Sunday, January 11, 2015

When Marriage Gets Hard

Scripture Texts: Job 1; Job 2; James 5:9-11

It was the most difficult year of our marriage. For six years we had shared ministry in a place that we loved, and that we loved being. Our hope was to stay in that place for a long time and journey through life with the people there. The plan was going well until the day the phone rang sharing that things were about to change. After a very brief time to pray about the change we concluded that it was God that was calling us to the new venture, even if we were not sure if we liked what was ahead.

Over the following months, as the time of transition drew closer, the tension and stress in our marriage was at its all time high. Both of us were grieving the change, and we were both struggling to to keep our eyes fixed on Christ. Over and over there was one thought that kept coming to the surface, "Why is it so difficult to do what God is calling us to do?"

Throughout our marriage we have worked very hard to follow where God has called us. All along the way as change was part of the equation it seemed easy to make the transition and the stress to our marriage was relatively low. Staying faithful had not been difficult until this particular change. Now the thought made the shift to, "Why are we suffering if we are following what God wants for us?"

This brings us to Job. One of the most challenging books of the Bible Job seemed to have it all going in the right direction. It was in fact God who made the claim that Job was the most righteous person on the face of the planet. Job was living directly in the center of the will of God, and was following God completely. When the trials and tribulations show us everyone around him is telling him to curse God and die, to give up. Not even an option for Job, in fact his reply to his wife is, "Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?"

What we went through a few years back was not even close to the struggle that Job faced, yet it was still very real. Even more challenging is all that happened to Job was truly bad stuff. What was happening to us was only bad because it forced us to change from a situation we loved. The struggle we faced was not tied to our faithfulness, nor was it tied to whether or not God loved us. The stress on our marriage at that time was not a sign that we had a bad marriage or that we did not love each other anymore. All of it meant that we were having a hard time, and hard times are part of the journey, especially when you are following Jesus.

Here we are three years later. Our marriage is in a much better place. We still miss the ministry we shared for those six years. Still, we are beginning to experience the blessings from enduring the struggle. Never did we consider giving up on God or on our marriage but we did wonder if we would always feel the hurt. The sting is still a part of life for us, however that sting is not a part of our marriage anymore. The pain is over not having what was, something we treasured. Through time and investing in each other our marriage has experienced healing from the most challenging year we have had. It would be great if that meant all the challenges were behind us, and that never again would we face the stress of that year. Safe to say there will be more struggles in the journey ahead. A big difference when they come around again will be the experience of the last time.

In the end, marriage is going to have struggles, even the best marriages. Stress and struggle are not a sign of a poor marriage, or that you are not being faithful to God. During those times we would do well to remember Job, and his reply to struggle, "Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?"

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