by Jennie Smith
As a young girl, I dreamed of being married. I planned my wedding multiple times over, read through bridal magazines, and imagined the life my husband and I would one day have. I never dreamed that marriage would be the biggest challenge I ever faced.
My husband and I celebrated the big 15 this past March and we still have so much to learn about a successful marriage. I thought we had it all figured out, but this past year we hit some big bumps in the road as we dealt with life changes, deaths in our families, and growing children. So, as I was looking for intriguing reading material for my summer vacation, I came upon the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. It was the subtitle that really caught my attention: “What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?”
It’s an interesting premise, isn’t it? Most people look to their marriage for happiness. But is that the ultimate goal of marriage? If we were to answer truthfully, we would admit that our spouses don’t make us happy all the time. Some even go as far as divorcing their spouse simply because they are no longer happy. My perspective on marriage made an about face as a result of reading Sacred Marriage – it is one I wished I would have read 15 years ago. Here are some of the most eye-opening ideas I have taken from this book:
A Godly Marriage is Not Dependent on Romance
Romance is a relatively new premise for marriage. Romantic love as the basis for marriage became the prevalent idea when poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and Keats argued that one should marry for love. But when you look at the great marriages of the Bible, most married because of commitment and then love followed. “Romantic love has no elasticity to it,” Gary Thomas proclaims. “It can never be stretched; it simply shatters. Mature love, the kind demanded of a good marriage, must stretch, as the sinful human condition is such that all of us bear conflicting emotions.”
This doesn’t mean that romance has no place in a godly marriage; it is simply not the foundation of a godly marriage.
Marriage Contributes to Our Sanctification
I never knew how sinful I truly was until I got married. It was shocking! There was a person in my space who came face to face with my sin on a daily basis and reflected it back at me. The author says it best: “What marriage has done for me is hold up a mirror to my sin. If forces me to face myself honestly…” This spotlight on our own sin can motivate us to grow in grace. The author encourages his readers to not enter into marriage to be fulfilled, or emotionally satisfied, or romantically connected, but to become more like Jesus.
Marriage is a Constant Practice of Forgiveness
A single friend recently asked my husband and I what the key to a successful marriage is. While my husband had his own idea, I asserted that the only way to have a successful marriage is to be willing to forgive. We are married to a sinful being who will hurt us and will sin against us – that is a given. We then have the opportunity to learn to forgive. I didn’t realize the impact at the time, but as part of our wedding vows, Brent and I said these words: “I will forgive you as Christ has forgiven me.” Those words come to my mind all the time – I promised and I have to follow through on that vow.
Marriage Requires Perseverance
This idea is nothing new, but one of my favorite passages from the book threw a new light on this. “One of the most poetic lines in Scripture, one that I wish every husband and wife would display in a prominent place in their home, is found in verse 5 of 2 Thessalonians 3: ‘May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.'” If I rely on my own ability to love my spouse, or depend on my own ability to persevere, I will fail. Instead, I should pray that I be directed into God’s love for my spouse and Christ’s perseverance. It is only with His strength that my marriage will find success.
All Aspects of Marriage Point Us to Our Great Savior
In our marriage, we are reminded of our sin and we go to our Savior for forgiveness.
In our marriage, we are sinned against and follow the example of the Savior in forgiveness.
In our marriage, we face difficulties that cause us to go to our knees and seek our Savior’s help.
In our marriage, we become more aware of God’s presence as he works miracles in our families.
In our marriages, we learn truths about God, we learn the true meaning of love, we learn what it means to be a servant. Our marriages can be the catalyst to a deeper relationship with God.
I highly recommend this book – whether you are engaged, newly married, or married for 60 years. It has changed the way I see my marriage. Instead of looking for opportunities to be happy in my relationship with my husband, I am looking for opportunities to become more like my Savior – to become holy, set apart for a purpose. When I do that, I don’t experience happiness – it is true joy that pervades my being.
Let’s have a conversation about this. In the comments below, would you answer my friend’s question? What is the key to a successful marriage?