(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.”