I have seen this blog about marriage being shared so much lately by so many different people that I thought I’d actually read it. It’s written by a fairly new husband who shares the advice his dad gave him about marriage:
marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”
It’s a call to live selflessly for one’s spouse, which I don’t disagree with. It is true that marriage, or any relationship for that matter, shouldn’t be about self but about others. As a Christian, my marching orders from God are to consider others more highly than myself (Phil. 2:3) and to love my neighbor as myself (Mark 12:31). Certainly that must include my wife, and, shockingly, everyone else.
But the idea that a marriage is all about my spouse, or that the chief goal of marriage is to make another person “happy” is not at all the goal of Christian marriages.
The goal of a Christian marriage, and the goal of any relationship for that matter, is to be made holy.
God’s will for me and my wife, and for you and your spouse, is that you become more like Jesus (1 Thess. 4:3), which is to become holy. The way we are made holy is an ongoing, life-long process that is done in community with others. Marriage, like a church, is one of those places where you quickly learn the Self that has for so long steered your ship needs to die. Realizing that you are no longer your own man (or woman) and that you do not even have authority over your body (1 Cor. 7:3-4) but that your spouse does is often a painful realization.
But coming to this realization is not for the sake of making your spouse happy. It’s to make us holy.
What ought to be happening in our marriage is what ought to be happening in our relationship with Christ, and what happens in our relationship with Christ ought to be happening in our marriages. In both relationships we are told we are not our own. We have been bought with a price and your duty – married or not, family or not, kids or not – is to glorify God (1 Cor. 6:20).
When we subvert this focus and make marriage all about making our spouse happy we fall prey to the lie that says happiness is the goal of life and become full of pride in thinking we can provide it.
The best gift I can give my wife is not happiness, but Jesus.
So yes, marriage isn’t about you. But it isn’t about your spouse, either. It’s about bringing glory to God. If you will focus on pleasing your Husband in Heaven you will have something far more valuable than happiness: JOY and PEACE. And these can never be taken away from you, regardless of the circumstances of your relationship.
Resources to help your marriage:
Check out Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy.
My wife, Amy’s, sermon: Sacred Roles: The Wife
My sermon: Sacred Roles: The Husband