Yesterday one of the blog posts I linked to was Holy or Happy? What’s the Purpose of Marriage? by J of Hot, Holy and Humorous.
I have ranted about this in the past, most recently in Marriage Lie: God didn’t create marriage to make us happy, but I have a new thought I would like to pass on related to this. Perhaps one reason some want to make marriage about something other than happiness is to avoid feeling any responsibility for their spouse’s happiness. You’ve no doubt heard most of the following:
- We are responsible for our own happiness.
- You can’t make another feel anything.
- You’re only responsible for yourself.
- You’re not responsible for bad feelings resulting from others misunderstanding what you say or do.
Aside from some of those being factually incorrect, I don’t see them as consistent with the Bible. In Deut 24:5 we’re told a man is to make his new bride happy. The passage is clear; it shows us God thinks we can influence how others feel, and He expects us to make an effort to influence others to feel good. I think Matt 5:24 (…leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.) and Rom 12:18 (If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.) both show we have a reproducibility to try to make things right even when we did not make the mess. A few other scriptures I think are relevant here are Matt 22:39 (You shall love your neighbor as yourself.), Rom 12:15 (Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.), 1 Peter 3:8&9 (Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.), and 1 Peter 4:8 (Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins).
However, this can be taken too far! I suspect the comments I listed above are often a reaction to people who feel responsible beyond what is possible and beyond what God commands or expects. I can do a great deal to cheer my wife up, but I can’t always make her feel happy. I can help her see lies she believes which make her feel bad about herself, but I can’t force her to change her mind. I can help her, especially when she lets me, but I can’t do it for her and I can’t do much at all if she fights me. It seems to me God expects me to make a serious effort, but doesn’t hold me responsible for the outcome if my wife is unwilling or just in a bad place. I also think God expects me to keep trying, rather than give up when it doesn’t work.
What do you think? I’d love to see some discussion of this in the comments! BTW, you do have to login to comment. You can login with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or OpenID OR you can make a Livefyre account. I know this is a pain, but it keeps spam under control (I used to get massive amounts of spam, including a great many for UK payday loans for some reason). The system will also allow you to port your comment to your social media account if you so choose (it defaults to not posting).