When you decide to get married, you start making plans.
And after you marry, you keep making plans.
But you know what they say. Life is what happens while you are making plans.
My husband and I had a five year plan when we married. We knew what we wanted to do and where we wanted to be. And we had a strong sense of calling about that plan.
But three years into our marriage, our first child was born. And she spent the next nine months in a hospital fighting to breathe normally. Her health was incredibly fragile. So there were a lot of emotional ups and downs in those early weeks and months when we didn’t know if she would survive.
Eventually, our daughter came home from the hospital on a portable ventilator with round-the clock nursing care. And we had no idea what the future would hold for her—or for us.
What do you do when tragedy strikes? Or when life just does not turn out anything like you expected?
What do you do when the world seems to shift beneath your feet, and you stumble around looking for solid ground?
We discovered that marriage was a real gift in the midst of difficult circumstances. And it offered us incredible stability when our world was in chaos.
Here are three ways to lean in and experience the gift of stability in your marriage:
1. HOLD ON
When life is difficult it is natural to retreat. We put up walls to protect ourselves from further hurt. But when you are married, it is important to resist barriers that might develop between you and your spouse. And this is especially true in challenging circumstances. It’s critical to stay connected- to hold on to each other. That’s how you weather tough times together.
This scripture passage was read at our wedding. It has been a real source of encouragement for us, especially during difficult seasons.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
2. LOOK UP
Did you notice the last line in the passage from Ecclesiastes? About a cord of three strands? We know from other references that the third strand keeping that cord together is God. In marriage, it can be tempting to cling to your spouse expecting them to meet all of your needs. But if couples cling only to each other, they can suck the life out of each other. That’s true when things are going well, and it’s especially true in a crisis. But when you look UP together, you find the only source that can really replenish hope and your strength for each of you. Then you have something to give each other.
3. REACH OUT
Sometimes when couples find themselves in a tough situation, they adopt a “you and me against the world” mentality and refuse to let anyone else in to help. And that’s understandable. Difficulties in marriage are often very personal. But everyone needs help now and then. A strong and stable marriage needs a community where you find support as a couple. Friends who share your values and support your marriage relationship will celebrate with you. And they will also check in when someone is sick, or watch the kids so you and your spouse can have a date night. We were created to live in community in good times and bad. So invest wisely in meaningful friendships. Those friends help shore up a sense of stability in turbulent times. Then don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it most.
In any marriage, there are seasons when one person feels strong and the other is walking through something tough. And there are times when both husband and wife are struggling. But it’s possible to build a marriage relationship that is stable and resilient in spite of circumstances that seem to pull the ground out from under you.
And that stability is one of the gifts of a strong marriage.