As working professionals in our late 20s, we had pretty much put our individual hopes for marriage on the backburner. It wasn’t that we had given up the thought of being married but that it seemed to be a remote possibility. Failed relationships and a disappointing dating landscape had caused both of us to put more time into our careers, our friendships and focus on our faith. Little did we know that the Lord was aligning individual things at exactly the same time to prepare us come alongside one another in matrimony.
That’s not to say our initial meeting involved some glorious revelation and we knew instantly we were destined to walk down the aisle. Instead, it began with a rather awkward blind date (are there blind dates that aren’t?) that featured a swimming pool and a setup by our pastor and his wife.
From these inauspicious beginnings, our relationship would find its footing, and within nine months, we were married. We both knew that we didn’t want a long engagement. We were beyond ready to be married. The bigger takeaway is that we found one another when we both had individually made the choice to de-emphasize our romantic wishes and start focusing on our relationship with God. It’s a theme that continues five years later in our marriage.
A case for the joy of marriage
In a culture that has countless individuals thirsting for meaningful relationships, we see a need for married couples to proclaim the incredible greatness of marriage. We believe it is joy-filled partnership, not the ball-and-chain partnership that is portrayed by culture. Perhaps, most important of all, it’s a covenant that isn’t about your own happiness—it’s about bringing you closer to the One who created everything—including the very institution of marriage. Are you willing to chase after God’s heart with someone else by your side? If so, you might be ready for marriage.
There’s a convincing case to be made about the inherent joy, both for the couple and for God, that can be found within marriage. We know that God “rejoices over us with gladness” (Zep. 3:17). Psalm 28:7 tells us our hearts should “leap for joy” because of our relationship with him. And we know that marriage mirrors the relationship Christ has with his bride, the church (Eph. 5:32). So, we’re not venturing very far out on a limb in saying that marriage can lead to great joy.
Think about it: Once you’re married, the competition of the dating scene is traded for committed companionship. No longer are we reduced to measuring up to peers or the anxiety of courtship. Instead, you experience life alongside a partner who has made a covenant with you and with God. That’s where joy comes in. There’s a measure of settled assurance that’s created by a stable marriage. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Yes, it takes work actually loving someone for better or worse. Yes, it means you have to put self-centeredness on the shelf. And, yes, it will take some re-orienting about what’s important in life. But doesn’t today’s culture need more examples of people who are persisting for a cause greater than themselves? Don’t we need to see individuals serving and thriving in a context that’s beyond selfish ambition? Aren’t we aching for examples of individuals valuing love over everything else? The answer to all of these is an emphatic, "Yes!"
Holiness that leads to happiness
At the end of the day, marriage between a committed man and woman creates a space for flourishing of the two, a support system for them to navigate the vagaries of life and means to express your love and pursue healthy desires. Most importantly, marriage is a vehicle, though not the only one, for pursuing a better relationship with God. In fact, we would submit that last point is the essential element in a healthy marriage that allows for all the other aspects of marriage to unfurl.
Shortly after we said our vows, we discovered Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Marriage. It posits a simple, yet profound, question: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” Culture will do all it can to convince and brainwash you that marriage is ultimately about a shallow, selfish happiness (which, if you play that out, means once you’re unhappy, the marriage can be discarded). But the holiness that God requires leads to a deep and lasting happiness.
Since reading Thomas’ book, we have tried to do the best we can to live out our marriage through that prism. It has been the single-most rewarding aspect of our lives together; knowing that as we’re pursuing Christ, he will not only draw us closer together, but make us more holy. It’s hard not to be utterly captivated by a spouse who seeks and values the things you do. That is exactly why God created marriage and created the majority of us to be married. He delights in our marriages, he wants us to seek after him in our marriages, and he wants to fill us with joy in that pursuit.
For those who want to be married, but the opportunity hasn’t presented itself, wait and pray patiently. Pray for God to make your heart desire him more than you desire anything else. This will not only serve you well while you are waiting, but it will lay the foundation for a healthy marriage. God has to be the one who fills, completes and satisfies you. Marital companionship is wonderful, but God is the only one who should be the object of our greatest affections. From two people who had to wait patiently and pray very hard for the right mate, we can tell you first hand, it’s worth the wait.