Even though Jesus told us that trials in life are inevitable (John 16:33), we are still surprised by them, mad at them, and, at times, defeated by them. God’s intent for intimacy and friendship in marriage can be severely tested when these trials come because the hard stuff has a way of testing our togetherness.
The good news is, God does not abandon us in the tough times. While we may feel helpless, in Jesus we have all the resources we need to live out our marriage vows—together. Trials don’t have to tear us apart.
In fact, author Dan Allender writes, sometimes God “takes us into the depths of our despair in order for a new hope to be born.”1 It is possible to come through our trials with a hope and joy that is more securely set on the truth and promises of Christ. God can and does use the hard stuff for our good. In marriage, our trials can be a doorway into greater maturity, intimacy, and dependence on God’s grace.
So how do we get through the bad stuff? How do we find hope when we’re living in the middle of the hard stuff? How do we stick together when we are overwhelmed? There is no one method or formula for dealing with all that life throws at us. And sometimes “getting over” the challenges is impossible. But there are hopeful and God-honoring ways to get through the pain, and they begin by not just getting through them but getting through them together.
I wouldn’t have been able to put my finger on it at the time. In the midst of the whirlwind after my dad died, I didn’t notice what was happening, and I certainly had no time for reflection. I was in over my head. What we were up against was too much for one person to handle. It took all hands on deck just to stay afloat. But at some point after my mom passed away, it occurred to me that Ruth had never once complained during the two years we helped to care for my mom. Wow! I know full well those years weren’t easy for her. I spent time away, and she took on additional responsibilities that I usually did, including parenting alone on many occasions. We had extra expenses, and the two of us had less time together. All of it took its toll not only on me but also on us as a couple and as a family. Looking back, it is a miracle we all survived! Things were different and harder, but Ruth never allowed the disruption it brought to our “normal life” to come between us.
As much as those years were a blur, I now see clearly how our marriage stayed strong as we were struggling to get through. Ruth was in it with me. We were getting through it together. We did not live a picture-perfect marriage during those years. There were no consistent date nights. Our romantic moments were far fewer. We were in survival mode, but surviving together.
Hard stuff doesn’t allow for a me-centered marriage. The kind of God-honoring marriage and family we said we wanted and were willing to work for when we made our wedding vows requires being selfless lovers. The hard stuff puts that vow to the test. Our actions always reveal what we really believe. We’d made the vow; when the hard stuff hit, it was time to keep the vow. Thankfully, Ruth and I persevered, not always perfectly, but we got through it together.
Just released, For Better or For Kids is a book packed full of our personal stories of marriage and parenting over the last 18 years, practical help and biblical wisdom that will enable you to have a loving and intimate marriage regardless of the season of life you find yourself in. Grab your copy today at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook or anywhere books are sold.