I read a blog post from my friend, Joe, titled, “Is Marriage the New Divorce?” which prompted the writing of this. In that article, Joe makes this statement:
Married is the new divorced. If you get married before twenty-five people expect you to get divorced. Of course, if you get married after twenty-five, people expect you to get divorced too. If you’ve been married for more than a few years and you tell people you’re happy being married, they look at you as though you’re crazy.
I believe he’s right. Divorce today is so common and accepted that long-lasting marriages, like the 60 years of marriage my grandparents will celebrate this Thanksgiving, are not just rare, but odd.
This is true whether one professes faith in Christ or not. Divorce rates among people within and without the Church are identical. This is not all that surprising since churches today seem to pander more towards people’s happiness rather than their holiness.
In Gary Thomas’ excellent book, Sacred Marriage, he challenges the idea that marriages exist to make us happy. Rather, he argues, marriage is God’s means to make us holy. Holiness can lead to lasting joy, which surpasses the fleeting feeling of happiness.
But holiness does not come without a fight. Thomas rightly observes that we live in a nation of quitters. We have lost our eternal perspective which can and should help us to better bear our crosses. I know that for myself, in time’s past, it was very hard for me to endure any sort of suffering when I had little interest in eternal things. I bought into the lie that suggests that people can be so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good. The truth is that anyone who sets their gaze upon the things of Christ, as Paul directs us in Colossians 3, will be of infinite value on earth as well.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col. 3:2-4, ESV).
It’s in the context of this passage that Paul gives guidance for loving and bearing one another, being thankful in all things, submission and sacrifice towards our spouse, forgiving each other as we have been forgiven in Christ, enduring one another with patience, compassion towards one another as well as putting to death our fleshly instincts of lusts and passions (our overwhelming desire to satisfy ourselves rather than God).
Our ever-climbing divorce rates signal a lack of persistence in living a holy life. Instead we are chasing the ever-elusive carrot of “happiness” that we feel we deserve and wrongly assume God wants.
1 Peter 1:16 does not read, “Be Happy, for I am Happy” but “Be Holy, for I am Holy.” The man or woman who claims to be a Christian is deceived if they think this command is optional and is not actively pursuing it with all their heart, soul, body and mind.
The holiness that will be rewarded in heaven is a persistent holiness. Read through the entire Bible, and I promise you, you won’t find one reference to a “crown in heaven” that goes to the person who had the “happiest” life on earth. That reward just doesn’t exist. Nor is there a heavenly ribbon for the Christian who felt the least amount of pain (pg. 110).
My wife, Amy, can anticipate such a reward from our Lord. When she had every right to divorce me for my unfaithfulness she chose instead to surrender her felt needs of attaining personal happiness and pursue instead God’s radical call to holiness. As Amy chose to focus on the things that are above she became a living signpost here below of the God who forgives and heals and restores. Our marriage today is a testimony to the sort of joy that can come from a life submitted wholly to God’s will rather than our own.
Tragically, this sort of testimony has become the exception rather than the rule even among Christian marriages. Amy and I talk often about how sad it is that our story of reconciliation and forgiveness is heralded among Christians as miraculous and extraordinary. While we give glory to God for the work He has accomplished in us, both personally and as a family, we contend that our story ought to be common-place among the Church. We pray for and long for the day when people will hear our testimony and compare it to numerous examples of the same they have experienced in their own church.
Your past, like our own, may be littered with sinful decisions and mistakes. God is faithful to forgive and is more than willing and able to bring healing to your soul. It will not come without a fight, nor will it come by pursuing your own happiness. It comes through the pursuit of holiness. And this is God’s will for you and I, beginning today.
How will you choose to be holy in your marriage today?