17 April, 2024

Marriage Happens Every Day!

by | 1 March, 2024 | 1 comment

By Rudy and Osharye Hagood 

One evening, Rudy and I found ourselves standing before a gathering of married couples at one of our Marriage Practitioners seminars. In an audacious move, we dared to ask these couples to jot down five things their spouse could do today to make them happy.  

I know, right? It was scandalous. I mean, as believers, don’t we know that joy is greater than happiness? As Christians, do we not embrace sacrifice, for our Savior is the One who sacrificed it all?  

Hear us out. Our purpose was to help couples realize that the daily routines of life often hinder our daily happiness. We know that many maturing couples experience joy in their marriages while settling ever so gently into the secure and comfortable “contentment” phase or season of matrimony. As Scripture reveals, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). However, contentment does not exclude us from practicing little acts of kindness that bring about moments of happiness. 

At our Marriage Practitioners seminars, we occasionally make requests of our audiences . . . and we will ask the same of you and your spouse today. Here it is: We want both of you to practice the discipline of happiness. We know, how scandalous! We want you to practice happiness. You probably just chuckled a bit. Yet, we are dead serious. Sadly, we believe that happiness is a practice and discipline of effective Christian marriages that is going the “way of the earth,” as the Old Testament writers said. Let us share where we believe the devaluation of happiness began. 

Picture yourself in this worship service. You feel the excitement in the air as you anticipate another inspiring and clarifying word from the preacher. It goes something like this: 

Preacher: “Joy!”  

Church: “Joy!”  

Preacher: “Oh sweet joy!” 

Church: “Yes!” 

Preacher: “It’s everlasting!” 

Church: “Yes!”  

Preacher: “But happiness . . . Happiness is only temporary!”  

Church: “OK.”  

Preacher: “Joy is a gift from God!”  

Church: “Yes.”  

Preacher: “But happiness is merely based on happenings!”  

Church: “Uhm, OK.”  

And just like that, it’s over. From that point on, “happiness” becomes the second-class citizen of Christian emotions.  

To be clear, we agree with these clarifying words on joy and happiness. Just because joy is supreme doesn’t mean happiness isn’t significant. If happiness is based on happenings, and my marriage is happening every day, then the Hagoods are going to need a chunk of those happy happenings every day! Can we get an amen? The Hagoods, and most married folks, want to lead marriages filled with happiness and built on the secure foundation of eternal joy! 

For clarity’s sake, consider the distinction between these two biblical ideas. Chara (χαρά), the Greek word for “joy,” is a state of something. Makarios (μακάριος), the Greek word for “happiness,” is the result of something.  

Chara is a response to a state of being. It is consistent and solid. Makarios is a response to activities or happenings. It can be fleeting and as flimsy as the fragility of life. Yet, both have their place and both need our attention. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in our marriages, where we must navigate the happenings of two people simultaneously. But somewhere along the line, in valuing chara, we have devalued makarios, and it is affecting our marriages, placing unwarranted weight on our chara, which is our strength. 

So, we assert today: Happiness matters more than we often realize. It may not be the same as joy, but, as mentioned earlier, just because joy is supreme, that does not diminish the significance of happiness. Now, let’s consider the psychological and social benefits of these two biblical ideas. We have summarized various studies in psychology and social science to illustrate seven distinct benefits of happiness and/or engaging in activities that promote happiness: 

1. Mental health: Happiness is associated with reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. Positive emotions can act as a buffer against stress and can enhance overall mental well-being. 

2. Physical health: Happy people tend to have better physical health. They often have lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases. 

3. Longevity: Several studies report that happier people live longer. The reasons for this are varied but could be related to healthier lifestyle choices and reduced stress. 

4. Relationships: Happiness is linked to more satisfying and stable relationships. Happy people often have healthier friendships and social support networks. 

5. Creativity and productivity: Happy people tend to be more productive at work, and they are more innovative and creative. 

6. Resilience: Happiness enhances endurance in the face of difficulty. Happy people are better at managing life’s challenges. 

7. Generosity: Happy people tend to be more charitable and helpful to others, which can create a positive reciprocity of happiness. 

So, in effect, practicing happiness as a marital discipline may not only enhance your marriage but also enhance the quality of your life, impacting your mental, physical, and social health. So yes, we are serious; practice happiness in your marriage as a discipline. When it comes to joy and happiness, we are not promoters of either/or but rather both/and.  

As already stated, here is our request, which is a simple exercise for you and your spouse: Create some happenings that lead to happiness on purpose. Specifically, ask your spouse, “What can I do today to make you happy?” It needs to be an action that can happen today or tomorrow, before the sun goes down.  

For example, “Rudy, it would make me happy today if you bought me flowers from Trader Joe’s.” The goal is to cultivate an environment of happiness, generally in a short, sweet, and simple way. No heavy lifting here.  

Another example, “Osharye, it would make me happy if you sat with me and watched the Rams game.” This exercise grants your partner access to understanding what makes you happy. It’s an opportunity to make a love deposit in the banks of each other’s hearts. Remember, marriage happens every day! 

Finally, the beauty of joy (chara), is that you have it whether you’re happy or sad. Joy is eternal and sustaining. It provides us with the strength of the Lord in our prayers and in life’s difficult situations. For the joy of the Lord is our strength. Furthermore, as a result, our happiness becomes profound when it is founded and built on never-ceasing joy. Praise the Lord!  

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). 

1 Comment

  1. Melinda J.

    I have never thought of it this way. I thought happiness and joy were exclusive. Thanks for the new perspective!

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