My main point is simple: If your marriage is going to make God look glorious, then you must find more satisfaction in God than in your marriage.
The assumption behind the topic and behind the main point is that God is ultimate and marriage is not. God is the most important reality in the universe. Marriage is less important — far less important, infinitely less important. God is unimaginably great and infinitely valuable and unsurpassed in beauty. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3).
Therefore, God is absolute reality. We are not. The universe is not. Marriage is not. We are derivative. The universe is of secondary importance, along with everything in it. The human race is not the ultimate reality nor the ultimate value nor the ultimate measuring rod of what is good or what is true or what is beautiful. God is. God is the one ultimate absolute in existence. Everything else exists by him and for him.
“If your marriage is going to make God look glorious, then you must find more satisfaction in God than in your marriage.”
Everything that exists, therefore, is meant to magnify that the glory of his reality. God cries out through the prophet Isaiah (43:6–7), “Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone . . . whom I have created for my glory.” We have been created to display the glory of God. And Paul celebrates God as the source and sustainer and goal of all things: “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). Everything that exists — including marriage — is designed to make God look great.
Telescopes for His Glory
We join God in the goal of magnifying his glory the way telescopes do, not the way microscopes do. Microscopes magnify by making tiny things look bigger than they are. Telescopes magnify by making unimaginably big things look like what they really are. Microscopes move the appearance of size away from reality. Telescopes move the appearance of size toward reality. So marriage exists to move the appearance of God in people’s minds closer to the reality that he is.
If this is going to happen, husband and wife must see the glory of God for what it is —more real, more beautiful, and more precious than anything else in the universe. And seeing God that way will mean savoring him, treasuring him, being satisfied in him, more than we savor anything else. That is the way we make God look as real and beautiful and valuable as he is. So my main point is: If your marriage is going to make God look glorious, then you must find more satisfaction in God than in your marriage.
How does that work in marriage?
We often focus on the roles of sacrificial headship and humble submission because Ephesians 5 links Christ and the church and makes marriage a parable of the the glory of redemption. And of course that is right and worthy of many sermons and many poems and much prayer.
But less often, perhaps, we draw attention to the fact that finding superior satisfaction in God above all earthly things, including your spouse and your health and your own life, is the source of great longsuffering without which husbands cannot lead like Christ, and wives cannot submit like the bride of Christ. Both of those complementary acts of love — to lead and to submit for the glory of God — are simply unsustainable without a superior satisfaction in all that God is for us in Christ.
The power and impulse to carry through the self-denial — the daily, monthly, yearly, decades-long dying that will be required in loving an imperfect wife and loving an imperfect husband to the glory of God — must come from a hope-giving, soul-sustaining, superior satisfaction in God. Our love for our wives, and theirs for us, will not glorify God until it flows from a heart that delights in God more than marriage. Marriage will be preserved for the glory of God, and shaped for the glory of God, and sweetened for the glory of God when the glory of God is more precious to us than marriage.
More God, Less Marriage
This leads to an application for pastors. If we want to see the marriages of our churches glorify the truth and beauty and worth of God, we must teach and preach more about God than marriage.
Most young people today do not bring to their courtship and marriage a great vision of God — who he is, what he is like, how he acts. They don’t bring an all-consuming admiration for him, and reverence for him, and absolute surrender to him, and deep satisfaction in him.
Most young people on the threshold of marriage are not besotted with God. They are besotted with the world. And in the world, God is breathtakingly omitted. And so the view of God that many young couples bring to their relationship is so small instead of huge, and so marginal instead of central, and so vague instead of clear, and so impotent instead of all-determining, and so uninspiring instead of ravishing. So when they marry, the thought of living marriage to the glory of God — even if they agree — is without meaning and without content.
What would the “glory of God” mean to a young wife or husband who give almost no time and no thought to knowing the glory of God.
the glory of his eternality that makes the mind want to explode with the infinite thought that God never had a beginning, but simply always was;
the glory of his knowledge that makes the Library of Congress look like a matchbox and quantum physics like a first grade reader;
the glory of his wisdom that has never been and never can be counseled by men;
the glory of his authority over heaven and earth and hell, without whose permission no man and no demon can move one inch;
the glory of his providence without which no bird falls to the ground or a single hair turns gray;
the glory of his word that upholds the universe and keeps all the electrons in orbit in every atom in every molecule that there is;
the glory of his power to walk on water, cleanse lepers, and heal the lame, and open the eyes of the blind, and cause the deaf to hear, and to still storms with a word, and raise the dead;
the glory of his purity never to sin, or to have a two second bad attitude evil thought;
the glory of his trustworthiness never to break his word or let one promise fall to the ground;
the glory of his justice to render all moral accounts in the universe settled either on the cross or in hell;
the glory of his patience to endure our dullness for decade after decade;
the glory of his sovereign, slave-like obedience to embrace the excruciating pain of the cross willingly;
the glory of his wrath that will one day cause people to call out for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them;
the glory of his grace that justifies the ungodly; and
the glory of his love that dies for us even while we were sinners.
How are husbands and wives going to live their lives so that their marriages display the truth and beauty and worth and greatness of this glory when they devote almost no energy or time to knowing and cherishing this glory? Or if they don’t hear the glory of God made much of week in and week out in our preaching?
Infinitely More Important Than Anything Else
So I say again, if we want marriage to glorify the truth, beauty, and worth of God, we must teach and preach to leave the impression over time that God is infinitely more important than marriage — or anything else. For most of our people, God is simply not magnificently central in their lives. He is not the sun around which all the planets of our daily lives are held in orbit. He is more like the moon that waxes and wanes, and you can go for nights and never think about him.
“You love your spouse best when you love your Savior most.”
For most of our people, God is marginal and a hundred good things usurp his place. To think that their marriages could be lived for his glory by teaching on the dynamics of relationships when the glory of God is so peripheral is like expecting the human eye to glorify the stars when we don’t gaze at the night sky and have never bought a telescope. It would be like fastening jumbo rockets to the planet mars to keep it in orbit when the problem is that the sun is missing from the center of the solar system of our lives.
So I’ll mention the main point one more time: If your marriage is going to make God look glorious, then you must find more satisfaction in God than in your marriage. Both we and our people must give ourselves to this first and most important thing: To see and savor God above all things, including marriage.
Love Her More, Love Her Less
When my oldest son was married in 1995 he asked me to read a poem at his wedding. It ended like this:
Yes, love her, love her, more than life;
Oh, love the woman called your wife.
Go love her as your earthly best.
Beyond this venture not. But, lest
Your love become a fool’s facade,
Be sure to love her less than God.
It is not wise or kind to call
An idol by sweet names, and fall,
As in humility, before
A likeness of your God. Adore
Above your best beloved on earth
The God alone who gives her worth.
And she will know in second place
That your great love is also grace,
And that your high affections now
Are flowing freely from a vow
Beneath these promises, first made
To you by God. Nor will they fade
For being rooted by the stream
Of Heaven’s Joy, which you esteem
And cherish more than breath and life,
That you may give it to your wife.
The greatest gift you give your wife
Is loving God above her life. And thus I bid you now to bless:
Go love her more by loving less.