By Ashley McIlwain
At every corner there lurks danger. The potential for problems and conflict seem to pepper the future of our marriage like a field of landmines. One misstep and everything blows up in front of us. It can seem that there’s no winning at times when it comes to our marriage.
This may seem pessimistic, but there is certainly truth to it. We have a real enemy out there, Satan, who roams around seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). God had big plans for us, and He knew that we needed a partner in crime, which is why He created husband and wife. Out of all of His creation, there was one thing He said was not good, and that was for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Marriage was the pinnacle of His handiwork’s perfection. Marriage was the exclamation point on His creation. And that’s why Satan immediately went to work on it.
I find it profoundly interesting that out of everything God created, there was one thing that Satan went after to destroy … marriage (Genesis 3). If nothing else, this should tell us of the importance of marriage … of its centrality and vitality to God’s plan. Nobody tries to destroy something of insignificance. But I believe Satan knew that if he wanted to destroy God’s creation it started with the heart of it, so he pulled on the very string that he thought would unravel the very fabric of God’s handiwork – marriage.
Marriage has been under attack since its inception, which is why it should not come as a surprise that marriage is still under attack. What was Satan’s tactic? To bring divisiveness to husband and wife. To pit them against one another and to separate them from God. He knew that when unity was broken in a marriage, he could then have the husband and wife working against one another instead of working together.
Why would he do that? Why does it matter? Well, Mark 3:25 says, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” If Satan destroys marriages, he brings down the home, and when he brings down our homes, he begins destroying the heartbeat of God’s creation. Divided from one another and separated from God, destruction is imminent.
We must be aware of both the importance of our marriage and that there is an enemy out there plotting against us. Wanting us to fail at our marriage. The only way to win a battle, let alone a war, is to know that we are in one.
The enemy isn’t your spouse. Yes, they may frustrate you, hurt you, and/or fail you. They may annoy and irritate you. They may make missteps, but they aren’t your enemy. You are a team, and a great one at that.
There are times where you will be tempted to give up. To walk away. To feel that your marriage isn’t worth fighting for anymore. That your husband or wife is hopeless. That things won’t change or can’t change. That you’ve done all that you can, but it’s just beyond repair. Most couples will experience those feelings at some point in their marriage, but I would encourage you to refuse to give up on your marriage and your spouse.
In a study conducted by a team of leading family scholars headed by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite, the researchers found that two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. Additionally, the most unhappy marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds: among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of ten who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.
Giving up on your marriage, despite how it may seem or feel, is not the easy answer. The best way to overcome a problem is to work through it. And in marriage, you’ve got a partner to help you do just that. When you remove each other as the source of the problem, you can then begin to identify the real problem and work toward a real resolution.
Dr. John Gottman, a leader in marriage research, reports that 69% of issues in marriage are not solved but rather managed. The reality is, in marriage you have two people who think differently, feel differently, and perceive differently. That is bound to create issues and difficulties. We have to stop attacking one another for those differences and starting working together to resolve and manage.
Over the course of my husband’s and my marriage, we could probably pick out four or five main problems that we’ve had to continually tackle. They creep up in different ways, but they are rooted in the same core issues. We’ve learned to manage and continue to work at them together. Unity is our best friend.
Satan would want you to believe that your marriage is plagued with too many problems. That your spouse is not worth the effort. That your marriage is beyond repair. He loves to divide and conquer.
These are lies though. Just like he lied to Adam and Eve in the garden to destroy the perfect paradise God had established, he is lying to you. There is no perfect or easy marriage. They are all hard work, and they all have problems to overcome. The question isn’t if you’ll have problems, but rather how you will tackle the ones you are certain to encounter.
We all have a tendency to be blinded and overcome by our emotions and by the immediate future. We can only see what’s right in front of us. It’s like a brick wall has been placed in front of us, and the long-term future is hidden. If we just climb over that wall though, there is a whole future ahead of us. We need to fix our eyes on something other than our immediate circumstances.
2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” We cannot become overcome by the here and now and miss out on that which is still to come.
If you’re at a point of hopelessness in your marriage … if you’ve tried it all … if you feel helpless, then lift your eyes up. Where does your help come from? Your help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2)! That’s a promise you can cling to and count on.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life’s journey, it’s that the biggest storms, the darkest days, the deepest pit appears before the biggest blessings arrive. Just when I want to give up, when I think I can’t take one more step, when I don’t have an ounce of strength left, God carries me through. He lifts me up out of my pit of despair and places my feet firmly (Psalm 40:2). Even when it seems like it, He never leaves me or fails me (Deuteronomy 31:8).
I will stay on course. Sometimes when I am running a hard work out I get discouraged. I begin to doubt if I can finish. The pain seeps into my lungs, my legs and eventually my heart feels like it will burst. Same as in life when you hit hurdles to your goals. You get weary from trying, your heart has so much pain and begins to think it will fail… As I thought about the hardest workouts and races in my life, I know it is always most difficult right before the finish line and accomplishing what I thought I could not. So I will stay the course. I encourage you to do so as well.
Stay on course friends. Don’t give up on your marriage. Your spouse is not the enemy. There is hope, and more than that, there is a Helper out there that you can call upon to hold your hand and carry you through this season of despair (Psalm 46:1). Don’t grow weary (Galatians 6:9). Your marriage is important, and it’s worth the fight!
When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. –Theodore Roosevelt
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