Several years ago, I was driving with a friend to a women's small group Bible study. I knew she and her husband were struggling, in fact, had been struggling for some time. Quite frankly, I really didn't like hanging out with them because my husband and I inevitably came back from spending time with them disliking each other. I don't really know why...just the atmosphere of unhappiness maybe? On this particular drive, we were talking about some of the specific issues they had - him not helping around the house was one of the main ones she talked about, although I now know there were more serious problems. As we drove into the host's driveway, I will never forget her statement: "I told him that if things didn't change, I didn't know what was going to happen. God just wouldn't want me to be unhappy."
Guess what? They've been divorced for about 3 years after only 8 years of marriage.
God wants me to be happy. God wouldn't want me to be unhappy. Opposite versions of the same thought. And both equally wrong. As a newlywed wife listening to another fairly newlywed wife, the statement rubbed me wrong, but I didn't have enough wisdom at that point to understand why. Now I do.
God's ultimate goal for our life is not for us to be happy. Nope, it's much, much deeper than that. God's ultimate goal for our life is to be holy.
God decided to leave you in this fallen world to live, love, and work, because he intended to use the difficulties you face to do something in you that couldn't be done any other way. You see, most of us have a personal happiness paradigm. Now, it is not wrong to want to be happy, and it is not wrong to work toward marital happiness. God has given you the capacity for enjoyment and placed wonderful things around you to enjoy. The problem is not that this is a wrong goal, but that it is way too small a goal. God is working on something deep, necessary, and eternal. If he was not working on this, he would not be faithful to his promises to you. God has a personal holiness paradigm.
- Paul David Tripp, What Did You Expect?
So what does this mean? Does God withhold marital happiness from us with an evil glint in His eye? Does He sit up in heaven experimenting with how much difficulty we can handle before our marriage crumbles in ruins? Does He want us to be miserable?
No. But He does allow situations in our lives that give us the opportunity to learn patience, kindness, forgiveness, love, gentleness and many other godly qualities. And marriage is one of those situations. It could be one of the most effective vehicles for change because we are in a marriage day in and day out. The person you are married to is the right person and the current state of your marriage is exactly what you need to smooth out those rough edges and shed ungodliness. Sometimes you have to look really hard to see this, and other times you may never actually understand what is being shaped until you have acquired enough space for hindsight.
Furthermore, God's version of happiness is so much deeper than our human version. When we talk about being "happy", we mean a superficial feeling. We want to be smiling with sparkling eyes, laughing and breathing deep sighs of gentle contentment where no situation can rock our boat. No storm comes our way. No flicker of annoyance comes. If that's our only definition or experience with happiness, it will always be elusive. It will be like a house built on sand. There are going to be trials, difficulties, losses, and griefs. Your marriage will go through peaks and valleys. Your husband may persist in some sinful ways that hurt you and make you ache for something better. True and lasting happiness can only be found in anchoring ourselves to Christ and choosing peace and contentment with what our sovereign God has chosen for our lives knowing that His love is endless. We may not always be smiling, but we can find joy in knowing that the testing of our faith develops perseverance. And that is way more important than everlasting giggles.
Make sure you didn't miss the introduction to this series!
Sharing with: Time-Warp Wife, Far Above Rubies, Growing Home, Wifey Wednesday, Women Living Well, Encourage One Another, We Are THAT Family, Finding Beauty, Your Thriving Family, Beholding Glory, Consider the Lilies