A few days ago, I was talking to my girls about why we humans like to collect things. The things we collect can range from small items like stuffed animals and toys to bigger items like cars, houses and maybe even intellectual achievements like certificates. When discussing why we have this need to collect things, the conclusion we came to was simple – it makes us happy. It brings satisfaction to have the latest phone or the newest designer bag. In this highly stressful and demanding world we live in, we seek anything that can bring us pleasure.
Unfortunately, we fall into the trap of adding marriage to one of our bucket list items to tick off as something that will make us happy. Sadly, when “wanting to be happy” is the main motivation behind our marriage, it causes us to fall into this trap of consumerism that if we are not happy, it means this is not the right marriage and we need to find a better partner to make us happy.
In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas posed this question – What if God’s primary intent for our marriage isn’t to make us happy but to make us holy? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think God doesn’t want us to enjoy marriage. In fact, He does! Because our earthly marriages reflect the relationship we have with God our bridegroom. Just as He desires for us to enjoy our relationship with Him, He desires for us to have the same intimate and close relationship with our spouse and to enjoy this union. A truly happy marriage can only exist when two people are willing to openly share their lives with each other and to journey through life together.
However, such an intimate relationship doesn’t come naturally. It takes effort. In Ephesians 4:2, we are reminded to walk together “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love”. Having an intimate marriage can be painful, because it requires us to humbly acknowledge that we are sinful creatures with sinful desires and behaviours. Marriage has a way of bringing that out – and many of us do not want to face this ugly truth about ourselves. Instead, we often choose to point our fingers at our partner, thinking that when they change, everything will be alright.
However, when we are willing to acknowledge the truth of our sinfulness to ourselves and our spouse, it gives us freedom to be vulnerable before each other and to journey together to overcome our weaknesses. It allows us to come before God together for help and it helps us appreciate the patience and grace shown to us by our spouse despite our imperfections.
As believers, we have been instructed to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10, NIV) This applies to our relationship with our spouse too. We need to learn to look beyond our own needs and their failures and honour them by recognising the gifts God has blessed them with to complement ours and the times that they have stood by us despite our flaws.
Marriage can bring us happiness and fulfilment when we are willing to let God use it to help us grow to be more like Him. It may be painful at times but like a familiar slogan puts it “No pain, No gain”. Let’s not treat marriage like another consumer product that we replace when it no longer brings us satisfaction. Instead, if God does lead us into marriage, let us value it as a part of our discipleship process and treasure our relationship with our spouse through life’s ups and downs together.
By Sarah Choo (YCKC Bulletin 2 June 2019)