When I was single, I heard it said that although I should carefully consider who I marry, I shouldn’t stress over it too much. It was too important to God for him to let me mess up the decision completely! All I needed to do was stick close to God, but even if I chose God’s 10th or 110th choice for me, a shift from his Intentional will or 1st choice for me, to his Circumstantial will, the instant I married, then 10th or 110th would become his 1st choice, within his Circumstantial will.
We are all on a path or process of growth. God has a unique plan for each of our lives, but we have free will. How his will or plan functions in our lives in relation to our free will can be understood in the context of HIS three different types of wills: INTENTIONAL, CIRCUMSTANTIAL, and ULTIMATE. My free will decisions often shift God’s Intentional will for my life into his Circumstantial will.
He constantly uses the circumstances our wills present to give us opportunities to realign our wills back into achieving his Ultimate will. Since he is omniscient, he knows how his will and our wills are going to function together. In his grace, he constantly works within the circumstances to help us achieve his Ultimate will or our maximum spiritual growth and maturity.
What does this mean for the institution of marriage? God’s Ultimate will for each of us is where we stand is either to draw us into relationship with him, or if we are already in relationship with him, to grow us or mature us spiritually. One circumstance that he uses for our spiritual growth is relationship with other people; the first and foremost for many being our relationship with our spouse.
MARRIAGE IS DESIGNED TO MAXIMIZE SPIRITUAL GROWTH, TO MAKE US MORE HOLY (SPIRITUALLY MATURE) THAN HAPPY!
It has been said that if you want to serve Jesus, you should become a missionary, but if you want to become more like Jesus, GET MARRIED! Yes, there may be consequences for not choosing God’s perfect or Intentional will, but these consequences are designed by God, out of love, to help us realign our wills and achieve his Ultimate will in our lives. By drawing close to him in spite of our circumstances, He is still able to grow me, change me, and help me to align my will with his Ultimate will, with his goal of spiritual maturity.
So Christian marriage is for spiritual growth? If this seems unromantic to you, don’t lose heart. These very circumstances that draw us closer to God will draw a husband and wife closer as well, especially if they are both believers. Spiritually intimacy is the deepest intimacy there is. It drives emotional and physical intimacy. And God designed emotional and spiritual intimacy from one end to the other…and I like his design!
“Like everything which is not the involuntary result of fleeting emotion, but the creation of time and will, any marriage, happy or unhappy, is infinitely more interesting than any romance, however passionate.” – W.H. Auden
Wait a minute, don’t Christians get divorced at the same rate as the rest of the population? If Christians are becoming spiritually mature by means of their marriages, why don’t they stick out the circumstances that God has put before them on a more frequent basis than the non-Christians in the world? On the surface, it seems like Christians are willing to just give up and change to a new circumstance as quickly as non-Christian couples.
But if we delve into that statistic a little deeper, something awesome is hidden within the facts. Although the divorce rate between people who call themselves Christians and people that identify as non-Christians is identical at approximately one in every two couples or 50%, zeroing in on a specific subgroup of Christians reveals an interesting statistic about Christian marriage: The divorce rate for couples that identify as Christians – and that pray together AND individually regularly read their Bibles – is approximately one in every five couples or 20% of Christian married couples.(Quoted from research performed by Focus on the Family, 2011).