What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?

That’s the question that drew me to Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage.  The Marriage Forum at Calvary Bible Church motivated a desire to spend time reading and discussing the book with my wife.  So tonight, armed with the book and a few dollars, my beautiful wife and I set out to enjoy a few burgers and a marriage-building discussion.  We agreed that it would be helpful for us, and hopefully for others, to share some lessons from our reading and discussion here.

The first chapter is called “The Greatest Challenge in the World: A Call to Holiness More Than Happiness”.

In this chapter the author states his purpose for writing: “The ultimate purpose of this book is not to make you love your spouse more–although I think that will happen along the way  It’s to equip you to love your God more and to help you reflect the character of his Son more precisely.  At the very least, you’ll have a new appreciation for the person with whom you have embarked on this journey” (p. 26).

Much of our discussion tonight centered around the thought that marriage is about transforming us into the image of Christ…not about making us happy.  The be-all-end-all of marriage is not romantic feelings or fulfillment or happiness.  Thomas states, “If the purpose of marriage was simply to enjoy an infatuation and make me ‘happy,’ then I’d have to get a ‘new’ marriage every two or three years” (p. 23).

During our discussion we were able to identify three great lessons from the first chapter:

  • Marriage confronts the selfishness and sinful attitudes of my heart

For eighteen and a half years, we have enjoyed the unmitigated joy of the marriage relationship.  And during those years, we have found that marriage serves as a tool in the hand of God to confront immaturity, selfishness, issues of anger, jealousy, envy, and a host of other sins.  God brings these to the surface in order to deal with them properly.

  • Our relationship with God will outlive our marriage to each other.
The most important relationship is our relationship with God.  I cannot make Joanie happy in the ultimate sense…that is something only God can do.  Therefore the greater need is for she and I to pursue (and to help each other pursue) relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  And that relationship with outlast even the greatest human love.
  • Relationships with each other can never provide ultimate happiness

Perhaps the most poignant statement in this chapter came near the end when Thomas said, “We need to remind ourselves of the ridiculousness of looking for something from other humans that only God can provide” (p. 25).  We are learning that the greatest joy in marriage comes not from feelings of romantic happiness but rather from growing in our love for God.