Every marriage faces relational bumps and bruises along the way. That’s unavoidable when two sinful people are committed to each other in the intimacy and vulnerability of marriage. We all get that and ride those waves anticipating smoother waters in marriage within a few days.
But what about when things get hard? REALLY hard? When you simply aren’t connecting or caring for each other for weeks or months on end. Or when one spouse is in their own little world and not interested in you? When one spouse is doing the majority of the work in the home and with the kids while the other is disconnected from the family? When the conflicts increase in frequency and intensity with no resolution?
Perseverance doesn’t mean issues are ignored. It doesn’t mean we become enablers of bad behavior. Sometimes going after root issues can be a painful and protracted process, but it brings ultimate healing. We are strong proponents of Christ-centered marriage counseling and we write about it here. When we went through the darkest valley a marriage can face, it was our counselor who God used to guide us through that time to a place of healing and restoration.
At the same time, couples need REASONS to hang in there. Because it can be so easy to find the escape route from extremely painful times, we need direction on WHY we should continue to hope and hang on. Here are four keys to remember…
1. You both give God time to work
Dr. Linda Waite writes that, “86% of unhappily married people who stick it out find that, five years later, their marriages are happier.” That’s an astounding statistic and it doesn’t even factor in the marriages that at their core are wanting to honor Christ!
We have no idea what God is orchestrating behind the scenes in our spouse’s heart or the circumstances surrounding our marriage. Unbeknownst to Daniel in the Bible when he began fasting and praying for 21 days there was a massive spiritual battle taking place that prevented his answer from coming right away (Daniel 10:12-14). God’s timing isn’t our timing, and he will bless you for your perseverance and trust in him even when you can’t see him working.
We’ve included the link to the video for the song, “Waymaker” here. The words of this song can become a prayer for you during this time of waiting.
2. You both grow as individuals
Your character is developed when you persevere. The Apostle Paul wrote of this to the church in Rome regarding the character developed for persevering in suffering for Jesus. In the same way, when you persevere you grow in your inner strength and ability. Paul wrote, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character… (Romans 5:3-4 NIV84).
Acknowledge together that you’re in a tough season. Make the mutual and verbal declaration that you are going to persevere and stay together. Commit to staying Christ-centered as a couple and working on issues.
In the years to come, when you look back, you will see that you have each grown and developed in your character.
3. You both grow spiritually
Isn’t it true that when things get tough in our lives we press in closer to God? It seems like the greatest spiritual growth happens during seasons of pain when we have to persevere. And as we look to Him, we grow in our faith and in our hope.
It’s not unlike the story of Peter stepping out of the boat and walking toward Jesus on the water. As long as his eyes were fixed on Jesus, he was afloat and safe. When he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the wind and the waves, he became afraid and sank. As you and your spouse fix your eyes on Jesus, you grow in hope.
Paul continued his words to the church in Rome writing, “…and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Remember that God IS big enough to bring hope, healing, repentance and connection in your marriage. You will NEVER be disappointed when your hope is found in God. King David wrote, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again–my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:5-6a)
4. You both build a legacy of persevering
Our nation and world is filled with people who have chosen for one reason or another to end their marriage. The devastating impact stretches beyond the husband and wife. It’s the death of a family that continues to affect each child and individual. Friends and family are impacted. The church family feels the hit as well. And certainly the hordes of hell rejoice when a marriage is dissolved.
But when you persevere, Jesus wins. Your marriage wins. Your family wins. While no one but the two of you can fully appreciate the effort that you put into persevering, your legacy will be a shining testimony of the work of Jesus Christ as you build your marriage.