An Epilogue from the book written by Gary Thomas, Sacred Search
When Adoniram Judson wrote to Ann Hasseltine’s father, asking for Ann’s hand in marriage, he didn’t sugarcoat the future. Intent on becoming the United States’ first foreign missionary, Adoniram was up front about the dangers Mr. Hasseltine’s daughter might face:
I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter, whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and suffering of a missionary life. Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India, to every kind of want and distress, to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. (1)
It’s not like Ann lacked options. Widely considered “the most beautiful girl in Bradford, Massachusetts,” Ann had more than her share of suitors. Yet it was Adoniram who gained her affection, and his letter to her father, sadly, proved prophetic. Once in Burma, the couple lost a child to tropical fever, and when war broke out, Adoniram was arrested for being a “spy.” He hung upside down for days on end, suspended from the ceiling, while Ann desperately sought his release. She finally managed to visit her husband eight months after his arrest and handed over a precious bundle: newborn daughter Maria. (2)
Months followed, and though Adoniram was finally released, both Ann and Maria died of fever soon thereafter.
I can’t even imagine what inner agony Adoniram went through. He was human—the horrific events pushed him into a nervous breakdown—but he supernaturally persevered and went on to live a life overflowing with faithful spiritual labor.
God may not have called you to the mission field, but I want you to consider what brought Adoniram and Ann together: a mission so large that they willingly faced, and then endured, some of the worst nightmares imaginable.
Let me give you an even worse nightmare, however: a marriage without a mission, a life without purpose, a relationship without any end beyond its own “happiness.” Matthew 6: 33, seeking first the kingdom of God, will breathe life into any marriage and remains, I am convinced, the single best reason for two people to join their futures together. Such couples aren’t lost in simply pursuing a pleasant five or six decades; they are determined to live a life with eternal impact.
Remember the tale of two tears—the two stories with which I began this book? One married person cried tears of frustration; the other was crying tears of joy. I asked, what kind of tears do you want to be shedding ten years from now?
Having been writing and speaking on marriage for a decade and a half, I’ve seen how much time and effort are spent by people trying to survive and fix extremely difficult marriages. I don’t think any marriage is easy. But some marriages really do require an extra amount of maintenance. If you marry an addict or someone who is spiritually immature, for instance, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of distractions.
Paul says this is one of the main concerns when considering marriage. He points out that married people are distracted, having to spend significant time and mental effort to please their husband or wife. However, some marriages are more distracting than others, while some marriages provide a base of support for more focused service to God.
I ended my book Sacred Marriage with the picture of “holy couples.” We usually think of saints as individuals, but what if we took marriage seriously enough to talk about saintly couples, marriages where God is unusually present and active, to the extent where one new identity emerges, a family established on seeking first the kingdom of God?
What if a few Christian couples took this pioneering challenge seriously, and set out to become a “couple-saint”? No longer defining their relationship to God in solitary terms, but working together to present themselves as a holy unit, a pair of cherubim in the middle of whom God’s presence is radically awakened? It is … an interesting invitation. Is there anyone who will take up that invitation for today? (3)
If singles would consider this before they get married, if they would purify their motives to pursue marriage, and if they would make this the basis of who they choose to marry, we’d see much more of this. In other words, if you look at the question of why you want to marry before you choose who to marry, you’re more likely to make a wiser choice about the who. It’s not a choice between either why or who. It’s that asking the why question first helps you choose the best who.
I ache for the day when people make such wise marital choices that they can pray through where to live to make the most significant impact for Christ instead of praying that they could merely be able to exist in the same house without yelling and fighting. I pray that God will raise up couples who are so in tune with each other that they will be that much stronger to withstand the inevitable spiritual assaults that are unleashed on any productive Christian. I pray Christian believers will conceive and/ or adopt a lot of children and let those kids see what a God-centered marriage looks like. I pray that while such couples will certainly need times of support and counsel on their own as they work through the issues of their sin, even more they will be a resource to other couples—of counsel, prayer, encouragement, and example.
You have no idea how much kingdom time is wasted on ill-matched people trying to make their marriages a little less insufferable. I want you to gain a positive picture—a vision for how much kingdom work could be accomplished by two well-matched people working in harmony to seek the kingdom of God, grow in righteousness, and fulfill their unique calling in Christ.
We need more of these families. There can’t ever be too many of such families. There is a dearth of these families today. Most of you will get just one chance to create such a family. Please, choose wisely. We need you to make a wise choice.
1 Cited in Robert J. Morgan, On This Day: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), February 15.
2 Morgan, On This Day.
3 Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 268.