Of course, I will not be able to solve every marriage problem with this article, but I hope to be able to shed a little more light on the matter for those wondering, “Would God want me to stay in a bad marriage?”
Some Really Bad Doctrine
First of all, I am really tiring of hearing people say, “How would a loving God ever be glorified by me being unhappy in my marriage?”
Um . . . ur . . . these thoughts must be stemming from some of the teaching one would find on the television as I cannot seem to find it in the Bible. This is actually why I often say that the main message of the Bible is not victory, it is obedience to God. In fact, it is why I start with the teaching in our marriage book and conferences that marriage is primarily for God’s glory and not our own happiness.
God does not exist to make us happy as much as we exist to glorify Him. And, though this may defy some’s logic, according to the scriptures, there are times when God is glorified even through suffering. This is clearly taught in I Peter 4:16:
“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”
Of course, this teaching should never be used to encourage a spouse to stay in a situation that would put their well-being at risk. In fact, I believe that spouses in such a state are glorifying God by following what some theologians like Matthew Henry would call the law of self-preservation. That is, it is entirely acceptable and God-glorifying for spouses to seek protection from a husband or wife that would do them harm.
When I speak of suffering, I am talking about normative marital strife. That is, I am referring to a marriage that deals with petty arguments, unmet expectations, boredom, laziness, non-violent arguments, and disagreements about money, sex, and children. For the most part, these are all within the realm of normal marital conflict.
For Better or For Worse
Even if you did not say the words while exchanging marriage vows, the biblical standard is that marriage is for better or for worse. Jesus taught this in Matthew 19:6 when He said:
“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Simply put, marriage is a life-long covenant that requires commitment as well as an absorbent amount of emotional and spiritual elbow grease.
If Happiness was the Standard
What if marriage was a covenant that could be nullified when one or both parties were unhappy? What if happiness was the only standard for whether or not a marriage stays together? Do you realize how unstable the institution of marriage would be? There would be no clear cut boundaries. The standard would be forever changing and both parties would feel unbelievably insecure in their relationship with one another. What God had designed for stability would simply be a means for insecurity.
This is why God has erected a mighty tall security fence by way of the marriage vows. The covenant of marriage is to produce a sense of security in the hearts of both involved.