Many Christians have turned happiness into an idol. I’m not suggesting God is against us being happy. The Scriptures say, “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.” So when does happiness become an idol? It happens when we exalt our concern to be happy above the very concerns of God himself. We live in a culture that says, “Above all else be happy; do what you want to do; satisfy yourself; look out for number one; do your own thing.” The Bible teaches that the husband should love his wife. We reason, No problem—as long as it doesn’t interfere with my golf game, my fishing time, or my hunting trip. Because I need that. After all, God wants me to be happy, right?
The bible teaches that wives should meet the sexual needs of their husbands. But what if the wife is not happy with her husband? Shouldn’t she reason, God wouldn’t ask me to do that, would He? Certainly, God wants me happy. That’s most important, right?
The point is, we willingly do “good” up to a point. We honor God, but only up to a point. We’ll obey Jesus, but only to a certain point. And what is that point? Our personal happiness. There is no other place, no other area that so dramatically demonstrates this problem among Christians than in the way they approach their wedding vows. I know this will sound harsh to many, but the truth is, our wedding vows aren’t really seen as vows anymore. A vow is a solemn promise, something that binds a person for life. Sadly, our marriage vows have been domesticated into pretty words spoken in a lovely ceremony, apparently more for substance. For many people, they mean absolutely nothing. Pretty words are easily discarded when things get ugly and life is no longer pretty.
‘For better or for worse’ the vows say. But people don’t mean it. I know because I have so many come and tell me they are getting a divorce because things are so ugly—worse than they ever imagined. I always look at them and ask, “So, when you said ‘for better or for worse,’ what exactly did you think worse meant?’
“Yeah,” they say slowly as they try to overlook the shocking implications of my question. “But I didn’t know it would be like this! I didn’t know (s)he would make me so unhappy!
Maybe we ministers should give folks an option to the traditional vows. Something like: I take you for my husband/my wife, as long as you make me happy, because as soon as you stop making me happy, I reserve the right to break this vow that I’m swearing before Almighty God because the idol of happiness trumps the God of the universe.
I’m not trying to be mean, but doesn’t it seem odd that those of us who claim to be followers of Christ, who believe we should be loving people, forgiving people, suffering to reach people, when it comes to our spouses, we say, “Oh, those things don’t apply to my marriage. God knows my husband is a pig. God would never make me forgive him. He knows how unhappy I’ve been.”
So what is a couple to do when they are unhappy in their marriage? Is jumping ship and running to divorce the answer? Will that bring real happiness? Read more next time in Idol of Happiness—Part 2 to find out.