simply to enjoy an infatuation and make me “happy”,
then I’d have to get a “new” marriage every two or three years.”
– Gary Thomas The Sacred Marriage
I suppose each of us comes into marriage with the idea that we’ll be happy. I mean, who’d spend months planning a big party and spend thousands of dollars buying the perfect dress, choosing the perfect cake and then invite all their friends to dress in their finery and come to watch the send off to a work camp? A big bon voyage party wishing our friend well as they are carried away to a life sentence where they are sure to grow in character, but thrust of their days would be filled with sorrow, emotional upheaval, struggle, strife, sickness, uncertainty and, ultimately, death? Ugh. How sick would that be? But the reality is that, after the wedding, there’s a lot about marriage that looks like that work camp. But what if it’s all part of God’s plan to mold us into the creation he intended us to be?
Each time we’re called upon to confront our own sinful nature there is spiritual value. And we have many opportunities, beginning even before the wedding, to do just that. Marriage can go a long way to buffing off our rough edges and polishing us along the road of sanctification.
*Marriage can teach us about God. Marriage analogies can be found throughout the Old and New Testaments. In Hosea we’re told that God will no longer be our “master”, but our “husband” whom we’ll be betrothed to forever, which gives us a glimpse into the passion the Lord has for His people. In Matthew, Jesus is the Bridegroom. In Ephesians husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loves the church. The comparisons go on and on.
*Marriage teaches us to love others. When we love well, we please God. Whatever we do to one another we’re doing to the Lord Himself. By loving our spouse even when he is “unlovable” we’re exampling Christ to him, to ourselves and to others. Christianity is all about learning to love and marriage is a great place to get that lesson.
*Marriage can expose our sin. I’m not sure I need to say much about this. I’ve sinned more and caused more sin because of my marriage than I dare to remember or confess and anyone reading this who is married knows EXACTLY what I mean! But, without having had that sin exposed, how could I have grown and, by God’s Grace, overcome it? It’s easy to pretend that I’m perfect in a superficial relationship, but I can’t run from the reality of who I am when I share a bed and a home with for more than twenty years.
*Marriage teaches us to forgive. I think the above says all too well that forgiveness is a must in marriage and by learning to forgive our spouse over and over and over and over…and watching them forgive us, we’re learning about God’s capacity for forgiveness
*Marriage can create in us a servant’s heart. Going into marriage with a “me first” attitude is going to get you one of two things…either a life filled with anger, frustration, tears and harsh words or a divorce. There’s no way around it. If you want a marriage that lasts, one that honors your partner and God, you’ll learn to be a servant and the better and quicker you get the lesson, the more content your time on this earth.
I have friends who have been struggling in their marriage since before the I do’s were said and rings exchanged over a decade ago and are now heading toward a divorce. There is “fault” on both sides. He struggles with unrepentance and honesty issues, she’s a victim and a martyr. Everything that ever goes “wrong” in her world is someone else’s fault and he can’t seem to get past his own pride. They’re both Believers, but they aren’t living victorious in Christ. They’re not allowing their marriage and circumstances to better them. Their years together have not been spent growing their relationship with the Lord, but in name calling, finger pointing and blame. Grasping and demanding that their partner “make them happy”. But it’s not our spouse’s responsibility to make us happy. Happiness, only mentioned a handful of times in the Bible, seems to be coupled with our commitment to the Lord and His blessings upon us. Not in anyway externally generated by another human being.
So to the question of whether marriage was intended to make us happy or holy? I’d have to say that I think that marriage is meant to keep us from sin (1 Cor 7:2) and is part of our continued sanctification (holiness). As we grow in Him we will find happiness.
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