By LESLIE LUDY
One of the most baffling statements Jesus ever made was, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Lk. 14:26).
What a strange comment! The same Bible that tells us to “honor our father and mother” and “respect our husband” and “love our children” seems to be saying that we cannot truly follow Christ unless we “hate” our own family members! So what is this all about? God is reminding us not to place anything above Jesus Christ – even the good and perfect gifts that He gives us, like our families. Though it is obvious (in context with the rest of Scripture) that He does not desire us to hate our family members in a spiteful, sinful way, it is quite clear that we are never to put a higher priority on marriage and family than we do on Jesus Christ.
We as Christian women are prone to this form of idolatry. Often, it begins before we’ve even met our future husband. When we are single, we often believe that we will only be truly happy once we finally meet Prince Charming and settle down in a cute house with a white picket fence. (I know I certainly struggled with this mindset during my single years!) I can’t count the number of single young women I’ve met who build their entire lives, thoughts, and emotions around the pursuit of a guy, instead of the pursuit of Jesus Christ. They think that once they find a husband, they’ll find the inner peace and fulfillment they long for – overlooking the fact that Jesus Christ alone can meet the deepest desires of their heart.
During our single years, it’s tempting to both idolize and idealize our marriage hopes and dreams. But this is a dangerous mindset, because it keeps us from finding perfect satisfaction in Jesus Christ He intends for us to have. And if we expect marriage to solve the deepest needs within our soul, we’ll only be placing unhealthy, unrealistic expectations upon our future husband from the very beginning and harming our marriage in the process.
Remember, when we are in relationship with Christ, we have everything we need for happiness right now – whether married or single. As Corrie ten Boom wrote, “Marriage is not the answer to unhappiness. Happiness can only be found in a balanced relationship with Jesus Christ. When you belong to Christ, you can be happy with or without a husband, secure in Christ alone.”
Of course, God puts a very high value on marriage. It was, in fact, His idea in the first place! The majority of us are called to be married. And there is certainly nothing wrong with desiring to be married, preparing practically for marriage, or taking steps toward a romantic relationship with someone as God leads. The problem comes when we place our marriage dreams on a pedestal, putting contentment “on hold” until that season of life finally comes.
Or, if we are married already, it’s often tempting to cling tighter to our husbands and children than we do to Jesus Christ. As married women, God calls us to love our husbands and children. (See Titus 2:4.) But remember, He calls us to love Jesus Christ even more. (See Luke 14:26.) That means that if we ever must make a choice between God or family, we must put Him first, above all else. It also means that our security and identity must come first and foremost from Jesus Christ rather than from our marriage and family. If you were separated from your family because of your faith in Christ, would Jesus be enough to satisfy you at the deepest level of your soul?
Women throughout Christian history – and in persecuted countries around the world – have willingly risked their families for the sake of the Gospel. Elisabeth Elliot and several other missionary women sacrificed their husbands as martyrs so that the Auca Indians could be reached with the hope of Christ. Sabina Wurmbrand allowed her husband to be imprisoned for ten years in order to protect the glory of Christ’s name. Corrie ten Boom and her family members were willing to put each other at risk in order to protect Jews during the Holocaust – and many of them died in the process. What an amazing testimony our lives can be to this world when we are willing to lay even the good and perfect gifts God gives us back on the altar; when the glory of Jesus Christ matters far more to us even than our own personal comfort and security!
If marriage and family (or the hope of marriage and family) has claimed more of your affection and focus than Jesus Christ, ask God to change your heart. Freshly surrender this area of your life to Him, and remember where the deepest source of fulfillment is truly found – in Him!