Brownlow North was a well-known evangelist in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. He served in Scotland, but also played a notable role in the Ulster revival of 1859. One fact about Mr. North that is less well known is that, as an unconverted twenty- something, during one winter he asked nineteen ladies to be his wife! They all said yes! It would appear that Mr. North was like many young people—he didn’t know what he wanted in a spouse.
In rightly identifying a future husband or wife, we should have a clear view of marriage as ordained and governed by the Lord. In the last issue we noted a definition of marriage arising from Malachi 2:14, “Yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.” When we accept that marriage is a covenant of companionship, we will have a better sense of what we are looking for in a spouse. The covenant aspect underlines the solemnity of the matter. The issue of companionship speaks to the sweetness of the matter.
Before coming to the features of companionship, I want to emphasize that companionship in marriage is a biblical concept. God uses marriage to illustrate the relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Those who know the Lord can testify to the truth that one of the blessings of saving grace is being reconciled to God. When a soul is saved, enmity with God is removed and communion and fellowship are restored. The believer is said to “walk with God.” Christ is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. Hence, if marriage is to fulfil its God-given goal of illustrating Christ and the church, this concept of companionship must not be ignored. Sadly, there are some who carry the symbols and appearance of Christianity who know nothing of the reality of this fellowship with God. As such they make a mockery of the appearance. Similarly, in marriage—some people wear the symbol of a ring when the substance is absent. Young people considering marriage must see companionship as a vital and biblical goal.
Companions delight in each other’s company. As the Christian delights to hear the Lord and speak to the Lord, so married persons ought to delight in listening and talking. You should never consider marriage to someone whose company you don’t enjoy. You might like to look at them, but it’s very important you want to hear them and that they are glad to hear you!
Companions share with each other. The word “companion” arises from an old French word meaning “one who breaks bread with another.” Companions will also be prepared to sacrifice self for the other’s good. Companions encourage and support one another. “A friend loveth at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). This is the basis of the marriage vows: “In sickness or in health, for richer or for poorer.” Companionship involves a loving support that doesn’t fail, no matter the trial.
Companions help one another to fulfil their God-given tasks in life. In this area, the wife in particular is singled out. Genesis 2:20 refers to the wife as an “help meet.” The wife is seen by God as a necessary and suitable helper for her husband. Of course, this does not excuse the husband from helping his wife. He is to nourish and cherish her (Ephesians 5:29). He is to live with her according to knowledge, giving her honour, as the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7).
Christ is the greatest example of a companion. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). “For even the Son of man came not to be [served], but to [serve], and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Lord is the perfect manifestation of one who looked not “on his own things” but “also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4).
When we consider the joy of companionship it is obvious why we desire marriage; however, marriage is a terrible hardship when one party is marked by selfishness. A selfish spouse is a snare! Be warned young people! Beware being attracted to someone whose life revolves around themselves. Seek a spouse whom you delight to serve. Seek a spouse who delights to serve you. It’s a good form of marital conflict when spouses are in competition of serving one another!