It happened one hundred years ago on April 15, 1912. The newly commissioned steamer, the RMS Titanic, struck an iceberg and foundered in the north Atlantic Ocean. Among the passengers was an elderly couple, Isidor and Ida Straus, who had been married forty-one years. As the doomed ship sank slowly but surely into the sea, Isidor and Ida were seen standing near a lifeboat. The officer in charge urged them to climb on board, but Isidor refused to do so as long as there were women and children still remaining on the ship. Isidor urged his wife to get into the lifeboat, but she declined. “We have lived together for many years,” she said. “Where you go, I go.” They were among the drowning victims of the Titanic disaster.
The story of Isidor and Ida is one of abiding marital love that continued strong and true “till death us do part.” Such love is a rare commodity in our day. A high percentage of marriage relationships, once begun in earnest and with great promise, end up foundering “on the rocks” and sinking into divorce.
The question may be asked: How may couples find strength to remain true to their marriage vows in the middle of the stiff challenges they are bound to encounter while traversing life’s tempestuous sea? Christian couples will want to keep before them the truth of Holy Scripture that marriage is a sacred institution which God designed from the beginning for their blessing (see Genesis chapter 2). Since marriage is God’s institution (and not man’s idea), throughout their life-voyage together the couple will want to look to God’s Word for the heavenly counsel it offers. They will seek the Bible’s counsel on a regular basis, and especially during periods of marital stress.
Christian couples will also remember with gratitude to God three great blessings He has in mind for them through His sacred institution.
1) God created Eve to be the companion and helper which Adam was not able to find among the other creatures God had created (see Genesis 2:18). Still today God confers on married couples the blessings of mutual support and companionship throughout their time together on Earth.
2) The creation account in the book of Genesis records how God made Adam and Eve sexual creatures—“male and female.” He instituted marriage as the means by which He might bestow sexual happiness on husband and wife. Marriage is also intended to serve as a means to avoid immorality in this sinful world (see Genesis 3, 1 Corinthians 7:2).
3) Another blessing God bestows through the holy estate of marriage is the gift of children. Children aren’t mere accidents of nature, as the unbelieving world would have it, but they are special treasures from the Lord graciously awarded to couples as He sees fit (see Psalm 127:3). At the same time He grants them the privilege of training up little ones to trust in Him as their Savior, to serve Him in grateful love, and finally to live with Him in heaven for the praise of His glory.
Since the entrance of sin into the world, many are the temptations married couples face to sever the love-bond which the Lord has created between them. Christian spouses may often feel like they are swimming upstream against the strong current of the times. But as they spend time together in God’s Word, looking to their heavenly Father for guidance, and as they treasure up the blessings of marriage in their hearts, they will find themselves well equipped by the Lord to fulfill the special roles He has assigned to each within the marriage relationship.
The apostle Paul’s familiar but compelling words regarding the respective roles of each spouse are these: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word….Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior…” (Ephesians 5:25-26, 22-23 NIV). With Christ as their Pilot and His Word as their compass, the “ship” of a couple’s marriage will continue safely on its voyage “till death us do part.”