Going the Distance Together

Continue with us in our devotional challenge!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. What's the difference? Think about the running events in the Olympics as an example. The sprints are between 100 and 400 meters in length, a little more than a quarter-mile, once around the track. The marathon is 42.2 kilometers (26 miles plus 385 yards). Sprinters burst from the starting line and run at top speed a race that is measured in seconds. Marathoners pace themselves to run with concentration and endurance for two to three hours. Sprints require leg power; marathons require lung power.

As a Christian, you may feel like a sprinter at times, racing through a myriad of tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines. You say things like, "I just have to make it through this week," or "If I can just hold it together until the kids are out of school." But in reality, Christ has called us to remain faithful and obedient over the long haul, through the grueling marathon of a lifetime. You can see it in the following passages:

"Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But those who endure it to the end will be saved." (Matthew 24:12– 13)

"Everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me [Christ]. But those who endure to the end will be saved." (Mark 13:13)

"Remain in my [Christ's] love." (John 15:9)

"He [Christ] will give eternal life to those who persist in doing what is good." (Romans 2:7)

"So you must remain faithful to do what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will continue to live in fellowship with the Son and with the Father." (1 John 2:24)

Christian marriage is a marathon in tandem. You and your spouse have linked hearts to serve God and get through life – with all its joys and pains – together. Your long-distance race is about winning as individuals; it's about helping each other go the distance and finish well. And aren't you thrilled to have a running mate, a partner, and a helper?

You have probably discovered by now that the love that brought the two of you together – that passionate, fiery, romantic love – may be alright for a sprint, but it's not enough to get you to the finish line. You need passion, fire, and romance, to be sure. But you also need persevering love, long-term concentration, dedication, patience, and endurance. Here are several important qualities of persevering love:

Total commitment. The starting point for persevering love is an all-out commitment to each other. It's the tough stance that says, "Our marriage is bigger than any issue. No matter what is arrayed against us, we will stand together. Neither of us will ever go through a trial alone. We will stay the course – not because we have to, not even because we promised to. Rather, we will hang in there because we care for each other more than anything in this world."

Unconditional acceptance. Persevering love says, "No matter how good or bad you look, no matter how much money you make or lose, no matter how smart or feeble-minded you are, I will still love you." That's the essence of our wedding vows – for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. Unconditional acceptance chooses to continue loving even when life dumps on us a world of excuses for falling out of love.

Deep trust. Persevering love is the product of deep trust between you and your spouse. Trust says, "I will depend on you to guard my heart and my life, to fight beside me always." You may need a lot of people to pull you through a crisis. But more than anyone on earth, husbands and wives should rely on each other. This level of trust grows richer over time and under the pressure of trials, as you each prove yourselves trustworthy to each other.

Tenacious endurance. Every kind of trial in life – emotional burdens, financial difficulties, spiritual doubts, physical pain, relational stresses – presents a new opportunity for you and your spouse to hang on together. Commitment helps you stay connected to each other through trial; endurance is the determination to outlast the problems, to help each other get to the other side. Think of the intimacy and friendship that can develop and your relationship when both of you are committed to getting through every trial.

Abiding faith. In order for your love to finish well through life's pressures, it needs to be grounded in a sincere, abiding faith in the God who designed marriage. Any of us can stubbornly pursue a lifestyle that our culture deems important and live independent of God. Sometimes a severe trial moves us to let God have his way with us and to see what truly matters in life. We often don't really appreciate the important role faith plays in our marriage until a crisis forces us to throw ourselves on God.

Diligent preparation. Whenever you and your spouse find yourselves in a lull between the storms of life, take the opportunity to prepare for potential stormy weather ahead. The law between the storms is the time to shore up your marriage. Work on a Bible study together. Take a second honeymoon – or third, or fourth. Read some good books on marriage enrichment, and discuss them together. Attend a Christian marriage conference together. Seek out a Christian counselor, and ask him or her for pointers on how to deepen your friendship for the long-haul. The more you invest in your marriage between the storms, the better prepared you will be to endure the storms together – and even come through them stronger.

Reflect Together
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being high, how would you rate the strength of each quality of persevering love in your marriage? How would you rate the strength of your contribution to each quality? How would you rate the strength of your spouse's contribution?

Total commitment
Unconditional acceptance
Deep trust
Tenacious endurance
Abiding faith
Diligent preparation

Pray Together
Thank you, mighty God, for not giving up on me, my spouse, or our marriage. Thank you for your commitment to go the distance with us. You are with us through the highs and the lows. In every trial and pain, your presence and comfort help us persevere. Build into my heart this week the qualities of persevering love: commitment, acceptance, trust, endurance, faith, preparation. Equip me to love my spouse in every way over the long haul. And help us to finish well – together. Amen.

Renew Your Love
Which quality of persevering love did you rate the weakest in your marriage? Which quality did you write your contribution to be the weakest? Select one quality you would like to see grow stronger. Make it a matter of focused prayer this week. Also decide on something you can do this week to demonstrate that you were committed to loving your spouse for life. For example, write your commitment in a card or note or make it a point to verbalize your commitment, using comments such as, "I will love you no matter what" or "I will be with you through the good times and the rough spots."