Sunday, July 19, 2015

Singleness Thought of the Week: Marriage Dreams vs. Realities

“Life would be so much better if only I could get married!”

That thought has crossed my mind many times during this extended season of singleness.  When I’m feeling lonely, I blame it on my single status because if I were married, I’d have a husband to talk to and spend time with.   No more loneliness.  Problem solved.  My feelings of insignificance and lack of direction?  All would be eradicated by marriage and motherhood, of course.  And frustrations over the lack of sexual fulfillment?  Well, that’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?  Marriage would eliminate that difficulty completely.


Awwwww!  Don't they look happy?!


As I continue along this train of thought, before long, I begin to imagine an ideal existence, full of long, absorbing conversations over candlelight dinners, fun-filled trips to Disney World with rosy-cheeked children in tow, and torrid sexual encounters under the marital bed sheets that seem eons more satisfying then this dry, lonely, boring singleness I’m trapped in.

I'm sure you recognize how ridiculous that description of marriage is, but don’t you do the same thing sometimes?  Don’t we singles tend to believe that our lives would be happier in every category if only God would provide a spouse?  But although marriage was designed by God to meet sexual needs, provide companionship, and give us purpose and meaning, what we imagine marriage will be like and what it actually turns out to be are two completely different things.  That’s because marriage doesn’t always turn out the way God designed it to in this sinful world.  The sins of our spouse, our own sins, and difficult situations like financial troubles all affect our marriage.

When married friends have tried to share these truths with me, I have often become incensed.  “They’re just trying to talk me out of wanting to get married”, I often muse.  “Well, it won’t work!”  But no one can talk anyone out of wanting to be married.  God implanted that desire in us.  And marriage is a good, godly desire.  It isn’t good, however, for the reasons we think it will be good.  It isn’t good because it will perfectly meet all our needs, desires, and expectations.  Marriage is good because it is an opportunity to love sacrificially, displaying the relationship of Christ and the church.  It is good because it is an effective means of sanctification God uses to mold us into the image of His Son.  In short, marriage is good because of what we give to it, not what we take out of it. 

In his book Our Unmet Needs, Southern Baptist pastor Charles Stanley describes the sometimes selfish expectations we singles have regarding marriage,

"Who wants to get married for the sole purpose of being used by the other person to get all of his or her needs met? Who on this earth could remotely feel that it is either possible or equitable to spend one's life solely for the purpose of meeting another person's needs? And yet many people who say with a tone of desperation in their voices, 'I need to get married,' are looking for precisely that - somebody to meet all of their needs for them. The need to be married is a me-centered need in most cases."

One thing that has discouraged me from wallowing in self-pity in my singleness and that has also helped me hold the desire for marriage loosely in my hand, is spending time with married women.  God has truly blessed me by surrounding me with mature, godly, married women who have been honest about the joys and travails of marriage.  They love their husbands, are thankful for their marriages, but still do not see their state as being inherently better or happier than mine.  I’m reminded of a quote by Lisa Anderson from the Boundless Show, a Focus on the Family broadcast discussing topics of interest to single Christians.  In one segment, Lisa, who is single, tearfully stated that singleness was hard because she was no one’s most important person.  But I can think of many married Christian women who could say the same thing.  Though they are married, the most important person to their husband is, at times, himself.  This is not to say that marriage is bad but that putting someone else’s needs before our own is a learned behavior that is forged over years and years of marriage.  It doesn’t automatically materialize after the words, “I do.”

What’s the point of this post?  Not to talk us out of marriage but to encourage a more, God-centered, realistic view of marriage.  One that will allow us to joyfully accept it from God’s hand if He should provide it, or graciously accept singleness if that is His purpose for us.  It may not seem like it at times, but God has truly provided all we need to glorify and be satisfied in Him today.  If we truly needed marriage today, He would have provided it.  “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11)

I’ll leave you with a sermon quote from evangelical pastor John MacArthur.  And don’t disregard it as I often have with the thought, “Well, that’s easy for him to say.  He’s married.”  Pastors see more than their share of good and horrible marriages so they know what they’re talking about.

"Please, if you're single, do not look at marriage as the solution to your trouble. It probably is the multiplication of it. Marriage intensifies human weakness because it puts you under such intimate scrutiny. Sometimes young people say, 'You know, I have strong desires sexually and if I can just get married.' That is not in itself a sufficient reason to get married. Even after marriage there is no guarantee that your elicit temptation will go away. And the fulfillment you find in your marriage doesn't satisfy...listen carefully...doesn't satisfy unrighteous longings.

Some people say, 'Well I'm lonely, I need to get married cause I'm lonely.' And they get married and often are far more lonely after married than before because somebody so close becomes so indifferent, and that's crushing.

Marriage, you see, is the solution to only one thing, just one, and that is this, the will of God."
  

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