This seems like a “no-brainer!” We should all want our marriages and spouses to make us happy. Only a masochist or crazy person wouldn’t want his/her marriage to produce happiness, right?
Don’t get me wrong! I completely agree that it’s a wonderful thing when happiness happens. Where I have trouble with this concept is in the “expectation” that it should make us happy. That’s because years ago I had this same toxic expectation and when it didn’t happen—in fact the opposite often happened—I began to question if I had married the wrong person. After all, if he truly was my “soul-mate” wouldn’t he make me happy?!
There’s a certain logic in our culture that is driven by the entertainment industry and adopted by our human desires. And this logic encourages us to pursue our personal pleasure and happiness, no matter what that might cost us or others in our lives. After all, if you’re an American, it’s right there in the Declaration of Independence …
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
So it stands to reason that happiness should be our life-long pursuit and come as a part of the marital package, and if it’s not, then the “package” should be exchanged for one that will! Sadly, with this faulty expectation at work, we chase after that elusive “high” when our mates don’t “make us happy.” In fact, it seems the more we chase after happiness in life and marriage, the more elusive it becomes!
I remember years ago a woman
explaining justifying her decision to divorce her husband saying something along the lines of, “I just knew I should divorce him, because God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy.” Now I don’t know all the reasons for her divorce and I’m not trying to make a judgment about that…
But I do know that God is not as concerned about our happiness as He is about our spiritual and emotional health and holiness.
Jesus promised you and me that, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows…” (John 16:33b NLT). If we take a closer look at Jesus’ life, even He submitted Himself to the curse of pain and suffering in this fallen world,
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered …” -Hebrews 5:7-8 (NIV)
God wants us to realize that each problem we face in life and marriage can have a positive purpose in our lives.
Case in point: “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” —Heb. 12:11 (NLT)
Okay, so I don’t know whether I’ve convinced you or not about my point, but let me just add this twist to what I’m saying …
Even though I don’t think we should pursue happiness in marriage, I do think the most fulfilled spouses pursue joy … in the Lord!
God is the only true source of “joy” in life and marriage. In fact, if you’ll take a closer look at happiness, the word originates from the Middle English word, “hap” meaning chance or lucky. In other words, happiness is based upon our circumstances. If our circumstances are good, then and only then can we be happy. Yay, us!! But if we go through a tough time in life or marriage, then our happiness quickly evaporates. Sigh! Happiness in its truest sense isn’t something that can be expected or manufactured. It’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, “You never know what you’re going to get.”
On the other hand, “joy” is something that’s not based upon our circumstances but rather upon the greatness of our God in the midst of the good, the bad and especially the terrible in our circumstances.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” –James 1:2-4
So maybe, those of us who have messy and painful moments in our marriages (And come on! who doesn’t?!) can not only be joyful but “happy” as well, since God does His best work in and through us when we’re struggling with pain and loss! Yay, God!
How does it feel to know that happiness is fleeting and elusive in marriage at best?
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