It was just a simple visit to my neighbor’s house so my daughter could play with one of her friends.  But I dreaded it.  Our neighbors were wonderful, godly people, but somehow I couldn’t enjoy their company.  At their house, all around me, were reminders of the marriage I wanted but didn’t have – the marriage they had, not me.

They had four close-knit children, and I had an only child.  The husband worked at home, and mine worked long hours away from home.  They had a house brimming with joy and laughter, and I had a house full of stress and tension.

Like most couples, my husband and I had stood at the altar on our wedding day with great dreams for our marriage.  Sure, we had known to expect some difficulties, but little did we know how much reality would differ from our expectations.  Our circumstances had turned out so different from what I’d hoped that I had a long laundry list of complaints.  Of course, my husband had his own share of disappointments as well. 

Now, when I looked at my husband, I seldom saw the wonderful person God had created.  Instead, yearning, resentment, and bitterness clouded my view, and I found no peace in our relationship.

Slowly, we started to make comparisons God didn’t want us to make – comparisons that only increased our stress.  I couldn’t help but feel twinges of jealousy when I saw other wives enjoying the circumstances I’d wanted for myself.  And my husband would also sometimes compare our marriage unfavorably to that of others.

Finally, we lashed out at each other: “Why do you have to blow your top over little things?  Can’t you be more calm, like Ben?” and “Why do you have to worry so much?  Can’t you just relax, like Stacy?”  Secretly, we wondered: “Why doesn’t God give us the kind of marriage we want?”

Happiness Or Joy?

Recently, my cousin’s husband left her and their infant daughter, with no explanation other than that he no longer felt happy in their marriage.  I was outraged when I heard the news, until I considered how, in my darkest moments, I had been tempted to make that very same move myself.  Only my desire to honor my vows to God had stopped me.  It’s so easy to react to unhappiness by trying to escape our current circumstances.  But for those who are willing to stay faithful no matter what, God has something better than happiness – joy.

Joy runs much deeper in our souls than happiness, and it’s not dependent on our circumstances, because it comes straight from God Himself.  We may think that our marriages should make us happy, but God wants them to make us holy.  His ultimate goal is to use them to help us grow into the people He wants us to become.  And if we trust Him through that process, He will give us joy – which includes that peace and contentment that is bound to elude us otherwise.

Trusting God includes trusting His unique vision for our marriages.  Just as no two people are the same, no marriage is the same as any other.  God has designed it that way.  But, oh, how we spouses like to make unfavorable comparisons!

The Green-Eyed Monster

You don’t have to look far to find a husband or wife enjoying circumstances you wish you could in your marriage.  Perhaps you know a couple with a bigger house or yard.  A sleeker car, maybe?  More children, or cuter children, or smarter children?  Maybe you long to have a husband like the one you know who regularly takes his wife out for romantic dates.  Or perhaps you yearn for a wife like your neighbor has, who seems more charismatic and beautiful than yours.  Envy can choke joy right out of your life.