The other day over lunch a young friend said, “I think it’s the trendy thing in the Christian world to make sure that everyone knows that marriage is hard.” Haha – Amen. For sure in the hipster Christian world it is. In fact it’s so trendy that if your marriage isn’t “hard” then you aren’t cool, must not get it, and are probably heading for disaster. Man we have over thought this thing.
To begin with it seems sort of counter productive to keep telling this to a group of people (those aged 18-29) that aren’t getting married. Only 20% of them are married. So if the goal is to warn people – well then – good job! Seems to be working. No one is rushing into marriage. In fact they are rushing away from it.
As the divorce rate rose in the late 20th century, the Church rightly reacted to re-estabish marriage as a covenant and not just a contract. They wanted people to make sure they knew it was permanent and that even when it’s hard you hang in there – because less and less people were. All good so far.
But I believe as an unintended consequence we’ve now got a Christian culture that has made an agreement with the enemy by accident. They’ve made marriage out to be harder than singleness. The words Marriage and Hard are now interchangeable in Christian culture.
It doesn’t help that a lot of this generation’s pastors bringing this message are generally kind of joyless to begin with. (For free – one thing the New-Calvinists and Emergent Church leaders have in common – They’re both mad). These people want to make sure that everyone gets the seriousness of marriage, which is great. But if we let that steal the joy of marriage then both the married and unmarried are screwed.
On top of this our generation whines a lot. I’m a part of it. Think about it. My job is hard, my school is hard, singleness is hard, times are hard. Everything seems to be hard and everyone wants to make sure you know that they are suffering just as much as you. Hardness is a badge of honor. Joy isn’t even on the radar. I’m dead serious. There’s a spirit of complaining that is rampant in our world. Can you picture your grandparents sitting around talking about how hard any of those things are?
We spend more time complaining than doing something about it. How many men’s “accountability” groups are really “share your problems” groups. “Yeah Bro, that’s tough.” is about as much help as we offer each other. We’re all about empathy and understanding, which are important. But at some point, it’s time to actually deal with your stuff, not just have a great premium beer while talking about it.
Marriage is hard because dealing with our sin and woundedness is hard – and marriage forces the issue more than any other relationship. But marriage isn’t the problem. We are. We don’t need to be afraid of marriage – we need to deal with our crap.
Over the years I’ve walked with a lot of people in tough marital situations. What usually happens is this. I listen to a guy for about half an hour pour out all that is wrong with his wife. Then I ask a couple of questions. And the next thing you know I’m saying something to the effect of, “This is really about you. You need to deal with . . . ”
Now sometimes a guy has been sinned against or his wife is really going through something horrible and I’m not negating that type of thing. But about 90% of the time when a guy says to me that marriage is hard what he really means is, “I don’t want to – face this wound, deal with this sin, make this change or grow up in this way.”
The truth is that in the long run, marriage is not “harder” than singleness. All research I’ve ever seen (almost all secular) says that married people are happier, have more and better sex, make more money, live longer and impact society more. It’s a societal foundation. That’s not to say that being single is “wrong”. Some are called to celibacy and some are single for other reasons. My point is that a whole lot of this trendy “marriage is hard” stuff is more about sounding deep than actually dealing with deep stuff.
Maybe most importantly, we need to realize that hard and bad are not synonyms – even if our comfort culture tells us they are. In the kingdom, hardness and joy are not opposites. That fact is part of our witness. But we lose our witness if we leave out the joy part. Read that again.
As singles looking to be married we need to walk a line here. We need to realize that marriage is not sex and romance on demand and it certainly won’t solve all of our problems. But we need to not give into the lie that it’s so hard that we probably can’t do it. Don’t resign to it being bad. It also would be good to start dealing with our sin and woundedness now.
I’d encourage married folks to think about what you mean when you say it’s hard. What’s the point you’re really making? Why are you making it? As a warning? As an excuse? Are you dealing with what is specifically making it hard right now?