Here’s how Reformed Seth starts the article:
Fun. Laughter. Happiness. Good times. No worries. Is this how life is supposed to be? Is our definition of loving life and seeing good days measured by the amount of happiness in our lives? Now, this isn’t just aimed at the “singles,” rather the post is aimed at marriage and what people tell us a good marriage is.
I was contemplating the notion that a marriage is defined as “good” by how “happy” the couple is. Now, I don’t want you to get the impression from me that I think a couple isn’t supposed to be happy in a marriage, no-no, I want to give you something to “munch” on. I found this article by Greg Koukl. The topic was on happiness and this is just one gem from the article:
“In the pursuit of happiness, human institutions are valid not because of transcendent ethic but because of temporal fulfillment, which is essentially self-centered. For example, marriage is a valid commitment as long as you’re happy. If you’re not happy anymore in the marriage, then you have reason to dissolve the marriage. But I would contend that if you’re getting married to be happy, then you’re getting married for the wrong reasons. Not that personal fulfillment is not a valid goal in some measure, but that’s not what it’s all about.”
Notice Greg didn’t condemn happiness in a marriage, rather he was making the point that happiness isn’t the goal of marriage. So, what is the goal of marriage?
“You marry as a covenant agreement between two people to maintain a family unit in society to accomplish certain things, to help each other and embrace the events and issues of life together as helpmates, to raise a family and provide a stable environment for them. Though all of those things may breed a measure of happiness, they breed a measure of misery as well. That’s why the covenant, the agreement, the commitment between husband and wife is not based on happiness. If it was you’d have to amend your vows to say, ‘Until unhappiness do us part.'”
Did you catch it? We don’t marry to be happy. Why do we marry? To “maintain a family unit in society to accomplish certain things, to help each other and embrace the events and issues of life together as helpmates, to raise a family and provide a stable environment for them.” That’s why man and woman marry. A person pursuing happiness alone will be horribly disappointed with marriage because marriage is not an institution for happiness alone.
This post made me think of another post I saw on Neil Simpson’s blog about Phil 4:13.
Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through him who strengthens me”) is one of the most misinsterpreted verses in the Bible. I used to misquote it. I can’t remember the last time I heard it used correctly. It is one of the top 10 searched verses on biblestudytools.com, along with another frequently abused verse, Jeremiah 29:11.
[…]It is technically true that we could accomplish great things with Jesus, of course, but that isn’t what Philippians 4:13 means. The verse refers to Christ’s power doing something very specific in the believer, not some sort of general power.
I love using Phil 4:13 as an example of how to read in context. You don’t need to read the entire Bible, or all of Philippians, or chapter 4 or even a paragraph to get the real meaning. Just go back one verse!
Philippians 4:12-13 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Verse 13 is Paul’s secret for being content in all situations. That’s it. Do every thing through Jesus and you can be content in everything. It isn’t about what you accomplish, it is about how you do whatever you do.
Phillipians is one of my favorite books in the New Testament, but you have to read the verses in context.
So is marriage about happiness, or something else?
I actually do think that there are many other uses for marriage other than the “produce super-kids” plan that I always talk about. I think that men and women complement each other well, so I would look forward to have all of my nasty parts worked on, like the messiness, laziness, meanness, snarkiness, selfishness, driving too fast, and so forth. I really enjoy the feelings I get from self-sacrificial love for someone, especially when I try to lead a woman upward, and she follows my lead, and I can see her getting stronger and better.
I think the appeal of marriage for me, other than the super-kids, is that I would have someone to watch over and protect and nurture at really close quarters. Normally, I just send people books to read, or mail checks for apologetics events, or reply to e-mails. Marriage would be much better, because we could work on things together everywhere we went. I have these daydreams about being surprised in the kitchen with a hug from behind, because I am washing the dishes without being asked to. That would be fun for me. Or of coming home from work and having the children all cleaned up and dressed and hugging me right when I get in the door, because my wife has been pumping up my reputation with them while I was at work. I have lots of things like that I would like to try out that I can’t do on non-wife and non-kid people. I could do all kinds of good things if I had a family.
I think a pretty test to see if you are ready for marriage is to see how much you enjoy taking care of other people, and to a lesser degree, pets and cars and stuff like that that need maintenance. If you spend all your time trying to go places and do things and trying to squeeze a lot of fun out of life, that probably isn’t the best training for marriage. But if you like teaching people new things, and cleaning out the bird cage, waxing the car, and mowing the lawn and performing acts of service for others, then I think that’s a good sign you are ready for marriage.
I am still struggling a lot with this… on the one hand, I would do anything for my pet bird. But on the other hand, I struggle a lot to read what people ask me to read and to reply to e-mails and stuff. I haven’t waxed my car all year! This is an area where I really need to improve – getting used to being helpful to others. I seem to be able to avoid the need to be happy, but I just pour all my time into learning and writing, and not doing hard things to help others.