Have you wondered what God’s design for marriage is?
When you look at the marriages around you, do some of them seem broken?
Or perhaps your own marriage feels broken.
A sad reality of the world we live in right now is that around 40% to 50% of marriages end in divorce.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Over a third of couples that say “I DO” will not make it to “Until death do us part.”
Why is that?
Is this just the fate of marriage, or have we “broken” marriage in our culture today?
Why don’t all marriages end up ‘happily ever after’ just like in Disney movies?
What was God’s original design for marriage anyways?
Or did He even have a plan?
And if He did, have we somehow messed up God’s original design for marriage and that is causing some of the issues we see today?
To take a look at God’s design of marriage, we are going to start back at the very beginning in the Garden of Eden.
God’s Perfect Design for Marriage
Why read about what happened thousands of years ago?
Because when God designed the world, He said that His creation was GOOD!
God’s perfect design for marriage did not include all the problems that we see today!
I know this passage is a bit longer, but it is going to be crucial for our understanding of God’s design for marriage.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
So what do we read about here in the very first marriage?
Key Takeaways of God’s Design for Marriage
First, God said that it is not good for man to be alone.
Next, God says He will make a helper suitable for Adam.
So God creates a woman from a rib that He takes from Adam.
Towards the end comes one of my favorite verses on marriage, where the Bible says a man will leave his father and mother and become ONE FLESH with his wife.
And then we end with our last key point, they felt NO SHAME.
So in Gods perfect creation, we have a marriage of one man and one woman that are united as one flesh and have no shame in their marriage.
And God designed their roles in this marriage such that Adam was given directions to work the Garden of Eden and take care of it.
And the woman (later named Eve) was created to be Adam’s helper.
What a beautiful picture of marriage!
A man and a woman working side by side to fulfill the work that God has given them.
They have no shame in their marriage or with one another, and they can enjoy each other’s company as God intended.
No problems in this marriage!
Or at least, not yet…
Where Did Things Go Wrong?
So what happened?
God had this beautiful design for marriage!
But in today’s world, there are LOTS of problems in marriage!
We are far from the perfect creation God made in the Garden, so what happened?
In a word, SIN.
Satan crept into the Garden of Eden with his deception and lies and led Eve to choose the first act of disobedience against God.
Let’s read what happened in Genesis:
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
With one fatal bite, Eve thought she knew better than God and chose to do what God said must not be done.
Adam, who sat passively by did nothing to stop her even though he knew God’s command.
And to top things off, then he followed suit, choosing to sin as well.
And this sin destroyed the perfect plan that God had for creation, including God’s design for marriage.
God’s Plan Destroyed
With their eyes opened to good and evil, the innocence they once had was gone and it started to create problems in their marriage.
Feelings of shame seeped into their hearts.
This caused them to try to hide behind fig leaves and also try to hide from God.
God then banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and death came just as God had said it would; death to their spiritual union with God (aka being in His presence).
Some might say that God was unloving in sending them out from the Garden, but truly this was because of His love for them.
Would you want someone you love, who is caught in pain and suffering, to live on forever?
And this is what was happening to Adam and Eve.
They now felt and knew things God never intended.
In His great mercy, He sent them out of the Garden so that they would not eat from the tree of life and live forever in a state of brokenness that God never intended for them.
Some might also be thinking why did God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden in the first place?!!
Why would a good God allow bad things like this to happen?
Why set them up for failure?
God Has Given Us Free Will (and He Wants Us to Use it to Choose Him!)
Here’s the tricky part, God has given us FREE WILL.
And He wants us to use this free will to choose Him!
How could He give Adam and Eve free will and the option to choose God?
Without the option to disobey, there would be NO WAY for Adam and Eve to choose on their own to follow God.
Adam and Eve, as well as you and I, have the choice to choose God and His plan.
We are all given the choice to OBEY God.
Or we can choose to be our own ruler and god.
That’s why the tree had to be in the garden.
It’s a choice of Lordship.
And Adam and Eve both denied God as their Lord when they chose to eat the forbidden fruit.
At this point you might be thinking two things.
First, you might be thinking that this is really depressing!
Second, you might be wondering what in the world does any of this have to do with marriage?
Let me connect the dots between the story of Adam and Eve and what is terribly wrong with marriages today.
Your Marriage is Broken because of SIN
Sin is what stole the beauty of Adam and Eve’s marriage and caused problems in their marriage.
And sin is what causes the brokenness we see in marriage (and in our own lives) today!
God’s plan and design is being abandoned as we choose our own way instead of God’s way.
When we choose to disobey and follow our own fickle hearts, we are setting ourselves up for problems.
Let’s recap what God’s design for marriage was and then look at how we are unknowingly, or perhaps even knowingly, abandoning His plan for marriage.
God’s Design for Marriage Recap:
God’s design was for one man and one woman to become one flesh, coming together with no shame.
And both the husband and wife have God-given roles that they are to fulfill.
But what do we see happening in our world today that is different than God’s original design for marriage?
Problem #1 – Marriage is No Longer Between One Man and One Woman
We see some couples break away from the idea that marriage was intended for one man and one woman.
I see a lot of people debate this point and try to work around verses to explain why homosexuality is “fine.”
But what example do we see in the Bible?
Notice that God did NOT make another MAN for Adam, but a WOMAN!
And later in Leviticus we see that a man with another man is DETESTABLE.
22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.”
I don’t know about you but the word detestable doesn’t sound like God is passive on the topic.
And it most definitely doesn’t sound like approval.
And God cannot contradict Himself!
What is detestable to God in the Old Testament is still detestable to Him today.
Some of you might be thinking, “okay but that’s the Old Testament. There’s a bunch of laws that don’t apply anymore so how do I know that God still holds firm to His thoughts on homosexuality?”.
So let’s look in the New Testament.
In fact, let’s look at what Jesus said, since He is God in the flesh.
Some might argue that Jesus never directly condemned homosexuality, but truly He did.
Check out these verses:
4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’”
6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”
Jesus CONFIRMS what we have read about God designed in the very beginning, which is that God’s design for marriage is for it to be a union between one man and one woman.
Anything different than this in marriage is a departure from God’s original design in the Garden of Eden.
What’s the Solution?
So if you are in a union that is not one man and one woman, you need to leave that relationship.
I know that breaking off a relationship is never easy, but God calls us to put Him first in our life.
Putting God first means following His commands and daily picking up our cross and dying to our own flesh and desires.
Seek repentance from God for living outside of His will.
Find a friend or a place for yourself while you figure out your next steps.
But leaving a relationship that is not God honoring is the right thing to do!
Problem #2 – Couples No Longer Choose to Become One Flesh
Something else we read about in the story in Genesis that was also mentioned in both passages above by Jesus is that “the two will become one flesh.”
How are marriages today departing from this part of God’s design?
We see the departure of becoming one flesh when we withdraw from our spouse, withhold love from our spouse, keep secrets from our spouse, or even when we sweep things under the rug and never address issues that are bugging us.
Satan will use these subtle breaks to drive a wedge into our marriage.
He will leverage these things to cause problems in our marriage and even break our marriage apart.
There are also some bigger ways that our culture as a whole is deviating from God’s plan to become one flesh.
I want to take a minute to address these bigger issues which include cohabitation, unfaithfulness, and keeping your finances separate.
Let’s address each of these issues individually.
First, some couples are choosing to cohabitate instead of becoming married.
This is an alarming trend and a total abandonment of God’s design.
The Bible is clear that sex outside of a marriage covenant is outside of God’s design.
Check out what the Bible says in these couple passages:
1 Corinthians 7:2-3
2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.
And if we read one verse further in the passage we read above from Matthew:
Matthew 19:4-6 (emphasis mine)
4 “Haven’t you read,” he [Jesus] replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Choosing to cohabitate instead of marry is outside of God’s design for sex and marriage.
And unsurprisingly, He does this for our good.
Cohabitating has higher rates of separation, which would make sense.
When we depart from God’s plan, there are going to be more problems in our marriage, which Satan will ultimately use to separate what God has joined together.
And when couples choose to cohabitate, there is no commitment or covenant keeping the two together.
Sure, they are one flesh in the sense of physical union (see 1 Corinthians 6:16 in the next section), but their hearts and minds are not fully committed as though they are married.
What’s the Solution?
If you are cohabitating or living together with someone, please let me encourage you to STOP.
Seek a same gender friend or even your parents to move in with while you figure out if you are getting married or what the next steps in the relationship are.
I know this is not easy to do, but this is what God calls us to do.
And of course, if you love the person, get MARRIED!
Being Unfaithful to Your Spouse
Another way couples are not one flesh is through unfaithfulness.
When you married your spouse, you committed yourself to your spouse and no one else.
The Bible speaks clearly on being faithful to your spouse.
I know other couples who have walked this journey and it is HARD!
ADULTERY WILL CAUSE PROBLEMS IN YOUR MARRIAGE!
Check out these verses:
1 Corinthians 6:16-20
16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
What’s the Solution?
So if you are bored, upset, angry at your spouse, or whatever is causing problems in your marriage, if you are considering seeking companionship or sex outside of your marriage… DON’T DO IT!
Please seek counsel and confide in a friend and be encouraged to remain faithful to your spouse!
And if you are already being unfaithful to your spouse, let me encourage you to seek repentance and change your ways.
It is never too late!
Don’t believe the lie that you have to just keep going or not let things be exposed for fear of how your spouse will respond.
You need to confess to God and your spouse what is going on, repent, ask for forgiveness, seek counseling, and I would highly recommend setting up accountability in your life.
Separation of Finances (or Possessions)
The last way we see couples choosing not to become one flesh is by keeping their finances or possessions separate.
A Bank of America study showed that 28% of millennials who get married keep their finances separate.
And some couples said they have no idea what their spouse makes.
Is it not obvious how this could definitely cause problems in your marriage?!
Keeping finances separate allows for spouses to do things in secret or hide things from their spouse.
Folks, if you want your marriage to survive and be all that God intended, SECRETS have NO place in your marriage!!
By keeping your finances separate, you are essentially keeping your hearts separate.
What’s the Solution?
If you are keeping your finances separate from your spouse, you are not becoming one flesh as God designed for marriage.
I would encourage you to fully commit yourself to your spouse and share EVERYTHING!
Combine your finances and be honest with each other about your salary and spending habits.
Don’t give the devil a foothold and allow there to be areas of your life that you keep separate from your spouse.
Satan will use your secrets to cause problems in your marriage, guaranteed!
Problem #3 – Individuals Enter Marriage Full of Shame
In today’s culture, premarital sex is normative in the US.
In fact, by the age of 20, 75% of Americans have had premarital sex.
THIS IS NOT GOD’S DESIGN FOR MARRIAGE!
As we can see in the passages above, marriage is to be HONORED and the marriage bed kept PURE!
We are warned above that anyone we choose to have sex with, even a prostitute, will unite the two together.
This is the danger of changing our schools from teaching abstinence to how to have “safe sex.”
THERE IS NO SUCH THING!
God did NOT design sex to be safe outside of marriage.
It unites us and when that union is broken, there is an emotional toll!
No one walks away unaffected from sex.
Which is why we see lots of individuals coming into marriage with shame of past mistakes.
They are already bringing brokenness into their marriage before it has even started.
What’s the Solution?
There is hope in Jesus!
The amazing thing is that God loves us in spite of our mess and promises to forgive us if we will confess our sins to Him!
Check out the way the Bible describes this in 1 John!
1 John 1:7-9
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Isn’t this amazing news?!
So even if you have had premarital sex or if you have committed adultery, if you will confess your sins to God, HE WILL FORGIVE YOU!
And as it says at the end in verse 9, He also will PURIFY YOU!
You don’t have to enter your marriage in shame!
Or if you have shame right now and you are married, you can repent and be purified!
Jesus offers you hope and the purity that you cannot obtain on your own!
And if you have teenagers, you NEED to be speaking this truth into their life.
Don’t let them walk into relationships unaware of the shame and heartache that awakens if they choose to indulge in the physical side of relationships prior to marriage.
No teen thinks about how their decisions in the “heat of the moment” are going to cause problems in their marriage down the road.
This needs to be a conversation you have with your teen; DO NOT leave such an important topic in the hands of their teachers at school or even in the hands of their teachers at church.
This responsibility fully rests in the hands of the parents!
Problem #4 – We Aren’t Fulfilling the Roles God Designed for Marriage
And how about the roles that God designed for each spouse to have?
Let’s start with Adam since He was created first.
God’s Design for Husbands in Marriage
We read above that Adam’s task is to work and take care of the Garden.
And the Garden was not just the land and the animals – EVE was also in the Garden.
So part of Adam’s God designed task is to take care of Eve!
And this is God’s design for marriages today – that husbands would care for their wives!
Unsure of what that means or looks like?
God has directions and instructions in the Bible for husbands on how to do just that!
If you are unsure of what it looks like to be a Biblical husband and pursue God’s design for your role as a husband, please check out my post “6 Ways to Grow in Being a Biblical Husband“.
This post dives deeper into Bible passages related to husbands and gives practical steps to help you grow in your role as a husband!
God’s Design for Wives in Marriage
And what about a wife’s God-given role?
As a reminder, in Genesis we read that Eve was given the role of being Adam’s helper.
Our husbands have BIG SHOES to fill!
And it is our job to HELP them with this task.
But let’s be honest, we don’t always make this easy do we?
Are there any other wives like me (trust me, I’m preaching to myself here!) that are guilty of nagging, complaining, picking a fight, proving you are right, or criticizing our husbands (especially to our friends or in front of our kids)?
All of these things that wives do just tear down our marriage and convert us from helpers into adversaries!
But don’t worry wives, I have you covered too!
If you are looking for guidance on how to grow in your role of being a Biblical wife, please check out my post “6 Ways to Grow in Being a Biblical Wife“.
Just like with the post above for husbands, this post takes a closer look at Bible passages related to wives and gives practical steps to help you grow in your role as a wife!
The Beauty of the Roles God Has Given Husbands and Wives
God has clearly created specific roles for husbands and wives.
When both the husband and wife are fulfilling their God-given roles, there is so much synergy!
A husband who loves his wife cares for her, and a wife who feels cared for certainly wants to help her husband!
And a wife that doesn’t undermine her husband’s authority and truly helps her husband is a wife that is easy to love and care for!
It’s amazing when you take a step back and look at how marriage roles SHOULD work.
It can either be a vicious cycle where we cut one another down and there are lots of problems in our marriage.
That would look like this: wife nags, husband stonewalls, wife criticizes, husband yells, etc.
Or it can be an energizing cycle where we build each other up and we have LESS problems in our marriage!
That would look like this: husband loves, wife submits, husband cares for, wife helps, etc.
The choice is yours, which cycle do you want your marriage to be running on today?
If you are on the vicious cycle, someone has to take the first step to get you out of it!
So why not let that be YOU today?!
Pursuing God’s Design for Your Marriage
I wish there was a way that reading this post would somehow fix all of the cultural norms that are outside of God’s design for marriage.
Unfortunately there is no “undo” button on life to go back to the Garden of Eden.
But I DO hope that you have new insight on God’s perfect design for marriage!
God DID have a perfect deign for marriage and He tells us how we can pursue His perfect plan in the Bible.
The Bible truly holds the wisdom we need for everything, including the problems we face in marriage.
I hope that you can see how things can work more smoothly when we pursue God’s design for marriage instead of cultural norms!
Comment below with one thing you are going to commit to doing differently for your marriage today!