(Yesterday I spoke in the chapel service of my alma mater, Florida College. Here is my talk. You can also watch the complete service online at this link).
I will be reading from 1 Corinthians 7:25-28-
Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.
You sophomores are studying 1 Corinthians this semester, so you’ll discuss various interpretations of what Paul means by the “present distress.” I don’t really know for sure, but his primary point is clear. This crisis will exacerbate the “worldly troubles” all couples face – so much so that Paul, who in other places says marriage is a blessing from God to be received with thanksgiving, in this context says it is better to remain single.
We may not live in what Paul described as “the present distress,” but we do have worldly troubles – and those pressures exert tremendous stress on married couples. Paul wanted the eyes of the Corinthians to be wide open as they faced these hurdles as husband and wife. And what he says here raises a crucial consideration for those of you who are single as you think about the sort of person you’d like to marry. You need to find someone you want to suffer with.
I don’t mean someone who causes you to suffer – although I can assure you that in marriage you often will hurt each other. But what I’m talking about today is committing your life to the person you want by your side more than anyone else when adversity strikes. And it will.
Just a few months after my wife and I married, we noticed a horrible odor coming from our basement – it was an old house, so really more of a cellar. We thought an animal had gotten inside and died. When we went down to investigate, we discovered that the problem was much worse. The sewage drain from our house had ruptured, and our basement was flooded with raw sewage. We had to work for hours to get this horrible mess cleaned up.
Kristi and I have talked about this many times, it was at that very moment – as we both stood in a bunch of poo – that we knew we had married the right person (wouldn’t that make a romantic Valentine’s Day card!). But seriously, it was hard to imagine how we could have to face anything worse together, but my wife didn’t flinch. It confirmed that she was the person I wanted to face the trials of life with.
A few months later, two weeks before our first anniversary, it did get worse – Kristi lost her job. Then, two days before our first anniversary, we found out it could get much worse. Kristi was diagnosed with advanced cancer. But as I have witnessed her courage, her determination, her faith in God, as she has encountered these worldly troubles, I know this is someone I want by my side as I face my own.
And you will face yours. So as you get serious about someone, ask yourself, is this the person I want to suffer with? You can’t predict with certainty how your guy or girl will respond to adversity, but here’s what you can look for. When the class gets tough, do they double down to see it through, or do they drop it? When they get a bad review from the boss at their job, do they take personal responsibility to correct their mistakes, or do they just quit? Are they patient with you when you are at your worst, or do they withdraw and avoid you? When you are alone with each other, do they show the strength of commitment to purity and honor, or do they let the impulse of the moment override their convictions?
Traditional marriage vows say “in sickness and in health, in prosperity and adversity.” These are not mindless platitudes. They are descriptions of what life is really like. And when you say “I do,” you are vowing, THIS is the person I want to face suffering with, and I am pledging to see it through to the end. When you’ve got a person like that by your side, you are indescribably blessed.