He who would glorify his God must set his account upon meeting with many trials. No man can be illustrious before the Lord unless his conflicts be many. If then, yours be a much-tried path, rejoice in it, because you will the better show forth the all-sufficient grace of God. As for His failing you, never dream of it—hate the thought. The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end.
In Genesis 29:20, Jacob is said to have “served seven years for Rachel” and the kicker is that “they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” Of course, Jacob is later tricked by his uncle Laban and works another seven years for Rachel after marrying Leah. Shockingly enough, the narrative seems to imply the the subsequent seven years go even more quickly for Jacob after already completing a seven year stint. That’s how strong Jacob’s love was for Rachel.
The first thought in my mind as I read this passage was: “Are you serious, Jacob? You wasted 14 years of your life watering sheep in the desert for a freaking girl? What about all the great things you could have done with your life? What a waste.”
But I doubt Jacob never regretted these years of his life or the six additional years (twenty years?!?) he later spends laboring away as a shepherd for Laban. Because he had the treasure in sight.
What if I loved Christ the way Jacob loved Rachel? Oh that I would serve my entire life for the singular and ultimate joy of being reunited with Jesus, nothing else. It’s my prayer that one day when I pass that people would say this about me: “He served his entire life for Christ, and they seemed to him but a few days because his love for Christ.”
In Western culture today, you decide to get married because you feel an attraction to the other person. You think he or she is wonderful. But a year or two later— or, just as often, a month or two— three things usually happen. First, you begin to find out how selfish this wonderful person is. Second, you discover that the wonderful person has been going through a similar experience and he or she begins to tell you how selfish you are. And third, though you acknowledge it in part, you conclude that your spouse’s selfishness is more problematic than your own. This is especially true if you feel that you’ve had a hard life and have experienced a lot of hurt. You say silently, “OK, I shouldn’t do that— but you don’t understand me.” The woundedness makes us minimize our own selfishness. And that’s the point at which many married couples arrive after a relatively brief period of time.
So what do you do then? There are at least two paths to take. First, you could decide that your woundedness is more fundamental than your self-centeredness and determine that unless your spouse sees the problems you have and takes care of you, it’s not going to work out. Of course, your spouse will probably not do this— especially if he or she is thinking almost the exact same thing about you! And so what follows is the development of emotional distance and, perhaps, a slowly negotiated kind of détente or ceasefire. There is an unspoken agreement not to talk about some things. There are some things your spouse does that you hate, but you stop talking about them as long as he or she stops bothering you about certain other things. No one changes for the other; there is only tit-for-tat bargaining. Couples who settle for this kind of relationship may look happily married after forty years, but when it’s time for the anniversary photo op, the kiss will be forced.
The alternative to this truce-marriage is to determine to see your own selfishness as a fundamental problem and to treat it more seriously than you do your spouse’s. Why? Only you have complete access to your own selfishness, and only you have complete responsibility for it. So each spouse should take the Bible seriously, should make a commitment to “give yourself up.” You should stop making excuses for selfishness, you should begin to root it out as it’s revealed to you, and you should do so regardless of what your spouse is doing. If two spouses each say, “I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,” you have the prospect of a truly great marriage.