“Marriage has the power to set the course of your life as a whole. If your marriage is strong, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are filled with trouble and weakness, it won’t matter. You will be able to move out into the world in strength.” – Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Do you ever think about the meaning of the words in your wedding vows? “For better or for worse . . . in plenty and in want . . .  in joy and in sorrow . . .in sickness and in health . . . as long as we both shall live.” The words may have been different but the intent was probably the same. Whether you have been married for a short time or for decades, when we get married we make a commitment in that moment of time, with God and friends and family listening. My question is this: Were those just empty words of tradition from the past? Or do they represent a genuine promise of commitment that had meaning then and continues to have meaning today? I believe the level of commitment is instrumental in determining both the longevity and quality of any marriage. 

“Till death do us part” can sound so romantic – but it can also sound ominous. Regardless of whether one marries in a secular or religious ceremony most couples still believe that they are making a permanent commitment. Unfortunately, the divorce rate tells us clearly that intentions are not always enough. 

What happens between the solemn pronouncement of wedding vows and the decision that we have irreconcilable differences? Certainly, this is not a “one size fits all” situation. But I believe that somewhere along the way one or both spouses got bored or tired of trying to make it work. In other words their commitment dissolved.

But here’s the thing: commitment is a mindset, a way of thinking that will enable you and your spouse to navigate through the still waters and the storms of a marriage relationship. Commitment means you’ve promised to stay and work it through, not just today but forever.

Commitment is a decision that comes in two stages: first making the commitment and then keeping the commitment. We make the commitment when we get married.  Keeping the commitment is a different story. Keeping the commitment means that we do loving things for our spouse, speaking kindly and respectfully, and deciding over and over to pay attention to the relationship. it also means that we commit ourselves to God and seek His grace and wisdom in the relationship.

Commitment is also a choice to give up our rights. Although this might at first sound limiting, it actually brings great freedom and depth. Once committed, all one’s energy goes into making this commitment work. No longer are other possibilities a distraction. 

Couples who understand the essence of making a permanent commitment realize that it’s much more than just a decision not to simply let things evolve. It’s a commitment to do the daily work of keeping the commitment alive. It may mean turning off the TV or taking a nightly walk in order to listen to each other’s concerns. These simple actions, and many more, are the stuff of commitment. They are the actions that keep a marriage vibrant, interesting, and exciting. It means being vigilant so temptations or doubts do not surface.

Honor the commitment each of us made when we got married. And every day re-commit to making the marriage all that God intended it to be. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is commitment an overused concept? If so, why?
  2. How do you define commitment in marriage or in relationships?
  3. Do you believe commitment will enable you to: sacrifice for the sake of your marriage, be more satisfied with your relationship and enjoy longer-lasting marriages? Why or why not?
  4. What disciplines are needed to help maintain your faithfulness and commitment in marriage? 
  5. In what areas of marriage do you feel God is calling you to pray and work on going forward?  Spend some time praying.