Christians are not immune to unhappy marriages

I’m taking the summer a little slowly, so I’ve asked Tammy Rhoden to guest post for us today. Here’s Tammy’s story:

As a Christian woman entering a marriage in which I was equally yoked, I expected to live happily ever after once the rings slipped over our fingers. I didn’t believe our marriage would be tainted by the worldly issues of non-believers. I knew there would be a few bumps in the road but overall I wasn’t worried. I thought God made marriage to bring happiness to believing men and women.

Tammy Rhoden and her husband side by side
But it hasn’t been perfect. Actually, there have been far more imperfect moments than not. There have been many heartbreaking moments as well. Moments when I cried out to God and asked Him how He had allowed me to make such an awful mistake! There have been times when I haven’t known who I was madder with; Bobby, myself, or God. How had the marriage that I thought was the one every Christian woman was destined to have, turned so sour? Was I not good enough? Had I not paid enough? Would I never finish reaping the harvest of the bad past I had sown? Where was my happiness? I felt betrayed by my husband yes, but more so by God. I felt He had let me down.
I contemplated at times whether I should be able to get out of this marriage. I bargained on occasion with God trying to get Him to work on my behalf. Often I picked myself up by the proverbial bootstraps and got down to the business of saving my marriage. Never during any of these times did I find lasting happiness. Happiness was that elusive emotion that seemed to flit in and out of my marriage but I could never get a handle on so it would remain. What was wrong with us? We are Christians. Why weren’t we happy?

Then slowly I began to see things differently. I’m not sure when but over time, I noticed I was changing. Previously, I bought in to the whole idea that seems rather prevalent in the Christian world, that when two believers marry, their marriage should be a good one. After all, if two people are professing to love God then it follows that two people want to please God by living as He directs. So, it’s all good and they as Christians are destined to live happily ever after.

That really isn’t always the case, though. We want marriage to be a union with another person that brings us happiness but the truth is, God’s Word doesn’t say that marriage is designed to bring us happiness. In fact it says that it will be an area of struggle and hardship. Genesis 3:16 He told the Woman: “You’ll want to please your husband, but he’ll lord it over you.”At some point, I began to realize that I weighed almost every moment of my marriage on a happiness scale. Because there is no standard unit of happiness in marriage, I often found my scale too light. When I was feeling let down numerous times a day because my scales were always off, it only makes sense that my heart was beginning to develop defense tactics to keep from being hurt so often. As my heart began to harden, it became easier for the enemy to whisper more and more darkness into my ear.

As my heart grew harder and colder and wrapped itself tighter within layers of defensive repellent; I found it harder to respect my husband. When a wife doesn’t respect her husband, she finds it hard to submit or to have sex, whether out of spite or lack of desire. When a husband feels emasculated and lonely, he uses emotional distance to cope. Things continue to feed off each other and spiral out of control until each spouse’s heart is so hard they not only fall into further sin and treat each other more poorly, but they are no longer of use to God in many ways that they once were.People tend to expect marriage to bring them happiness even though God never promised it would. Satan desires to harden the hearts of Christians so they aren’t able to be used by God as He would like. Satan knows we use how our spouse makes us feel as a happiness gauge and when we aren’t happy, we begin to try to fix that. When we try to fix our spouse, we begin to have marital problems because our “fixing” stems from selfish desires and expectations of happiness that we believe our spouse should provide. As we criticize each other and try to change each other or begin to seek happiness outside our marriage, our hearts are hardened and become less usable by God for His ultimate purpose, which is to bring all things in the universe together under Christ.

Here’s a thought: if Satan attacks married people first and foremost through their spouses, in order to render their hearts useless to God, doesn’t it make sense that two strong believing Christians may have more problems within their marriage than non-believers?
Does this mean that I think Christians should just settle for a poor marriage if they are in one or that they shouldn’t strive for their marriage to be all it can be? No! But I also think that we as Christians should begin taking seriously the role God intended us to play in this world. He expects us all to share the Gospel and to play large parts in bringing everything in the universe together under Christ. We often forget that and instead get caught up in thinking about our marital happiness. We need to remember that as well as pursuing happiness in our marriage, we need to pursue joy in Christ. This is how we find it possible to love our spouse with the agape love of Jesus, making us capable of fulfilling God’s purpose.
I have begun to measure the moments of my marriage with a different tool. I no longer use my happiness scale but rather ask myself if the moment has done or is doing anything to further God’s purpose. If I find that it has, I celebrate and thank God for His goodness and grace. If I find that it was lacking, then I look back through the lens of self-examination, held by the Holy Spirit and try to discover where I fell short. I try not to think about where Bobby may have fallen short because God uses us as individuals and we are accountable as individuals.
Since I have begun to make personal, heart changing, spiritual choices in the way I deal with my unhappiness, Bobby has begun to turn around a lot in areas he personally felt he needed to improve in. We have identified who our enemy really is and we know it’s not each other.
Is everything hunky dory now? Well, things are still a work in progress and I think they may remain that way in one sense or another, maybe until death do us part. As for happiness; I can say that the joy I am experiencing more regularly in my life surpasses earthly happiness by far. Joy is what I have the most of but I am also happy more often than not as I am no longer feeling let down most of the time. My perspective of what marriage is supposed to offer me, has changed to align itself with a more godly vision and that makes a huge difference in the happiness scale!
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