Holiness, not Happiness
I love to counsel people. I don’t love it because I feel like I have some grand ability to fix things other people can’t fix. I love counseling because I love helping people. I’ve described counseling like this before: counseling is helping someone unpack their life, sort out the things that need to stay, the things that need adjusting, and the things that need throwing away, then helping them put the pieces back where they belong.
One of my favorite books in marriage counseling is titled “Sacred Marriage.” It’s written by a guy named Gary Thomas. His thesis goes like this: “Marriage is not primarily about your happiness. Marriage is about your holiness.” When you apply this statement to a married couple, things take a new light. For example, to the couple that is arguing about finances all the time: “Is your spending primarily selfish, or are you truly in a tight spot?” To the couple stressed about kids: “Is your primary concern that they be popular or cause you the least amount of problems, or are you primarily concerned with God’s heart for their lives?” To the couple caught in sexual sin: “Are you choosing to sacrifice your desires for the good of your spouse, or are do you insist on satisfying your desires no matter the cost or consequences?”
Maybe these thoughts can be an aid to you in your current situation. However, marriage is not my primary reason for writing this article. At least not the marriage between a man and a woman. One of the favorite analogies for the church found in the New Testament compares the Body of Christ (the church) to a bride, specifically the Bride of Jesus. The image is of these two, the church and Jesus, walking arm in arm, down the aisle, committing themselves to holiness and faithfulness as long as they both shall live, till eternity bring them face to face.
My experience is that church has become less than that analogy for most people. I cannot say enough for the many healthy brides out there, seeking to sacrificially serve their Savior and faithfully waiting on that day when they shall be face to face. They have their biblical counterparts in the faithful women of Ruth, Mary, Priscilla, and many others. Unfortunately, it seems that these churches (and ladies) are balanced by a fair share of Rahab’s, Gomers, and Sarai’s. This shouldn’t surprise us and it doesn’t. We know grace is real and joy is reserved for the fallen just as much as it lies in wait for the faithful. BUT, the world does not know that.
If I could have one word for the church today it would be: think about what you do before you do it! Yes, Rahab is in the lineage of Jesus, Gomer’s husband redeemed her (twice!) and they enjoyed their children together, and Sarai became Sarah and the mother of a nation called Israel. But that does not mean we should aspire to follow in their footsteps! No! While we know stumbling is inevitable, it should not be our go to mode of operation. I can’t help but think if the church would adopt Gary Thomas’ phrase: “Church is not primarily about your happiness, but about your holiness,” things would go a lot smoother. If we could grasp Jesus’ goal of spiritual formation, not selfish ambition…if we could try to understand God’s heart for the lost, not our heart for our own way…if we could hear the Spirit calling us to conviction and repentance, instead of our twisted minds yearning for lust, thirsting for the things that kill us…if we could just think before we act, church might be more of a bride and less of a prostitute.
Hear me on this, I am not trying to slap you. Jesus knelt by the side of the prostitute and stopped the rocks from being thrown. He saved the life of Rahab and sent Gomer’s reluctant husband after her one more time. I believe the heart of the Gospel screams restoration for the one who has fallen. My encouragement is single: seek His heart and not your own. See if this journey doesn’t lead you down a path of reconciliation and not isolation. I believe we will all be thankful for the results if you do.
If my analogy of counseling is correct: unpacking, discarding, restoring, and replacing, then I pray this article starts the process for you. Will you let me pray for you?
“Father, I pray for your Son’s Bride! She is so beautiful! She is so talented and gifted! She is stunning and you made her that way! I pray she will see in her giftedness and her beauty opportunities to sacrifice herself for your glory. I pray she will constantly seek what is right and good and true, not what is false and harmful and hateful. Give her grace, Father, as she stumbles and walks and stumbles and walks. Your love for us is beyond me! Thank you for your faithfulness to us! May your Spirit continue to form our faithful response to you. I pray these things believing they can be this way. Amen.”