I’ve been in two marriages now, one that was bad and one that isn’t (praise God). Interestingly, thinking about both has led me to the same conclusion. The goal should not be to have a happy marriage; rather, it should be to be a godly wife. Most of us Christians probably accept that on the surface, but the messing-up point is that we think they are related.
We believe on some level that if we are a godly wife, we will have a happy marriage. Moreover, we believe that doing whatever it takes to have a happy marriage is what a godly wife does. Both of these statements might be true at times, but not always. And thinking they are absolutes will lead us into two traps:
Trap #1: Doing things with the goal of having a happy marriage creates expectation. A lot of love and self-sacrifice is necessary for a happy marriage. And those things are the calling of all married people. I love serving my husband, and it honestly gives me joy. But if we do these things because we want a happy marriage, we naturally expect reciprocation. And if we don’t get it, that joy quickly sours into resentment. As much as we might be working to make the other person happy with a genuine heart, on some level we’re waiting for them to do the same for us.
Now, instead, if I serve my husband because I want to be a godly wife—which in essence is actually serving the Lord—then I’m less likely to be doing it with the expectation of getting something in return. If nothing else, I cling to God’s promises to bless me instead of looking to my husband (“The LORD rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness.” ~ 1 Sam 26:23).
Trap #2: Doing things to have a happy marriage is at times oppositional to what being godly would require of us. In our minds, a happy marriage usually means one with minimal conflict. Again, that’s true in some ways because we are called to be peacemakers, as Christ himself was. And yet, Christ certainly got into conflicts during his ministry—at times opposing legalistic religious leaders and even his own friends (think: telling Peter, “Get behind me Satan!”). There will undoubtedly be times our husbands may need to be challenged and held accountable (just like we will be), which can result in conflict even if it’s done in a loving manner. Trying to keep the peace and happiness, and working to be the helpmeet of our husband’s souls can lead us down diverging paths. I once read something along the lines of “Being a godly wife has nothing to do with being the ‘good Christian girl’ and everything to do with using our strength to build our homes.” I love that. It’s just hard to practice sometimes!