I am going to get right to the point. I believe that the most important thing you can do for your marriage is to keep hope alive. How to do that is what I want to share with you.
When Judith and I wrote the fictional book, 5 Disciplines of a Growing Marriage, this was the message we wanted to communicate.
The couple, Mark and Lisa, had many problems–nothing unusual that you and I don’t deal with. Their marriage was on the verge of imploding, not because of the problems, but because in the course of dealing with their problems, they lost all hope.
It is not the problems that make marriage intolerable. Marriage becomes intolerable when couples lack tools to deal with their problems.
If you read the book, you will notice that it doesn’t end with, and they lived happily ever after, that only happens in a fairytale world. In the real world, a joy-filled marriage confronts daily problems from a perspective of hope. The 5 Disciplines of a Growing Marriage ends on a note of hope. Mark and Lisa will still be afflicted with problems, but they will face their problems with hope instead of despair.
What do I mean by hope? Hope is the irrepressible conviction that tomorrow will be better than today.
Hope has an object.
Surprisingly, the object is not love or your partner. Hope is rooted in the presence and promises of God. Almighty God promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).” Hope is the conviction that while the problems of marriage may overwhelm, they will never, and can never eclipse God. So God is our helper!
What we have observed is that joy-filled couples do not depend on themselves. Don’t get me wrong, they take responsibility for their actions and their immature behavior, but they don’t believe the lie that they possess all the resources and answers to their problems. These resilient couples have faith in God to sustain them in their problems. So they are not afraid to seek help from God and others.
Hope grows through trial and error.
If we were to graph the trajectory of our marriage, it would not be a straight line up and to the right. The growth lines of our marriage for the past 34 years would look like the stock market, many highs and lows. So how does that provide hope? Suffering, failure, and hardship produce endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).
Whenever Judith and I hit tough spots in our life together, we remind ourselves that we have been in this boat before. We don’t panic. We don’t throw in the white towel. We endure the hardship, knowing that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness.
Hope feeds commitment.
This makes sense. If I believe that God is with me and will never forsake me, and if I believe that God uses all of my victories and failures shape me into the image of Christ, then I will remain filled with hope for each day. This sense of daily hope sustains our commitment to our marital vows.
Judith and I celebrated thirty-four years of marriage in 2017. Our love for each other continues to grow in the face of every imaginable problem that two people could face.
- What keeps us going is the conviction that God knows us and loves us.
- Christ died and rose from the dead. His resurrection power is with us.
- We have the wisdom of God through the word of God to guide us.
- Those who are with us are greater than those who are against us.
- God does not keep a record of my sins and failures. I am forgiven!
I would love to hear your thoughts: What keeps you hopeful in your marriage?