This Article has been adapted from my book, "What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage" (Crossway Books, 2010).
It's tempting to think that God got it wrong. Is it possible that the wise and sovereign Creator of the universe actually put the cart before the horse?
I'm talking about sanctification and marriage. Wouldn't it save so much heartache, conflict, hurt, and disappointment if God had fully sanctified us and then called us into loving union with our spouse? Why do we have to marry flawed people during the sanctification process? I don't know about you, but I would find life a lot more comfortable if Luella and I lived in a fully sanctified marriage.
The reason this idea is enticing is because we're so captivated by pleasure, comfort, and the kingdom of self. Our hearts are drawn to order, predictability, pleasure, and personal happiness. Now, I must say that wanting these things isn't necessarily sinful; the created sinless world was designed for order, pleasure, and personal joy. But because of sin, we're now susceptible to be ruled by these things.
Think about it. I would guess that most of your anger this week wasn't motivated by Kingdom of God stuff. Maybe you saw injustice on the news and your heart was stirred up with a holy zeal, but I would guess that more often than not, your anger is motivated by the kingdom of self. You didn't get what you wanted; someone interrupted your peace and quite...and you got angry.
God's grace is intended to explode the kingdom of self. His grace is designed to expose and free you from your bondage to you. His will is to bring you to the end of yourself so that you will finally begin to place your identity, meaning, purpose, and inner-sense of well-being in him. God will allow difficulty to enter your life so that his kingdom becomes sweeter and more glorious than yours.
Enter marriage. God will place you in a comprehensive relationship with another flawed person in the middle of a very broken world. And, on top of that, he'll design circumstances that you would never design for yourself in a million years! But none of this makes him cruel, harsh, and unloving. In fact, if he let you rule your own life in comfort and pleasure, he would be cruel and unloving.
Hear this theology right before Valentine's Day - marriage is a beautiful thing that only reaches what it was designed to be through the methodology of a painful process. You'll never hear that on a jeweler's commercial! The surrounding culture is trying to sell you the kingdom of self, filled with comfort, pleasure, and ease.
Our problem is that we don't like difficulty of any kind. We would rather have an easy life than a God-honoring one. But by his grace, he is carefully bringing us to the end of ourselves so that we can find a deep and lasting joy not only in marriage, but in all of life.
I would ask you today - whose kingdom shapes your marriage?
If you're looking for additional resources on love and marriage, you should consider my newest devotional, "The Invitation To Love." This 10-part study on love from 1 John 4 can be yours for a donation of any amount.