“Marriage will solve my lust and loneliness problems.”
“When I get married, I’ll finally be able to serve God in my fullest capacity.”
“When I get married, my problems will be over.”
I’ve heard single people make comments such as these. I used to believe them myself. As a single 29-year-old, I was convinced that marriage would take away my most pressing problems. I believed that marriage would make me feel wanted and fulfilled. I certainly thought that marriage would solve my financial problems. Marriage was a kind of Mecca for me and I was a frustrated pilgrim.
I think this reflects a common belief among Christians: that marriage is a panacea for all kinds of relational, practical and spiritual problems. I grew up watching church friends marry by the age of 21, as though there was some invisible deadline toward which couples hustled.
One by one, those young married couples would then step into some kind of ministry role, giving an impression of having “arrived”. Some folk who had been around the church for years were immediately thrust into ministry the moment they were married.
This had a bewildering effect on me. It was as though the church’s message to the rest of us, intentional or otherwise, was that only marrieds are worthy of ministry roles. It suggested that marrieds had attained some higher plane of spirituality or completeness. And it built up an idolisation of marriage.
Don’t get me wrong. As a now-married, I am aware that marriage does have distinct advantages. But I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the difficulties that marriage can yield. Some marrieds become separated through work or other life circumstances. Some couples are impacted by illness or death. Some families of two are never able to increase their numbers. Some marriages are devastated through abuses of power and tactics of control. Marriage, like any other life circumstance, is subject to change and as such is continually reliant upon God’s grace.
Furthermore, the idea that marriage is some kind of litmus test for a persons’ worth or spirituality is hopelessly flawed. I know many immature people who married young only to regret it. I also know of fabulous single people who are serving God in ministry, in missions and in faithfully working hard at their jobs.
I know when I was still painfully single with no potential spouse on the horizon, I asked myself and God many times, “What’s wrong with me?” The answer: nothing. Absolutely nothing. Our relationship status is not an absolute or reliable indicator of worth and we cannot treat it as such. Our sense of worth and identity must be sourced from Christ alone.
It sounds obvious, and many of us know it intellectually, but I want this message to get right into the depths of our hearts, right into our bones. If we are in Christ, then we truly belong. We are accepted, we are justified, we are enough. There is nothing “wrong” with us. In Christ alone we are made whole by Him who is more than enough.
Let’s hold onto that hope of wholeness in Christ. It is certainly better than holding out for some idol of marriage.
Have you heard other people idolise marriage? Have there been times when you believed in the omnipotence of marriage?