Are you relying on your spouse to be the ultimate source of your happiness?
On board my sparkling new party boat were my guests, a missionary family of seven. I had bragged to them about my new boat, how wonderful it was and what a great time we’d have on the lake. Now we were ready to cast off, loaded with a picnic lunch, fishing gear, water skis, and everything else needed for water fun.
Hamming it up, I told the young kids to give me a count down. Five…Four…Three…Two…One…Blastoff! I turned the ignition and away from the dock we flew like a rocket ship from its launch pad. I overheard the five-year-old boy say to his father, “This is the coolest boat on the lake!” I loved it. I was in boat heaven. But then something happened; the engine stopped and we started losing speed.
“Don’t worry everyone; I’ll have this fixed in a second.” I turned the ignition key several times and the engine roared back to life. Once again we were off. But then it happened again. The engine died. What was going on? This pattern of the engine starting and stopping went on for the next few minutes. I checked the gas level, oil, and anything else I could possibly think of to create the illusion that I knew what I was doing. But no matter what I did, shortly after I’d get the engine running, it would die.
“Why won’t this boat work!” My voice boomed across the lake. I was completely frustrated and totally embarrassed. “Nothing is made with quality any more.” I wanted to sink that stupid boat right then and there, but I figured that drowning a missionary wouldn’t help my reputation.
That’s when Greg said, “Hey, Dad, what’s this cord for? Every time I pull it, the engine stops.” And then he started laughing. That cord was the emergency engine kill. I had been ready to blow up my boat, while all along it had been Greg playing a practical joke on me. At that moment I understood how it was possible for Abraham to place his son upon an altar.
For a boat, or anything electrical to function as it was designed, it needs to be connected to a power source. If human relationships are to function as they were designed, they too need to be connected to a power source. It’s as if you have a built-in battery that needs daily charges to keep you feeling complete and satisfied. For a long time I believed that I could keep that battery charged if I just plugged a 110-volt electrical cord into other people or my wife. Many of us enter marriage looking to our mate as the source of that power charge. We think, “Now that I have this person in my life, I am really going to have my needs met and be happy.” We ultimately find, however, that our mates cannot recharge our battery. Indeed, husbands and wives can be frustrating and irritating and drain away more emotional energy than they give. Our mates can be tremendous sources of help and encouragement, but if we expect them to be the source of our happiness, they are sure to disappoint us in the long run.
When coming face-to-face with this inevitable disappointment, many people assume they must have married the wrong person. Some may resort to an affair to recharge their battery. The stolen charge may light up the circuits for a moment, but after the glow fades they will feel emptier and more miserable than before. Even if they divorce and remarry the “right person,” they will encounter the same frustration. The problem is not in the person they marry; it is in their expectations that that person will make them happy and keep them charged day after day. Wrong.
Sooner or later we run headlong into an inescapable fact: no person on earth is capable of giving us the fulfillment we crave. We can never plug in to enough people to keep our lives filled with the happiness we want. It’s no wonder so many people consider suicide as a way out. By depending on people to make us happy, we not only miss the positive emotions we crave, we also saddle ourselves with the very negative emotions we want to avoid—deep frustration, disappointment, hurt feelings, worry, anxiety, fear, unrest, uncertainty, and confusion. These emotions are the inevitable result of depending on a person, place, or thing for your fulfillment. Bottom line: We’re just not wired to plug into other people as our power source. God made a way for us to find fulfillment and true happiness. God created us. God designed us for a relationship with Him. But the power cord must be connected through His son Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said he was the way to connect to God.