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The Fear Factor in Marriage, Part I

  • Barry R. Leventhal, Ph.D. Two Becoming One
  • Published Oct 22, 2004
The Fear Factor in Marriage, Part I

The fear factor in marriage is like a virus. It remains just under the surface, perhaps for years, just waiting for the right precipitating incident or weakness to strike full force and devastate your marriage. What is this virus-like fear factor in marriage? How does it come to pass? What does it do to our marriages? And, most important, what can we do about it?

The Fear Factor in the Bible

This fear factor is no small matter in the Bible. The various terms clustered around the word "fear" appear approximately 300 times in the Bible. When you add another 170 uses of terms related to the word "afraid," you can see that we humans suffer from a major fear factor. And that doesn't even account for hundreds of uses of terms like being "anxious," being "worried," being "troubled," being "timid," etc. It is no wonder the fear factor runs through the entire course of the biblical record, from our first parents in the Garden of Eden fleeing from God in fear (Gen. 3) to the merchants of Babylon standing at a distance in fear of God's final judgment (Rev. 18).

Sometimes the biblical characters rightly experienced the fear factor: when attempting to flee from God's judgment for sin, when attempting to flee from opposing armies, when attempting to flee from dire circumstances such as famines, earthquakes, hale storms, and, you guessed it, from marital disputes. But, like most of us, the primary fear factor that the biblical characters faced was what G. K. Chesterton, in his book Tremendous Trifles (1917), called, "fear [that] does not come from fairy tales; [but] the fear [that] comes from the Universe of the soul."

The Fear Factor in Our Marriages

Yes, that's the source of the fears in our marriages: a fear factor that arises out of the Universe of the soul, a fear that is some how bound up with the very core of our beings, a virus-like fear that infects our marriages and threatens the very health and vitality of our marital intimacy.

Think of the following examples. Many wives fear that their husbands will stop loving them, especially as they grow older and no longer match up to our culture's demands for beauty and sex. Many husbands fear that their wives will stop respecting them because they aren't bringing in the financial rewards they promised. Will we be able to pay our bills next month? Or even this month? Will we lose our house?

Many married couples fear having children in a immoral culture like ours, or, if they do have children, that they may grow up and wipe themselves out, either physically, emotionally, or morally. Many of us fear what we might have to do in caring for our aging parents: the financial costs, the time commitment, the medical and psychological traumas, etc. Or, as we grow older ourselves, it is not unusual for us to fear what might happen to us when we "get older and grayer": Will I contract cancer or Alzheimer's disease? What will happen if my spouse goes home to be with the Lord before I do? How will I carry on? Will I have enough assets to survive? Will I ever find some else to love me? On and on it goes.

There seems to be no short fall of fear factor issues in our lives and marriages. But the real issue is: What can we do about them?

The Fear Factor Remedy

What is the remedy for the fear factor in our marriages? What kind of medicine does God offer us so that this fear factor virus will not rise up and kill our marriage? First, and foremost, we need to remember that when the fear factor virus strikes our marriage (as it surely will), that God's promise of His own personal Presence is still true: God commits Himself, without reservation, to stand with us in every circumstance. In His abiding Presence the fear factor must flee.

In the Old Testament alone, God promised Israel some 104 times, "I will be with you." This is also true in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Physician of His people, is "Immanuel, which translated means, 'God with us'" (Matt. 1:23). He promised that "where two or three have gathered in [His] name, I am there in their midst" (Matt. 18:20). And He made the same commitment to us in His Great Commission, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). That's why the Bible teaches us to:

Make sure that [our] character is free from the love of money, being content with what [we] have; for He Himself has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you," so that we confidently say, "The LORD is my Helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?" (Heb. 13:5-6).

Your Own Marriage and the Fear Factor:

In light of the fact that God is totally committed to setting your marriage free from the fear factor virus, prayerfully answer the following questions:

1. Did you sense the Lord's personal Presence in your lives the last time you experienced the fear factor in your marriage? If not, why not? Why not invite Him into to your marriage as Lord and Savior right now.

2. As a married couple, what can you do right now to make sure that when the fear factor virus attacks your marriage again you will experience God's reassuring and comforting personal Presence? How about memorizing Hebrews 13:5-6 and praying back to God in your own words.

© 2004 Christian Family Life


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