"How could he do that to you?" I asked angrily. My friend's husband—a Christian—had just told her he was in love with another woman.
"It's not all his fault," my friend admitted. "I helped chase him away by demanding he change so I could be happy."
I listened intently as she poured out the details of her demands, feeling that she was reading from the pages of my life. "I've done some of the same things," I confessed. I remembered times when my husband, Steve, had withdrawn from me, saying, "I can't be responsible when you're not happy." Only now did I understand what he meant.
Throughout my marriage, I'd often focused on happiness. "God," I'd prayed, "all I want is to be happy. Is that too much to ask?" Now I realized it was too little. The pursuit of happiness, though understandable, had kept me from seeing what God wanted for me.
My friend and I decided that God's number-one goal for marriage is not "be happy," but "be holy." He commands us, "Be holy, because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). I'm discovering that the "be holy" path blesses me, my husband, and the Lord.
For many years, I failed to see God's purpose for our marriage. I saw it as "my" marriage. I thought I was unhappy because I couldn't gain control of the relationship. God showed me I was unhappy because I was trying to.
I can't be happy unless I submit to God and his purpose.
Embracing God's purpose
So what is his purpose for our marriage? Romans 8:28 promises that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." For years I failed to connect this to verse 29, which states the purpose: "to be conformed to the likeness of his Son."
As I consider the things in our marriage that I once labeled bad, I marvel at the good God has brought from them. For instance, I often felt Steve didn't give me enough emotional support during difficult times, such as when I or the children were ill. Steve's lack of support chased me to God, where I learned to depend more fully on him.
Steve and I have strengths and weaknesses that God understood when he brought us together. These strengths and weaknesses are matched perfectly, so instead of becoming too dependent on each other, we go to him.
I'd be happy if …
For a long time, I insisted that God make me happy my way. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. Most of my "I would be happy if …." sentences ended with some change in Steve. No wonder he tended to withdraw.
I remember thinking I'd be happy if Steve would pray with me. Once he started praying with me, instead of being grateful, I changed my demand to, "I'd be happy if he'd pray with me every day." This pattern was repeated in other areas of our marriage.