Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas had a profound effect on me. The message is that God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy. Marriage brings me happiness, but not always. If you look to marriage only to make you happy, you will be disappointed. Humans are lacking and we all have a hole inside, a loss, a yearning. That lacking is supposed to be filled with God. If we don’t fill it with God, we try to fill it with other things: shopping, food, power, alcohol, etc. If we try to fill it with our spouse, no matter how wonderful they are, they will fail. They too are sinners. But if you fill that void with God, and have your spouse as a mate throughout your life, things will go much better.
The book looks at how we can use the challenges, joys, struggles, and celebrations of marriage to draw us closer to God and grow in Christian character. It helps to see marriage as a kind of ministry, and a tough one.
“This is the reality of the human heart, the inevitability of two sinful people pledging to live together, with all their faults, for the rest of their lives.”
The book asks us to use the challenges of marriage as opportunities to learn more about God, to understand God more and to learn to love him more. Marriage should push us to be more of service and to be less selfish. Confronting our own selfishness has enormous spiritual value. The focus should be on changing ourselves not our spouses. It’s about spiritual growth and marriage is just the context. It’s an excellent book. Here’s a closing quote:
“Just as celibates use abstinence and religious hermits use isolation, we can use our marriage for the same purpose – to grow in our service, obedience, character, pursuit and love of God.”