Jill: I remember the day well. It was about a month after Mark had moved back home. He came home from work, smiled, and said to me, “Do you know what I realized today?” “No, what?” I replied. “I realized I’m happy. I’m actually happy!” he announced!
Mark: It was a huge realization for me because I’d been unhappy for quite some time. In my unhappiness, I ended up “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I didn’t like what God was doing in my life and decided I was taking the steering wheel into my own hands. Of course, I felt happy with my newfound freedom in life. I was leaving my old life behind in pursuit of a mirage that was before me. I guess you could say I was infatuated with my new self-driven direction. I was blind to the destruction I was causing in my life and around me.
Jill: Years earlier Mark and I had become familiar with Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage. The premise of that book was “what if God didn’t give us marriage to make us happy, but instead to make us holy?” I thought it was a great question, but Mark didn’t like it at all.
Mark: To be honest, that question totally ticked off my immature self. “Of course, God wanted us to be both happy and holy!” I defended. I discounted the book and didn’t give the message much thought. Although deep down that question continued to haunt me.
Jill: Somewhere along our restoration journey we’d had a conversation about happiness and holiness. Mark began to think through that question once again, now through the lens of a fully submitted heart that was only concerned about holiness (doing life God’s way).
Mark: I knew I’d made a mess of things and the picture I had was that God and I were walking down the road. I was holding His hand and we were staying on the yellow line. I was committed to not moving to the right or to the left and I was definitely staying away from the edge of the road where I could too easily end up in the ditch. I’d played along the edge entirely too long and had ended up in the ditch. I didn’t want to do that again!
Jill: So that afternoon when Mark came home and made his announcement that he was actually happy, I knew it was a huge realization for him. He’d been pursuing holiness and he was experiencing joy! Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. When there’s more Jesus in us, there’s more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control!
Mark: So I found that Gary Thomas was right. Marriage is one big Refiner’s Fire. Because we live day in and day out with another imperfect human being, our imperfections bump into each other and it often feels like our “happy” is gone. But when we pursue holiness…when we respond God’s way instead of how our “feelings” want us to …when we stay steady and focused on being the right person…we eventually experience the happiness we actually desire. It’s a happiness that is not dependent upon our circumstances but is rather a byproduct of an undivided heart.
Jill: Marriage provides companionship. It’s God’s way of allowing us to experience the deepest level of intimacy on earth. However, it also provides a first class ticket to maturity. We get the opportunity to die to self and learn to love, give, and forgive at deeper levels than we knew were possible. When that happens, we experience the joy of knowing and trusting God more. Pursue holiness…experience happiness.
What about you? Are you trying to find happiness without doing life God’s way? Where do you need to change gears and pursue holiness?