As a young man I confess that at times I’ve found weddings to be a painful reminder of my singleness and unfulfilled desires to be a husband and father someday. With every year that passes by, I get older and watch as so many younger than me meet their soulmates and marry. I remember the days when I was in my late teens and longing with expectation and hope that I would soon find the girl of my dreams. These times are especially difficult when my heart is breaking over closure to a relationship I may have been pursuing.
Perhaps you can relate to this. Perhaps you’ve asked God “why?” as well—many times.
Dear friend, there is great hope.
We all have different backgrounds and each of us has our own set of circumstances, but I have begun to understand that despite the uniqueness of our own individual stories, the antidote to this pain is the same in every situation. In fact, this antidote is a life-giving, joy-producing, as-sure-as-the-resurrection-of-Christ kind of answer you and I desperately need.
The most significant observation I’ve come to see in my own life when I’ve been discouraged at a friend’s wedding, is that I’ve made it about myself. Instead of being delighted and full of happiness for the newly married couple, the eyes of my flesh look inward and thoughts of self-pity begin to cultivate. “When will it be my turn?” I ask. “How long, O Lord, must I wait? Why do I have to deal with all this pain?”
While I’m not here to tell you that after all my suffering, questions and waiting that I’m now happily married, I am going to share with you, brothers and sisters, how to find joy in the midst of your waiting.
Sometimes a little perspective is all we need to properly respond to a confusing and difficult trial. However, in my life, it’s taken more than just a change in perspective to find joy. I’ve needed to repent. It’s scary when we begin to see how depraved our flesh is, but if our response is one of faith, then it can be very good. It takes the grace of God, His power working in us, to reveal through His Spirit where we are blind to our sin and actions. We need to continually pray that God would bring to light anything in our lives that remains in darkness so we may confess and repent and find joy in fellowship with Christ and with one another (1 John 1:7).
Over the past several years, I have found it difficult to respond to various trials and temptations victoriously. Defeat has often been my theme. In His kindness and mercy, He gave me grace to recognize I needed change. “But how?” I often asked. “How do I change?” I want to tangibly taste and see His goodness and grace in my life, manifested by real and lasting change in how I respond to temptations and the “testing” of my faith. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2a)
“That’s real cute, God.” I doubt. “How does that work when my heart is being torn in two? This stuff really hurts!”
Then Jesus lovingly reminds me: “I’ve been hurt too. My heart’s been torn apart. I’ve been rejected and despised by men (Isaiah 53:3) and suffered—to the point of death on a cross. I can sympathize with you (Hebrews 4:15). I did this for you (Philippians 2:8). I did this to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11), to fill you and satisfy you with every good thing, because I love you. I am making all things new.”
Marriage is not just about us. It’s not just about satisfaction of our desires in this life. Ultimately, marriage is but a shadow, a foretaste, of what’s really coming. You see, dear friend: as justified, redeemed sinners, we are the Bride of Christ.
In Biblical times, when a young woman was betrothed to her husband, they would enter a binding, legal contract with each other. The man would offer her a cup of wine as a symbol of his “life blood.” They became “one” in every way, except through physical intimacy. After a joyous, and exuberant feast, the man would return to his father’s homeland and begin to build a house for his bride under his father’s tutelage. During this time, his bride would prepare and make herself ready, awaiting his return. Once the young man had completed his house and his father decided he was ready, he would tell his son to go and bring back his bride. Can you imagine the joy and excitement of the bride when she looks and sees her bridegroom coming? Oh what a day of rejoicing and delight and happiness!
You and I are that bride.
“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32)
Jesus has shed His own blood for us, and when we believe on Him through faith we enter into that eternal covenant with Him. We become His bride. We are betrothed to Him.
The prophet Hosea spoke of this when he said, “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.” (Hosea 2:19-20)
By His own blood, and through our faith as a result of His grace, we enter this unity with Christ. Jesus speaks of this unity perhaps most clearly during His prayer to the Father:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
If you aren’t yet convinced, let’s remember what He said to His disciples:
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)
I don’t know about you, but this makes me tremble with joy! One more thing to set this in stone for you: the young man who returned to his father’s homeland to build and prepare a place for his bride did not know the day or the hour of his return to bring home his bride. He waited worked hard, but awaited his father’s decision.
This is the same of Jesus.
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)
Brothers and sisters, if you’re following along I hope in the least that by now you are reminded of a very precious and beautiful reality: we are the Bride of Christ and are awaiting His joyous return! This is the hope we have in Christ and look to! To grasp this and believe it and delight in it, we need faith. Faith is the “assurance of things hoped for.” Do you believe this?
Join me today in taking our eyes off the inward self and look intently and wholly on this Jesus–our bridegroom. Let earthly weddings be a reminder to you of this eternal reality and hope that we long for and await for with eager expectation! When you witness the covenantal union of of a man and woman and are tempted to become discouraged, preach to yourself and remind your heart and soul that you are accepted and loved and betrothed to the One who will soon return and take us home to be with Him for all eternity!
Find joy and strength in His promises to patiently endure and wait on God in this life. He does not cease to do you good (Jeremiah 32:40-41)! Let Christ be your source of life and joy in all things.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.