"Marriage involves incredible potential for happiness, but there is also an enormous risk of failure. When two people fall in love and decide to spend the rest of their lives together, they can create unsurpassed joy for themselves and their children—or unspeakable havoc for everyone involved." ~ Neil Clark Warren, Finding the Love of Your Life (1992), p. 1
Marriage is full of potential to bring about good and wonderful things. We have to keep in mind that if marriage is not treated with respect, care, and love it will turn ugly. For marriage to be the wonderful blessing God intended it to be requires the love, trust, and sacrifice of both people involved. Good marriages do not magically happen, but they are the result of hard work, unconditional love, steadfast commitment, and continued trust in each other.
Though we have been told about the hard work of marriage before many of us still approach marriage lightly. We have this mistaken belief that love is all that we need. While romantic love is exciting and essential for a great marriage it is not the bedrock on which a marriage should be built.
Since there is so much riding on our marriages, not only the great potential for happiness that exists, but also the devastation that is possible, it is essential that we get this right. Marriage deserves more planning and effort than just getting ready for the wedding ceremony.
The writer of Hebrews wrote; "Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery" (Hebrews 13:4; NLT). This passage reveals the persistent problem our culture has with marriage and the reason so many marriages never experience the incredible potential marriage has.
As Christians we are to honor marriage. This isn't a command to oppose same sex marriage, rather it is a reminder that God has a purpose behind marriage. Marriage didn't originate with us, but with God. If our marriages are to realize the incredible potential they have in bringing happiness and joy into our lives, then we need to turn to God to discover the purpose behind marriage.
First we need to realize the purpose of marriage is not about making us happy. Yes, marriage has an incredible potential to bring happiness into our lives, but that is not its purpose. When we make our happiness the purpose behind marriage we will be disappointed. The reason for that disappointment is because no one person can satisfy all our needs and heal all our wounds. To place that burden on the person we married means to set our marriage up for failure, because they do not have what it takes to meet all our needs.
Second we need to realize that marriage is not just a stage of life. I think we have treated marriage as a stage on the natural progression of life. So we go to school, go to college, get a job, and when everything is in place it is time to get married. What this has led to are people who are so absorbed in "me" that they really don't have room for "we." An example of this can be found in this letter asking for advice. Here is the key paragraph from the letter:
I've recently had two men approach me in fellowship-that-seemed-to-be-going-somewhere, but everything suddenly stopped when they saw my fully furnished apartment, heard that my car is paid for, and heard about my future schooling and vacation plans. Then each of them backed away. I actually thought they would be interested in the fact that I have a life.
What this woman failed to realize is that when she talked about her future plans it scared the guys away because there wasn't room for "we." Marriage is the blending of two lives together which will require greater sacrifice the older you get and the more developed your life plan becomes, because you simply will not be able to do everything you want to do.
Third, we need to realize marriage is a partnership in building for the Kingdom of God. This harkens back to our original design. God created people to be stewards of creation, and He created men and women to be partners in this effort. Marriage is the partnership we form to enable us to do our part for God's Kingdom. Ultimately we discover joy, happiness, and love, not when we make them the purpose of marriage, but when we dedicate our marriages to the service of God's Kingdom.
Marriage has a great potential for good or for evil. That is why it is important that we treat marriage with honor. As we surrender marriage to God's original purpose we open our lives up to experience the tremendous joy it has to offer us.