Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians 13

When marriage feels hard

I recently read an article by Joanna Gaines talking about her marriage to her husband Chip (hosts of the show “Fixer Upper”, among other things). In the article she talked about how she has never wanted to go on a girl’s weekend or spend time away from her husband, how being with him gives her energy and she thrives on their togetherness. I believe she is being sincere when she says that, and Chip and Joanna Gaines are an adorable couple who appear happily married and in-love. But my marriage looks nothing like theirs.

I can’t relate to Joanna’s desire to spend all of her time with her husband. You see, I do enjoy a good girl’s weekend. I desire alone time. I get energy from these things and sometimes I crave them desperately. The honest truth is that there are moments when being married drains me. It can leave me feeling weary and depleted. Because you know what? Marriage can be hard.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I truly love my husband with every ounce of my being. I love date nights and I especially love a weekend away with the man who has been my one and only for over 20 years. We need those moments to reconnect and remember why we fell in love in the first place. We are really good together and still genuinely enjoy each other’s company. However, there are also nights that I lie awake feeling frustrated and angry, praying for God to give me peace and sleep. There are days that I feel like we just can’t get it right…that we still have the same fight we’ve been having forever. There are moments when I feel resentment or jealousy and wonder if it’s really supposed to be this much damn work. And in those moments, it’s so, so easy to look at my marriage and compare it to others and worry that maybe we got it all wrong.

It’s easy to look at the couple at church who still stare at each other adoringly after 30 years; to see the couple on Facebook posting about how blessed they are to be married to their best friend; to see the couple on TV who spends every minute together and lovingly talk of their perfect partnership in life and business — and then compare these marriages to my own and think that my marriage doesn’t measure up.

And I get that what I see of other marriages is only a glimpse of reality…the public face of their marriage. Yet often when I speak to people who left their marriage or have been unfaithful they cite how marriage was just too much work; they always had the same fight, they didn’t feel happy, they fell out of love, and I wonder: by what standards and expectations are we measuring love and marriage? How many of us are looking at the public face of seemingly “happily married” couples and weighing our own marriage against it? How many of us have accepted the mainstream, Hollywood or Disney version that lasting relationships end with “happily ever-after”? How many of us feel unsatisfied in our own marriage and even give up because we decide it doesn’t look like these other marriages, so it must not be meant to last?

This is a problem. Because this is not how God designed love and marriage. Nowhere does God promise real love will be effortless or come to us easily. In fact, He actually says the opposite. He says love requires some hard work. It requires patience, and humility. It requires we stop envying what others have and that we cast-off our own self-seeking motivations (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

Nowhere is it written that marriage is about happily-ever-after. God’s design for marriage is sacrificial. It’s about a husband giving himself up to his wife, and caring for her in a way that puts her above all else. It’s about a wife respecting and loving her husband with reverence and humbleness. It’s about both leaving behind their individual selves and becoming one (Ephesians 5:22-33). And that last part might sound romantic at first, but when you realize that becoming one means dying to self and striving to love another the way Christ loves…it suddenly gets very real and feels nearly unattainable. Paul even declares it to be a “profound mystery.”

God didn’t promise us happily-ever-after. He never said a healthy marriage happens with ease. In fact, He made it pretty clear that there would be some real intentional work involved. And this is why I think it’s important that we acknowledge that sometimes marriage feels hard. It’s supposed to!

A healthy marriage does not equal a marriage without conflict. A healthy marriage does not mean you desire to be by your spouses side 24×7, or that you never get on one another’s nerves. It is OK to admit that some days working through conflict with your spouse drains your energy and zaps your patience. We are human beings after-all. And, no offense to the Gaines’s, but I believe that couples who publicly perpetuate the idea that their marriage is always harmony and sweet togetherness, are actually doing a disservice to the reality of what a divinely-appointed marriage is supposed to be.

This is not to say we should publicly complain, shame, or belittle our spouses. I absolutely believe we should be building each other up. But it’s OK to say, “you know what? I love my wife, but some days being married to her takes a lot of energy.” OR “Loving my husband the way God calls me to love is not easy today.” Because if we are in a community of believers where we feel safe to be honest about our challenges, we can find strength and encouragement within each other. We can say, “Me, too. I’ve been there. I know how you feel. It will be OK. God will see you through this.”

So here it is. My moment of truth and honesty. This week marriage has felt hard. So, I’ve been turning it over to God. Because while He never promised me it would be easy, He did say that if we invite Him into our marriage it will remain strong. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” – Ecclesiastes 4:12.

If your marriage feels like hard work right now, know you’re not alone. But more importantly, know that it is not an indication that your marriage is unhealthy or failing. Get off Facebook, turn off the TV and stop comparing your marriage to everyone else’s. Whatever is weighing on you, turn it over to God; invite Him to be in the center of it all. He will help you through.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

photo credit: Omar Parada Untitled via photopin (license)

What love looks like to me

Two years ago I had the pleasure of travelling to Sydney, Australia for my job. Not knowing when, or if, I’d ever get back I tacked on two days to my trip to do a little sightseeing. As I’ve traveled quite a bit for my job I’ve gotten used to being bold and venturing out on my own, but this time I went ahead and signed-up for one of those pre-planned tours that would take me up into the Blue Mountians and a chance to experience what lie beyond Sydney.

I was the only solo traveler in this tour group and quickly befriended two older couples who were sightseeing for a few days before embarking on luxury cruises. Turns out both couples were quite seasoned travelers and cruise enthusiasts. Their kids were grown, they were retired or semi-retired, and had the time and means to see the world. They had a lot in common and at first I envied them the freedom of being able to travel around the world in your twilight years with the one you love.

Yet, as the day progressed and I spent more time around these couples I noticed some distinct differences. In one couple the wife was very outspoken. She was often critical and harsh in her judgement of things, and this included her husband. She spoke over him and for him. Their body language was that of two people who were used to each other, but not connected. The husband spoke little and seemed to be disengaged for much of the conversation.

The other couple was quite different. They held hands and sidled up close to one another. Their conversations had a lot of give-and-take and they seemed to really listen when the other one spoke. Everything about them exuded love.

From the outside both couples appeared to have quite an exciting and enviable life. But by the end of the tour, when I said my goodbyes, I knew there was only one couple that had my admiration and respect.

Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong.  It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out.
-1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (TLB)

My husband and I had those words from 1 Corinthians read at our wedding, just as I’m sure 98% of Christian couples do. It’s the proverbial definition of love. Standing at the alter listening to those words I thought I knew what they meant. I thought I knew what love looked like and I was confident that my new groom and I would live out these words for the rest of our lives. I really, truly did.

Jelise & David wedding
So much I want to tell that young bride about love and marriage.

But, as a young wife there were so many times I forgot these words. So many times I couldn’t wait to prove my point or win an argument (love is never boastful or proud); so many times I sat with girlfriends and complained about my husband’s lack of housekeeping (love will hardly even notice when others do it wrong); so many times I snapped at my husband (love is not irritable or touchy). Too often I focused on what I needed/wanted/wasn’t getting (love is never selfish), or I pointed out the things he was doing wrong (love does not demand its own way), and brought up past deeds in arguments (love does not hold grudges).

And the worst part of all? I was ready and willing to share it with the world. I thought this is what you did once you joined the wives club. You sat around with your girlfriends, mothers and sisters and complained about your husbands. I justified my behavior as a right of passage,  a way to feel like I wasn’t alone and seek support. But really it was selfish and terribly toxic. All it did was tear down the image of my husband in both my eyes and in the eyes of those around me. And most of all it left me feeling empty and unsatisfied because contempt breeds misery.

It took me many, many years — and coming face-to-face with the possibility of ending my marriage — before I began to change my approach. On the recommendation of a friend I bought the book “Power of a Praying Wife” by Stormie Omartian. I won’t say this book saved my marriage, because it’s much more complex than that, but this book completely changed my view of my role as wife and partner. It changed how I prayed (Before: “dear God, please change my husband to see things my way”) and what I prayed for (Now: “dear God, please help him to see the amazing husband and father you created him to be”).

Don’t get me wrong…I still mess up. A LOT. I make mistakes weekly and fall short often. But I look to 1 Corinthians 13, verse 7, and I particularly like this translation from The Living Bible. It says, “If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.” (TLB)

It’s been nearly 15 years since we stood on that alter and this is what love looks like to me now — to stand by my husband, always believing in him (instead of questioning him), expecting the best (not looking for the worst), and speaking highly of him (instead of complaining and criticizing).

Let me be clear: this is not always easy. It may sound simple, but it’s really not. It takes making the choice every day to set-aside my pride and ego and follow these guidelines. But I do it because it’s how God has instructed me to live. I do it because it makes my marriage, my family, my life fuller, sweeter, and happier when I do.

I hope in 20 years we will look like that couple I met in Australia. Whether we’re travelling the world or sitting together in a booth at the I.H.O.P., I hope young couples will look at us and see the loyalty, the respect, and the unwavering love.

This is what love looks like to me.

1 Corinthians 13:7