“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25
No doubt about it, wedding season is in full swing. It’s the time when the words “I do” are heard in churches all over the country and the weight of the promise resonates in the hearts of happy couples devoting themselves to a lifetime of love and happiness.
Most people go into marriage believing it will make them happy. Or, more specifically, that the one with whom they have fallen madly in love will guarantee happiness forever.
I don’t want to throw cold water on the moment of bliss, but I can’t help but notice the sad reality that many couples are not happy. And when that happens, their minds begin to wander: “Since I’m not as happy as I thought I would be, maybe I’ll spend more time at work; maybe I’ll buy something new; maybe moving to a better place would help; maybe kids will brighten things up” or, worst of all, “maybe I’ll look for an affair.”
The illusive expectation of happiness often puts us on the road to disappointment that sours our hearts, replacing the fondness that was supposed to have made us happy. The problem is that for most of us the meaning of love is wrapped up in the question, “Am I being loved? Does this person’s love make me feel happy?” But the Bible actually describes a completely different concept of love. Any thriving relationship requires agape—the Greek word for the kind of love that transcends feelings, emotions, and environment. This kind of love focuses not on how my spouse is treating me but on how I am treating my spouse. Or, to put it in a different way, not on whether I am happy but whether my spouse is happy.
This is why Ephesians 5:25 tells husbands to love their wives. Nothing said about feelings here—just do it! And it is why Titus 2:4 tells older women to “train the younger women to love their husbands and children”—implying that it probably won’t come naturally. Agape love involves a willingness to give every resource of our existence to meet the needs of the one we love regardless of what our spouse may be like or of how circumstantially happy we may or may not feel.
Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? How do we pull it off? The key is to invite a third person into the marriage—Jesus! It is about living in relationship with your spouse as a response to Jesus and not as a response to your spouse. When you feel that the person you married is not worthy of your love, remember that Jesus is worthy of your love and that loving your spouse is what He has asked you to do. And notice that we are to love each other like He loves us!
We can’t miss the point. Jesus calls us to think about marriage in terms of our covenant relationship with Him. So, just as He will keep all of His promises to us, He teaches us to honor our commitment to our spouse for His sake. And, just as we are not worthy in ourselves to receive blessings from Him, so our spouse is not always worthy of our love—and, for that matter, we’re not always worthy either!
So let’s abolish the myth that the primary purpose of marriage is our personal happiness, and celebrate the reality that the words “I do” are empowered by a commitment first and foremost to the lover of our souls, Jesus. When you “do” your marriage like this, you may just become more holy, which, when you think of it, is better than becoming more happy!
- How does pursuing happiness based on your own desires damage a relationship?
- Do you know a couple preparing to marry? If the couple does not have a relationship with Jesus, pray for an opportunity to introduce them to the only One who can bring happiness and fulfillment to their marriage.
- If you are married, have you ever considered Jesus as the third Person in your marriage? What difference does He make in your relationship with your spouse? Think of some specific ways you can express love to your spouse in a biblical way today.
- If you are not married, how can you apply this principle to other important relationships in your life? Remember, a relationship with Jesus is the key to any thriving relationship!