Want a Good Marriage?

Then don’t focus on your marriage!

flickr photo shared by jcoterhals under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

I’ve been married 7 years. This makes me an amateur. Yet, I think I’ve discovered a not so hidden pearl of wisdom. The key to a successful marriage?

Don’t focus on your marriage.

This may sound counterintuitive but for a Christian, its imperative…and it’s been right in front of our eyes this whole time!

Everyone has asked this question at least once: What’s our purpose in life? If you are married you have almost certainly asked how you got yourself into this a time or two. The truth is, marriage is hard. But it’s also beautifully fulfilling and useful if we have our eyes on the right prize.

You may have a specific purpose that God wants you to fulfill. Maybe this is going to UBC, having three kids instead of 2, or sponsoring a child from World Vision. These are purposes that God communicates to you personally. After all, God may not want me to have 3 kids. This is much different than God’s general will for your life.

After all, God’s general will is the same for all Christians every where. Who am I to make this claim? Actually, Jesus made this claim in Matthew 28:19-20 when He said

now go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…teaching them to obey my commands…and I will be with you always.

Notice the scripture does not read: “if you are single, go make disciples” or “if you have 1 child, go make disciples”, or “if you are married, go make disciples.” It says “go make disciples.” Given that this is undeniably the will of God for our lives, how should this affect marriage?

If my purpose in life is to make disciples (share the good news of Christ and teach others to do the same), then clearly my life and marriage (yes that’s part of my life) needs to be focused on this purpose. What does this look like? Ask yourself this. Did you get married so that you could do this better? Is your marriage a tool for you to fulfill that purpose…or is it a distraction?

The problem today is that husbands and wives are worrying and obsessing about their marriages. In other words, marriage (and children in many cases) have become idols which distract us from our purpose. This might seem healthy (and indeed it’s applauded in churches today) to be primarily concerned about how to please your spouse, how to deepen your marriage, how to best raise your kids.

But in a way this misses the point. Is God primarily concerned with the fuzzy feelings you have for your spouse or how happy your kids are? No. On the contrary, the bible teaches us that our happiness (including that which comes from a “healthy” marriage) is not the main purpose of our short time on earth. Jesus also says that the greatest commandment of all is to first, to love God and second, to love others (Matt 22:36).

Unless you disagree with Jesus on this matter, it seems that many of us need to refocus. Are our marriages structured in such a way that we spend time building relationships with people, or are we spending most of our free time watching movies on the couch? Are our marriages arranged so that we can show hospitality and financial aid to those in need, or are we primarily spending our money on things which aren’t necessary bad, but may disallow us from doing Gods will with our money?

A read through 1 Corinthians 7 will remind us of Paul’s warnings about how marriage can become an idol even when it is meant as a blessing. Particularly he says

I want you to be free from the concerns of this life (vs 32)

meaning we should live with heaven in our view, not becoming attached to anything of this world. He’s not saying we can’t love our spouse. This was put perfectly by a good friend of mine recently;

God delights in us taking care of our marriage(s) and the precious gifts He gives us. Taking the time to work on our marriage(s) is thanking God and praising Him for that gift.

Paul is however saying that when that love is our main focus, we have the tendency to lose sight of what’s ultimately important.

Once we have the right focus, we grow closer together as a couple. An analogy I like from Francis Chan is of a sports team. Most of the players’ time is spent on one purpose: winning! Very little time is spent in group counseling learning about each other and how to be closer. Yet, at the end of the game the players are instinctively knitted together with a bond because they strive for the same goal and purpose. Likewise, when both husband and wife focus on their God given purpose in life, they will grow closer together through the bond of a common goal: making disciples.

Losing focus looks like focusing inward on marriage (and children) itself. It is in doing so that we lose sight of what’s going on around us. Indeed, we may lose sight of why we are together in the first place. Chan asks a chilling question in You and Me Forever (the book which inspired this article). He asks

Does your marriage make sense in light of the existence of hell?

That is to say, the reality of hell and our call to make disciples should be reflected in our marriages. If it isn’t, we’ve lost sight of why we are here in the first place. Our focus on eternity will ensure a successful marriage in the here and now.

Does your marriage make sense in light of the existence of hell? Click To Tweet

You and me forever: marriage in light of eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan can be found on Amazon.ca and other vendors.