How To Celebrate Relationships (And Survive Wedding Season!)
Do you sometimes find it hard to honestly celebrate the relationships of others? Whether your friends have just started getting boyfriends for the first time, and you're feeling a little bit jealous, or whether you've just graduated and the whole world seems to have got engaged - this post is for you!
This year I will be attending nine weddings.
At twenty-two, most people probably think it’s absurd that several of my closest friends are getting married already. In Christian culture, however, it’s common to get married young and, as we approach ‘Summer Wedding Season’, it feels impossible to go on Facebook without scrolling through another engagement announcement, or have a free weekend in August where you’re not attending a wedding.
As much as I honestly want to celebrate these events with my friends, there are days when I’ve felt like I’m the only young, Christian female on the planet without an engagement ring, and that I am less valuable, desirable, or loveable as a result. If you’ve been there too then let’s not deny that these feelings are real, and they hurt.
But first and foremost, as real and as painful as they are, let me say that those feelings are a lie. It can be hard to believe, but God has been teaching me patiently, over time, that my intimacy with him allows me to celebrate the relationships of others, regardless of my own personal circumstances.
The first thing that God always brings me back to is identity. When I know who God is, I know who I am and this frees me to love God, others, and myself better. If you are a Christian then you are a child of God. Short and simple, that is your identity.
‘Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.’ (Romans 5:1-2)
On the cross, Jesus gave us eternal access to everything we could ever need, found in the heart of our Heavenly Father. God is for us, he rejoices over us with singing, he longs to have a relationship with us, and he freely offers his grace and salvation to us. If you don’t already know this then ask God to show you just how deeply he loves you because when you have even just a glimpse of this, it changes everything.
Whatever your romantic ‘relationship status’, your relationship with God is the only one that defines you, because he is the only one that can save you and give you life to the full (John 10:10).
Contentment is key to our ability to celebrate the relationships of others, because ultimately we are never going to ‘have it all’. There will always be someone who appears to have more than we do and there’ll always be something we want next. We are told that every stage – dating, marriage, parenting etc. – is a ‘level up’ on the last, and at each stage we become more successful, more valuable, and more content. This is not true.
Not one of these stages is the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to know God in such deep intimacy that we are fully conformed to the image of Christ.
When my contentment is based on my situation, it is nothing more than fleeting happiness that will fade when my circumstances change. Real contentment is a deep-rooted comfort in the knowledge and hope that we are loved, we are saved, and Christ is enough for us in every season.
If I am not utterly captivated by the beauty of God and his love for me, then I will always be jealous of others, discontent with myself, and a slave to the ways of the world. So when society tells me that I am not enough without a husband, I shout with everything in me that Christ makes me enough. I am complete in Him.
It’s important to recognise that our heart’s desire for relationship isn’t wrong; God is relational and, as we are made in his image, so are we.
Marriage is a picture of Christ's love for the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). God’s design for marriage is beautiful, as it reflects the sacrificial love that Jesus offers us.
Marriage is also the most tangible example we have of what will happen when Christ is united with his church in perfect union in heaven. As Christians we will all take part in a wedding as the bride, and enjoy an awesome wedding banquet!
Good, God-honouring marriages give us a glimpse of the glory of God that we will see for eternity in Heaven and that is why engagements and marriages are worth celebrating!
Practically then, as we work towards full contentment in Christ but still feel that pang when another engagement announcement pops up, how can we show love to our friends by honestly celebrating with them?
First of all, let's not put on a front; have integrity in our celebrations.
The Bible says to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15), so if you find that hard to do when a friend shares their news or you know you’re facing a whole day of watching the happy couple and wishing it was you, give yourself a minute.
It’s ok if our first response is upset or jealousy, but we need to stop those feelings from taking root, and instead turn them back to praising God. Ask God to bless their relationship and pray that he would give us a heart of thankfulness for what he is already doing in their lives. We can use our Facebook ‘like’ or attendance at a wedding as a symbol that we genuinely celebrate their relationship with integrity, by committing to dismiss bitterness or jealousy.
Secondly, let's be on our guard, fighting comparison when it threatens to steal our joy.
When we compare ourselves to others, not only does it make us jealous, but it also means we are not fully content with what God is doing in our lives. The world tries to pit us against each other, suggesting that someone else’s success compromises ours. Therefore when we choose to celebrate rather than compare, we demonstrate to the world that our contentment is rooted in Christ and frees us to wholeheartedly rejoice with those who rejoice.
Ultimately, I don’t want the same love story that God has written for someone else. Whether I marry or not, first and foremost, I want the love story that God has written for me with Himself:
I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)
It’s the story of a Father who knows everything about me and still chooses to love me. It’s about a God who relentlessly pursues my heart, even when it wanders. He is the one who always protects, provides and loves, with total vulnerability and unconditional commitment, knowing that I can never repay him.
Once I truly believe that my relationship with God is the only one that defines me and makes me content, I can honestly celebrate the weddings of my friends and give God praise for the way that he is ultimately glorified through marriage.
Eve is a Durham Theology graduate who has spent the last year studying Graphic Design. She is passionate about loving God above all else, getting excited to see His Kingdom come, and encouraging other girls to pursue their beautiful God-given identity in Christ.