May 16, 2015

Dealing with dysfunction

Genesis 2:2, 1 Chronicles 3:1–4:23, 1 Timothy 3:8–16, Psalm 77:1–20

In the beginning, God said, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) One man, one wife, God’s plan from the beginning soon changed. The early societies began changing that arrangement to one man and multiple wives. The Bible doesn’t give a lot of details, but this did create problems in several situations, such as in the family of Jacob.

By the time of David, the multiple wives thing still happened, but God’s intention for marriage had not changed. As I read these verses from the Old Testament, I wondered if the dysfunction in David’s family stemmed from too many wives . . .  

“These are the sons of David who were born to him in Hebron: the firstborn, Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelite; the second, Daniel, by Abigail the Carmelite, the third, Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah, by Abital; the sixth, Ithream, by his wife Eglah; six were born to him in Hebron, where he reigned for seven years and six months. And he reigned thirty-three years in Jerusalem.” (1 Chronicles 3:1–4)

Six wives, six sons, other offspring; no wonder they had conflict. Some might say that their culture was not the same so this was an okay arrangement, but according to the New Testament, God’s plan had not changed. Even several hundred years after the time of David, clearly God still intended marriage to be one man and one wife.

This comes out in a passage that gives direction for appointing church elders and deacons: “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.” (1 Timothy 3:11–12)

One man and one wife is important, as is good management of the home. This seems obvious in today’s world when absentee dads and other issues have fractured families. It seems to me that multiple wives would only add to the stress of marriage. Multiple marriages with one spouse at a time also lead to heartbreak.

I’ve been married twice. The trauma and sense of failure after that first divorce brought me to my knees before Christ. I’ve now been married forty-four years to my second husband, yet we have seen our children struggle with the one man-one woman principle. Their broken relationships and multiple heartaches give us pain, as do the struggles of many other people whose relationships are not working out the way God intended.

When I pray for struggling couples and dysfunctional families, today’s reading from psalms expresses some of the emotions of my heart: “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah” (Psalm 77:1–3)

The farther anyone moves from the will of God, the less God’s blessing is experienced. Unfortunately, many of us must learn this sad truth from experience in the school of hard knocks.

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