When your marriage is hurting & you need HOPE...
I sit here, watching the not-yet-warm sun sparkle off of the stubborn April snow, longing for the hope and life and beauty of spring to set in. This time of year is full of meaning for me, as I watch the frigid, bleak winter, with it’s darkness and death, give way to life. Seeds that have been frozen deep within the earth awaken again, animals come out of hibernation, and our world fills with color once again.
Two years ago, I was living in a dark winter season in my life and in my marriage. The weight of depression and anxiety engulfed me. Life lost its spark. I lacked motivation and joy eluded me. I went into survival mode and it was not pretty. The deeper and darker the days became, I prayed less and hid more. The urge to run away or simply disappear loomed over me. Maybe you’ve been there, or are there right now. Let me pause for a moment to say if that’s you, please don’t fall for the lie that you are the only one. You are NOT alone.
I had what seemed like the “Ideal Christian Marriage.” I married my highschool sweetheart, waited until marriage for sexual intimacy, did premarital counseling, and invested into our relationship with conferences, books, and getaways. I grew increasingly frustrated that the recurring advice to “try harder, be kinder, go on more dates, and have more sex” did little to change the painful reality of our marriage. The problem was, the issues we were facing were more severe and more destructive than either of us was willing to acknowledge, and the effectiveness of most of that advice was akin to offering a cancer patient some advil and a hug. Well-intentioned, but inadequate.
If you’ve met me, you know that I love to read, and almost always have several books I’m working my way through at a time. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Leslie Vernick’s book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, legitimately changed my life. I would recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone who is in a difficult, disappointing, or destructive marriage.
This book, in tandem with biblical counseling and the support of friends, helped me to see my marriage with clarity for the first time I had to face the reality that my marriage and the desire to “fix it” had become more important to me than loving Jesus and being loved by Him. I had allowed my identity and worth to become so wrapped up in the perceived success of our marriage, and had lost sight of who Jesus says I am. I was defined entirely by my husband and his view of me. Leslie’s words hit home:
“When you give someone the power to define you, you also give them the power to destroy you. Even if your husband devalues you, you must not devalue yourself. Why not? Because your husband is not the final world on your personhood and worth. God is….your core value does not rest on the words of your husband or your mother or your father or your children or even your best friend. It rests on God’s words because he’s the only one who will always tell you the truth.”
Reading that was the beginning of my own broken heart being mended.
It was an invitation to hear Jesus say who I am. An invitation to hear truth. I sat, weeping, as I asked him to show me those truths. I am still, daily, needing to learn to fully embrace the love God has for me.
Once we recognized the actual cancers that were eroding our marriage, and began to treat them with the intensity of chemo and surgery that they required, rather than the “advil” we had been trying to mend it with, we began to see healing. We have received the best of care, skillful counselors, loving friends, tender teammates. The Master surgeon has removed what was dead and dying inside of us so that we could truly live. And so we heal. Not without pain, of course. But not without hope, either.
We have experienced first hand the power of the resurrection. Winter has given way to spring, and our hearts have thawed again.
What was dead has been made alive again.
What seemed hopeless has been made holy.
If you are struggling in your marriage, know that there is hope. God wants ultimately to heal your heart, and whether he heals your marriage or not, he wants you to know that He is enough. If you have experienced heartache in your marriage, know that God’s heart aches with you.
I feel like I could go on and on, but maybe that’s for another time. Let me leave you with a verse I clung to on my darkest days, a verse that still sits on a tear-stained 3x5 card on my mirror.