There is a crisis in our culture today – a pandemic – that has become so prevalent, so ubiquitous, that it is viewed as normal, innocuous, and even natural… and we must fight against it.
The issue I’m talking about is divorce. The heartbreaking reality is that divorce is now a norm – it’s basically to be expected. A family restaurant in Portland once had this statement in their ads: “We’ll cater for your weddings, for your rehearsal dinners, for your showers, your anniversaries, your birthdays, and your divorces.” The author Stu Weber puts it this way: “To our society’s blurred and perverted way of thinking, separation and divorce have become a ‘natural’ part of the flow of life. The unthinkable has become not only ‘thinkable,’ but the expected thing.”
How can this be? Why has divorce become so common? Why are men and women alike so quick to give up so easily, just because things get hard? (And it is almost as common amongst professing Christians as it is in the secular world). Well, I don’t think the women are innocent in this, but since I am a man, I will talk to the men. I think the number one problem is that men no longer have staying power.
Staying power is that quality that enables a man to persevere, to hold fast, to stand firm. In his letter to scattered and suffering Christians, James termed that same quality “perseverance.” Paul often gives us the command to “stand firm.” The word translated “stand firm” is the word stete. This is the word the Roman soldiers would shout to each other as they were in their unbreakable formation. They would call to each other to stand firm – to hold their ground. It is a word that means “to stay, unmovable, in the task which you have started, because you know it’s the right thing to do” (Gene Cunningham). This is a man’s greatest strength, and highest virtue – the ability to stay, no matter what.
The ultimate example of this virtue in the Old Testament, is Job. A completely righteous man, Job lost everything he loved and everything he owned, at no fault of his own. His friends degraded him; his wife urged him to “curse God and die.” If anyone had a reason to give up and quit, it was Job. And yet he stays faithful to God. As you read through the book of Job, there is a sense of permanence to Job. He is strong, stable, secure in who he is before God, and he remains consistent throughout his trials. In Job 13:15 we see the ultimate statement of trust in God, and it has become my life verse – “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” You see, Job’s security did not rest in what he owned, in what he could achieve, in people he knew, in his status in the community; Job’s identity and security rested in Yahweh.
A man’s greatest strength is the ability to “stay by the stuff.” To stand, unmovable, rooted in the security of who he is before God.
“The ability to make and keep promises is central to manhood. It may be trite to say that ‘a man’s word is his bond’ but it is never trite to see it in action. It is a man at his best – giving his word and making good on it, making a promise and keeping it. The calling of every man is to offer stability to a world of chaos. Certainty to a jungle of unpredictability. Consistency to a world of flux. Security to an insecure place” (Stu Weber, Tender Warrior, pg. 59).
But these days, if a marriage gets hard, the automatic response is to give up on it. A friend of mine said that someone once told him that since his marriage was hard, it probably meant that he didn’t marry the right woman and that he should consider getting a divorce and looking for the right one. Can you believe that? To me, that’s shocking, mind-boggling, and sickening…
But what is the solution? If your marriage is in shambles, how do you respond? Well, I think it all comes down to commitment. Recognize the sacred vow you’ve made before God and family, and keep your word. That’s what makes a man a man. When my parents were growing up, if something wasn’t working right, you didn’t just throw it away, you fixed it.
1 Peter 3:7 tells men to live with their wives in an understanding way. But when men can’t seem to understand their wives after a few years, they give up. Instead, I would exhort men to work at it… don’t give up… stay at it. Let your yes be yes. So many men give up after a few years of faltering. But real men don’t have that option. Godly men do not have that option. A man stands firm. A man endures. A man keeps his word. A man stays.
Somewhere along the line people started getting into theirs heads that they deserve whatever they feel like having at any given point in time. But since when is our personal selfish desire ever the gauge by which we measure the rightness of our actions? Honestly, it all comes down to whether or not men are willing to obey the Word of God. God commands us as men to love our wives as Christ loves the church. This is a self-sacrificial, undying, unconditional love. Christ has never given up on His people, and never will. So any man who claims to follow Christ should never be seen giving up on his responsibility to love his wife selflessly and unconditionally.
A man who serves Christ should be a man to whom people can look as someone constant in a culture of non-commitment; someone stable in a world of chaos; someone who stays, amongst a multitude of boys who retreat. A man’s greatest strength is his staying power.