It’s possible that you’ve already read Seth Adams Smith’s blog post, Marriage Isn’t For You. I cannot look down my Facebook feed without seeing someone “liking” it or commenting on it. I think he gets it wrong.
To be fair, there is a lot that he gets right. Marriage is not the place to be selfish. Marriage is about caring, honoring, and cherishing the person we marry. I love his conversation with his dad from the post. There are some positive things here- but from a Christian perspective on marriage- I think this post needs to go farther.
The Goal of Marriage is Not Making the Other Person Happy: This sounds shocking a maybe counter-intuitive. The goal and point of marriage is bringing glory and honor to God. Christian marriage, just like our personal faith, is about loving and honoring God with our life. Our marriage should be a reflection of God’s unconditional, unrelenting, never-ending love for the world. The reason we practice mutual submission in marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33) is not just to make our spouse happy- it’s because Jesus submitted to death on the cross to show us love. We honor God by practicing the same love in our marriage. When people see our marriage, when they see the way we love our spouse, it should point them to the love of God, the Groomsman waiting for his bride- the Church.
Here is what happens when marriage is about glorifying and honoring God: Rather than happiness- we find joy. Happiness is contingent on external circumstances (how I feel). Happiness is an emotion. Joy is a state of being. Joy is deeper because it is centered upon Who God Is and What God Has Done for us through Jesus. That is why we can have joy/give praise in difficult situations- this is why we can have joy in the midst of mourning- because our joy is found in the Lord.
When a husband and a wife can view their marriage as a way to honor and glorify God- there will be happiness, there will be a real sense of not being selfish in marriage. But the deepest result will be joy. Joy found in God is what helps us through the difficult times in our marriages and sustains us to work in love to grow our marriage.
Here is our approach heading into our marriage: Andrea and I believe that to have a successful Christ-centered marriage means you run the race that God has called you to run with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. As you run that race, look around to see who is running with you. Who has a similar call? Who can you partner with in honoring and glorifying God? When you find that person, you begin to discern and see if a life-long commitment to marriage is what you are called to. It’s in serving God, honoring God together that we find joy in our marriage (and ultimately this becomes satisfying and brings a lot of happiness). It is honoring God that leads us to care for one another for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. It’s our relationship with God that calls me to lay down my own desires/will and not be selfish in marriage (not saying I do that well!).
Marriage isn’t for you- and that is correct. Marriage is about honoring God through the marriage relationship and through the formation of a new family.