Though most every spouse marries with stars in their eyes and expectations that scrape the Milky Way galaxy, there isn’t a spouse on earth, on any continent, in any country, who hasn’t experienced harsh unexpected disappointments. Like piles of heavy wet snow on power lines and branches, accumulated hurts and disillusionment threaten to snap personal resolve as easily as limbs surrender to the overwhelming weight of winter’s crystals.
Have you too entertained the thought of quitting at some level?
My husband’s and my overarching marriage narrative is a wonderful one because it is a tale of redemption. But in those hard places, before the redemption came, before it was spring again, we both experienced the pain of disappointment and loss. I wondered if we’d ever see beauty once more, or if we’d have to settle for a long winter.
I wanted to quit my marriage, not end it entirely as in get a divorce, but I have wanted to stop trying so hard in the cold heavy parts of our relationship. I have felt, This is too hard, we aren’t getting anywhere. I have been tempted, and it is a real temptation from the enemy of our souls, to
- quit sex,
- quit working so hard to understand and be understood
- quit serving and giving myself
- quit biting my tongue and watching my words
- quit trying and settle into détente.
Quitting any area of marriage is slamming a door shut on intimacy. Like a thermometer, intimacy is the rising or falling temperature of your marital oneness and depth. Intimacy is not just sex. It’s communication, sacrificial love, self-control, courage…and sex.
Why did we all expect marriage to be so happily ever after?
Ponder this question in reply: why do you think Jesus spent so much time with tax-gatherers and sinners as the Pharisees so sharply accused? Quite simply because He knew that they knew their inadequacies and failures. Jesus saw hope for new life, new light in those men and women and children who understood they were broken needy sinners.
Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Simply stated, we can’t receive the gifts of the kingdom unless we know we cannot attain them or buy them or earn them on our own.
We struggle and want to quit in our marriages because we underestimate the sinful natures of our spouse and ourselves. Marriage is hard because it’s the union of two sinners.
In my Bible study this year, our class is going through Romans which has reminded me afresh “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). My wanting to quit has so often been because I expect too much of my spouse and myself and underestimate our depravity.
I still remember some of those crisis points in our marriage. I felt frightened a few times, fearing we’d never find common ground again. I felt lonely, knowing we weren’t operating out of oneness and because I didn’t have anyone I could talk to. I felt unappreciated that my efforts to love, serve and help weren’t met with the gratitude I had expected. To quit trying appeared like the relief of a desert mirage.
At the core, I wanted to quit because I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Life wasn’t working the way I thought it should. I wasn’t able to make it all work. Paul said basically the same thing when he wrote, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18).
Though I felt emotions that scared me, God wasn’t bothered by my wanting to surrender and quit trying. In fact, He kinda liked me in that barren winter place…discovering that my expectations weren’t working…finding I wasn’t sufficient in myself to make everything work in my marriage. He knew I was disappointed with Him, too, and that too didn’t bother Him a bit.
True marriage is the union of three, not two.
In those alone moments when I had nothing else to try, no book with ten tips waiting on my nightstand, I prayed one of many desperate prayers over the years. I told God, I have no idea what to do next, no idea what to say or try. Will You show me? Will you guide me?
Never was there an immediate reply. I always wished for one, but learned to rest in His mysterious ways…to trust He could somehow break the ice…make a way…open our eyes to His beauty.
And that is what He wanted. “Come to Me,” Jesus said.
I was inadequate…my own attempts a failure…I needed Jesus and only Jesus.
So what do you do when you feel hope is lost and you want to quit?
Come to Jesus.
- His strength will help you resist the darkness that threatens; the darkness of unbelief & resignation…the darkness of lost hope. IF you will ask and IF you really want to follow Him.
- His light will shine on your heart to illumine false thinking, small and large steps of new understanding. IF you are willing to see your sin, If you are willing to change. (Is there that much sin in me? Oh yes there is.)
When you come to Jesus, the third Person in your marriage, remember:
- He is always praying for you to choose His way. “He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
- He is your husband when yours fails, “For your Maker is your husband” (Isaiah 54:5).
- He is your dearest Friend when you have no one, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
- He is your Comforter when you feel all alone; “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
- He waits to guide you by His Spirit; “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
Your challenge and mine is to believe all this is true and walk by faith when our feelings tell us the opposite. It’s what Jesus did all His life, but especially on the cross. And because He did, He can help us follow His steps.
God’s greatest joy is to rescue, resurrect and restore. It’s His specialty. He LOVES to take broken hearts, fractured relationships, shattered hope, and restore it to better than it was before.
I pray you will make your marriage health your highest goal, seeking to grow your relationship with your husband and your Savior this year.
May you too be counted among those who didn’t quit and because you didn’t discovered the wonder of the resurrection!