I had a difficult conversation with a friend about her upcoming wedding not too long ago. Defending her love for her fiancée, she asserted, “He deserves a second chance. He deserves to be happy and have a happy ending.”
A happy ending. Those words drummed a familiar beat in my heart.
Marriage As My Happy Ending
For years, I was convinced that if I found someone who would vow to love me forever, I could finally be happy. The fact that my parents were not married amplified this belief. To me, marriage signified the end of all my struggles in the search for true love—a happy ending. Thus, I felt the pressure to get married, to find “the one” who would hand me my happy ending.
With this pressure came an incessant and belligerent voice that kept pounding lies into my head: “Singleness is failure. Singleness means a lifetime of loneliness and misery. Singleness means you are incomplete.”
This deep-seated erroneous belief festered through the years and led me into many unhealthy relationships. Our culture today nurtures this warped idea of love and marriage. We have come to expect another person to make us whole and to provide us with our desperate need for eternal love and security. We expect marriage to complete us. We marry because we want to be happy. When we find ourselves unhappy in a marriage, we begin to look for a replacement either in a new person or new experiences, only to discover that neither can truly fulfill what our souls are truly hungry for. Why? Because of this simple, absolute truth: we are a broken people.
Somehow, we have learned to live outside of that truth. We have forgotten that we are bound to make mistakes and to fail each other. Whether or not we mean to hurt each other, it’s inevitable. We can never be enough for anyone, nor is anyone ever going to be enough for us. Our brokenness guarantees that.
Dr. Val Gonzales, a pastor, licensed counselor and friend, once proposed an idea about marriage that had me mulling over for a few nights. He said, “Marriage is not a vehicle to happiness. It is wrong to think this way: I will marry, so I will be happy. It should be: I am happy, so now I will marry.”
Don’t get me wrong: we can find happiness in our marriages. But it is not a guarantee. And more often than not, happiness comes as a by-product of our relationship with God. If our hope and our joy is misplaced, our unrealistic expectations of each other will likely lead to a marriage’s eventual end as is the case in so many of our marriages today.
Should I Marry Or Not?
I used to ask, “How do I know who my future husband is?” In between failed relationships, I came to see how foolish I was in pursuing true joy in another broken person. I subsequently learned to relinquish to God any claims I had for the right to be happy or to be married. When I finally learned to release this idol, that’s when I realized the better question was, “How do I know if I should get marry and not remain single?” I wanted God to take charge. And He did.
God shattered to pieces nearly all the foundations I stood on about who I was, who my family was, who my friends were, and who He was. Then He rebuilt them into quite possibly the most beautiful ground I could root my life on—the bedrock of Jesus’ love. He ushered my steps to a calling that spread like wildfire in my whole being: go and serve Him in the mission field.
Decision after decision I made from that point onwards—and yes, including my marriage—fell along the lines of this radical call. When my husband proposed to me and I said yes, there was not only immense peace but also clarity about what that meant. God made it clear to me that marriage would be good for me because I had found who I really am: whole, happy, and secure in Him. I was ready to commit to a covenant relationship intended to last a lifetime.
My Happiness In Your Hands
Many would probably applaud my friend’s declaration of love. But I would hesitate to do so, for it suggests that her future husband’s happiness hinges on her. No matter how good we are at making people happy, we all have our limits, because we are a flawed, limited people. It is dangerous to assume responsibility for another person’s happiness.
At times, we get tired and weary of life. Sure, we should work towards meeting the needs of our spouses, but we cannot expect ourselves to fulfill this perfectly all the time, nor should we demand of them the duty of meeting ours.
No one can fill that oh-so-familiar void in our hearts but Jesus. Because that deep hole we try to fill with fleeting moments of warmth and happiness is God-shaped. He is the solitary piece that can complete the puzzle of our lives and our identity.
We can try to root our happiness in another person’s heart, and it may give us, for a time, what we need. But as life happens, we’d probably realize that he is not big enough to handle his own longings and yours.
Only Jesus can do it. Let His love consume you and make you whole. I promise: you will be filled to the full.