1 Peter 4:12-13, 19 (the message)
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner…So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust Him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.
My sweet sister is getting married in April. She’s enjoying that special time in life when you’ve found “the one” and together you are planning and dreaming and counting down the days. Elizabeth and Andy bring a smile to my face. There is so much joy ahead and yet so much growth. So many heated and hard days of keeping the commitment made in the midst of pretty dresses and first dances.
Marriage is hard. Even with the best of intentions and the most compatible personalities. It’s even harder for the rest of us who find our differences and issues and passions bring strife and difficulty rather than the whole “you complete me” kind of life. (Gag me with a spoon!)
I’ve shared a lot on this blog about my marriage. Neither my husband nor I are easy-breezy people. We are both pretty intense. Mix in our personal issues (everyone has issues) and it’s a recipe for either disaster or very real personal growth. Smile. I know we each have times when we’d like to quit. When we grow weary from the hard, everyday work of keeping it light and right.
Oh if you don’t know us you might be thinking, This girl writes a Christian blog, she probably thinks a spat about where to go out to eat is a difficult marriage. What does she really know about it?
I know about it. And I’ve learned a couple of things.
Shannon will never complete me and I will never complete him. That may be the point of Jerry McGuire but it’s not the point of marriage. I thought it was for years, though. I thought Shannon’s love was supposed to fill me up. I thought I was supposed to heal and find wholeness and rest in marriage. But God crafted each of us to have our need for worth and fulfillment met in a very real relationship with Him. When that happens marriage can actually become enjoyable. The pressure comes off because the reality of Jesus and His presence is the absolute cure. I can enjoy my spouse because I’m whole in Christ. I don’t need him to “fix” what ails me. And I am free when I realize I can’t “fix” him. We can pray for and genuinely love each other. But we can’t fix each other.
Do I live this way every day? Goodness, no. But I’ve experienced the truth of what I’m sharing. And once you experience something for yourself you can never be the same. Because now you know.
Another thing I’ve realized about life brings me back to the scripture above. Marriage is a refining fire.
Marriage exposes us. The raging symptoms of strife and discord really just reflect the disease within us. We are broken and often soul-sick people. We need something so badly…so deeply within ourselves…and yet we so often can’t name it. It’s a sense of unease. A disquiet never soothed. So we live angrily with the person we started out planning and dreaming with. We realize the planning and dreaming was only the beginning of a journey we could not have ever grasped. We merely cracked open a door to a life that would swing wide and hard in the coming years.
Bitterness can grow deep roots in a difficult marriage. We may decide to stay put but perhaps do so only physically. Our minds and hearts close up shop. We leave intimacy behind for survival. Defense mechanisms kick in. We dig deep grooves mentally and emotionally that are hard to overcome. We settle on negative perceptions and assumptions. We see the worst. We resent flaws and weaknesses. We live in failure and the resignation of a lost dream.
But what if we stay put? All the way put? What if we choose to engage our hearts again? What if we begin to see heartache and bitterness as symptoms of a sickness that can in fact be cured? What if we look at this prism of matrimony from a different angle?
Marriage is meant to refine us. It’s no accident it’s hard, really. Two people, often quite different, everyday needing to put the other first. When we begin to glimpse the possibilities…see that God will use marriage to grow and mature us in Christ if we consent to the bigger purpose of the journey…we can experience the glory of God in our very ordinary lives.
This glory is sticky business. It takes glass-chewing level obedience. Learning to trust Jesus to take care of our heart in a whole new way. Believing He wants to. Doing things, living and loving, the way God tells us to in His Word. Yielding to the Holy Spirit’s conviction on the inside of us. Trusting God knows what He’s doing when it seems crazy or unfair.
You might be thinking that sounds fine but what if my spouse never changes? How is it worth it, staying all the way put and letting God refine me, when I have no guarantee my marriage will be different?
You will be different. And you are part of the sum total in the equation of your marriage.
I love verse nineteen above. So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust Him. He knows what he’s doing and he’ll keep doing it.
Staying put spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally in marriage is hard even on good days, but if we do what God asks of us we can take the difficulties in stride because we trust Him. It’s God’s job to deal with each of us. He wants us to love our spouse and leave them in His hands. Stop all the fixing.
Jesus is our medicine. He’s the way we stay put and grow in the staying.
I smile as I consider it all. As I listen to Kim Walker-Smith sing these lyrics…
I’m filled with wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus, Your name is power
Breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery
Be my everything…
Be my everything…
Be my everything…
When Jesus is everything we can be at peace, loving and fulfilled regardless. When He’s less than everything, we cannot be at peace and fulfilled no matter what we do. No matter who we are married to! See, Jesus Himself is our peace. Cultivating relationship and intimacy with Him is the best thing we could ever do for our marriage (and our children).
I am reminded of Gethsemane as I write. Jesus considered the cost of His sacrifice. He cried out to God and even asked to let the cup (of suffering) pass but prayed that God would have His way above all. This speaks to me. Jesus was in great turmoil in the garden and yet He did things God’s way. Jesus yielded to a greater purpose. He carried the cross for love.
A giving love. A limitless love. A chasm-crossing, redeeming love.
If you are struggling in marriage today, please hear my heart. Before you are a wife, a husband, a mom or a dad, your are His. Experience the way He loves you. It’s enough to fill you up in the midst of emptiness. Enough to mend your heart that shattered and scattered into a million pieces. His love is enough to quiet your mind so loud with accusation. Enough to move you to forgiveness. Enough to convict your own hardened heart with truth. Enough to heal your soul. Enough to let go. To hold on. To cross the divide and bridge the gap.
To stay put.