Wedding vows declare the promises and expectations for a marriage, even though brides and grooms typically have little appreciation for what’s coming. I know I didn’t. My expectations for my marriage to Susan involved a lot of “for better” and “for richer” and “in health.” Sure, I promised “for worse” and “for poorer” and “in sickness,” but I didn’t expect hard times in marriage, until we had them.
When Susan was in high school, she had a cardiac event while cheerleading at a football game. It resulted in a “code blue,” a miraculous resuscitation, and a pacemaker. But I still assumed the best. Then, when our kids were still young, she wound up sick for a year. A new pacemaker and over a dozen surgeries later, this was a far cry from the perfect marriage I had imagined.
I should have seen it coming. Jesus, of all people, promised it. He once said to his followers, which includes me, “In this world, you will have trouble,” or as one translation says, “you will have many trials and sorrows.” I’ve seen what that trouble and trial looks like in a lot of marriages: dying dreams, crippling pain, constant conflict, paralyzing anxieties, destructive addictions, and faithless affairs.
But here’s the good news: We can get through the tough times together and come out stronger in our love and our joy. How?
By remembering that our vows are a solemn promise.
We can’t mean what we say only when it feels right and good. Our word should be our bond. From the start of our marriage, Susan and I committed to one another that we would never utter “the D-word.”
By remembering that our marriage is a covenant, not a contract.
As a “recovering attorney,” I appreciate a good contract. It’s conditional. It’s a mutual give-and-take. It’s self-protecting, based on mutual distrust. But a covenant is different. It’s unconditional. It’s sacrificial. And selfless, based on mutual trust. A contract is about what you get, but a covenant marriage is about what you give.
By remembering that marriage exists to demonstrate God’s glory to the world.
The Bible tells us that husbands loving their wives sacrificially, unselfishly, is just like how Christ loved us. Pastor John Piper says that the “ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and His church [His people] on display.” Author Gary Thomas gets this, too, when he challenges his readers to consider that God has designed marriage more for making us holy, like Him, than just to make us happy.
By remembering that love through the worst of times in marriage reflects God’s amazing love for the world.
It’s easy to love someone when everything is sunshine. It’s the love you see in the storms of life that really shows what true love, God’s love, is.
The tough times bond and bind us. The tough times prove us. The tough times help us see the good times as really, really great. Without the tough times, we wouldn’t fully understand how sweet and beautiful the good times are.
So when hard times in marriage come, you’ll make it through if you remember your vows, remember your marriage is a covenant, remember that your marriage exists to bring glory to God, and show His amazing love.
Your marriage was made for these tough times. It is my hope and prayer that you will embrace this truth, to persevere through the “for worse,” to fight to the end for your marriage, to love God well, and to build together a great marriage story for a greater purpose—a showcase of God’s love for your children, future generations, and all the world to see.
What have you learned from the storms you’ve weathered in your marriage? Share in the comments below.