Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned. —Song of Songs 8:7
My friend and her husband have been married almost ten years, and they continue to have a difficult marriage. If the purpose of marriage were purely to provide loving intimacy, their marriage might be considered purposeless. But they have stayed married largely because they were brought up to believe that marriage is for life. And they really do love each other. They just haven't figured out how to translate that into happiness.
But happiness is not the chief point of marriage. Marriages are important to God not so much for what they are, as for what they teach. Marriage teaches us what God's kingdom is like. As his kingdom is about love, it's natural that marriage should teach us about love. It does this in two ways.
The first way is seen in "easy" marriages, which shine with the beauty of intimate love, the kind of natural, heartfelt, spontaneous love that was seen in Eden. For many of us, marriages—our own or others'—are the closest we ever come to understanding such love. Even if we experience it imperfectly, we understand, through marriage, something about the love of God.
But the other way of love is what I see in my friend's marriage. It's that love that will not let go, the love of passionate demands and passionate tears, the love that will not accept defeat. Marriages like my friend's are not happiness, nor are they peace. But they are certainly a sign of something wonderful: an unshakable love.1