By Gary L. Thomas
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you“ (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV).
Throughout the nine months of our engagement [my wife] Lisa and I made many plans. It was an intense time, and we often prayed, “Lord, wherever you want to take us, however you want to use us, we’re all yours.” Of course, we made the assumption that whatever God would want us to do would be thrilling, exciting, fulfilling, and dramatic.
Enter ”real life.”
We spent our first few months of marriage living in a tiny home offered to us rent-free by a family friend. I left for work two days after we got back, and Lisa was stranded in a small community, out in the middle of nowhere, and she began to cry.
“Well, what’s the use of getting married if I see you less now than when we were engaged”’ she complained. What’s the use, indeed?
Fast-forward ten years. We had three small children, two of them in diapers, and even though we were in ministry, life still wasn’t “exciting.” We were barely making it financially, snuggled into a town house, and about to enter our Friday-night ritual – laundry and a rented movie.
I took three steps out the door [to the movie rental store], then thought to myself, When did, “Please, God, change the world through us” suddenly become, “Should we watch Arnold Schwarzenegger or Julia Roberts?” I didn’t remember any flashing neon signs that pointed in that direction, but somehow, somewhere, it had happened.
That night I didn’t have any answers for the ordinariness of marriage, but taking an honest look at my situation definitely shook me awake. What was this thing called marriage? Was there no more purpose to it than this?
Perhaps God wanted us to embrace what Paul wrote about to Timothy: “… that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). We wanted exciting drama, but what if God wanted redeemed people, faithful in their anonymity and their tiny townhome? What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?
This isn’t to suggest that happiness and holiness are contradictory. On the contrary, I believe we’ll live the happiest, most joy-filled lives when we walk in obedience. John Wesley taught that “[i]t is not possible for a man to be happy who is not also pursuing holiness.”
So I’m not anti-happiness; that would be silly. The problem I’m trying to address is that a “happy marriage” (defined romantically and in terms of ever-pleasant feelings) is too often the end-game of most marriage books (even Christian marriage books). This is a false promise. You won’t find happiness at the end of a road named selfishness.
Sacred Marriage looks and points beyond marriage. Spiritual growth is the main theme; marriage is simply the context. Just as celibate [people] use abstinence and religious hermits use isolation, so we can use marriage for the same purpose – to grow in our service, obedience, character, pursuit, and love of God.
For centuries, Christian spirituality was virtually synonymous with “celibate spirituality,” that is, even married people thought we had to become like monks and nuns to grow in the Lord. We’d have to do the same spiritual exercises, best performed by single people rather than seeing how God could use our marriages to help us grow in character, in prayer, in worship, and service. Rather than develop spirituality in which marriage serves our pursuit of holiness, the church focused on how closely married people could mimic ”single spirituality” without neglecting their family. The family thus became an obstacle to overcome rather than a platform to spiritual growth.
You’ve probably already realized that there was a purpose for your marriage that went beyond happiness. You might not have chosen the word “holiness” to express it, but you understood there was a transcendent truth beyond the superficial romance depicted in popular culture.
Far from assaulting our happiness, pursuing the biblical holiness of a quiet and godly life in marriage enhances it by giving us a new appreciation for the person with whom we walk this journey. When you realize something is “sacred,” far from making it boring, it gives birth to a new awe, a new reverence, a take-your-breath-away realization that something you’ve perhaps taken for granted is far more profound, far more powerful, far more life-giving and life-transforming than perhaps you’ve ever realized.
What you want from your marriage has a huge impact on your satisfaction within marriage. If you want to grow in holiness, marriage is one of the best, most fulfilling places to be.”
Gary L. Thomas is a bestselling author and international speaker whose ministry brings people closer to Christ and closer to others. His first and perhaps best-known book is titled Sacred Marriage, in which he ponders the question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” You may follow his ministry and devotional blog entries at http://www.garythomas.com, from which this devotional was adapted and used with the author’s permission.
For Personal Prayer:
1) If you feel that your married life is less than you imagined it would be, ask God to show you His purposes. Most of us are “ordinary” believers who sooner or later learn that God’s Word must work in us before it can effectively work through us. Pray for God’s wisdom and perspective about your life and home.
2) Pray for your spouse and family to have contentment with God’s placement and provision. (See today’s opening verse: “Be content with such things as you have.”)
3) Give thanks for all spiritual growth you see in your life and in your spouse. Anticipate more, but be patient. Remember, people tend to change at their own pace and level of faith. We cannot rush what God is doing.
4) For unmarried believers, keep a list of younger friends and relatives who are coming to maturity. Consider the political and spiritual atmosphere in America they are “inheriting” as they approach marriage age.
For National Intercession:
1) Pray for Christian college and seminary leaders in their tasks of admissions and student-life policies with the same-sex marriage and transgender issues they now face as “the law of the land” since the 2015 Supreme Court decision upholding same-sex marriage.
2) Pray for God’s protection for college presidents, deans, and board members, to guide campuses through the pressures of conformity to new laws.
3) Don’t limit your prayers only to personal holiness. Pray that Christian marriages would be so God-centered that their “quiet life” would be a resounding testimony to the one aim of God’s children, i.e., bringing glory to God individually and nationally.
4) Continue to pray for another “Great Awakening” to bring our nation back to God and His ways. Pray big prayers for many to be saved and for the advance of God’s unshakable Kingdom to advance through the witness of revived individuals, marriages, and a renewed Church.
5) Intercede for revival and for a transformed nation to be stewarded by the next generation and their children.
Intercessors for America
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