a mast in a strong gale.
Immediately I thought of the Scripture passage above from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. This is a wonderful illustration of the importance of relationships. But it is especially true in the husband-wife relationship, where the Bible says the two become one. When applied to marriage, we start to see the strength this oneness can bring.
Four Ways We Are Stronger Together
This Scripture points to four ways we are stronger together than we are apart.
Together we can accomplish more than on our own.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work…” (Eccl. 4:9)
When we work together, we can do things we can’t do by ourselves.
Early in our marriage, Sabra and I lived many states away from our families, and we had to travel a long distance to visit them. We couldn’t afford to fly, so one of us would drive while the other navigated, napped, or helped to keep the other awake. By switching roles back and forth, we could drive straight through, saving much time and money. If only one of us had been able to drive or had been alone, the trip would have taken much longer.
Together we can help each other during difficult times.
“If one falls down, his friend can help him up, But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Eccl. 4:10)
No life is free from trouble. When we go through difficult times together, we can support and help each other to press on when the going gets tough.
I cannot tell you how many times my wife has helped me through the years. Through my graduate school years, she often stayed up typing papers for me to meet deadlines my two-finger pecking would have never finished on time. She was there to encourage me and keep me going when I became discouraged as a pastor and was ready to give up.
And as I have faced many health issues the last fifteen years, Sabra has been right by my side, seeing me through every procedure and surgery and taking care of me during my recovery. She learned to prepare meals that fit my changing dietary needs. She would come to the dialysis center and rub my cramping legs toward the end of each session. She sat in the waiting room through surgery after surgery. And every time I came out from under anesthesia, I would see her smiling face. Now, after my most recent illness that left me disabled, she drives me everywhere I need to go.
She has definitely been God’s gift to pick me up when I have fallen through the years.
Together we can comfort each other.
“Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” (Eccl. 4:11)
“Lying down together” here has nothing to do with sexual activity. It speaks to the warmth we provide for each other. It is certainly physical warmth on a cold night. But it is also a metaphorical statement about how in the cold, sinful world in which we live, a husband and wife provide for each other the warm, loving comfort we need. It is showing care and giving encouragement. It’s amazing, guys, how much a hug from us can mean to our wives and lift them up. And ladies, it’s also amazing how much a word of encouragement from you can mean to us. (You know how fragile our men’s egos can be.)
Together we can overcome anything.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:12)
When we get to this verse, it ends with “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Like the rope made in Mystic, the true strength comes when the three are brought together.
So far we’ve mentioned the husband and wife—the two becoming one. But verse 12 includes a third person. I don’t believe it is talking here about another friend joining with them. I believe God is talking here about Himself.
Remember this illustration on a Christ-centered Marriage?
The husband and wife are connected to each other at the bottom and both are connected individually to God at the top. In a Christian marriage, we are one with each other and with God. We are bound together. That’s a team that cannot be overcome or defeated.
Philippians 4:12-13 says: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
Christ is our strength. And this applies to our marriage when God is at the pinnacle. We can be confident of this “because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). He is always together with us.
Does your marriage reflect this cord of three strands—bound up tight to one another and to Christ? Or does it look more like a couple of individual strands of twine almost ready to break?
There’s hope for all of us. For with Christ every marriage can become strong enough to withstand any pressure, no matter how weak each strand is on its own. Christ’s strength is perfect, and when we are bound together as husband and wife in Him, nothing can break us apart.
So whatever struggles you are facing, cling to these promises from God’s Word. Pray together. Work together. And experience the joy of seeing Him work with you in your marriage in glorious ways.
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.
Featured photo by confused_me via Pixabay.com (CC0), text added
Mystic Seaport Village photo by Leonardo DaSilva via flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)
Rope photo by cocoparisienne via Pixabay.com (CC0), text added