I’ve just completed reading Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Marriage and I have to say, the sub-title very aptly summarizes the entire book.
The sub-title is, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy.” It is a profound statement and though it is stated as a question, Mr. Thomas uses 268 pages to prove that it is true.
I found this book compelling because the basic message is something that I have been thinking, teaching, and to a small degree living for some time now. I’ve got a long way to go in the application department. This book advances my previous thinking significantly and I would recommend this book to any married person or person about to be married.
The author essentially deals with the culturally conditioned myth that the purpose of marriage, and the purpose of our spouse in the marriage, is to make us happy. He actually has so much nerve as to suggest that God is pleased when our marriages are tough because it is through difficulties that God changes us.
If I had a criticism of the book it would be that I think Mr. Thomas could have said it all in about half as many words. I know, who am I to complain about long windedness? Well, everything he says is interesting and useful. I just hate to see someone read half this book and then quit. The second half is as good as the first.
I’ll allow you some exposure to this book through some selected quotes from the first two chapters.
What if God didn’t design marriage to be ‘easier’? What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place?
What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? (p.13)
But the idea that a marriage can survive on romance alone, or that romantic feelings are more important than any other consideration when choosing a spouse, has wrecked many a marital ship. (p.14)
If you want to be free to serve Jesus, there’s no question – stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become more like Jesus, I can’t imagine any better thing to do than to get married. Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise. (p.21)
Any situation that calls me to confront my selfishness has enormous spiritual value…the real purpose of marriage may not be happiness as much as it is holiness. Not that God has anything against happiness, or that happiness and holiness are by nature mutually exclusive, but looking at marriage through the lens of holiness began to put it into an entirely new perspective for me. (p.22,23)
I found there was a tremendous amount if immaturity within me that my marriage directly confronted. The key was that I had to change my view of marriage. If the purpose of marriage was simply to enjoy an infatuation and make me ‘happy’, then I’d have to get a ‘new’ marriage every two or three years. But if I really wanted to see God transform me from the inside out, I’d need to concentrate on changing myself rather than on changing my spouse. (p.23)
In the same way, some of us ask too much of marriage. We want to get the largest portion of our life’s fulfillment from our relationship with our spouse. That’s asking too much. (p.25)
We need to remind ourselves of the ridiculousness of looking for something from other humans that only God can provide. (p.25)