Dear Dr. David,

My husband and I have strived to make our marriage a priority.  He is working at our church and many times he has to choose between time spent on our marriage or time spent ministering to others.  It's been a hard balance for both of us, and I have continually reminded him that our marriage is a priority (We both know God is our number one priority). After an interesting talk with our pastor, we started studying if marriage really is a huge priority.  Talk about confusion.  We know that some of marriage's purposes are companionship, support and offspring.  What really confused us was I Corinthians 7, especially the part talking about a single man's purpose being God and a married man's purpose being his wife.  The part seems to finish with our undivided attention needing to be on God.  I don't know how to reconcile this in my mind.  Is marriage really a priority or is it just there to help the other minister?  Should my husband focus a lot more on his ministries than on our marriage? ~ Confused

Dear Confused:

I think the Apostle Paul is recognizing the tendency to have divided interests. He never considers marriage a sin, and doesn’t even elevate it above being single. He is simply reminding us that God comes first, above the wonderful pleasures that are ours to enjoy on this Earth.

Christians should enter marriage because they feel they are united together for life and believe they can serve God more fully than they could singly. But, in many other scriptures we are admonished to be helpmates to one another, serve each other and provide protection for one another. These obligations of marriage can’t be dismissed in favor of serving the church, or fulfilling any other obligation.

Keep in mind that your marriage has value in it of itself. As a couple you are a model to the world, and to each other, of Christ's love for the Church. Your marriage is not just a practical union, but one of a spiritual nature that brings glory to God.

While the tension between your marriage and outside responsibilities is often a "hard balance" for many couples, I think Christian marriage can be a joy. It doesn’t need to be divisive. At one time he may need to give more to the church, at another time he may need to attend more to you, his marriage and family. You can affirm your husband and encourage him to fulfill his church responsibilities, assuming he feels that to be God’s calling on his life, and he can honor and love you so that you feel cherished. (See I Corinthians 13) Together you can practice "deferring to one another in love," modeling Christ’s love in your marriage.

Dear Dr. David,

My husband and I are both in recovery from substance abuse. I have a significant amount of clean time and he had two years. We were having issues with my teenage son recently, which included gang activity and drug experimentation.  I did not believe my husband was so overwhelmed by everything that he was considering leaving.  He left for work one morning a month ago and has never come home.  To make matters worse he never went to work and ended up living out there in the streets doing drugs again.  We have a five year old who is struggling and I am seven months pregnant.  I saw him five days ago and approached him and he promised he was coming home and that he loves us all.  He is scared to come back and face the family.  He never did keep his promise and come home.  I am devastated.  I am facing increased financial problems, am concerned about our home, and wonder what will happen. I cry a lot and then I get angry.  I have lost weight and my doctor is concerned about my stability.  I pray continually and read the Word but I feel scared and hopeless.  How do I work past this? ~ Abandoned

Dear Abandoned: