Marry Someone to Suffer With

(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.   

Thinking Through Faith and…Marriage

As 2017 draws to a close, I want to thank those of you who took time this year to read the blog. I started this primarily to force myself to be a more disciplined and consistent writer, but your feedback has been enormously helpful. As of today there have been over 36,000 views of the blog this year – exceeding my wildest dreams! By the way, if you haven’t do so, subscribe to the blog by entering your email in the box you see on the left so that you can get these posts delivered to your virtual mailbox.

Over the next couple of days I want to pull together links to the articles from the past year that mean the most to me personally. First up: various posts about marriage.

The “Mystery” of Marriage – a look at Paul’s understanding of marriage as a model of the eternal plan of redemption.

Love, Marriage, and Commitment – a survey of love songs over the years and what they tell us about the changing understanding of “love”.

The Degrading Plague of Pornography – one of the gravest threats to marriage in our culture.

Marriage, “From Here to Eternity” – placing marriage in the context of eternal realities.

Put on the New Self…In Marriage – applying the description of a transformed life in Ephesians 4 to marriage in particular.

“To Have and to Hold…Until Death Do We Part” – a tribute to two heroic examples of sacrificial love in marriage.

In Sickness and in Health – a personal story about love in the midst of illness.

A Second Look at Mike Pence’s “Rule” – those who believe marriage is a sacred covenant with God take special care to protect it.


A Second Look at Mike Pence’s “Rule”

Back in March the Washington Post ran a profile of Mike Pence’s wife which mentioned his longstanding practice of not socializing alone with women other than his family. News of this practice was met with scorn, outrage, and derision by many critics. In their view, this was an affront to the equality of women in the workplace – or worse (this is the rape culture at work!).

At the time, I pointed out that while Pence’s scruples may seem highly unusual to some, this was a widely accepted safe-guard among those of us who are labeled “evangelicals” (it even has a name – the “Billy Graham Rule”). For those of us who believe that marriage is truly a sacred commitment before God, maintaining clear boundaries around marriage is just common sense. I recognized then (and now) that not everyone shares the same religious convictions about (what used to be commonly referred to as) “holy matrimony,” and that even among those who do, not everyone follows this cautious principle. But I argued that surely even those who disagree with how Pence and his wife approach this matter of judgment could at least see why they do so, and maybe even feel a certain sense of grudging admiration for such conviction. Continue reading

In Sickness and In Health

One night last week my wife was working late, so I grabbed a bite by myself at one of Plant City’s landmark restaurants, Fred’s. As I was getting back into the car to go home, I noticed a man helping a woman into a van. She did not appear to be old enough to be his mother, and the way they interacted almost certainly indicated that she was his wife.

And she was in poor health. She used a scooter to get around, and she was also on oxygen. In order for her to get into their van, she needed her husband’s help. I watched as he positioned the scooter in order for her to stand up and then navigated her into the passenger seat. This took a long time, and obviously took a lot out of her. Then, he moved the scooter to the back of the van, and (after some effort) mounted the scooter on the brackets that held it in place. Continue reading

“To Have and to Hold…Til Death Do We Part”

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

The New York Times broke the story about Harvey Weinstein’s vile pattern of sexual abuse just after the Vegas shooting. In the days following the nightmare in Vegas, stories were beginning to emerge about the heroes in the midst of that horror, but thanks to the Weinstein bombshell, those stories were quickly lost in the shuffle. This only adds to the tragedy of the events in Vegas. So in this post, I want to draw attention to two heroes.

Those heroes are Jack Beaton and Sonny Melton. Continue reading

Put on the New Self…In Marriage

Yesterday marked 28 years for me as a preacher. My first work was with the Oak Hill church outside of Mount Sterling, Kentucky, and my first Sunday with them was May 14, 1989. I have many wonderful memories of the people there, and love seeing them every time I get the chance to go back and preach in the area. An added blessing for me during that time was the friendship of fellow minister John Smith, who preached nearby in my hometown of Winchester. We got together almost every week, sharing sermon ideas over lunch. In this post I want to pass along one of his ideas that I think is great. But first, some background. Continue reading

Marriage, “From Here to Eternity”

Recently I have been teaching the book of First Corinthians in our adult Bible class at church. The seventh chapter contains Paul’s responses to various questions raised by the Corinthians regarding marriage, divorce, remarriage, and celibacy. Paul’s general recommendation is that in view of a crisis the Corinthians were facing – something he calls “the present distress” (v. 26) – that it is better to remain unmarried if a person is able to live in celibacy. But he also assures the Corinthians that if a person is not blessed with this capacity that marriage is not a sin. Continue reading

The Degrading Plague of Pornography

Yesterday I read a statistic that astounded me. In 2016 porn viewers watched 4.6 billion hours of pornography on one website alone. Americans accounted for forty percent of this. This was stunning to me, but it should not have been. It makes perfect sense given the dominant values of our culture – individualism, consumerism, and materialism. If an individual should be free to do whatever gives him pleasure, and if customers should be able to get whatever they are willing to pay for, and if sex is nothing more than a physical act, then what could possibly reflect the times better than rampant porn use?

Christians are not immune to this problem – as any preacher or elder who has counseled couples in marriages nearly wrecked by porn use can testify.  And given the easy access to pornography through the internet, this problem is only going to get worse. Although this is an awkward subject to address, it is crucial for those who follow Jesus to be aware of this issue, and to have clear convictions about what is wrong with it. Continue reading

Love, Marriage, and Commitment

Here’s a story about love in four songs.

First, a song from 1925 by Irving Berlin-

I’ll be loving you always

with a love that’s true always.

When the things you’ve planned

Need a helping hand,

I will understand always.


Days may not be fair always,

That’s when Ill be there always.

Not for just an hour,

Not for just a day,

Not for just a year,

But always.

What does “love” mean in this song? What was Irving Berlin saying to his wife? I commit to love you, even when times are difficult. And this isn’t just a fleeting emotion – I’ll be there always.

Now, a different view of love, from 1964- Continue reading

The “Mystery” of Marriage

(This was a chapel talk I gave on February 13, 2017, at my alma mater, Florida College. I don’t know how long the link will last, but for now you can watch a Livestream of the service here).

I want to talk to you today about marriage. It seems like an appropriate time to do so – we’ve just enjoyed a great week of lectures about the topic, and it is the day before Valentine’s Day. And seven years ago today I went on the first date with my wife Kristi, so I guess marriage is on my mind.

Specifically I want to talk with you about the “mystery” of marriage – not how strange and perplexing marriage can be, though it sometimes is that! The “mystery” of marriage I have in mind is the language of the apostle Paul at the end of Ephesians 5 – Continue reading