Marriage Matters: Lessons from Biblical Couples 4
Jacob and Rachel – Commitment Matters
I am sure we have all heard some cynical comments about the costs of marriage at some point in our lives. We hear people talk about giving up their freedom to settle down; we listen to soundbytes of supposed scholars lecturing about how monogamy is actually an unnatural state and marriage is nothing but enslavement; we watch coworkers and TV stars joke about their wives as “the old ball-and-chain” or about their weddings as “the day my life ended.” This view of marriage as pointless and destructive is primarily based on what an individual must give up in marrying someone else—financial independence, casual dating, career opportunities, etc.
To be frank, there are many things that we give up to be married, but we must not forget all that we gain in return. Jacob’s relationship with Rachel in the Bible is a powerful example of commitment—counting the costs and determining in our hearts that the chance to love and be loved by this person and only this person is worth it all.
Scripture tells us, “Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’… So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her” (Genesis 29:18,20). Jacob worked for his uncle Laban for seven years just to marry Laban’s daughter, Rachel. We are not told of any other wages or rewards he received for this long period of service. To make matters worse, when Laban finally agreed to give Rachel to Jacob as his wife, he tricked him into marrying his other daughter Leah instead! In order to marry Rachel, the one woman Jacob loved dearly and had sacrificed so much for, he then had to work an additional seven years for his uncle. Talk about enslavement!
Jacob sacrificed 14 whole years of his life working in the fields for Laban, all to marry his beloved. This is true commitment! In the many days between their meeting and their marriage, Jacob could have gone home or traveled elsewhere. He could have met other women to marry or headed off to amass a fortune. But Jacob stayed where Rachel was because a life spent with her was worth everything he had to offer. God honors love like that.
Marriages are built on the vows we say to each other at our weddings—vows that promise we will hold on to each other in sickness and in health, in wealth and in poverty, forsaking everyone else, as long as we live. Sometimes, the further into the past our wedding day fades, the easier it becomes to forget that nothing about a commitment like that is easy or casual. Hanging on to each other through every circumstance life throws our way is an incredible challenge. However, full commitment with nothing held back is God’s modus operandi and it needs to be ours too.
Here is the hard truth. Our spouses might get terribly sick and require constant care. They might lose their jobs and struggle to find another one, leaving us with very little to live on in the process. We may have children and lose them, or we may suffer the disappointment of never having children at all. Our spouses will age and they may become unattractive or even unrecognizable as the person we once fell in love with. They may wrestle with mental, emotional, or spiritual struggles we never saw coming and that we have no idea how to deal with. We may one day find ourselves feeling like strangers after a life of focusing so much on others that we forgot about nurturing our bond. However, when we are committed to our marriage, to making it Christ-honoring and mutually beneficial and emotionally intimate, none of those circumstances can matter enough to break us apart. We are free to seek help and wise counsel (and in many cases we should), but commitment means that we are in this marriage for as long as the Lord gives us.
Commitment says, “When everyone else walks away, I will never leave your side.”
Commitment says, “You are not a burden and I will do whatever it takes to love you well.”
Commitment says, “You are still the most beautiful person of all because God gave you to me.”
Commitment says, “If you run away, I will come find you. I will not give up.”
Commitment says, “I willingly offer up my life and my ambitions to fulfill the call of God in your life. When you succeed, I succeed because we are one.”
When life gets increasingly difficult, it can be tempting to cocoon ourselves away from intimate relationships in our lives because we feel too vulnerable. We may want to run or give up because we are confused and scared. But it is true commitment that offers us a safe place to fall in those moments. We can draw our spouses even closer to us and promise to hang on to them and to God until the light breaks through. God honors love like that.
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised. (Song of Solomon 8:6-7, ESV)