“God wants me to be happy and my husband isn’t making me happy, so I’m going to break my marriage vows, cheat on my spouse, then divorce him, destroying my family and that of my lover in the process in the name of happiness and love.”
The above statement is completely ridiculous, of course.
Except that it isn’t. The ridiculous thing is that Christians are having affairs and getting divorced every day, with pretty much this exact rationalization.
Recently I was browsing a Christian forum when I saw a woman asking advice for this exact situation. She was a Christian, a wife, and a mother who was having an affair with a man from her work. This person was also a Christian, a husband, and a father. The poster wanted advice on whether she should divorce her husband to be with her lover, saying that he made her happy, while her husband wasn’t “the best husband”.
In his book Sacred Marriage Gary Thomas poses the question: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
I think the obvious answer is “yes”.
And yet we still have situations like the one above. We have been brainwashed by Satan and his friends in Hollywood and the publishing industry into thinking that “love” is the main thing. And they have totally warped our view about what “love” is. Their “love” is completely selfish. It’s about the heady emotions you feel at the beginning of a new romantic relationship. It’s about self fulfillment. It’s about expecting someone else to meet your every emotional and sexual need.
If those emotions fade, or if that person is no longer satisfying you, you must have “fallen out of love”. And the only thing any sane person can do (with this definition of “love”) is to abandon ship. Have an affair. Get a divorce. Seek “love” and happiness in the arms of another, because “love is all you need”.
But of course, Hollywood “love” and biblical love are opposed to one another. Where one takes, the other gives. When one is all about feelings, the other is a choice. Where one seeks self fulfillment, the other is willing to sacrifice. Where one demands, the other forgives. One leads to despair, the other gives hope. One destroys, and one builds. One withers away, the other is everlasting.
What kind of love do you want?
Trapped in a Loveless Marriage?
Should marriage make you happy or holy?
The woman in the example above chose happiness over holiness, and I think we all can see the problems with that.
She could have also chosen to pursue holiness at the expense of happiness. This could have easily led to her feeling trapped in a loveless marriage. I don’t think anyone should accept that as an OK outcome.
The fact that she was unhappy in her marriage was an indicator that something wasn’t working. What if she sought God in figuring out what the problem is and how to fix it? What if she stuck by her vows and learned how to make her marriage better?
That might have meant learning to change her expectations of her marriage because she wanted “Hollywood love”. It might have meant learning to be a better wife. It might have meant learning to confront her husband about why he wasn’t meeting her needs and helping him to learn to be a better husband. Probably some combination of all of these.
You could even argue that this is more holy than just “gritting through and bearing it”. Working to improve yourself and your situation by following God is much more holy than acting like some kind of martyr who just has to suffer through life as it is.
But what if she did divorce her husband to be with her new lover? She would quickly realize what a huge mistake this was! After all, he was willing to destroy both his and her family for the sake of love and happiness, too. And his own marriage was probably already suffering before the affair.
They would have quickly run into the same problems they faced in their previous marriages, with the added problems that come with divorce and having children from an earlier marriage.
What a mess!
Even if she stayed with her husband and things didn’t improve, that would still be better than her new reality.
Holiness Leads to Happiness
So yes, holiness is more important than happiness, but don’t let fool you into thinking you have to forsake happiness to be holy. God promises to bless us when we seek and follow Him. Just look at these verses:
This doesn’t just apply to divorce and affairs. Marriage provides plenty of opportunities to grow. The closer we are to being who God designed us to be the happier we become.
Imagine if there was no sin in the world. What if Adam and Eve had never fallen? What if you lived in a world free from the curse of sin? Who would you be? How happy would you be?
Sin prevents you from being that person. It steals your joy and peace. It warps you in ways you will never understand until you are made perfect when you are resurrected in heaven.
But you can become more your true self as you allow God to transform your mind and heart. Marriage is often the perfect transformation catalyst.
I’m not saying this is easy or fast. If you are facing problems in your marriage, it could take years of seeking God and trusting in Him before you have a major breakthrough.
But that breakthrough is worth fighting for.
What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?
Gary Thomas explores this question in more depth in his book. As of this writing the Kindle version is just $2.99 on Amazon.