Marriage doesn’t complete you, but it can enhance you.
When I was younger I used to think that getting married one day would be sort of a true beginning to my life. I thought marriage would somehow make me complete as a person and fill the empty gaps in my soul. Like the famous line in the movie Jerry Maguire, I thought a woman would “complete me”.
So there we see Tom Cruise’s character telling his wife, “You complete me”. And even if they don’t exactly say it that specifically, many movies and songs convey this same false idea.
For years as a young person, I believed the lie that marriage would solve all my problems and be the end-all, be-all of my life. I thought whoever I ended up with would be my soul mate and give me a deep, soul-satisfying love I could never experience otherwise.
This mentality set me up for failure when I started to have romantic relationships as I began to be bewildered and confused whenever there was any conflict. I wondered why a relationship would not work out when, on paper, everything seemed to be great. She was beautiful, and a Christian?! What more could I want or need right?!
Well, then I started to wake up to the reality that we live in a flawed universe and relationships don’t typically play out like a Disney movie.
Through the wisdom of married friends, mentors, and pastors, I began to realize what marriage is and what it isn’t.
Furthermore, God started to transform my understanding of marriage and relationships in general. God also began to point out a significant idol in my heart, an idol that would pre-occupy my mind, and time. This idol of course was the concept that my endless search for complete joy and satisfaction will finally be met through marriage. Which many married people will tell you, is simply not true.
I once read that you are not ready to get married until you realize marriage will not solve all your problems and your spouse will not complete you. Well, I can honestly say that after many years of dating and wrestling with this false concept, I am actually more ready to get married now than ever before because I finally understand what marriage is but more importantly, what it isn’t. I realized it isn’t a Disney fairy tale like I thought when I was much younger and that’s ok because it’s still very good and a gift from God.
What about you? Have you ever had these types of thoughts about marriage or a relationship?
Even if you’ve never been married, have you ever been in a relationship long enough to realize the other person will never be your savior?
Getting married will not complete you, but it can enhance you.
If you don’t understand this, you will set yourself up for failure because you will view your spouse as the source of your ultimate fulfillment and put unrealistic expectations on them.
See, although marriage will not complete you, it does have the power to help you become a better person, an improved person. In Christian marriages, God uses your spouse to help you become the best version of yourself possible, a person who is more like what God has always intended you to become.
Author Gary Thomas summarizes this nicely by saying, “God’s primary intent for your marriage isn’t to make you happy . . . but holy” as you partner, with the Holy Spirit, in the spiritual growth and character formation of your spouse. In this type of marriage, both of you will become more useful in advancing God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” as you both fulfill your individual callings.
When this occurs, there is an “iron sharpens iron” type of effect where each person sacrificially and selflessly loves the other person; encouraging and supporting that person to be all they can be for the purposes of God. And, as a result, a byproduct of this is a deep love and joy which is strengthened by time and commitment.
At the beginning I said, marriage doesn’t complete you. You may be thinking, “well then, what does?”
Well many people in the church will say Jesus completes you. People tend to especially say this to singles.
Well yes, we can be “complete” in Christ in the sense that enjoying moments of sweet fellowship with Christ is better than anything this world has to offer, or in the sense that he alone provides everything we need to have peace, joy, and contentment in our souls…but let’s not fall into the trap of the typical Christian cultural language of saying things like Jesus completes me and I should be perfectly happy being single my whole life even though I have a desire for marriage.
If you have a desire for marriage, God put it there. It is a good desire for a good gift from God.
But remember, while our longing for marriage is good, the reality is…it may never be fulfilled in this lifetime. And even if it does, you may still have unmet desires. Even married people have unmet desires.
The reality is some of us are called to the gift of singleness for a short period and some of us for longer periods.
Whether married or single, we ought to remember, our longing for marriage is ultimately a longing for another world.
We long to be fully known and fully loved in every way possible and our flawed spouses cannot do that. And, dare I say, even a relationship with Christ here on earth cannotFULLY do that but it certainly can in part.
When you got saved, how many of you experienced all of your problems just magically going away? Exactly. So why do we think once we get married all of our problems will just magically go away?
If you are angry, depressed, or have a secret addiction as a single person, you will have those same vices as a married person unless you allow God to renovate your heart and seek counsel to change accordingly.
The sweetness of our fellowship with Jesus here on earth is just a foreshadow of the ultimate paradise we will have when we see him face-to-face in eternity as 1 Cor. 13:9-12 says, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away…For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
It’s like when you have a picture of your loved one, you wouldn’t look at the picture if the person is there with you in that moment. Marriage is a picture of a reality that is yet to come.
Only then, will we finally be fully known and fully loved by a perfect being with no sinful flesh or sinful world interfering.
Everyone longs to be fully loved and fully known. This is what we seek in a marriage. But only the love from God, not from a spouse, can provide this.
Tim Keller says, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It…fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
Fellowship with Christ, and his Holy Spirit living inside of us, is the only thing in this life that can actually provide the true taste of what’s to come in heaven when we are finally fully loved and fully known. We get a glimpse of it here on earth, we can taste it, but the actual feast is in heaven.
Marriage is a foreshadow, a foretaste, of a deeper, greater, and truer union we will eventually have with Christ in the new creation.
C.S. Lewis once wrote “All joy emphasizes our pilgrim status; it always reminds, beckons, and awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings.” He was basically saying when we experience deep joy here on earth, we are experiencing feelings that only temporarily satisfy the deepest longings of our souls…a foretaste of what’s to come. We want to somehow harness these feelings but we can’t, they fade, and life, just…goes on.
See even in the most blissful moments of this life, there will still be a sense of longing after the novelty of the experience fades. This longing is the soul’s ache for paradise; the soul’s ache for God.
A paradise where complete satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment will finally be reached. A paradise where we will finally be completely united with our creator.
When we have moments of sadness, loneliness, and disappointment, it is our soul’s way of knowing this isn’t how it should be. It is our soul’s cry for a better world.
Our singleness reminds us of our longing for something greater but so do the imperfections of a marriage. Whether single or married, we will always have a longing in our souls for a perfect world where we are completely filled with peace and joy.
How many of you wonder why you still have longings for something else even after becoming a Christian? It is because this world is in a fallen state and things are not as they should be. Even when we follow Jesus, we still will encounter difficult times. Jesus never said he would complete our every desire. He said follow me. Paul had a desire for the “thorn” in his flesh to go away but it never did. Our ultimate healing will not come until Jesus returns, whether married or not.
Even after you become a Christian, and even after you get married, you will still have unmet desires due to the sin residue in our hearts.
We also ought to remember that marriage is temporary; it does not last forever as Jesus said “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage…” (Matthew 22:30). Don’t make something temporary an idol. Only Christ and the Church are eternal.
So we are longing for an ultimate redemption that will never come until the new creation which the Bible just happens to describe as a wedding where the Church, the bride of Christ, will finally meet her husband when Jesus returns to make all things new.
Rev. 21:1-5 says:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
For some of us who have been or will be single for a long time, and we wonder why God? We cry out, “what have I done to deserve this loneliness and despair?” We ask, “where are you God in the midst of this suffering?” God’s answer to this question is…“I am with you.”
God is with us.
…and we can be content, even in singleness.
Phil. 4:11-13 says:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Paul says I have learned to be content…even though I’m in jail writing this letter to you Philippians, and even though I am single with no bae, with no boo boo!
The reason he says he is content because he has learned to find his value and worth from Christ so Christ becomes the all-satisfying being in his life that provides for him the deep security of love that his soul so desperately needs. But this is a LEARNED behavior; it is a process as God refines us and helps us see our need for him.
Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” We continue to taste the goodness of God and we yearn to be with God forevermore in heaven one day.
A few things to remember:
- The best marriages occur when both people understand their spouse is not their savior.
- Releasing your spouse from being the source of your ultimate fulfillment will allow you to fully enjoy the person without putting unrealistic expectations on them.
- We can have a partner to share in the goodness and beauty this world has to offer while realizing we still live in the midst of brokenness in this fallen world.
- “Marriage is not designed to make you happy but holy.” -Gary Thomas
- He also says: “Our marriages can be platforms for evangelism. They can draw people into a truth that points beyond this world into the next.”
- The best time to work on your marriage is before you have one.
- Let the Holy Spirit change you
- The fruit of the Spirit, i.e. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, is exactly what you need to have a thriving marriage.
- This is the type of person you should look for as well.
- “A successful marriage is a great union between two great forgivers.” –Rick Warren
- Remember, feelings come and go, they can’t be trusted, but real love is about sacrifice, resolve, and determination.
- True love is intentional.
- “In Christian marriage, love is not an option. It is a duty.” —R.C. Sproul
- “Marriage will not solve your emptiness; it will expose it, so marry someone who has a solid core in who they are apart from a relationship.” –Gary Thomas
- Regarding if you think finally getting married will solve your internal problems:“Don’t think changing your outside life will change the inside. Change the inside & the outside will soon begin to look a lot different.” – Dr Henry Cloud
- Marry someone who loves God more than they love you.
- Let the Holy Spirit change you
I want to share one last verse with you…
1 Corinthians 7:1-9 says in the Message version:
“Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me. First, is it a good thing to have sexual relations? Certainly—but only within a certain context. It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder…Marriage is a decision to serve the other…
Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others.
I do, though, tell the unmarried and widows that singleness might well be the best thing for them, as it has been for me. But if they can’t manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married. The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single.”
Verses 8-9 in the NIV:
“I’m telling those who are single and widows that it’s good for them to stay single like me.9 But if they can’t control themselves, they should get married, because it’s better to marry than to burn with passion.”
So what do we see in these verses? Both marriage and singleness are gifts from God. Sometimes the gift of singleness is only for a certain season of life, sometimes it’s for longer.
Do you feel as if you would never live a fulfilling life if you never got married?
If marriage never works out for you, could you still live a eternally significant life for God’s kingdom?
Singles are not second-class citizens in the kingdom of God (e.g. Jesus, Paul). If anything, they can do more for the kingdom than their married peers as Paul says in the verses above.
Now, imagine your future spouse and you are at church together worshipping God in a moment of bliss. You are both enjoying fellowship with the Spirit of God and the joy of simply being with each other. In that moment, your mind and soul are satisfied by the presence of God and you are truly experiencing something utterly transcendent and beautiful.
That is a good moment worth celebrating one day. It is a moment worth looking forward to. It is a moment of pure joy as you are doing what you were created to do: honoring God with others. It is a moment that reminds us that the best is yet to come. In that moment of worship, we are reminded of how things will forever be one day; when all the aches of our souls are healed and satisfied….But…this moment doesn’t require a spouse, it could just as well be a friend standing next to you in worship experiencing that same joy, reminding you of that same future.
Because…marriage can enhance us, it can improve us, but it never can complete us.
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