Don’t Jump Ship

I remember growing up as a kid with T.V. shows like, “Leave it to Beaver”; “The Donna Reed Show”; “The Ozzie and Harriet Show”; “The Dick Van Dyke Show”; and “Father Knows Best”.  And while these shows tended to be a little idealistic in the way they portrayed the American family—they, nevertheless reflected the norm in our society at that time—what some have called the “traditional family unit”.
You have to understand the era that gave birth to shows like these. During the 40’s and 50’s and up until the early 60’s there was a post war idealism and optimism that pervaded our country.  The economy was booming, babies were booming, patriotism was in vogue, life was sacred and prayer was still in public schools.
In those days people got married first and then lived together (how novel!). Closets were for clothes (not for coming out of) and bunnies were small rabbits. Back then grass was mowed, coke was a drink, ‘gay’ meant happy, and ‘aids’ were helpers in the principal’s office—a kind of innocence abounded.
People in authority were respected, our elected officials were trusted and in general there was a kind of ‘youthful optimism’ that characterized our nation—that even though the world was not perfect, good would eventually triumph over evil and somehow America would lead the way.
In that atmosphere of innocence, traditional values and optimism the American family flourished. But then came the assignation of John F. Kennedy, Roe v. Wade, the banning of prayer in our public schools, the sexual revolution, and Watergate.
In ten short years our country went from innocence and optimism to cynicism and pessimism. Patriotism was out; traditional values were out; the ‘new morality’ was in and nothing suffered more than marriage and family.
In 1871, there was only 1 divorce for every 1000 Christian marriages in this country. And yet today I have heard that Christian marriages are failing at about the same rate as secular marriages.  Some States have become so alarmed by the growing divorce rate and the implications it’s having on families and ultimately on society, that they have begun to offer what they call “Covenant Marriage Licenses.” 
A covenant marriage requires premarital counseling and marital counseling in order to later solve conflicts in the marriage, before dissolving it. Though no-fault divorces are not permitted, the couple can divorce after a two-year separation or if one spouse is guilty of adultery, the physical or sexual abuse of the other spouse or a child, abandoned the home, or was convicted of a felony. Couples who are already married can convert their marriage to a covenant marriage. Several other states have considered covenant marriages as an option to the more traditional, easy-to-get-out-of, contracts.
Now I understand what they are trying to do but law is always an inferior bond to holding marriages together than is love—God’s love.  In the Bible God defines true love as a commitment not a feeling. Feelings come and go, they ebb and flow according to various outside influences or pressures.
Sometimes the passion is flowing and your relationship with your spouse feels like your still on your honeymoon and other times your relationship feels cold and formal—like partners in a business arrangement instead of two people in love.
When you’re passion for one another cools, that is not the time to go looking for another relationship—it’s time to fall back on the commitment you made to each other when you first stood before God, family and friends and pledged to love each other (to remain committed to each other) for better or worse, in sickness and in health for the rest of your lives—even when you don’t feel like it.
Marriage is like a ship that a man and a woman enter into as they embark on a journey together for the rest of their lives that will include sunshine and storms, smooth sailing and rough seas.
The key is commitment. It’s the commitment, not feelings that will bind you together and allow you to weather the storm—which will eventually pass.
Allow me to use this to segue into Acts 27—which technically has nothing to do with marriage, and yet the lessons here have everything to do with marriage.
After being falsely accused by the Jews of being a “rabble-rouser” and jumping through legal hoops in Caesarea, Paul was finally sailing toward Rome to plead his case before Caesar.  On the way, a storm arose that threatened the lives of the two hundred seventy-six soldiers, sailors, and prisoners on board with Paul.
One night an angel appeared to Paul and told him that the ship would be lost but God would spare the lives of everyone on board. However, not long after Paul shared this with the captain and Roman Centurion several of the ship’s crew tried to jump ship. We read:
Acts 27:30-32 (NKJV) 
30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow,31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”32  
Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.
I believe Paul’s words, even though not directed at marriage, express the heart of God for us today with regard to our marriages.  Just as these men found themselves in a situation where they had to stay committed to each other and work together in order to survive the storm—the same is true in marriage.
There are times in marriage (maybe you’re in one right now) where the wind is howling, the storm is raging, and you find yourself saying, “I’m out of here. I’m jumping ship. I cannot take this marriage one more day.”
But if you jump ship know this—you will miss the blessing of seeing God work a miracle in taking, what seems to be a hopeless situation, and turning it into such a blessing that you will realize that this is  the one that God truly chose to be your spouse for life!
Someone has written a book on marriage with the award winning title, “Good marriages take time—bad marriages take more time.”
Listen again to the apostle’s warning, “If you jump ship, no one will make it.”
I want you to stop and think of your children, if you have any, and how this will affect them. Many children of divorce suffer the emotional damage for the rest of their lives even to the point of suffering one or more failed marriages themselves.  Look, I’m not saying it won’t take hard work, sacrifice and a lot of prayer for your marriage to weather the storm you’re going through but “with God all things are possible“.
And that’s not to say that divorce isn’t sometimes necessary in cases of continued infidelity and or physical abuse. I’m just saying that too many Christian couples follow the example of the world and rush into divorce when the storms hit and things get a little rough.
There are some who are saying, “I haven’t jumped ship. I’ve only lowered a lifeboat over the side. I’m gonna give it two more weeks, or three more months, or one more year.”
Listen, if you keep an escape option open in your mind, I guarantee you will end up using it. If you keep thinking about divorce—you will end up divorced. No marriage can survive a strong marital storm as long as you’ve got one foot in the “lifeboat” contemplating jumping ship. Get rid of the lifeboat. Cut the ropes. Stop planning your escape.
Tell yourself—“Divorce is not an option!”
God can work a miracle if you will trust Him, obey His Word and commit yourself totally to His will for your life.  Remember, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) which means that all the power of God is at your disposal for saving your marriage—so don’t jump ship!
Pastor Phil