Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hope for Marriage

“A magnificent marriage begins not with knowing one another but with knowing God. In Him we have the foundation and resources necessary to love one another. His Word, His ways, and His will must be paramount in our lives. Unless we are growing in the knowledge of God, we’ll lack the motivation and wisdom to build an effective marriage.”
~Gary & Betty Ricucci~


From Burger King’s trademarked slogan “Have it your way” to McDonald’s “You deserve a break today,” we are conditioned to pursue whatever provides personal happiness. If fast food restaurants serve happiness on demand by filling our bloated stomachs with beefy burger, certainly we deserve happiness in much deeper, more critical areas of life too. Long before the moment “Mine!” becomes the first word to grace our lips, many of us tuck away this philosophy of warranted happiness into our souls. It is no surprise, then, when this desire expresses itself in marriage. But it may be a surprise when it slowly and stealthily affects our relationship with our spouse like an undetected, slow-growing cancer.

In a study reported in the March 2003 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Dr. Richard Lucas discovered that couples who marry find themselves happier during the first year of marriage than they were prior to marrying. “But after two years of marriage,” Dr. Lucas reports, “most people are pretty much back to where they started before marriage.”[1] Marriage has a very minimal affect on long-term happiness. If a couple marries to find happiness, they will be sorely disappointed after their first twenty-four months together. Perhaps this painful sense of disillusionment accounts for a fraction of the 50% of first-time marriages, the 67% of second-time marriages, or the 74% of third-time marriages that all end in divorce.[2]

These statistics are sobering, and call the church to consider what we can do to preserve the sacred covenant we made before the Lord. Paul addresses the heart-attitude of husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:21-33. His God-inspired teaching is the antithesis to culture, and it contains the key to living in a marriage that glorifies God and honors one’s spouse. Believers are instructed to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:1) Giving specific instruction to wives, Paul commands, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). Furthermore, the wife is instructed to “respect her husband” (Eph. 5:33b). Husbands are charged to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). These decrees defy the lie of popular culture that marriage is about what makes “me happy” and clearly indicate that marriage requires self-denial as we consider our spouse better than ourselves (see Phil 2:3).

In his book Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas asks the provocative question, "What if God didn't design marriage to be 'easier'? What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place? What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?"[3] As a believer, our lives have been radically turned upside-down by Jesus Christ. We are no longer to live for ourselves and for our happiness. “[Jesus] must become greater; I must become less,” including in my marriage (Jn. 3:30). As we ride the tumultuous tide of marriage—choosing to express love to our spouse when he or she is most unlovable, clinging to our covenant before God when the romantic feelings have long faded, determining to forgive the seemingly unforgivable act, releasing the “right” to exact revenge—it is then that God does His most redemptive, restorative act in our lives of making us more like His Son Jesus Christ. It is through releasing any corrupt compulsion to change our spouse’s character and instead pleading with God to transform our own hearts that Jesus Christ is magnified and we find joy.

May Jesus Christ be our highest, most precious, most valuable Treasure, for there is none other who can satisfy the deepest longings of our soul.

[1] Qtd. in Kirchheimer, Sid. “Does Marriage Make You Happy?” 17 Mar 2003. http://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20030317/does-marriage-make-you-happy. Accessed 27 May 2010.
[2] Statistic taken from http://www.divorcerate.org/.
[3] Thomas, Gary. Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. p. 13.

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