This summer, we will gratefully celebrate twenty-two years of marriage. It would be easy to focus on the goodness of the Lord and give the impression that our marriage, lived hand-in-hand with God, has been completely fulfilling and joyful. However, that is not our story.
Our story began with loss. Shortly after we married, we learned we were expecting our first child. We were elated, as we had been warned we may never be able to conceive a child. Our joy was short-lived, though. We lost our child five months into our marriage and we were devastated. Through this circumstance, we learned a hard truth about ourselves: we had no idea how to suffer together. We responded to our grief with anger and frustration. Our marriage took a heavy hit, even as we sought the Lord and counseling through the church. This sorrow overwhelmed our relationship.
Two months later, we were surprised to find that we were expecting again! We experienced a myriad of emotions: joy, trust that the Lord had given us this baby, and terror that he might take this one away too. We had to work, study God’s Word, and pray to keep our faith focused on what we knew to be true about our loving, righteous God. Through all of this, we had moments of marital unity and moments when we just couldn’t connect.
Over the next ten years, God blessed us with four healthy, handsome sons and a precious, beautiful daughter. He has also blessed us with years of financial struggle, multiple periods of unemployment, and a continually challenging marriage. We choose our words carefully, here. He blessed us with these things.
How can this be? What have we learned through these trials that we couldn’t have learned otherwise?
1. God is good, even in deep sorrow
It is a paradox, yet true, that in our suffering, God’s love for us is made most obvious. He walks beside us, carries us when we feel it is just about over, and sustains our marriage as we limp along together. He promises that he works all things together for our good—to conform us to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:28-29). And we have become convinced over the years that “all things” includes suffering.
2. In blessing us with each other, God has given us another reason to have to die to ourselves daily
Just like working alongside someone in the marketplace or ministry provides daily opportunities to consider one another as better than ourselves (Phil. 2), so does marriage. We have made ourselves very unhappy when we chose not to follow God’s Word in this. Honestly, we are still learning. God has proven to us, though, that the work is worth it. When we follow his Word, our marriage is much more peaceful.
3. Love often has little to do with how we feel
Through the years, God has given us a deeper love for one another, based on determined commitment. We must regularly recommit not to quit. We commit to keep our promises and to bring God glory by never giving up on the gift he has given us in each other.
We treasure the blessing of these challenging twenty-two years together. Our love for one another grows every day. Not the sentimental, romantic love we may have dreamed we’d always have, but the sturdy, time-tested love that comes from being strengthened in the battle. It may be a fight, but it is worth it!