Few people have asked the question, "What is the purpose of marriage?" Especially those actually in a marriage. Below are a few of the most common responses people give when asked what they think the purpose of marriage is:
To spend life with a best friend; To never have to be alone; To have sex; To have two incomes; To start a family; To walk hand in hand with another till death; To be happy
What happens when the best friend is no longer as fun, they are always away on business, we are too busy to have sex, we still can't make the bills, thus we can't afford children, maybe our spouse is taken from us early, and frankly we are not always happy? Then what?
These responses are not too far from what the majority of married people would answer and for some people this is exactly why they got married. Most commonly people claim the purpose of marriage is to be happy. We live in a culture that constantly feeds us ideas about pursuing our own personal happiness and some people feel that happiness is found in relationship with another. Happiness is rooted in the individual. Things happen, stuff is attained, and moments are enjoyed all in an attempt to satisfy an individual's immediate gratification. But what happens when there are no events in the planner, all the stuff has rusted, and tragedy hits? Most marriage find that it is in these moments they no longer believe in the purpose of marriage since they are no longer happy and after all for the sake of this argument, the purpose of marriage is happiness.
Best friends come and go. Sometimes being alone seems better. Sex only last so long. Two incomes means more expenses. Families grow up. Death is inevitable. Happiness is fleeting. Then what is the purpose of marriage?
Relationships make people grow. Consider the idea of parenting. Most people would say the purpose of marriage is to raise children. What most parents would amidst - AFTER having their first child, is that children RAISE PARENTS. No other relationship causes an individual to grow up more quickly than that of a parent. Individuals are no longer able to solely pursue his/her own desires. They must consider the well being of their child. The same is true for marriage.
Marriage is aimed at transformation, sanctification, and growth. After the wedding and honeymoon, there are two people bound together living life as one. As they move into the process of forming their "US," aspects of us that emerge are the very aspect that needs to be refined. Where most marital problems occur is in these moments. We do not sign up for the vast amount of luggage our spouse brought with them and they did not sign up for our baggage either. Thus when the suitcases come out, it is in those moments that marriage must decide to open them up to growth. Terry Hargrave of Fuller Seminary comments: "Marriage points out the very aspect of the individual that needs to be redeemed." As the aspects of ourselves emerge that need refining, we must be willing to turn to our spouse and humbly plead for understanding while simultaneously extending grace towards them.
Marriage is then a process of becoming more like Christ. Society could not be further from the truth in conveying that marriage is intended to make people happy. Christ wants to make us happy. Christ wants us to enjoy marriage. Christ wants us to become more like Him, and in so doing He gave us marriage. We are selfish people. We MUST turn from our selfishness into the heart of Christ to learn how to welcome the good and the bad in our marriages so as to be transformed, sanctified, and grown up to be like Christ.