Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy

by Gary L. Thomas

Paperback, 2000



Call number



Zondervan (2002), Edition: Reprint, 304 pages


Happy is good. Holy is better. Your marriage is more than a sacred covenant with another person. It is a spiritual discipline designed to help you know God better, trust him more fully, and love him more deeply. What if God's primary intent for your marriage isn't to make you happy . . . but holy? Sacred Marriage doesn't just offer techniques to make a marriage happier. It does contain practical tools, but what married Christians most need is help in becoming holier husbands and wives. Sacred Marriage offers that help with insights from Scripture, church history, time tested wisdom from Christian classics, and examples from today's marriages. Sacred Marriage reveals how marriage trains us to love God and others well, how it exposes sin and makes us more aware of God's presence, how good marriages foster good prayer, how married sex feeds the spiritual life, and more. The revised edition of Sacred Marriage takes into account the ways men's and women's roles have expanded since the book was first written. It has been streamlined to be more concise without losing the depth that so many listeners have valued. Sacred Marriage uncovers the mystery of God's overarching purpose. This book may very well alter profoundly the contours of your marriage. It will most certainly change you. Because whether it is delightful or difficult, your marriage can become a doorway to a closer walk with God, and to a spiritual integrity that, like salt, seasons the world around you with the savor of Christ.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member perrigoue
Brutally honest. Unlike any other marriage book I've ever read. Not a step-by-step, thank God!
LibraryThing member BriaNicklaus
The subtitle is a good summary of the book. Despite traditions that say a person is more holy by remaining celibate and single, the author points out how the marriage relationship can be a training ground for becoming all that God wants us to be. For a society where marriage is no longer sacred and
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where Christians also seem to be giving up too easily, the author calls us to commitment. The book is full of great illustrations from history and individuals who the author counseled.

Each chapter is on a different attribute that should be learned in marriage: forgiveness, service, prayer, love, perseverance, respect, etc. There is a chapter on sexual intimacy and one of balancing family responsibilities with our mission for God which is very appropriate for ministers.

A great resource to have before teaching or preaching on marriage, doing any marital counseling, and just for your own marriage.
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LibraryThing member drj
The author has taken the relationship of the married couple and made it into a special relationship with God in the Christian experience. Many personal stories illustrate the author's points, as do Bible citations. The bottom line is that marriage is a specific way for two people to have a closer
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relationship with God than on their own and that this marriage can be a testing ground for spiritual development.
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LibraryThing member prozacstan
There was quite a bit of good material in the book. However, the author's continued focus on mystical / contemplative Christianity was a somewhat large distraction for me.
LibraryThing member tgee
My wife and I haven't finished this yet, but for the most part we've enjoyed the book. It's a bit light, but makes enough useful points to be worth reading.
LibraryThing member Adayriddle
This is another great book by Gary Thomas. I recently finished Sacred Parenting and the Sacred Parenting bible study. I read this book in preperation for the bible study that goes with it. After finishing this book I am all the more eager to do the bible study at church! Gary Thomas does an
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excellent job of addressing the issue of marriage from a very practical and biblical point. It is easy to relate to the illustrations. This book is not a "how to" book on marriage but rather a book that points to the fact that marriage is designed by God and is essentially for God and the deepening of a relationship with God. As this personal relationship deepens so does the marriage and it also is fortified and strengthened by this personal relationship. God is a God of love and that is what marriage is all about. To better understand this one must seek out God on a personal level. This book is an excellent book to be read with your spouse, however, it is also worth reading even if your spouse does not wish to read it with you. Be challenged to apply God's word to your every day life.

Thank you Zondervan for providing this review copy.
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LibraryThing member retiredlib
"What if god designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?"
Thomas is from a Catholic background. This is an interesting proposal. Each chapter is about a different aspect of holiness. It seems to be written with men in mind. Chapter titles:

1. Greatest challenge in the world: a call
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to holiness more than happiness
2. Finding God in marriage: marital analogies teach us truths about God.
3. Learning to love: marriage teaches us to love
4. Holy honor: marriage teaches us to respect others (particularly our spouse)
5. Soul's embrace: good marriage can foster good prayer
6. Cleansing of marriage: how marriage exposes our sin
7. Sacred history: building the spiritual discipline of perseverance
8. Sacred struggle: embracing difficulty in order to build character
9. Falling forward: marriage teaches us to forgive
10. Make me a servant: marriage can build in us a servant's heart
11. Sexual saints: marital sexuality can provide spiritual insights and character development
12. Sacred presence: how marriage can make us more aware of God's presence
13. Sacred mission: marriage can develop our spiritual calling, mission, and purpose

Quotes from the book:
Romantic love has no elasticity to it. It can never be stretched; it simply shatters. There is much in Christian history that has unofficially considered married believers to be second-class Christians who compromised their integrity. Any situation that calls me to confront my selfishness has enormous spiritual value. if the purpose of marriage was simply to enjoy an infatuation and make me happy, then I'd have to get a new marriage every two or three years. The ultimate purpose of this book is not to make you love your spouse more. It's to equip you to love your God more. He planted marriage among humans as yet another signpost pointing to his own eternal, spiritual existence. Marriage creates a climate where this love is put to the greatest test. The problem is that love must be acquired. It must be chased after, aspired to, and practiced. A man who says "I've never loved you" is a man who is saying essentially this: "I've never acted like a Christian." It's easy to love God because God doesn't smell, have bad breath, or reward kindness with evil like humans. Can it mean, then, that if my wife is unhappy, I'm failing God? Contempt is conceived with expectations. Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude. 1 Peter 3:7 Peter tells us that we should improve our marriages so that we can improve our prayer lives. Dissension is a major prayer-killer. The institution of marriage is designed to force us to become reconcilers. That's the only way we'll survive spiritually. What marriage has done for me is hold up a mirror to my sin. Don't give in to the temptation to resent your partner as your own weaknesses are revealed. Biblically speaking you can't swap your spouse for someone else. The mature response, is not to leave but to change ourselves. We live in a nation of quitters. Today you can virtually define marriage with perseverance or the maintenance of a long-term relationship. When you divorce your spouse, you have no idea what the future hold for him or her. If you're reading this after you've gone through a divorce, you serve no one, least of all God, by becoming fixated on something you can't now undo. That's what forgiveness and grace are for, a fresh start, a new beginning. By remaining faithful in the midst of unfaithfulness (being divorced), her eyes were opened to God's presence in a new way. By remaining faithful to an unfaithful husband, she demonstrated the truth of a God who remains faithful to an unfaithful people (like us). This tendency to avoid difficulty is a grave spiritual failing that can and often does keep us in Christian infancy. Strength comes from facing the struggle head-on, not when we run from it. A good marriage is not something you find, it's something you work for. Marriage can never remove the trials. But even difficult marriages to difficult men can give women the strength to become the people God created them to be. The opposite of biblical love isn't hate, it's apathy. Many men don't realize the damage they do simply by remaining silent. These are not profiles in courage; they are monuments of male shame. Marriage presumes the gift of self. The absence of conflict demonstrates that either the relationship isn't important enough to fight over or that both individuals are too insecure to risk disagreement. Glossing over disagreements and sinful attitudes and behaviors isn't fellowship; it's polite pretending. I believe one of marriage's primary purposes is to teach us how to forgive. Forgiveness is so unnatural an act that it takes practice to perfect. In an arranged marriage, sex is something he expects to receive, not something he plans to give. Marriage creates a situation in which our desire to be served and coddled can be replaced with a more noble desire to serve others. The vast majority of people do not enter marriage with a view to becoming a servant. God is always worthy of being obeyed, and God calls me to serve my spouse. Most of us are introduced to sex in shameful ways. Sex cannot pay spiritual dividends if its currency is shrouded in unfounded and illegitimate guilt. Marriage provides a context that encourages spiritual growth by moving us to value character, virtue, and godliness over against an idealized physical form. A godly marriage shapes our view of beauty to focus on internal qualities. Continuing to give your body to your spouse even when you believe it constitutes damaged goods can be tremendously rewarding spiritually. Sex may be God's way of calling us to connect with each other. We can learn to use the sex drive to groom our character. Communication calls us our of ourselves. Becoming a more mature person is just as honoring to God as is doing the right things.
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LibraryThing member erinrunkles
Excellent, excellent book!
LibraryThing member atimco
There are tons of books out there on how to improve your marriage. It seems that no matter how many tomes are written on love-languages and conflict resolution and communication, no matter how many idealized visions of marriage are put to paper, Christian marriages still struggle. Sometimes there
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are things about your marriage and spouse that just aren't going to change — at least not in the foreseeable future. What then? Do we just put our heads down and grind away at just staying together? Or is there something higher we can find even in the day-to-day challenges and struggles?

The premise of Gary Thomas's Sacred Marriage is God has designed our marriage relationships — good or bad, happy or hard — as a unique instrument to draw us closer to Himself. The subtitle asks this provocative question: what if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?

Seen in this light, marriage becomes less about romance and personal fulfillment. Instead it takes on a deeper meaning, as one of the most sanctifying and God-glorifying tools that He uses to make us more like Christ. This is wonderfully freeing because it shows us marriage is not an end in itself. It has a purpose outside of our own personal fulfillment and pleasure, a purpose that is both eternal and immediate.

The truth is, in marriage we don't get to hide. The other person gets to see it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Since our sin thrives in secrecy and darkness, exposure is uncomfortable but ultimately essential if we are to change.

Thomas's spin as an author seems to be meshing the Christian tradition, Scripture, and our modern experience to intersect with the issues we face every day. In this book he talks a lot about how historical Christianity has largely failed in its view of marriage, traditionally seeing marriage as lesser than God intended and married people as second-class Christians. One notable exception was a sixteenth-century bishop, Frances de Sales, who viewed marriage as a desirable state for spiritual growth. Thomas quotes many of de Sales's letters to people who were dealing with difficult marriages, and those snippets are both fascinating and practical today.

My marriage is very blessed. I have a godly husband who is striving to become more like Christ daily, and who works hard to lead our family. But Thomas's exhortations to those in difficult marriages are still applicable to those in easier circumstances, because no marriage is perfect and we all have moments of disappointment, conflict, and pain. It is helpful in difficult times to look beyond the immediate way in which my needs aren't being met and ask what God wants me to learn from the experience, how I can use this to become more like Christ. It isn't always easy to do this, but it becomes easier with practice. It gives such hope... because a painful marital situation may be God's most effective tool for sanctification.

I would recommend this book to married Christians, especially those struggling with difficult circumstances in their marriages. God may not lift that burden, but it is only because He wants to give you something better: holiness and fellowship with His Son. You will be comforted, rejoiced, and encouraged by that to the extent that you value Christ. To sum up, marriage has the potential to draw us closer to God through Christ — and that is why it is sacred.
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LibraryThing member Ron_Gilbert
Besides the overall mysticism found throughout this book, I found Thomas' major premise lacking biblical support.
Genesis 2:18 states, "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him."
Certainly a man and wife might be more holy because of the
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influence and support of their spouse, but to say this is the primary purpose of marriage is an overreaching and non sustained argument on Thomas' part.
Not to say there are not some valuable helps in the book, but there are better books available more worthy of our time and meditations.
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LibraryThing member LudieGrace
I'm never sure what I'll get when I pick up a Christian book on marriage; some can be gimmicky or cliched or simply tiresome. But there are definitely some gems out there, and I count [book: Sacred Marriage] among them.

Instead of asking how spirituality shapes married life, Gary Thomas asks how
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marriage can shape our spirituality. This is the very question I have been pondering since I began thinking about marriage as a form of radical discipleship. Thomas considers what it means to say that marriage is more about our sanctification than our happiness; how marriage exposes our sin, teaches us servanthood and forgiveness, and schools us in perseverance; and above all how Christian marriages should strive to testify to the faithfulness of God.

His prose doesn't sweep you off your feet like Mike Mason's does in [book: The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle]. It's just consistent, humble, and wise. The book as a whole I found refreshing, sobering, and encouraging. I have added it to the list of resources that I hope my fiance and I will treasure and return to in the course of our marriage.
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LibraryThing member thornton37814
Thomas addresses the interdependence of one's relationship with God and the marriage relationship in this volume. He advocates that couples should be pointing each other in the direction of God as their relationship grows. He makes a lot of good points. The biggest problem with the book lies in the
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mechanics of writing. Thomas sometimes tries to make a story a point rather than an illustration for a point, particularly in the first portion of the book. The book has several grammatical problems which I found distracting. These should have been addressed in the editorial process. While the focuses are slightly different, I really preferred Timothy Keller's The Meaning of Marriage to this one. That is not to say that I did not benefit from Thomas' thoughts and views on the matter. In fact, I downloaded a NetGalley copy of the author's A Lifelong Love as I was reading this volume.
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LibraryThing member Fellowshipwc
Gary Thomas's Sacred Marriage has attained the rank of a contemporary classic. Its unique and inspiring perspectives on marriage as a spiritual discipline have influenced well-known church leaders, popular teachers, and thousands of readers worldwide.
Sacred marriage doesn't tell how to build a
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better marriage-it shows how your marriage can help you deepen our relationship with God. From the practice of forgiveness, to the ecstasy of lovemaking, to the history you and your spouse create together, everything about your marriage is filled with the potential for discovering and revealing Christ's character.
Now with discussion questions for couples and small groups, this book may very well alter your marriage profoundly. It will most certainly change you. Because whethr it is delightful or difficult, your marriage can become a doorway to a closer walk with God.
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Original language


Physical description

304 p.; 5.43 inches


0310242827 / 9780310242826


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