Holiness or Happiness?

Kari has been reading "The Sacred Marriage" for a class she is taking at DTS this fall. It was laying on the coffee table last night as I walked by, and something about the subtitle struck me.

I was awake most of the night last night because I hurt my shoulder last night playing softball and couldn't ever get positioned right in the bed. And Gary Thomas's (or his publisher's) words kept coming into my mind.

"What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?"

I love that. Now, don't misunderstand, I am very happy in my marriage. Kari and I have a great relationship. I married up - God has blessed me with an amazing wife, which I don't take for granted. But I think Gary Thomas is on to something, and I love the way he puts it.

Most couples cite "irreconcilable differences" as the cause of their marriage breakup, which seems to be code language for "I'm just not happy anymore." It seems as though if I had a dollar for the number of times I had heard people excuse their divorce by saying "I'm just not happy anymore," I could retire to a private island in the Caribbean tomorrow. Marriage cannot just be about happiness, an emotion which changes from day to day.

This isn't to suggest that God doesn't intend our marriages to be happy - certainly He does. But it seems our culture in general has faulty expectations when it comes to marriage, and that those faulty expectations are leading to faulty marriages. Happiness cannot be the end in and of itself in marriage or in life.

The overarching will of God for our life is holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3, 1 Peter 1:15), not specifically our happiness. Holiness will sometimes bring earthly happiness, and will certainly produce eternal happiness, but it's holiness that is the goal in everything. Gary Thomas's subtitle may sound trite, or like a meaningless, cute saying, but make no mistake: The difference between living toward a goal of achieving my maximum happiness, or of achieving Christ's maximum glory is night and day.


Mark said...

Great post Chris.

The Bible doesn't speak of our 'happiness', not in the sense the world speaks of.

We should be joyed for our life in Christ and living God's will, but that doesn't mean our holiness isn't first (Matt 6:33)

I am going to look into the book.

Though there are many good ones out there, Marrrage God's Way, by Blackaby, is one I would recommend.


Unknown said...

Great take on this Chris. I think you're exactly right. The only thing I would add is, I think there is a difference between happiness and pleasure. Happiness to me is a much deeper thing. You can have a bad day and still be happy on a deeper level. You can also experience pleasure yet still not be deeply happy. I don't think we should label people a shallow when they say they aren't happy. Most of the time they are not speaking about surface emothions but a deep abiding dissatisfaction with the courseof their lives. Thanks again for your comments.

Matt said...

Does this come under the heading of 'rejoicing in the LORD always'? If only we could learn to find our all in Him, permanently :)