The first few years of my marriage were difficult. I became a wife and mother on the day I married my husband. He had a 4 year old daughter from his first marriage, and although I loved her, it was quite challenging to adjust. I also had to deal with her mother and grandmother, and that was sometimes very difficult to do. I felt like no matter what I did, it was not good enough. Someone was always finding fault with me. My husband often took my step-daughter’s side, not necessarily because he agreed with her, but because he was scared she would go live with her mother. As a result, our marriage became strained. I grew increasingly frustrated and angry with him and began to close myself off as the resentment grew. I told my husband many times what he was doing and tried to explain to him what it was doing to me, but I felt like he was not listening. I felt alone and alienated. The tension was evident. Over time, my husband began to see how his actions were affecting me and he found a balance, but it was a hard journey for both of us to get to where we needed to be.
A few days a week I was walking with a friend from church. I began talking about how my husband was treating me, how frustrated I was, how hurt I was, and how confused I was. She gave me a sympathetic ear and support, but she shared what I was telling her with my small group leader. As a result, a few of the ladies in our church began to think negatively about my husband. Many thought he was oppressing me. I know their hearts were in the right place, but what they should have done was point me to God’s word. What did God’s word say? How would God want me to handle the situation? That’s what I needed to hear, whether I liked it or not. Of course, with all the sympathy I was getting, my frustration and resentment toward my husband grew. I made a mistake in talking about my husband in such a negative way with my friend. I went into too much detail and revealed too much. I did need support and to feel understood, but my heart was not in the right place. I wanted to feel like I was right so I could use the words of my lady friends from church against my husband. That was wrong, and it became quite evident later.
In addition to all of these problems, I was taking birth control, and it messed me up badly. My emotions were unmanageable. I would be calm and fine one minute, and the next I would fly into a rage over something so dumb. I was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This further drove a wedge between my husband and myself. It caused a lot of problems. Eventually, we decided that what the birth control pills were doing to me was not worth it, and I stopped using birth control. In a few months, I was back to my normal self. But, I had done a lot of damage, and that damage had to be resolved.
During the first 2 to 3 years of my marriage, when all this crazy stuff was going on, I often asked myself if I had make a mistake in marrying my husband. Had I made a mistake in marrying a man who had a child? Had I somehow missed God or misinterpreted what God said? I wanted out, I told God. I did not sign up for this, I thought. I was not prepared for this, God. I didn’t know it was going to be like this, God; I expected more, God. But God reminded me of my marriage vows–for better or worse. There were no conditions attached. It was all or none. I either meant what I said before God and a multitude of witnesses or I did not. If I meant what I said, then I had to live it, no matter how hard it became. God also reminded me of the tremendous amount of confirmation He gave to both my husband and myself when we were talking about getting married. I realized I had not missed God or misinterpreted what He said. Basically, I went into my marriage with unrealistic expectations (we all do), and I was realizing that those expectations had helped create many of the problems.
As God dealt with me about my feelings and expectations, He began to impress upon my heart that I needed to pray for my husband, especially when I did not agree with him and did not want to submit to his leadership. Pray? But, God, he’s wrong, not me. “Pray!” That’s what God kept telling me. So, after arguments in which I told my husband how I felt, how much I disagreed, how unfair I thought things were; arguments in which I refused to submit to him, I prayed (but it was not what I felt like doing). Sometimes, God used those prayers to change my heart and mind. He often told me, “You do what I said to do. You submit to your husband even if you think he is wrong. He may be wrong, but you are only doing more damage by arguing with him and refusing to submit. You are not respecting him.” That was the truth I needed to hear, but it was hard to accept. Eventually, I got to the point where I would just tell my husband how I felt, state my opinion, and then let it go. I remember one instance in particular when I told my husband I disagreed with him and why I disagreed. He didn’t see things my way. Instead of arguing, I took it to God in prayer. A few days later, my husband came to me and told me he was wrong about that particular issue, and that he had changed his mind. I was amazed, but I knew it was not what I had said to him that had changed his heart and mind. It was what God had been saying to him. God had been convicting him. When I gave up control, when I took my hands off the wheel, and gave it to God, only then was he able to sort things out with my husband.
I recently read a devotion from Proverbs 31 Ministries, in which Lysa TerKeurst says:
“The first five years of my marriage were really hard. Two sinners coming together with loads of baggage, unrealistic expectations and extremely strong wills.
There was yelling. There was the silent treatment. There were doors slammed. There was bitterness. There was a contemplation of calling it quits. There was this sinking feeling that things would never, could never get better. That’s when I first started hearing the three lies:
- I married the wrong person.
- He should make me feel loved.
- There is someone else better out there.
I believed those lies. They started to weave a tangled web of confusion in my heart. All I could see was all that was wrong with him. I became so blind to his good. I became so blind to my not-so-good.
And I wasn’t shy about sharing my frustrations about the whole situation with my friends.
Most of them nodded their heads in agreement with me, making me feel ever‑so‑justified. But one didn’t. Instead she said, “I know what you think. But what does the Bible say?”
Ugghhhh. The Bible? I didn’t think her “religious suggestion” would help me. But over the next couple of days, her question about looking into the Bible replayed over and over in my mind.
Reluctantly and with great skepticism, I tried it one afternoon. I turned to a couple of verses she suggested, including 1 Corinthians 13. As I read the list of everything love is supposed to be, I got discouraged. My love didn’t feel kind, patient or persevering. The love in my marriage felt broken.
I closed the Bible. It didn’t seem to do anything but make me feel worse. So much for that.
Then a few days later, I heard an interview on a Christian radio station where a couple was talking about these same verses. I wanted to gag and turn the station. What do they know about how hard love can be? That’s when they said a statement that grabbed me, “Love isn’t a feeling; it’s a decision.”
I went home and flipped to 1 Corinthians 13 again. This time, instead of reading it like a list of what love should make me feel, I read it as if I could decide to make my love fit these qualities. My love will be kind. My love will be patient. My love will persevere. Not because I feel it — but because I choose it.
At the same time, God was working on my husband’s heart as well. We decided to make some 1 Corinthians 13 love decisions. Slowly, the cold stone wall between us started to come down.
It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t overnight. But slowly our attitudes and actions toward one another changed. And I stopped believing the marriage lies and replaced them with these three marriage truths:
- Having a good marriage is more about being the right partner than having the right partner.
- Love is a decision.
- The grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water and fertilize it.
Maybe you’ve heard the marriage lies before. My heart aches for you if you are in a hard place in your marriage. And believe me, I know tough relationships are complicated and way beyond what a simple devotion can possibly untangle. But maybe something I’ve said today can help loosen one knot … or at least breathe a little hope into your life today.
Dear Lord, thank You for this truth, no matter how hard it is to read. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit, who gives me strength to turn from the lies and walk in Your truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self‑seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (NIV)” (Taken from Proverbs 31 Ministries, March 17, 2016, Lysa TerKeurst)
From experience, I know Lysa gets it. She understands. She has been there, and God gave to her the same revelation He gave to me. Love is a decision. Love is evidenced by action. Love is something we must exercise and grow in every day, moment by moment. The very nature of love is sacrifice. Love is not about how we feel, but about how our lives should look and what our actions should reveal. I choose to be patient. I choose to be kind. I choose to not envy or boast or be proud. I choose to honor and respect others. I choose to be unselfish and to consider others more than I consider myself; I choose to not be easily angered and to keep no record of wrongs. I choose to rejoice in the truth. I choose to protect, trust, hope, and persevere. Even when I don’t feel like, even when those qualities are not being demonstrated by others, even when others are not giving these things to me. Love is a choice, and what you choose matters. I know I will mess up, but I refuse to give up and stop growing in love.