We’ve had such kind feedback about our recent marriage series. I hope you’ve enjoyed the best advice we received on marriage and tips for enriching intimacy during marriage. Today part three of our marriage series continues with advice for surviving tough times.
When we marry, we take vows to love one another in sickness and in health and good times and in bad. But as bright-eyed newlyweds, full of hope for the white- picket-fence-and-2.5-children-dream, we can’t really imagine that life would ever get too hard.
I think we expect a little hard.
But really hard? Not so much.
Unfortunately, many of us face external challenges during marriage that are out of our control. Grief, illness, job loss, financial strain, maybe struggling children. So often these events can cause stress on a marriage and can even drive a wedge in a marital bond.
As I reflect on how my husband and I have gotten through difficult challenges, there are five things that really stand out.
I know every story, and every marriage, is different, but I hope that if you’re going through a difficult season this post will be an encouragement to you and your spouse.
1. Cling to God.
I can’t write a post like this without sharing that I could not have come through many valleys in life without faith in the Lord and trusting (or trying to trust!) that what Scripture says is true: His plan is perfect, He is sovereign over this broken world, and that He uses trials and tribulations for my good and His glory. I also believe these things because I have seen it. The Lord has been faithful and good. He has never left me to endure suffering alone nor let the floodwaters engulf me completely.
These core beliefs have been central to our marriage as well, especially during difficult seasons. We have found hope in the promises of Scripture. (“Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope!” ¹) Sometimes life was so hard that we felt that is all we had.
2.Devote yourselves to one another.
Obvious, but also crucial in a marriage surviving a crisis or tragedy. My husband and I have never stopped being fully committed to one another, in our actions and in our hearts. There is not a day in my marriage that I haven’t felt like I was my husband’s number one priority on this earth.
There have been times when weren’t able to do all the common marriage building “tips” like date nights and dreaming together. During periods when we had a hospital stay or a medically fragile child we couldn’t show our commitment to each other in those ways because we were just trying to survive day to day.
But we did show our commitment to one another by not giving up on life or checking out on one another. By pressing forward and continuing to hope and trust that the Lord was in control. We honored each other by trying to be obedient to the Lord and honoring him with our lives.
3. Be a team.
We are one, not two. And that is a sacred thing.
When we were engaged, I remember people telling us we were too young to get married. And I would proudly retort, “why wouldn’t I want to experience life’s adventures with the person I love?”
But now I think, “why wouldn’t I want to face life’s trials with the person I love by my side?” What an incredible blessing that is.
So while I typically dislike cheesy visuals, the marital “team” one is one I can support. We are a team united against the world (or at least that’s the way it sometimes feels!).
When going through stressful circumstances, it’s easy to put blame or take things out on our spouse. But I have to remind myself that my husband is not the real enemy. The external hardship and suffering we face is due to our fallen world.
4. Pray fervently.
Praying together is so powerful and important in a marriage. But if you can’t – or don’t – pray together I would still encourage everyone to pray for your spouse. Pray Scripture. (This book was helpful to me.) Pray for guidance. Pray for strength and protection of him and your marriage. During uncertain times, pray that the Holy Spirit will intercede when you don’t even know what to pray for.
During hospital stays or feelings of hopelessness, or when I was just too weary to pray, my husband prayed for me. He did not lose faith in God or me. As Ecclesiastes says, “When one falls down his companion is there to lift him up.” The most precious thing in the world is waking up to my husband praying over me.
I hope I have done the same for him.
5. Laugh together.
There is a time to weep and a time to laugh. But laughter is not just meant for the good times. For us, laughter has helped deflate the stress on our most stressful days. There’s something quite cathartic about laughing while tears drip down your face.
My husband’s dry wit will often jolt me out of self-pity sessions. Other times it’s just being able to chuckle together at the absurdity of a situation (Is there really a global pandemic happening?). It’s like a little team-building exercise that we probably should credit Jimmy Buffet for: if we didn’t laugh, we would all go insane.
Walking through the fires of life with my husband has refined our marriage in ways that I never expected. We have a deep, abiding love for one another in part because of what we have endured. We’ve also been given a gift of gratitude for one another, for our family and for God’s abundant goodness and provision.
I am not a marital expert so don’t feel I can give advice on the day-to-day struggles of marriage. (There are so many wonderful marriage counselors out there if you are struggling or in a rut!) But going through life-changing experiences together has helped us let go of many of the little annoyances, nit-picking, resentment that’s common to married life (for the most part!). Life is too short for those things.
I mentioned in our IGTV with Dr. Katherine Blackney that there is something wonderfully mysterious about the marital bond. I would never wish hardship on any couple, but there can be much sweetness amidst the struggle and so many blessings once on the other side.
What things have helped you and your spouse endure the storms of life? Comment below!
¹Psalm 119: 49
Photo: Audrie Dollins