When each of us entered into our marriage as husband and wife, we had no idea of the difficulty, the challenges, the issues we would face together. Some couples prepare themselves and ride the storms of life, coming out better and wiser as a result. Some end up stuck in survival mode never rising above the trouble; they end up living their lives as married singles with little or no intimacy. And sadly some choose to quit, abandoning their marriage all together.
This Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy. It is sad to remember what happened to the 1500 passengers who lost their lives in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Yet remembering and learning from their story gives purpose to the disaster.
I imagine that when the 2200+ passengers boarded this massive ship they had high hopes and big dreams for what their future would hold. They marveled at the beautiful decor. The anticipation grew as the ship bellowed out its final call signaling their departure. As the Titanic pulled away from the port of Southhampton, England, they couldn’t believe they were actually setting sail on this maiden voyage. They were most likely looking to their new life in America in much the same way a husband and wife do on their wedding day.
It has been said that this tragedy could have been prevented had there been enough life boats on the ship to accommodate every passenger. But there wasn’t. A decision was made to keep the upper decks free from the needed life boats so as to not block the views of the First Class passengers. Really? It was for aesthetics the Titanic became the grave of over 1500 people?
In marriage this same tragedy occurs when a husband and wife put on airs so their marriage looks better than it actually is. Celebrities and those in public positions have been noted to do this. They don’t want to “rock the boat,” so to speak. Instead they end up with a marriage shipwrecked and without hope.
What can we learn from the Titanic disaster to help us in our marriages? I believe there are eight key points (I used the Cosmic Log–10 Causes of the Titanic Tragedy as a reference.):
1. The Titanic crew bragged their ship was “unsinkable.” Recognize your marriage is never above facing the worst of circumstances. When we marry we are two sinners who are quite capable of hurting our spouse in the worst of ways. Recognizing this will help you prepare for such heartbreaking times.
2. The ship’s communication system wasn’t working properly keeping them from signaling the other ships in nearby waters for help. There was one ship only 17 miles away that could have come to their aid had they known in time. How often we can fail to see the importance of having close friends with whom to confide for the health of our marriage. It is important for us to recognize our need for mentors. This requires a humble acknowledgement that we don’t have all the answers. Note: Make sure the couple is strong in the areas in which you are seeking to grow.
3. The climate caused more icebergs. We live in a time when marriage isn’t esteemed as it once was. Divorce is an easy out, and one often justified for nothing more than “incompatibility.” These are icebergs lurking beneath the surface of all marriages. We can avoid them simply by recognizing they are there, and purposing to steer clear of them.
4. Proceed with caution when the waters get rough. The Captain of the Titanic was said to be trying to beat the previous speed of the Olympia. Had they been going slower the ship wouldn’t have sunk so fast. In marriage we can often ignore issues when confronted with them. Things like, “we don’t spend quality time together any more,” can be excused away due to the fast-pace of life. We need to take the time to assess the trouble when it is first discovered. Doing this can help us avoid unnecessary damage.
5. Iceberg warnings went unheeded. This goes along with the previous point, but can include the observations of others. It is good to ask your friends from time to time how they see your marriage? They may have noticed disrespectful responses or unkind words you would normally dismiss as “just the way I am.” Asking these kinds of questions is taking the offensive when it comes to growing your marriage and steering it away from danger.
6. The binoculars were locked up. The binoculars were used to see ahead and prepare for what was coming. This can be compared to our dependence on the Word of God and prayer. Do we take the time to worship together in a local church? Do we purpose to pray together? Do we purpose to study God’s Word and respond to the convictions the Holy Spirit brings? If we answer no to any of these points, we have locked up the binoculars of our marriage.
7. The iron rivets were too weak. Faulty materials are often the reason for the failure of things. So too, in marriage. What we have built our marriage on will determine the strength we will have when trouble comes. Our feelings for each other won’t cut it. It takes a marriage built on the foundation of Christ’s love for His church to endure the storms we will face together. Married love is strongest when it is founded on the Rock of Ages.
8. There weren’t enough life boats. In marriage it is important that we have a plan for when hardship comes. What if your spouse is unfaithful? Who would you go to for help and direction? What if your spouse is disabled? How would you cope with the changes? This may sound morbid to talk about, but it is preparing you for what may happen. In the pre-marital counseling we have had the privilege of doing, one question is always asked, “What is the worst thing your spouse could do that would cause you to want to leave the marriage?” It’s always a question that surprises the Bride and Groom. They can’t imagine their fiance’ ever doing anything to cause them heartache. But this isn’t reality. Tragedy strikes. Sin happens. Knowing how you would want to deal with the news is quite telling. For us, divorce was never an option. We committed to this from the moment Tom proposed, and it has helped us stick together on our own lifeboat, so to speak, rather than diving into the frigid waters facing certain death.
It is sad to think about those who lost their lives on April 15, 1912. But there are many who survived and have stories to tell. We’ll talk about them in our next post.
In the meantime, how prepared were you for the launching of your marriage? What could you have done differently to avoid some of the trouble you’ve faced? What has kept your ship afloat?