Today it’s my pleasure to have marriage expert (and my dad) Paul Linzey as a guest blogger. After seeing several marriages fall apart in the last couple months, I approached Paul and asked him to guest-write on this topic, and he graciously agreed. So, without further ado, take it away!
The first term in the Bible for couples is not husband, wife, spouse, partner, or mate. The first word for a married person is “Helper.”
After each day of creation, God looked at what he made and said, “It’s good.” But after he made man, he looked and said, “Hmmm. Something’s not good here. He needs help” (Genesis 2:18).
It’s important for both husband and wife to keep in mind that their first and most important role in the marriage is to help. It’s also a good idea to understand what “help” means and what it doesn’t mean. For example, when God made a woman to be the man’s helper, it does NOT mean she is less important. It does NOT mean he is the main character and she is the assistant.
Throughout the Bible, God is called our helper. We see this in Exodus 18:4:
“My father’s God was my helper.”
And in Deuteronomy 33:29:
“The Lord is my shield and helper.”
Two of the many Psalms that refer to God as helper are Psalm 10:14:
“God, you are the helper to the fatherless,”
and Psalm 46:1:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
In American culture, we tend to think of a helper as someone who’s less important. A good analogy would be a sidekick, a companion or colleague who is usually considered to be subordinate. The sidekick is not the hero, not the leading role. It’s a support character. But this is NOT what God had in mind when he created woman for man, and man for woman.
When helper is used in the Bible, it’s just the opposite. God is our helper, and he’s certainly not the sidekick. He’s the strong one. And this is the term used for the first woman. God has no intention of men thinking they are the more important person in the marriage. No hint that the woman is of lesser value.
The point is that in marriage, a woman represents God to her husband. Similarly, a man represents God to his wife. Each of us needs help in many ways. God is our help, but he often uses people to be his hand extended, his love expressed, his agent to help in time of need.
We need to understand this not just in theory, but in practical ways, as well. For example, next time there’s an argument or a conflict, what would happen if the husband and wife said to themselves, “My lover is obviously upset about this. What can I do to help? What words can I choose that, instead of making things worse, will actually help make things better?”
Think for a minute about your spouse. What chore around the house does he or she hate? You could offer to do that. Does your partner have a huge project to get started on? Perhaps you could volunteer to assist, without trying to take over and be in charge.
My wife is a teacher, and has a ton of books – literally! When she had to move to a new office across campus, I volunteered to spend a day helping move her books, files, and other stuff. Then a few weeks later, I took an afternoon to help her rearrange the bookshelves.
A couple of weeks ago, I was yelling at my computer because it wasn’t behaving how it was supposed to. Have you ever yelled or talked to your computer? If so, or if you’ve already switched to Windows 10 or Office 16, you understand. In my desperation, my wife stepped in and asked if she could help.
She solved the problem and taught me a few things about the software.
The fact is, we all need help from time to time. What if when we’re on our way home from a tough day at work, we turned our thoughts towards home and started thinking about the minute we’ll walk through the door, how we can be a helper to the people living there. Can our words bring healing instead of pain? Can our actions invite peace instead of strife? Can our behavior encourage rather than tear down our partner and kids?
Life is hard in many ways – financially, emotionally, physically, relationally, career, parenting, and more. Life beats us up. We need someone to come alongside, put an arm around us, and be there for us. God invented marriage so we’d have a friend to help when the going gets tough.
Retired from the Army chaplain corps, Paul Linzey is now focusing on writing, speaking, and mentoring. He’s a teaching pastor at Friendship Church in Lakeland, FL, and an adjunct professor in the College of Christian Ministry and Religion at Southeastern University, also in Lakeland, FL.
His training includes a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA; Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, He and his wife have spoken at marriage and parenting seminars and retreats for many years.