Dear Newlyweds,My sincere congratulations on your newly formed marriage! Your lives have been leading up to this very moment in time, when you would lock eyes, hands, and lives with someone whose grasp on your heart feels so fixed and firm. It’s an exciting time, as new beginnings tend to be. Marriage is cause for great celebration and a time to rejoice in the promises to love and cherish each other for a lifetime.I remember our wedding day quite clearly, some 13 years ago. Loved ones are so supportive and eager to extend their advice, well wishes and support. So many smiles, hugs and kisses mixed amongst the toasts and cheers. And while I thought about extending a generic “wish” for happiness in your marriage, upon further reflection I realized it wasn’t the right thing for me to say because it wasn’t the honest thing to say.
I don’t wish you both happiness. Instead, I pray for your unity.
If I have learned one thing on my brief marriage journey, it’s that the pursuit of happiness swallows more marriages than we realize. It can chew you up and spit you out an unrecognizable, bitter mess. Pursuing personal happiness and fulfillment in your wedded relationship is only fueled by selfish desires, for our quest to be happy is always rooted in the search for soul-satisfaction rather than the offer of self-sacrifice and service.
Don’t get me wrong. I do pray that you will have happiness in your marriage, but in an honest way that recognizes that you won’t always be happy with your relationship, with each other, or with the circumstances that will be brought into your life. Therefore, I pray more than anything that the two of you will pursue together a lifetime of unity.
In unity, you will find comfort in each other during the hard days that are sure to come.
In unity, you will journey together to face whatever challenges may unexpectedly present themselves.
In unity, you will help each other become the person you were created to be.
In unity, you will be able to forgive each other so that, for the sake of the union, you will not be torn apart.
In unity, you will be able to overcome the disappointments that the other is sure to cause you.
In unity, you will be able to love unconditionally because the love you have for each other is focused on a cause greater than your personal happiness.
Truth be told, you didn’t marry the perfect person, and you aren’t the perfect spouse. Marriage doesn’t fix people, but rather brings to head the many faults that we might have been able to hide away during the courtship. The marital union shines a light in the darkest places of your heart and challenges you to expose yourself for what you really, truly are. In unity, we are vulnerable enough to let down our guard, safe enough to share our burdens, and secure enough to confess our weaknesses.
Happiness whispers, “It’s me vs. you.” Unity declares, “We’re on the same team.”
Happiness will come and it will go. It will ebb and flow like the tide. And if marriage is built on the foundation of happiness, it will crumble faster than the snap of a finger. Happiness is a foundation with zero guarantee or warranty. Unity, however, keeps closed the space between two souls and creates a haven for which to run when personal afflictions and depressions overwhelm. If your relationship is committed to unity, seasons of happiness will be all the more sweet.
It’s a hard lesson to come by, and one that I wish wasn’t so painful for me to learn on my own. However, it’s all that I can honestly wish and hope and pray for as you enter into this uncharted territory all your own. While there is no repeatable recipe for what a successful marriage looks like, we can be certain that those with ties as tight as the day they said, “I do” continue to remain together because their unity has been a higher priority than their own respective happiness.
It isn’t easy, but anything good worth having never is.
I pray with all my heart that you both, hand in hand, learn to blossom in each other’s arms as you cling tight to the union that you’ve eagerly entered into. May it be a bond never broken by the pursuit of happiness, but a bond enriched by the pursuit of unity–for that is a far more beautiful thing to wish for.
Christine M. Chappell is a wife, mother of three, and the author of "Clean Home, Messy Heart: Promises of Renewal, Hope, and Change for Overwhelmed Moms." A former business owner and marketing trainer, she now balances home life with raising children and growing in Christ. Christine has a deep passion for ministry of the Word to women–desiring to bring God's Word to bear on spiritual and emotional battles such as panic, fear, depression, anger, and anxiety. Her personal blog is faithfulsparrow.com and she can be found on Facebook (Facebook.com/cleanhomemessyheart) and Instagram (@christinemchappell).