Kayla Johnston | Contributing Writer
She spoke the words with as much devastation as one could muster: “I’m on a Pinterest break.” Anyone would empathize with her; Pinterest is something to be taken seriously.
But as she continued, senior English major Sara Champlain explained that what she saw on Pinterest – overly priced wedding dresses, larger-than-life engagement rings and beautiful women standing next to their slew of bridesmaids, all wearing matching blush-colored dresses – was damaging her current relationship with her boyfriend.
“It’s encouraging me not to be content in the stage my relationship is currently in because I am so focused on wanting to be in the next season,” Champlain said.
Women and men alike are constantly being saturated with messages from the media, from friendships and yes, ladies, especially from Pinterest, by this idea of the perfect wedding and the perfect marriage. Society is telling, or rather, yelling, that marriage is meant to bring happiness. It says that this “perfect” marriage consists of two people falling in love, building a family and being eternally happy together. But maybe the goal of marriage isn’t happiness at all.
“The way to have a great marriage is by not focusing on marriage,” writes author and speaker Francis Chan, a longtime friend of Azusa Pacific University, in his new book You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity.
It’s possible we have the idea of marriage completely backward.
Christ promises an abundant life, but he never promises a life of happiness. In John 10:10 (NIV), Jesus states, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
An eternally minded marriage focuses on the idea that a couple should be doing all they can to serve God together on earth in order to better each other, further the Kingdom and ultimately live in the purest form of happiness in heaven, church pastors and counselors say. This kind of marriage is tough. It requires action, it requires immense sacrifice, it requires discomfort and it requires complete selflessness. In this kind of marriage, love doesn’t mean making one another happy – love means making God happy.
“It’s really not just about individual fulfillment and satisfaction in the marriage. It is so much bigger than that,” said Dr. Randy Northrup, marriage and family therapist at Fellowship Monrovia Church.
Marriage is a tangible example of what Christ’s love for the Church looks like. As bridegroom, Jesus gave his life for his bride, “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). While the Bible may not provide an exact definition of marriage or the purpose of marriage, the overarching context of Scripture points to the idea that marriage is meant to draw one another toward Christ.
“You can be more effective together than apart. In a truly healthy relationship, we enable each other to accomplish more than we could have done alone. This was His plan,” Chan writes.
This plan is a controversial one, and many may argue that individual happiness and fulfillment is their highest goal. The problem with a self-focused marriage, and even a self-focused life, is that rather than pointing one another to God, couples are pointing one another back to themselves, leading to pain, arguments and the rising divorce rate.
“Society empowers the individuals in the relationship, rather than the couple as a unified entity, and because of that, each spouse is granted the freedom to leave if he or she should choose to,” Champlain said.
With the odds stacked against a lasting marriage, many couples are left wondering what can be done to avoid becoming another entry in the divorce statistics.
“The breakdown of the family will ultimately contribute to the demise of our culture and nation, if we cannot re-establish a reverence for the way God intended it to be: a no-holds, barred commitment to the concept of loyalty, faithfulness, family, grace and permanence,” Northrup said.
Additionally, both Francis and Lisa Chan agree that an eternally minded marriage limits the amount of friction in a relationship. They write that focusing on serving God leaves less time to focus on the silly arguments.
“We have better things to pursue than our interests. Too much is at stake! God created us for a purpose. We can’t afford to waste our lives. We can’t afford to waste our marriage by merely pursuing our own happiness,” they write.
This is a lot to take in. Take a deep breath. It’s OK to be happy, and it’s OK to look at Pinterest. In fact, both of those things are great. But as the “ring by spring” buzz begins to kick in, consider the true purpose of marriage. Consider the incredible potential Christ-following couples have in serving God together. Think about the sacrifices you can make to further his Kingdom. Think about the action that God has called you to, and what that could look like as a partnership with your future spouse. Leave behind the lie that marriage is what will make you happy.