Maybe no other relationship has so many expectations surrounding it as marriage. Most marriage partners hope and expect to be happy. How to be happy is the question. Happiness isn’t an automatic guarantee attached to the marriage license. In fact, looking at the rate of divorce, you may wonder whether marriage has all that much to do with happiness.
Despite such statistics, however, most people who are married – and even many of those who are now divorced – would agree that working together in marriage can be a rich and wonderful experience. It can be a blessing to a family, and to society as well. But happiness, if it is to grow and flourish, has to be built on a solid basis.
The strongest basis for happiness is a spiritual foundation. More than any human relationship, our unbreakable unity with God is the foundation of lasting joy. This joy that we have as a result of our spiritual relationship to God doesn’t depend on whether we are married. It isn’t even dependent on what we may consider our personality, because it is an immortal fact about our true spiritual identity. The real nature of man as God’s likeness is to express God’s own goodness and wholeness. And marriage is an especially good arena where Christly love can be practiced.
If personalities clash and we feel unhappy with ourselves or our spouse, the Love that is God is present to redeem our behavior and feelings. The message of the Bible about love is summed up in I John: “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (4:16). An intuition that both we and our spouse are loved by God can break through the feeling that we just aren’t capable of love. Knowing that God is Love – and that our true identity must express divine Love – brings out resources of patience and unselfish caring that we might not otherwise expect to be capable of. But there they are, turning the everyday routines of living and working together into an image of what true spiritual reality is.
Sometimes dissatisfaction arises because our happiness may be too dependent on pleasures or on circumstances that aren’t very substantial. Then we may need to find that true goodness and virtue are, in the long run, more attractive and important to us. It takes prayer and a deep willingness to change in order to dwell in love, as the Bible describes, because the human personality with its moods, habits, and tastes seems like such an inseparable part of human life. But the spiritual fact of man’s unity with Love, with God, remains, and it enables us to learn lessons, adjust to the demands of marriage, and grow in divine grace.
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, had many experiences with the promises and challenges of marriage. They helped her to speak with authority on matrimony. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” she writes: “Experience should be the school of virtue, and human happiness should proceed from man’s highest nature. May Christ, Truth, be present at every bridal altar to turn the water into wine and to give to human life an inspiration by which man’s spiritual and eternal existence may be discerned” (p. 65).
To bring enduring happiness into a marriage, we need to love with the love that God pours forth. Marriage can be the context for learning more of our identity as God’s loving and loved expression. On this foundation, we’ll find true happiness.
Reprinted from the Oct. 1, 1990, issue of The Christian Science Monitor.