Had a sad conversation the other day. A guy in his late twenties, one of the guys I play basketball with, told me that it looked like his marriage was over. He’s been married like seven months . . . 

Let’s be real, marriage is not an easy thing. Any time you take two sinners (something we all are) and place them into life’s fiery furnace, either the relationship will go up in smoke or you’ll both come out of the flames more purified in Jesus. Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage points to this reality. In it, he poses the following insightful question: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”911231_38718064

Great thought. God uses marriage to burn away our selfishness and make us more holy. He uses marriage to torch our independence and arrogance and make us more holy. He uses marriage to show our desperate need for Him, for we need His love and compassion and grace to live out a holy marriage. In 1 Peter 1:15-16, we read:  ”You must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.'” Flip a few pages and you come to 1 Peter chapter 3. It starts with practical instruction for husbands and wives and concludes with the apostle’s insights into suffering for doing good. Will we do the good thing for our spouse even when it hurts? Will we pursue holiness and not simply happiness?

As I think about this whole holiness thing, here are some “musts” God has taught me in my marriage to my wife Lynn:

  • I must recognize that our marriage is a sacred union before God.
  • I must die to self, and love my spouse as Jesus loves me.
  • I must humbly and respectfully work through conflicts—not run from them or try to ignore them.
  • I must seek what’s best for my spouse, not what is easy or self-serving.

How has God made you more holy through marriage? What are some of your marriage “musts”?