It has been so exciting for Lisa and me to watch the enthusiastic reception of Cherish. We’re so glad this message is taking root and re-energizing marriages and re-adjusting goals.
One caveat is in order, however: the central message of Sacred Marriage is still true: marriages aren’t easy, but God can use the difficulties and challenges of marriage to shape us and grow us.
If I had my way, people would read Sacred Marriage before they read Cherish, for this reason: a cherishing marriage still isn’t easy. Having a new goal for your marriage and a new determination won’t erase your spouse’s sin (James 3:2—we all stumble in many ways).It won’t solve the inevitable “incompatibility” that must exist, by nature, between any two people. It won’t remove “bad days” that come about from attitudes, lack of sleep, lack of finances, conflicting goals, desires, and needs; stress from child-rearing, home managing, employment, friend and family issues and conflict, or physical disability.
In a Sacred Marriage seminar I once asked an audience of 500 couples (and thus 1,000 people) how many of their marriages had proven to be “easier” than they thought it would be. Just five couples (one percent!) raised their hands, and one of those couples later admitted to me that they had been married just ten days. So the real rate was less than one percent. Which means, almost everyone finds out that marriage is a lot harder than they ever thought it would be. If that’s you, it doesn’t mean you made a poor marital choice. It just means you’re normal. Marriage isn’t a cure for difficulty or even for loneliness; sometimes it increases both.
This isn’t to bring you down, but rather to prepare you so that your pursuit of a cherishing marriage has legs.
When I tell people that since I’ve pursued a cherishing heart toward my wife I feel my heart leap just hearing Lisa wake up, that isn’t what I always felt in the first two decades of our marriage. We have worked long and hard for over thirty years to be at this place. And there are still moments of utter incompatibility that try our patience and resolve. No two people are perfectly matched.
Please don’t become infatuated with a new goal, ride the wave of enthusiasm for a few weeks, and then collapse back into your old patterns because it proved harder to cherish your spouse than you thought.
God still uses the difficulty of marriage to shape us, grow us, and increase our faith. Marriage is still one of the best schools of “spiritual formation” and character formation ever invented. It offers so many opportunities to turn loving our spouse—sacrificially and humbly—into vigorous acts of worship (our spouse may not be thankful but God always notices).
I still believe that God designed marriage to make us holy even more than to make us happy, but I just as earnestly believe that holiness is the key to true happiness. Sin makes me miserable and always brings regret. Holiness ushers in peace, joy, contentment and, best of all, that special sense of intimate communion with God.
A cherishing marriage is the best kind of marriage, but even a cherishing marriage isn’t an easy marriage. If you think it should be, you’ll eventually give up and collapse into old patterns, old attitudes, and old frustrations. Go back and read a few chapters from Sacred Marriage, just as a reminder. Marriage is a rich and marvelous journey, but it isn’t an easy one. It never has been, and never will be.