Sometimes things that are meant to do one thing do the opposite. Take the device that caused the power outage at the Super Bowl—it was a relay switch designed to prevent power outages. Another seemingly backwards design flaw happens in marriage. I’ve performed several weddings, and every couple that stands at the altar expects their marriage will provide relational satisfaction, peace, and joy. “It’s why we get married, right?” You can see it in their glossy, optimistic eyes; they’re certain they’re heading into relational Utopia.
And then, like a mirage that remains in the distance, Utopia never quite shows up. Instead, marriage is surprising loaded with stress, conflict, and seasons of pain and disappointment. Sure, there are good times; in healthy marriages, there are quite a few. But there are so many difficult times, as well.
Did marriage fail, promising one thing while providing another? Or, did we misunderstand the promise. With the relay switch that prevents blackouts, the problem was in the promise. But with marriage, the problem is in the expectations. Marriage never promises smooth sailing into bliss. It promises intimacy. It promises challenge, stress, and growth. And it promises to be a laboratory for the work God wants to do in our hearts. If couples start out understanding these promises accurately, they won’t be surprised by marriage’s