While some people believe that being in a marriage where Christ is at the center means a flawless and uneventful home life, the reality is that Christian marriages are just as susceptible to hurt, pain and trial, statistically ending in divorce just as often.
The truth of the matter is that we are all dealing with brokenness to some degree, and as a result, face many trials, and sometimes more than our "fair" share of heartache. So, if suffering to some degree is inevitable, even in our closest partnerships, what can we do about it?
I have been meditating a lot on this recently because I have been battling issues from my childhood for what feels like over a decade now. I was naive in the beginning of my marriage in believing that Jerry would only bring out the best in me, imagine my surprise when I realized he could easily bring out the worst!
There are three major mistakes we can make in our marriages when faced with the reality that it is not all sunshine and roses all of the time.
Looking to our spouse instead of our Lord:
Do this right now - pretend you are on the side of the road about to hitchhike, arm out with your thumb up. Now focus your eyes completely on your thumb. Notice that everything else in the background blurs out of focus. Now do the same thing only this time focus on anything else in the room. What happens to your thumb? Can't really see it, can you?
This is what often happens when there is conflict or struggle in our marriages. Instead of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and His power to transform our lives, situation and circumstances, our eyes shift to the problem, our husbands flaws or even our day to day tasks. With our Lord out of the picture we lose sight of the only one who is able to heal the areas of brokenness in our hearts and restore us to wholeness.
Another way we can look away from the Lord, that is a little more subtle is putting our spouse under the microscope. It is easy to focus on someone else's flaws and ignore what God may be trying to develop in your own character or change about you.
To a certain degree this even extends into verbal and emotional abuse. While I in NO way advocate staying in a relationship that is dangerous to your self or your children, I believe in some situations you can begin the work of healing a lot faster when you stop focusing on the very real flaws that your spouse has and just focus on what you need to do to heal, and forgive. I call this "cleaning up your side of the street."
In reality there is nothing we can do to change another person, and the enemy of our hearts will do anything to keep us honed in on the one thing we cannot fix.
Isolating or Broadcasting:
Two sides of the same coin...either closing down in fear and not speaking to anyone about a struggle, or telling as many friends as you have in order to gain "people in your corner" against your spouse. It can be a very difficult decision in terms of who, what and how one should go about sharing details of a struggle in their marriage.
Isolating can lead to severe depression and blindness in regards to seeing a light at the end of the tunnel or even just putting some perspective on a situation. I don't even have to mention the fact that you lose out on encouragement, empathy and support in prayer when you shut down or tune out from your friends or family. It is important when there is a struggle to seek a person who you trust to not pass judgment on yourself or your spouse, who will stand with you during the storm. There is only a need for one or two of these trustworthy friends.
Broadcasting your struggle can cause things to get much worse very fast. Marriages require deep trust and intimacy to thrive and there are few easier ways to erode that trust or intimacy than to air dirty laundry in your circle of friends or family. Love covers a multitude of sins, in other words, let your commitment to your spouse cover them (seal up, hide from the public eye, blanket them) in their sin.
Both isolating and broadcasting are fearful reactions to hurt that only further complicate matters.
Giving up when the going gets rough:
Unrealistic and unspoken expectations can cause us major trouble in our marriages. The "Hollywood" idea of love, romance and marriage is extremely skewed. What is presented to us from an early age is hardly an accurate representation to the hard work, selflessness and outright unhesitating commitment that it takes to make a marriage last.
It is the easy road to take to throw in the towel when you feel like you have fallen out of love, or when you are no longer happy, or when trials seem to great to bear up under. The Lord has assured us that in our lives we will face many trials - trouble WILL come. On the flip-side He has also promised us that NO trouble will be too much to face.
The same kind of love that God expects us to give Him, is the kind of love we should also give to our spouse. That love is the daily choice to be committed. Even in our relationship with God, we will experience bouts of loneliness, times of despair, times of anger and seasons where we have great doubts. The main thing that God is looking for is our honesty in those times, and our willingness to stick it out.
Most of us made vows to our partners, but few realize the implications of those vows and what you are truly committing to. When times get rough, we need to press through, cling to God and remember that we have promised "for better or for worse."
It isn't always easy to do the right thing, especially in the midst of the storm, however; as a Christ-follower we can choose to fix our eyes on the Lord, surround ourselves with trustworthy and loving support and cultivate hope for our future.
So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Galatians 6:9