Faith Forward: marriage is not about your happiness

Scot Loyd, Contributing Writer

Professor Scot Loyd writes a weekly column called “Faith Forward.” / Courtesy Photo

In Genesis 2:24, God set out the parameters of perhaps His greatest invention: marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

This passage was referenced by Christ in Matthew 19:4 in His response to inquiries about divorce and re-marriage from the religious leaders of the day.

Jesus made it clear that God’s intention from the beginning was one-man plus one woman for one lifetime equals marriage.

The Apostle Paul endorsed this equation as well in his writings to the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 5:31 adding in verse 32, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Marriage, then, is ultimately about reflecting the relationship between Christ and His church.

Contrast this view with the view espoused by what passes as entertainment in the movie theaters, television, and romance novels.

In modern pop-culture, marriage is something far less romantic than the casual liaison, an institution not to be honored, but one that has been castigated and maligned, as dull, boring and uninspiring.

Sadly, for many who have bought in to the culture’s message, this has become their understanding, expectation and experience in marriage, leading them to divorce.

For many, marriage is more about individual happiness than it is about reflecting God’s holiness.

God’s intention in marriage is not our happiness but our joy, and joy can only be found in Christ.

The difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is centered in the self and is fleeting, coming and going with the volatility of our emotions, while joy is centered in Christ, is lasting, steady and complete.

According to Jesus in John 15, the key to our lasting joy is abiding in Him.

Beginning in verse 9, Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

In this passage Jesus makes it clear that He is in a loving relationship with the Father.

And only because He is a position to receive love can He adequately and effectively give love.

The same is true for us in the context of our relationships, especially the marriage relationship.

We cannot expect to love our spouse, unless we have first experienced the love of Christ in our lives.

This is essential to a joyful marriage.

Too many couples are treating their relationship with Christ as a supplement, much like a daily vitamin to be consumed in an effort to improve overall health.

But supplements are of no value, if you cannot breath.

Christ is not a supplement to our marriages; He is the life giving oxygen that we breathe.

Without Christ, true lasting joy in our marriage will wither and die.

I met my wife over 30 years ago. We have been married for 26 of those years. When I reflect on my youthful expectations of marriage, it is clear that my motives were selfish.

I married for a variety of reasons all under the pretext of what I called love, but really it was more about how I could benefit than how I could serve.

I wanted to marry because I desired independence, I desired to be praised for the beauty and talent my wife possessed and I also desired to exploit my wife’s gifts for the promotion of myself.

It is unlikely if you had asked me then about my purpose for marriage that I would have been that honest, but in hindsight it is the truth.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, my wife and I, through some very painful and trying seasons, have come to understand that purpose is not to be found in each other but in Christ alone.

Only when we are both in a position to abide in Christ can we come together as “one flesh.”

In those difficult moments of our marriage, it was due to one or both of us pursuing our own idea of what it meant to be happy rather than endeavoring to understand what it means to be holy.

If we are in Christ, then He will see to it that all of our lives, including our marriage relationships, are conformed to His image.

This is the work of sanctification, or making us more like Christ on a daily basis.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our marriages to make us united with one another and united with Christ.

This is God’s purpose in marriage – that Christ would be glorified.

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