Over the past few days, I have been looking back at life. You see, my husband and I have been asked to be a part of a relationship conference this next weekend. It will consist of a brief testimony from five couples about marriage and then will be followed by a “rapid fire” question and answer period. The groups will be divided into unmarried, married under ten years, married over ten years. Then all the groups will reunite for an overview and more q&a. We are blessed to have four couples with over 35 years experience participating!
I have to say the secret to our longevity in marriage is most likely tenacity. That put plainly; stubbornness. We are both stubborn people and come from stubborn people. We also started our marriage out with the mindset that this is forever. By beginning from the faith perspective and from a Biblical world view, that means our perspective was to make it work; fix what was broken. Have we ever felt like quitting? Yes. Thankfully, when one was discouraged the other usually picked up the slack and we muddled our way through by prayer, God’s help and sometimes sheer determination. Has it always been easy? Not at all! We really were just babies starting out; though we’d never admit it then. I remember one couple in their sixties who were friends with our parents declaring, “they will never make it! It’s puppy love and they are too young to get married.” I wonder what they’d say today…
I spent some time this weekend looking back at the things we have been through together. I was amazed to see how quickly the challenges began in our marriage and how those struggles were clustered together; back to back, and sometimes year after year. Many were heavy duty challenges, not just the typical adjusting to life together or financial issues. Those can be difficult enough. We experienced a number of deaths of loved ones close in succession; some following long term illness and some sudden. It was a little shocking to look back. It was also pretty gratifiing at the same time seeing all that we have come through and how it changed each of us; how we grew through those times.
The thing is, often it is those very struggles in life that cause us to grow, mature and strengthen. They push us to do something other than just get by. They force us to look for answers, to seek wisdom. Hopefully they lead us to seek out God; His wisdom and understanding; and godly answers. Even when that is not the case, we are able to learn what not to do the next time and what does not work. As we grow and mature through these times, it puts us in the perfect place to help others who go through similar situations.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV
I could’t help but feel a little overwhelmed and amazed as I glanced the highlights of the years. Just the major events, both the good ones and the hard ones. Would we have ever signed up for this if we’d known what was coming? I really don’t know. I would hope so! I have to say as good as the good has been and as hard as the hard has been; I wouldn’t change a thing! There are times we each wish we had done better or differently but the truth is it has all worked together for good to get both of us were we are today. We are better for those struggles because they have changed us. They have stretched and matured us. Fears are fewer; faith is stronger. Best of all, our Heavenly Father is so very real and present in our lives. He is the true reason that we are here today! If our stories can help others coming along behind us, all the better.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
By His mercy and grace, we have and continue to hold fast in both our faith and in our marriage. Love deepens with both the good times and the struggles we face when our hearts are set on Him! He is the unifier and the glue that holds this relationship together on the sunny days and on the stormy seas.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1b-3a ESV
May God’s mercy, grace and peace surround you this day!