Is Marriage the Only Key to Happiness?
“She is free to be married to whom she wants, only in the Lord. But she is happier if she remains as she is.”—1 CORINTHIANS 7:39, 40.
1. How do the Scriptures describe Jehovah, and what has he done for his creatures?
JEHOVAH is “the happy God.” (1 Timothy 1:11) As the Bountiful Provider of “every good gift and every perfect present,” he makes available to all his intelligent creatures—human and spirit—exactly what they need to be happy in his service. (James 1:17) For that matter, a bird in full song, a rollicking pup, or a playful dolphin all testify that Jehovah created the animals to enjoy life in their respective habitats. The psalmist even goes so far as to say poetically that “the trees of Jehovah are satisfied, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.”—Psalm 104:16.
2. (a) What shows that Jesus finds happiness in doing his Father’s will? (b) What reasons for happiness did Jesus’ disciples have?
2 Jesus Christ is ‘the exact representation of God’s very being.’ (Hebrews 1:3) It is not surprising, then, that Jesus should be called “the happy and only Potentate.” (1 Timothy 6:15) He provides us with a wonderful example of how doing Jehovah’s will can be more satisfying than food, producing sheer delight. Jesus also shows us that there can be enjoyment when acting in the fear of God, that is, with profound reverence and a wholesome dread of displeasing Him. (Psalm 40:8; Isaiah 11:3; John 4:34) When 70 disciples returned “with joy” after a Kingdom-preaching tour, Jesus himself “became overjoyed in the holy spirit.” After expressing his joy to his Father in prayer, he turned to the disciples and said: “Happy are the eyes that behold the things you are beholding. For I say to you, Many prophets and kings desired to see the things you are beholding but did not see them, and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them.”—Luke 10:17-24.
Reasons to Be Happy
3. What are some reasons for happiness?
3 Should not our eyes be happy to behold the things we see in fulfillment of Jehovah’s Word and purposes in this time of the end? Should we not be overjoyed to understand prophecies that such faithful prophets and kings as Isaiah, Daniel, and David could not comprehend? Are we not delighted to serve the happy God, Jehovah, under the leadership of the happy Potentate, our King Jesus Christ? Of course we are!
4, 5. (a) To remain happy in Jehovah’s service, what must we avoid? (b) What are some things that contribute to happiness, and what question does this raise?
4 If we want to remain happy in God’s service, however, we must not base our prerequisites for happiness on worldly ideas. These could easily becloud our thinking because they include material wealth, a showy life-style, and the like. Any “happiness” founded on such things will be short-lived, for this world is passing away.—1 John 2:15-17.
5 Most of Jehovah’s dedicated servants realize that achieving worldly goals will not bring true happiness. Only our heavenly Father provides spiritual and material things that contribute to the genuine happiness of his servants. How thankful we are for the spiritual food he gives us through “the faithful and discreet slave”! (Matthew 24:45-47) We are also grateful for physical food and other material things we receive from God’s loving hand. Then, too, there is the wonderful gift of marriage and the related joys of family life. No wonder Naomi’s heartfelt wish for her widowed daughters-in-law was expressed in these words: “May Jehovah make a gift to you, and do you find a resting-place each one in the house of her husband.” (Ruth 1:9) So marriage is a key that can unlock a door to great happiness. But is marriage the only key unlocking the gateway to a happy life? Younger ones especially need to examine seriously whether this is so.
6. According to Genesis, what was the primary purpose of the marriage arrangement?
6 Recounting the origin of marriage, the Bible states: “God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. Further, God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Genesis 1:27, 28) By Jehovah’s instituting of marriage, Adam was used to bring more human creatures into existence, thus expanding the human race. But there is much more than this to marriage.
“Only in the Lord”
7. What marriage requirement did one faithful patriarch go to great lengths to fulfill?
7 Since Jehovah God is the Originator of marriage, we would expect him to set standards for wedlock that would result in the happiness of his servants. In patriarchal times, marriage to those who were not worshipers of Jehovah was strongly discouraged. Abraham had his servant Eliezer swear by Jehovah that he would not take a wife for the patriarch’s son Isaac from the Canaanites. Eliezer made a long journey and scrupulously followed Abraham’s instructions in order to find ‘the woman whom Jehovah assigned for the son of his master.’ (Genesis 24:3, 44) So Isaac married Rebekah. When their son Esau chose wives from among the pagan Hittites, these women “were a source of bitterness of spirit to Isaac and Rebekah.”—Genesis 26:34, 35; 27:46; 28:1, 8.
8. What restriction was imposed on marriage by the Law covenant, and why?
8 Under the Law covenant, marrying men or women belonging to specified Canaanite nations was prohibited. Jehovah instructed his people: “You must form no marriage alliance with them. Your daughter you must not give to his son, and his daughter you must not take for your son. For he will turn your son from following me, and they will certainly serve other gods; and Jehovah’s anger will indeed blaze against you, and he will certainly annihilate you in a hurry.”—Deuteronomy 7:3, 4.
9. What counsel on marriage does the Bible give to Christians?
9 It is not surprising that similar restrictions on marrying those not worshiping Jehovah should apply within the Christian congregation. The apostle Paul admonished his fellow believers: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14, 15) That counsel applies in various ways and certainly is applicable to marriage. Paul’s explicit instruction to all dedicated servants of Jehovah is that they should consider marrying someone “only if he is in union with the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 7:39, footnote.
Unable to Marry “in the Lord”
10. What are many unmarried Christians doing, and what question arises?
10 Many single Christians have chosen to follow the example of Jesus Christ by cultivating the gift of singleness. Then again, because of being unable at present to find a godly mate and thus marry “in the Lord,” many loyal Christians have placed their trust in Jehovah and have remained single instead of marrying an unbeliever. God’s spirit brings forth within them such fruits as joy, peace, faith, and self-control, enabling them to maintain chaste singleness. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Among those successfully meeting this test of devotion to God are quite a number of our Christian sisters, for whom we have the deepest regard. In various lands, they outnumber the brothers and therefore have a major share in the preaching work. Indeed, “Jehovah himself gives the saying; the women telling the good news are a large army.” (Psalm 68:11) Actually, many of God’s unmarried servants of both sexes are maintaining integrity because they ‘trust in Jehovah with all their heart, and he is making their paths straight.’ (Proverbs 3:5, 6) But are those who cannot presently marry “in the Lord” certain to be unhappy?
11. Of what can Christians who remain single out of respect for Bible principles be assured?
11 Let us remember that we are Witnesses of the happy God, Jehovah, serving under the happy Potentate, Jesus Christ. So if our respect for restrictions clearly laid down in the Bible should move us to remain single because of being unable to find a marriage mate “in the Lord,” is it logical to think that God and Christ would leave us unhappy? Certainly not. Hence, we must conclude that it is possible to be happy as Christians while in the unmarried state. Jehovah can make us truly happy whether we are married or single.
The Key to True Happiness
12. What does the case of the disobedient angels indicate as to marriage?
12 Marriage is not the only key to happiness for all of God’s servants. Take, as an example, the angels. Before the Flood, some angels cultivated desires unnatural for spirit creatures, became dissatisfied that they could not marry, and materialized fleshly bodies in order to take women as wives. Because these angels thus “forsook their own proper dwelling place,” God “has reserved [them] with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6; Genesis 6:1, 2) Clearly, God never arranged for the angels to marry. So marriage simply could not be the key to their happiness.
13. Why are the holy angels happy, and what does this indicate for all of God’s servants?
13 Yet, the faithful angels are happy. Jehovah laid the earth’s foundations “to the joyful concert of the morning stars and unanimous acclaim of the [angelic] sons of God.” (Job 38:7, The New Jerusalem Bible) Why are the holy angels happy? Because they are in constant attendance on Jehovah God, “listening to the voice of his word” in order to carry it out. They delight in “doing his pleasure.” (Psalm 103:20, 21, footnote) Yes, the happiness of the holy angels comes from serving Jehovah faithfully. That is the key to true happiness for humans too. For that matter, married anointed Christians happily serving God now will not marry when resurrected to heavenly life, but they will be happy as spirit creatures doing the divine will. Whether married or single, then, all of Jehovah’s loyal servants can be happy because the true basis for happiness is faithful service to the Creator.
“Something Better Than Sons and Daughters”
14. What prophetic promise was given to godly eunuchs in ancient Israel, and why might this seem strange?
14 Even if a loyal Christian never marries, God can ensure that one’s happiness. Encouragement can be drawn from these words prophetically addressed to eunuchs in ancient Israel: “This is what Jehovah has said to the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths and that have chosen what I have delighted in and that are laying hold of my covenant: ‘I will even give to them in my house and within my walls a monument and a name, something better than sons and daughters. A name to time indefinite I shall give them, one that will not be cut off.’” (Isaiah 56:4, 5) One might have expected that these individuals would be promised a wife and children to perpetuate their name. But they were promised “something better than sons and daughters”—a lasting name within Jehovah’s house.
15. What may be said about the fulfillment of Isaiah 56:4, 5?
15 If these eunuchs are taken to be a prophetic picture involving “the Israel of God,” they represent anointed ones who receive a lasting place within Jehovah’s spiritual house, or temple. (Galatians 6:16) Doubtless, this prophecy will have a literal application to godly eunuchs of ancient Israel who are resurrected. If they accept Christ’s ransom sacrifice and continue to choose what Jehovah delights in, they will receive “a name to time indefinite” in God’s new world. This could also apply to those of the “other sheep” in this time of the end who forgo marriage and parenthood in order to devote themselves more fully to Jehovah’s service. (John 10:16) Some of them may die unmarried and childless. But if they are faithful, in the resurrection they will receive “something better than sons and daughters”—a name “that will not be cut off” in the new system of things.
Marriage Not the Only Key to Happiness
16. Why can it be said that marriage does not always bring happiness?
16 Some people feel that happiness is inseparably related to marriage. It must be admitted, however, that even among Jehovah’s servants today, marriage does not always bring happiness. It solves some problems but often causes others that can be harder to deal with than those experienced by single people. Paul said that marriage brings ‘tribulation in the flesh.’ (1 Corinthians 7:28) There are times when a married person is “anxious” and “divided.” He or she often finds it difficult to be in “constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction.”—1 Corinthians 7:33-35.
17, 18. (a) What have some traveling overseers reported? (b) What advice did Paul give, and why is it beneficial to apply it?
17 Both marriage and singleness are gifts from God. (Ruth 1:9; Matthew 19:10-12) To succeed in either state, however, prayerful thought is vital. Traveling overseers report that many Witnesses are marrying too young, often becoming parents before they are ready to shoulder the resulting responsibilities. Some of these marriages break up. Other couples cope with their problems, but their marriage has not brought them happiness. As English dramatist William Congreve wrote, those who marry in haste “may repent at leisure.”
18 Circuit overseers also report that some young brothers refrain from applying for Bethel service or from volunteering for the Ministerial Training School because of the requirement to remain single for a time. But Paul gives the advice not to marry before one “is past the bloom of youth,” that is, to wait until the initial surge of sexual drive has lessened. (1 Corinthians 7:36-38) The years spent living as a single adult provide a person with precious experience and insight, putting him or her in a better position to choose a marriage partner or to make the carefully considered decision to remain single.
19. How might we view matters if we do not have a real need for matrimony?
19 Some of us are past the bloom of youth, with its strong urge for sexual intimacy. We may occasionally reflect on the blessings of marriage but actually have the gift of singleness. Jehovah may see that we serve him effectively in the single state and do not have a real need for matrimony, which might require that we relinquish certain privileges in his service. If marriage is not a personal need and we are not blessed with a mate, God may have something else in store for us. Let us therefore exercise faith that he will provide what we need. The greatest happiness results from humbly accepting what appears to be God’s will for us, even as Jewish brothers ‘acquiesced and glorified God’ upon realizing that he had granted Gentiles repentance so that they could have life.—Acts 11:1-18.
20. (a) What counsel on singleness is here given to young Christians? (b) What fundamental point regarding happiness remains true?
20 So, then, marriage can be a key to happiness, though it can also open the door to problems. One thing is sure: Marriage is not the only way to find happiness. All things considered, it would therefore be wise, especially for young Christians, to try to make room for several years of singleness. Such years can be used well to serve Jehovah and to progress in spirituality. Regardless of age or spiritual progress, however, this fundamental point remains true for all those unreservedly dedicated to God: True happiness is found in faithful service to Jehovah.
How Would You Respond?
□ Why are Jehovah’s servants happy?
□ Why is marriage not the key to the greatest happiness?
□ In the choice of a marriage mate, what is required of Jehovah’s people?
□ Why is it logical to believe that Christians who remain single can be happy?
□ What must be admitted about marriage and happiness?