Happy vs. Holy, pt. 3

(Most of what follows has appeared already on a marriage forum where I have posted, but for the sake of this blog, I’m updating and adding. This is the third of a three-part series; here are the links to part 1 and part 2.)

In my last post, I discussed the folly of trying to say that marriage is God’s tool for building character, as we know that tribulation is the stated method for that. After all, God’s view  marriage as a cross and a martyrdom? While I know of one person who actually believes himself to be a martyr to marriage, I’m pretty sure that his view is an extreme minority.

Contrasted with the idea that God’s intentions for marriage are to fit us for His Kingdom are the Biblical statements that tell us we are to find joy and happiness in our marriages. Proverbs tells us that we are to find sexual happiness in our marriage beds:

May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.  A loving doe, a graceful deer– may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. (Prov. 5:18-19)

You got that, right? “Rejoice”? Not “Endure”, not “Bear with”, but “Rejoice.”

And in Deuteronomy, God told Moses that a newly married man was freed from military obligation so that he could make his wife happy:

If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married. (Deut. 24:5)

Are we really going to say, “But that was under Old Testament Law?” (I didn’t think so.)

Paul, in telling why he thought that the single state was better than the married state, said that the desire of the wife should be to please her husband:

But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world–how she can please her husband. (1 Cor. 7:14)

(At least, he seems to be implying that she should be, especially as this comes after the section in which he says that spouses are not to defraud each other, sexually.)

In the Old Testament, the husband is to make his wife happy, in the New, the wife is to try to please her husband…. Are you sensing a pattern here?

The cynic who wrote Ecclesiastes even gets in on this idea of marriage being for enjoyment and happiness, rather than tribulation, with,

Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun–all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. (Ecc. 9:9)

“Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love….” Even believing that life is meaningless, the writer of Ecclesiastes can speak of enjoying this meaningless life with someone you love. Marriage and love lift life to a place of enjoyment, even for the cynic.

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is…. Be Happy

Two verses from Proverbs top this off, for me, convincing me that I do have a place and obligation to seek my wife’s best, her pleasure and joy, that is God-given.

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD. (Prov. 18:22)

If I find a wife, it is goodness to me, and favor. I’m pretty sure that the same thing can be said for a woman who finds a good husband. (And, yes, I know that this verse, and the verses I cite, above, are male-centered. But can we really say that it is only men who would regret living with an ill-tempered, brawling wife, that a woman wouldn’t be beaten down by an ill-tempered, brawling husband?)

And Proverbs 12:4 gives us the contrast between the results of a good spouse and the effects of a bad spouse:

A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. (12:4)

With all this as testimony, how can I deny the importance of my role to bring happiness and joy to my spouse? I have to opportunity to be the protector, provider and lover to the daughter of God that He has brought to me. How can I deny it? My wife has the opportunity to be my crown; why would she turn that opportunity into being a cancer, instead?

I believe that when we say “I do” at the wedding, we are saying to God that we are accepting the responsibility to do our best to provide happiness and joy to our spouses. Kate, at the close of her final speech in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, sums up my role and the role of every man and woman who enters into marriage:

“My hand is ready, may it do him ease.”


Filed under Marriage, Marriage & Sexuality

8 responses to “Happy vs. Holy, pt. 3

  1. Pingback: Happy vs. Holy, pt. 1 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  2. Pingback: Happy vs. Holy, pt. 2 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  3. Object of Contempt

    Pastors who teach that marriage should be seen as our crucible will usually still use the standard vows when performing a wedding. The vows are a promise to love, cherish, honor, (and obey for the wife). These are vows to do good and pursue the blessing and happiness of your spouse, even /despite/ terrible circumstances. The vows display a conspicuous, implicit belief that marriage isn’t intended to be the /source/ of those terrible circumstances. Blindness to this kind of contradiction aggravates me.

    Eph. 5:26 indicates that the husband should sanctify his wife through the washing of water and the word. But the “holiness” teaching doesn’t really teach anything about edifying each other in the Lord. I, personally, have only heard it with respect to difficult marriages. It builds on top of a value in christian culture that happiness, beauty, and pleasure are unimportant to God. I should say, though, that it only applies to those people who are suffering, and are searching for relationships that provide those kinds of blessings. No one says it is wrong to be happy. Valuing or seeking happiness, however, is frequently considered a sign of carnality (I admit that there are many ways to turn this into the love of pleasure that we are warned of in scripture. We must be careful. We don’t stop eating, or even feasting, just because it /could/ turn to gluttony).

    My perception is that there is a strong cultural undercurrent that encourages contempt for the ones who are in crushed in spirit. We don’t know how to help many of them, and besides, “I already got mine.”

    The LORD is near to the broken hearted; and he saves the crushed-spirited.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone knew that God cares about the blessings of his children? We see it in now God consoled Job. We also see how angry God was about the foolishness and contempt show by Job’s friends. It is /godly/ to seek the comfort, blessing, and happiness of those around us. And in marriage, it is so important that the wedding vows are a promise of blessing. If the main goal of marriage were to make us holy, then why was it so important to God /before/ the fall? Especially at that time, help and blessing are clearly the main purpose. And God was not the least bit offended by Adam’s rejoicing. He didn’t say, “hey Adam! Cheer down! Your happiness is just revelling in the flesh, and it’s not worth anything to me.”

    The God who made leviathan to play in the oceans cares even more about our happiness. Holiness isn’t just a tangential concept; we worship a holy God who says, “be ye holy for I am holy.” But let’s also praise God for his gifts of beauty, pleasure, play, and happiness. “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the father of lights.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • OOC,

      This was great. Other than the “promise to obey” line, which has gone by the way today, this was marvelous. Thank you. And I hope you don’t mind if I steal it. 🙂


      • Object of Contempt

        Hmmm… I don’t think it’s logically possible to steal it, since I submitted it to you knowing it would be published. 😉

        I am courious what you meant about the “promise to obey” line. I think you’re just saying it is largely unused anymore. I thought about that when I was writing the comment, but left it in mostly because it was a part of our actual vows, and is another thing that brings blessing and happiness. I don’t doubt many people, including Christians, are offended by that concept.


      • My dear OOC,

        How delightfully out of touch you are! You really think that a lot of people wouldn’t be offended today? How naïve! 🙂


      • sandi

        Actually, he said “I don’t doubt they would be offended” means he agrees with your assessment that people are owned by it, I think. 🙂


      • Mega culpable, mega culpable. In speed-reading the comment, I didn’t pick up the “don’t”. I shall flog me self this evening and bedew my bolster with tears of shame. *sob*


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