If divorce is not an option, what does God want us to do with an unhappy marriage? Does He just want us to suffer without relief? Is He cruel and sadistic? Does He not want us to be happy in this life? Let us return to basics. God has created us to know and love Him. Our purpose in this life is to live for His glory, especially the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:6,12). He does not intend for us to enjoy a pain-free existence on this earth, but allows us to suffer in many ways. We may have a bodily illness, as Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” may have been (2 Corinthians 12:7). Sooner or later, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). We may have to watch loved ones fall ill and die. And we may just face constant frustration in relationships, including marriage, because we live in a world that has been “subjected to futility [frustration]” because of the Fall (Romans 8:20). God has many purposes for suffering. These include refining our faith and exposing its genuineness (1 Peter 1:6-7). Perhaps He wants to round out our faith, by causing us to trust Him in new ways, or maybe He intends to make us more patient (James 1:2-4). Since we are still burdened with what Paul calls the “flesh,” we wrestle with evil passions and desires. Usually, we are unaware of these, but a close relationship like marriage, in which our wants conflict with those of another, brings them out. Only then can we see just how sinful we are. Remember that God’s ultimate goal is to make us holy, as He is holy (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16). He will use any means to accomplish this end. Because of the deceptiveness of the heart, we don’t recognize our inner idols until someone deprives us of them. God liberates us from bondage to false “gods” by bringing our idolatry to light so that we can repent, receive forgiveness, and be transformed. Above all, our Lord has called us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who suffered innocently (1 Peter 1:21). How can we demonstrate the unconditional love of Christ to others unless we are forced to love the unlovely, even when it hurts? Marriage offers us the ideal opportunity to imitate our suffering Savior!