Yesterday morning, while on a drive home from a doctor’s appointment, my wife and I got to reminiscing over some of the highlights of our nearly sixteen years together. Actually, I did all the talking and she just listened (a major role reversal of our typical conversations) because she had just come from a medical procedure and was in a bit of pain. There had been little forethought on my part for choosing the subject matter; I was simply trying to talk on anything that might help keep her mind off the increasing discomfort.
However, as I continued to talk, more and more memories of favorite trips, unique experiences, and special occasions came to mind, to the point that I was momentarily made speechless. I squeezed my wife’s hand and thought how happy I was that I’ve had someone to share all these great things with.
Now, some of you may be surprised by the disparity between what I’ve just told you and the title of this article. I can honestly say that I’ve experienced great joy and happiness because of my wife, and yet I will still firmly hold to the statement that my wife doesn’t make me happy. How can this be?
To help answer this question, let’s take a moment to consider Ephesians 5:21-33. In this passage, the Apostle Paul gives, what is in my opinion, the greatest teaching on what a Godly marriage should look like. With the example of the way Christ “gave Himself up” for His bride, the Church, so too we must lovingly submit and sacrifice for the betterment of our spouse. However, this is certainly easier said than done.
While it’s often overlooked as being connected to verses 21-33, Ephesians 5:18 actually provides the key to how husbands and wives can relate to each other in this Christ-like manner.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18, ESV)
No, the answer doesn’t lie in an abstinence from alcohol (that’s a subject matter for another day) but in the second half of the verse where are are instructed to “be filled with the Spirit.” When you realize that verse 18 is actually preparing the reader for the truth about marriage in verses 21-33, you can see that Paul is in effect saying, “before a husband and wife can successfully relate to each other, they must each first be filled up by God’s Spirit.”
We’re also reminded that there is no substitute for what God’s presence can do in our lives. That’s why wine is mentioned here. People will use a cheap and temporary solution to hopefully find happiness only to realize that thirst will never be quenched. Likewise, we can try to use another person, a spouse for example, as a substitute to the happiness only God can provide.
Timothy Keller, in his book The Meaning of Marriage, writes, “If we look to our spouses to fill up our tanks in a way that only God can do, we are demanding an impossibility.” (pg. 50) Why in the world should we place impossible demands on a spouse, a parent, a child, or a best friend when God is so ready and willing to meet those cravings of our hearts? In fact, He is the only One who can meet those needs.
This is why, when I look at my marriage, I come to the conclusion that my wife doesn’t make me happy – she’s not supposed to! My happiness, contentment, and satisfaction in this life is NOT dependent on my wife. Those things can only come through my relationship with God. Will God use my wife to bless me with moments of happiness? Absolutely yes! However, no marriage will be successful when either partner expects or demands that his or her spouse must be the source of life’s happiness.
One last thought – the Greek word that is translated “be filled” could be more literally rendered, “be filled and go on, continually being filled up, by the Holy Spirit.” In other words, my job each day is to first seek a deeper and deeper walk with Christ, letting the Holy Spirit pour out God’s love, joy, and happiness into my heart so that I might then go and bless others with what God has already given me without an expectation or requirement of what must given in return.
Today, stop asking the impossible from those whom God has placed in your life. Instead, enjoy the blessings, the moments of shared happiness that God has granted, and then make it your aim to be continually filled with the Spirit for only then will you be truly happy.