Wrecking Balls and Dark Clouds

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Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always helpful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7

You probably don't know any of these people personally, but we are sure you know someone in a circumstance similar to one or more of the scenarios presented below. In fact, you may find one or two stories that are painfully close to where you live:

Driving home from work one night, Drew was T-boned by a drunk driver running a red light. The broken leg Drew suffered required major surgery – complete with pins and screws to put him back together. He will be confined to wheelchair and walker at home for eight weeks. His wife, Connie, is already frazzled from the day-to-date care of their three preschoolers. Now she has to handle all Drew's responsibilities at home – and care for him too. Their church is supplying meals three to four times a week, but Connie is still stuck with most of the clean-up.

Stephan was led to Christ by a co-worker and began attending church. He has shared his faith with his wife, Olivia, from the first day he received Christ. "That's wonderful for you, Stephan," she says, "but it's not for me." She declines his invitations to attend church with him. In many ways, they have a good marriage and happy life, but Stephan is brokenhearted that Olivia has no interest in Christ, who has become the center of his life.

Yvette, who is only 29, has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is facing a radical mastectomy. Like many young women, she never believed it could happen to her. Collin, her husband of two years, is devastated that his beautiful bride will be marked for life by the surgery. The couple is crying out to God for a miracle as the date for surgery draws near.

Brett is in the fifth month without work. Talented and experienced in many technical fields, Brett has now been "downsized" out of a job by four different companies. Kayla's part-time job, Brett’s unemployment check, and a cashed-in IRA are barely keeping them above water. They pray and keep tithing, waiting for God to pull them back from the precipice of bankruptcy.

Problems. Pressure. Perplexity. Panic. Every marriage faces them to some degree. Sometimes a tragedy hits with the force of a wrecking ball, then goes away – an injury, financial reversal, an argument. Other times the same nagging problem can hover like a dark cloud for months or even years – chronic illness, a rebellious child, infertility, addiction. Since we live in a fallen world, no family is exempt. It's not a matter of if your marriage will face pressure; it's just a question of when.

When life is good and problems are minimal, it's pretty easy to keep a marriage relationship positive, productive, and even growing. But what happens when your love boat springs a major leak, when the devil blindsides you with a wicked sucker punch, when an unwise decision on your part sets you back in some way? Is your love for one another strong enough, deep enough, and tenacious enough to survive the worst life can throw at you? Or do you feel yourself crumbling under the weight of pain, problems, and tragedy?

If your relationship is founded on God’s kind of love – persevering love – you can survive anything, even the difficulty you may be struggling through right now. Notice how the apostle Paul describes the tough, enduring side of agape love in 1 Corinthians 13:7:

Love never gives up. When family life hits a rough spot, what are we tempted to do? Quit – quit praying, quit going to church, quit trusting our spouse, quit trying. God's love in us doesn't quit, and this bedrock of never-give-up love is just beneath the muck and mire of the problem you feel stuck in. Dig deep for it – and keep persevering.

Love never loses faith. Whose fault is it when something goes wrong at home – an illness, an injury, a conflict, a disappointment, a betrayal? Don't you sometimes find yourself pointing the finger at God? "You failed me. You're punishing me. You don't really love me," we murmur. God is big enough to have prevented your problem. But how could he build your trust in him if you lived in a bubble of safety in which you had no need to trust him?

Love is always hopeful. Worst-case scenario, even if your situation ever improves, God's love will bond you and your spouse into lifelong friends as you persevere together. Even if your life or marriage reads like a Stephen King horror story, God will write the final chapter – and it will be a happy ending beyond your wildest dreams. 

Love endures through every circumstance. If you didn't have any troubles and if some of them didn't seriously test your mettle as a person or couple, you could never know how strong and enduring God's love is. Any pressure or problem has the potential to permanently undo your marriage. But it also has the potential to unleash a godly love that won't just hang on through the calamity but hang on and thrive.

Reflect Together
What is the most difficult trial or tragedy your marriage has faced thus far (for example, death of a child, infidelity, serious illness or accident, or financial reversal)? How did you respond to it? How did your spouse respond to it?

Were either of you tempted to quit? Lose faith? Lose hope? What was the long-term impact of that trial on your relationship (that is, are you closer together or further apart because of it)? We sometimes say, "If I only knew then what I know now…" What have you learned about persevering love that you wish you had known when going through your big trial?

Pray Together
Lord Jesus, I am sorry for not being more trusting and helpful when facing tough times in my marriage and family life. My love for my spouse and my children is insufficient to hang in there for the long-haul. I need your love flooding my heart, motivating my actions, and feeling my faith and my hope in you. Empower me and my spouse with the love that perseveres and thrives through every trial and bonds us closer to you and to each other. Amen.

Renew Your Love
What difficult circumstance are you and your spouse slogging through this week in your marriage journey? Perhaps it is the same one you identified above, the most difficult trial or tragedy you have faced to this point in your marriage. What kind of pressure does your spouse sense in this circumstance? You can help him or her persevere through fervent prayer. Consider adding one or more of the following prayer exercises to what you may already be doing.

When your spouse is out of the house, spend several minutes each day this week kneeling in prayer beside his or her side of the bed. Pray for God's sustaining grace for your spouse in this time of trial.

Add fasting to your prayers for your spouse this week. For example, give up eating lunch each day and spend that mealtime in focused prayer for your spouse.

Ask your spouse if you can pray for him or her, then hold hands or lay a hand on your spouse’s shoulder and ask God to provide added strength and grace.