In 20 years of ministering to women, I’ve received hundreds of letters and emails telling me about a woman’s unique marital struggles.
And guess what? Her struggles are not unique.
They’re the same struggles every wife deals with, at one time or another. And they’re the same struggles I’ve seen God come through for in one way or another.
For a perspective change (if you’re wishing you were married), or a refresher course (if you’ve been married awhile), here are five truths that I’ve seen save marriages through the years. Maybe they can help you or someone you know:
1. Your spouse can’t possibly meet all your emotional needs.
Only God can (Psalm 145:16). And to expect your husband to be your all-in-all is a recipe for disaster. Do your spouse a favor and look to God to be your “spiritual husband” (Isaiah 54:5). It will take a tremendous load of expectation off of him and it will help you be a confident, capable woman who can get through whatever life and marriage brings your way.
2. Marriage is not intended to make you happy.
Admit it, you married because you believed your spouse would make you happier than if you remained single. I believe we all go into marriage with this basic assumption. But God’s intention for marriage is more about making us holy, than happy. God knows that marriage is a situation in which we can daily practice dying to self. It is an arena in which we can learn and live Christ-likeness. It is a field in which we can practice love, even when we don’t feel like it. Happiness is not a result of how someone else treats you. Your level of contentment is a choice that must be made by you or a heart condition that must be altered by God. See your marriage as the training ground for becoming more like Christ (Galatians 2:20). No one can teach you better how to love another unconditionally than the person you are living with in very close quarters.
3. Disappointment is inevitable because we’re all broken.
When I apply this truth to my marriage I have a more realistic perspective. Because we are all broken, God is the Only One who can fix us. Just as your spouse has disappointed you, you, too, have disappointed your spouse. It goes both ways. That’s why grace is the glue that holds the two of you together. Once you realize you are just as much of a sinner as your spouse, you will extend grace toward him or her more easily.
4. The grass is not greener on the other side.
We tend to look at other situations that are less familiar to us and imagine the best….just like you looked at your fiancé years ago and imagined the best possible scenario with him. Then reality happened. You realized your husband has flaws. So does the nice-looking man across the street or the recently divorced man in your office or the very capable single dad you met in the school parking lot. Doesn’t it make sense to continue to invest in the person you’ve invested years in than to start all over with someone else’s baggage, past, and problems?
5. Integrity always pays off.
Are you a person of your word? Did you say “forever”? Did you promise commitment even in sickness and in health? (Alzheimer’s is a sickness, so is addiction). So, even if your spouse doesn’t remember you or isn’t behaving the “same” as when you married, you still made a promise. Even if the two of you have grown apart, or if your heart doesn’t feel the same you still made a vow before God and witnesses to be in this “’til death do us part.” (And that doesn’t mean “death” of your feelings.)
I’m so glad God doesn’t drop us when we begin acting differently than when we first committed to Him. Grace is undeserved favor. And God expects us to show it to others in the same degree He has shown it toward us. Yes, there are behaviors that are absolutely unacceptable in marriage. And yes, under the Old Testament Law, God allowed divorce in the case of adultery, and due to the “hardness” of the Israelites’ hearts. But under the New Covenant, Jesus taught grace and forgiveness at any cost. Some of the most powerful marital testimonies I’ve seen and heard have been those who started to walk away (or actually did) because of “irreconcilable differences” but then saw the God of reconciliation bring them back together.
Inasmuch as it depends on you, are you willing to forgive, extend grace, and do what is necessary for your marriage to work? If so, you are a person of your word. And God always honors the man or woman “who keeps his word whatever the cost” (Psalm 15:4) or — as another translation says — “who keeps an oath even when it hurts.” And I know, my friend. Sometimes it hurts.
Marriage disappoints at times, just like any relationship. But God never disappoints. Put your hope in Him — and His promises — and see what He can pull you through.
Will you share this with a friend who might be feeling alone in her marriage today?