On a recent business trip my husband was seated next to a man on his way to make a fresh start. The more they talked, the more my husband learned about this man and his plans for the future. After a failed marriage and a series of attempts to make something of his life, he finally reconnected with his high school girlfriend. This flight was his way forward. He was on his way to pick her up so she could live with him—and they could live happily ever after. What failed the first time would not happen again, he was certain. Given a second chance at happiness, he was going to take it.
With the launch of social media and search engines, what was once an impossible feat (finding a long-lost girlfriend) is now possible. Studies have shown that Facebook has led to widespread demise of marriages, discontentment with our current lives, and longing for what might have been. We may have broken up with that person in high school or college (for good reason), but the passage of time and a well-crafted profile makes the grass all the more greener on the other side.
When marriage gets difficult, or our kids are ungrateful, it’s easy to look at the past and think, I made the wrong decision. I married the wrong person. Let me assure you: you didn’t.
God Who Orders It All
I once heard it said that God knew exactly what he was doing when he put a married couple together. In the weeks and months leading up to the wedding day, that can feel like the truest statement ever uttered. You have met your soul mate. Your heart flutters when he holds your hand. You can hardly sleep in anticipation of being married to her. In the words of Jerry Maguire, you really do complete each other.
Fast forward a few months or years and you may feel like you’ve married a monster. Real life sets in, and the true person comes out—and it’s not always pretty or what you expected. But if God knows what he’s doing, then there is something for us to learn in the sometimes muddy waters of marriage.
When Jesus defended marriage in the New Testament, he did so not in the name of love or compatibility, but on the basis of God’s authority over marriage (Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:9). We believe in the earthly permanence of marriage because we know that God has joined this particular man with this woman. From our first parents, Adam and Eve, to our own marriages, God has given us to each other. Our modern culture makes it easy for us to think that we have made a mistake when marriage gets hard, because we do the choosing. There are few arranged marriages in Western culture. Many men and women date, shop for a ring, and pick the date all on their own. I know I did. With the exception of my husband asking my dad for permission to marry me (and the fact that we were set up by friends), we really were “in control” of our relationship. When marriage gets hard, this perceived control makes us think we have a way out—or at least deserve a way out.
But God is no less sovereign over our marriages in a Western context than he was in the Ancient Near East or in a remote village in Africa. Marriage is about God joining two people together for one uniting purpose. He is over all things (Eph. 4:6). Understanding his good purpose gives us hope when we feel the walls of conflict closing in on us.
Purpose of Marriage
Gary Thomas has said that the purpose of marriage is to make you holy, not happy. Of course, a side benefit of marriage is companionship, shared experiences, and—many times—true happiness. But that’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to make us like Jesus. We don’t get to the final day on our own. Marriage is one of God’s good means to sanctify us and bring us safely home.
The belief that we have married the wrong person is far more sinister than we are led to believe. It feels good to be loved and appreciated. It feels good to know that passion is possible again. But all that love, appreciation, and passion will wither away once we get to the other side of the proverbial greener pastures. People are only people. They cannot meet the deepest needs of our souls, even if their words, actions, and Facebook profiles tell us otherwise.
A long-term view of marriage (and life for that matter), saves us from the propensity to bolt when it gets hard or is less than we expected. God has promised to get us to the final day more like Jesus than when we started (Phil. 1:6).
The man sitting next to my husband failed to understand that the woman he was going to meet on the other end of the flight was not the answer to his deepest longings. He hadn’t missed “the one” all these years. And we haven’t either. Perhaps our spouse may not be everything we hoped he or she would be (or were promised to be on our wedding day), but let’s face it—we aren’t either. But God is faithful. He has joined us together in his sovereign plan for our lives, promising us that we never marry the wrong person.