When I first got married, I thought I’d always be happy. After all, I was married to my best friend and we got along well, therefore I should always be happy. Isn’t marriage like that for everyone? No, it isn’t.
The harder I tried, the less happy I became. We had some serious issues that crept into our marriage, and eventually I gave up being happy.
You see, I learned a vital lesson:
Happiness is not the end goal in marriage.
Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of that.
If happiness isn’t the goal in marriage, what is?
We were created by God for His glory. He has given each of us a unique purpose and calling. He has gifted us in different ways and placed us at the appointed time in history, for His glory.
Part of that, in the context of marriage, is the idea of submission. We were created, as wives, to fulfill a role in our marriage. We are to submit to our husbands, and husbands are to love their wives. (Stick with me here…I know not everyone likes this conversation, but I gained something new out of my studying recently.)
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body.
So how do we grow toward holiness in our marriage when we can’t even manage some happiness?
Sometimes we just cannot find a way to be happy in our marriage or with our spouse, yet we know we are supposed to submit to our husband’s leadership. What I learned for myself, for my situation, in studying this passage was that I didn’t have to be happy with my husband in order to submit to him.
What God taught me was that I needed to learn to respect my husband. I did not need to like him or feel happiness in my marriage. But I needed to learn to respect him.
Respect is not an easy thing. Okay, I’ll speak for myself here: I have a hard time respecting someone I don’t necessarily like. And it’s so much easier to respect someone with whom I work or have dealings outside of the home, because I can leave my relationship with them and retreat to my home.
But learning to respect my husband took some work after things went wrong. I prayed that God would show me specific ways to build my respect for my husband.
He kept bringing these specifics to mind:
- My husband provides for our family.
- My husband is a good father.
- My husband does many projects around the house.
These were the three areas that God showed me where I should focus my respect. Not only was I to focus on those areas, but I was not to focus on the areas that frustrated me.
I started to thank my husband for going to work, for being a great father, for his continued help in keeping things together around the house.
Focusing on those areas gave me a new appreciation for my husband. I had three concrete situations where I could focus my respect for my husband. As I worked on these areas, I experienced an unexpected blessing: joy.
See, we may not feel happy, but our circumstances don’t have to steal our joy.
If you are experiencing unhappiness right now, please know you aren’t alone. It can be a very difficult place to find yourself.
I’d encourage you to pray about ways you can respect your husband – to thank him for what he does, to speak kindly of him when you can.
Respecting your husband, even in a small way, is honoring to God. He will bless your efforts in trying to lead a righteous life.
Go ahead – give up on happiness. Work with God to focus on respect, and see how He will work in your marriage!
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