Is Marriage Primarily to Make Us Happy or to Make Us Holy?

My wife and I are working our way through our sixth year of marriage. As our relationship has grown and matured I’ve become increasingly frustrated with what seems to be the popular view in culture that marriage is something we should do for our own happiness and self-fulfillment. I’ve had this reinforced over the last couple of days while watching episodes of the short-lived post-apocalyptic TV show Jericho on Netflix. One of the main plot points is the relationship between three people: a man, his pregnant wife, and his mistress. The one thing that comes up in episode after episode is that the marriage does not make the man happy so he looks elsewhere for happiness. Even after finding out he is going to be a father he puts his happiness above the needs of his wife and unborn child. To top it all off, many of the characters around him seem to support his decision and encourage him to pursue his selfish happiness rather than doing the hard work to reconcile with his wife. To say this irritates me would be an understatement.

That might be an extreme example, but I think it does reflect the way that many people view marriage and the attitude that many have when they get married. They get married because the person they are with makes them feel good. The focus is on their individual happiness. Well, what happens when the other shoe drops and life happens? When happens when the happy couple faces financial difficulties? What happens when the happy couple decides kids will make them even happier but they discover they can’t have kids? What happens when they face a period of time where their spouse is not making them happy? If the marriage is based on individual happiness it will be hard to make it through the unhappy times.

That’s why, especially for Christians, we need to have a shift in the way we view marriage. Culture has it wrong (I know, big surprise!). As with every gift God has given to us, marriage is not merely for our happiness and self-gratification. It serves to bring glory to God and as a tool of God’s continual sanctifying work in the Christian. Not only that, but Scripture clearly teaches that marriage is to be a living and breathing proclamation of the Gospel and Jesus’ sacrifice for the church. When you start thinking about marriage from the perspective of God’s intention for the institution, it becomes clear that our individual happiness should not be the foundation upon which a marriage is built.

Now don’t get me wrong because I’m not saying marriage is or should be drudgery. You should most definitely marry someone who you delight in and who brings you joy. However, we have to recognize that a marriage can’t be built upon the fleeting feeling of happiness because there will be seasons within the marriage that are incredibly difficult and if the marriage is built on the shaky foundation of personal happiness and fulfillment it will be much more likely to crumble then if your view of marriage is one that is built upon the picture in Scripture.

I encourage you to watch this video for a powerful picture of a marriage that has faced and will face tremendous hardship but which has a firm foundation because it is built on Scripture.


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