Every now and again I just can’t help myself—I respond to a clickbait headline and find myself reading an advice column. The question this time was from a woman who had become disillusioned with her husband and enamored with someone else. And as I read the columnist’s response I thought, “I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how Satan would counsel if he was asked.” That got me thinking…
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want people to believe that marriage was invented by human beings, either for reasons related to humanity’s evolutionary origins or related to men’s need to control and dominate women. He would want people to believe that because marriage came from within this world rather, it in no way reflects any kind of divine design for human beings or human society. This makes it not only unnecessary but possibly harmful and oppressive.
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want people to believe that marriage offers no great benefits that cannot be had with singleness, cohabitation, or serial monogamy. He would want people to believe, to the contrary, that marriage offers risks and drawbacks that are mitigated or avoided altogether when people choose not to marry.
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want people to believe that marriage is primarily a matter of an individual’s personal lifestyle, that before marriage is about giving oneself to another person to love and to serve, marriage is about a sense of personal well-being and fulfillment.
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want people to believe marriage is so risky that it is best to postpone it almost indefinitely, that it is so significant and perilous an undertaking that people should not even consider it until they have completed their education, begun a career, and become well established in life. He would especially want young people to anticipate it with a sense of dread instead of excitement.
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want people to believe that marriage is a union between any two—or three or four—willing partners regardless of any factor related to their sex or maybe even their family relationship. He would also want to be clear that marriage can be easily dissolved when it is no longer satisfying or desirable—“’til death or dissatisfaction do us part.”
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want people to miss the contradiction that while marriage is in some ways insignificant and easily dissolved, it is also so significant that a wedding should cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars and that the institution is best dignified when a couple puts themselves heavily in debt to make sure every detail is perfect. He would want people to believe that the best measure of a successful wedding is that it wows the attendees, glorifies the couple, and looks great on Instagram.
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want people to believe that marriage is where sex goes to die rather than to thrive and that a lifetime of sex with one person can be nowhere near as satisfying as fleeting moments of sex with a long succession of people. He would want them to be suspicious that to enter marriage is to settle for sexual mediocrity rather than fulfillment. He would make sure this message is so endlessly repeated in popular culture that it becomes almost a given.
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want people to believe that children are a hindrance to a happy marriage rather than a blessing to it and that people are happiest when dedicating themselves entirely to themselves rather than to others. And if they still insisted on having children, he would want them to think of those children as a lifestyle choice, as a kind of prop to be used to enhance a parent’s sense of personal satisfaction.
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want struggles or issues a couple encounters to be left festering and unresolved. “It’s fine and good to let the sun set on your anger.” He would most certainly not want the couple to reach out to others for counsel, prayer, or even rebuke.
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want husbands to be passive in their leadership and wives to be so disappointed in that lack of leadership that they feel justified in failing to respect their husbands. He would want wives to determine that submission is a mark of weakness and that if it is given at all, it should be given only when it is earned. He would want husbands to treat their wives harshly instead of gently and to express constant disappointment rather than delight.
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would encourage husbands and wives to each insist that problems can only be resolved when the other person makes the first move. He would ensure they each consider it impossible to continue to love and serve their spouse when he or she fails to reciprocate that love.
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want people to believe that there is one soulmate out there for each of them and that after a number of years of marriage, they may learn, to their disappointment, that the person they married is not “the one.” He would want people to then believe that they will only truly be happy if they leave their spouse to pursue this soulmate.
If Satan took up marriage counseling, he would want even Christians to focus more on the struggles and difficulties of marriage than on its joys. He would want even Christians to talk often about how hard it is and seldom about how good it is. And he would most certainly want Christians to forget all about the reality that the deepest meaning of marriage is not first about a husband and wife but about Christ and his church.
Tim Challies is a pastor, blogger and book reviewer living in Canada.