SINCE VALENTINE’S DAY is right around the corner, a few words about the secret to marital happiness are appropriate. 

God has hardwired each of us to pursue our happiness, and we will ruthlessly and single-mindedly pursue it in whatever we really believe will get us there. 

That is one of the fruits of New Birth. It convinces us that our ultimate happiness is in God and eternal things. To the degree that we really believe this we will push self, and even suffer, to acquire that happiness. 

That is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39, 16:25). Jesus practiced what he taught. “For the joy set before him [he] endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).

We can restate it in modern vernacular like this. Those willing to die to their selfish, self-centered pride will maximize their joy. That especially applies to marriage. 

These words are counter intuitive. Obeying them is not easy. Everything in our fallen nature screams the opposite. 

You gain your life by protecting it.

Happiness comes through self-promotion.

Happy people protect their reputations. They don’t lose them.

Happy people take care of number one. They don’t volunteer to be number two. 

Here is how these assumptions express themselves in marriage. 

“I’m not going to let you use me. I have my rights, you know.”

“I will do my part for this marriage if you do yours.” 

“After what you have done to me, you really expect me to forgive?”

“How could anyone ever thank God for a spouse like you? God knows I deserve better.”

These are the ruminations of death not life. So, here is the question. Do we believe Jesus? We say “yes” when we pursue our joy in the happiness of our spouse. Here is a simple, but profound, truth:  if a husband and wife truly understand, and apply the ethic of the cross to their marriage, they can’t help but become increasingly happy. As someone once said, two funerals precede every happy and successful marriage.

The ethic of the cross stands at the center of all truly fulfilling Christian marriages. The cross does three things. It teaches husband and wife how to love each other—first as spouses, and then as brothers and sisters. Second, it motivates that love. Third, because it lavishes us with buckets of grace when we fail, it encourages us to keep walking down the steady path of self-denial. 

This  blog is an except from Bill’s upcoming book, Marriage In Paradise, How to have a Genesis two Marriage in a Genesis three world.