(By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)
Marriage is intended to be a marathon rather than a sprint. That is the way God made it. God also gave a husband and wife the privilege to raise children within the context of their home. And while raising children has a ton of challenges, it also provides some built-in safeguards which can actually help to save your marriage when your relationship encounters huge hurdles.
It is perhaps tougher than ever to stay married these days. There are a number of reasons for this development, but that doesn't mean your marriage has to end in divorce. Many couples have been able to "go the distance," and so there is hope for your marriage as well.
Some couples are not able to have children, but for those who do, let me offer you some encouragement regarding the way in which your kids could save your marriage.
Couples with young children face plenty of pressures. And it definitely takes a toll on a marriage. But no couple wants their young children to be raised by parents in different homes, unless of course things have already progressed to that point. Many parents seem to understand the critical need for their children to have both mom and dad in the home if at all possible. That is the ideal setting, even with the various challenges families face while living together under the same roof.
Young children in the home have a way of keeping couples "on track" for the sake of the kids. Many couples have persevered through some tough times and avoided divorce in the process. Their children motivated them to hang in there, and things eventually returned to "normal." That is to say, things returned to a place where neither spouse was feeling driven to give up on the marriage. The presence of young children often helps parents "postpone" divorce for the benefit of the kids.
Think of it as a "cooling-off period." When the race gets exhausting, the presence of young children is a tremendous source of energy and motivation. As parents, we want the best for them, even if that means enduring periods of frustration or disappointment in our marriage.
Just imagine how disappointed every young child becomes when mom and dad get a divorce. Allow their potential devastation to motivate you to look for every possible way to save your marriage. Many couples have caught their "second wind" and started to see once again what led them to get married in the first place. Thankfully, they didn't rush into divorce just because they were being driven by the winds of emotion, anger, hurt, or boredom. Those winds are strong, but the wind of the Holy Spirit is even stronger.
Happiness can return when a couple presses on and pursues a plan aimed at saving their marriage. In fact, plenty of spouses who persevere and make corrective adjustments come to see that their soul mate is still their greatest blessing from God, other than salvation of course. And their young children helped them envision a real future together.
So young children definitely make a dramatic difference when facing hurdles. But what about the soon-to-be "empty nesters" among us? Can grown children also help couples stay together?
Yes, and here's how. If you are a husband or wife who is considering divorce now that your kids are almost out of the house, ask yourself this question: If I had to do it all over again, would I marry this same person and have these same children? Or would I look for someone else and thereby not have any of my current children? All or nothing. Spouse and kids, or none of them. Which "door" would you take? Door #1 with your current family, or door #2 with none of your current children?
If you can honestly say you would go with door #2, you are in the vast minority. Most moms and dads would not be able to honestly say such a thing, thereby making their kids hypothetically "disappear" from their life. By answering that question truthfully, a husband or wife has to recognize who it is that gave these children to them.
And by reminding yourself of how God has blessed your family, you are a step closer to being reminded of how the Lord blessed you with your spouse. On your wedding day, you were "all in." That degree of love and commitment can return. Many couples have seen it happen by the grace of God. The hard part will be refusing to throw in the towel during that period of extreme discontent. A spirit of wholeness and peace was there in the beginning, and you can experience it again by God's grace.
You may currently be "in a place" where you are not enjoying your marriage, but that does not mean you cannot "get back to normal." In marriage, "normal" is rarely easy or trouble-free, but it is certainly stable. It is secure and comforting. It is reassuring to know that your soulmate "has your back," and is committed to your marriage. That is a wonderful feeling. On the other hand, it is a horrible feeling to have a spouse who is thinking about throwing it all away. And yet that attitude is widespread among people in all walks of life.
You and your spouse had peace and happiness together on the day you were married. And it continued for a period of time. What made those peaceful feelings go away? And what could you both be doing right now to help restore those feelings of warmth, unconditional love, and forgiveness?
While there is "life after divorce" for many people, there is also "life without divorce" for thousands of troubled marriages that manage to "get back to peace." The grace of God is the most powerful resource available to help a couple "shake loose" some of the hindrances that are blocking their love from flowing to one another.
What hindrances are you bringing into the equation? Just imagine how stable things could once again become if you were able to get beyond those obstacles. God can give you that hopeful vision for the future, but are you open to having Him show it to you?
If you honestly would not "trade in your kids for a new set," then perhaps you will come to see that "trading in your spouse" isn't the answer either. The Lord established marriage for a lifetime. It was His idea. To do it His way means humbling ourself and forgiving our spouse even when it seems he or she doesn't deserve it.
After all, when have we ever deserved God's forgiveness? You may think your spouse is a "bigger sinner" than you, but are you sure God sees it that way? I would encourage you to remember that you once had contentment with your spouse. God can restore that feeling of stability. I didn't say it would be easy, but it can be a lot better than pressing forward with a divorce.
If you feel "rushed" into considering a divorce, try slowing down. By spending time in prayer and reflecting on Scripture, many Christians have seen the Lord guide their thoughts and replace the "rushed" feelings with a holy vision for the future. In everything, the Lord will always be promoting the holy approach. That's His nature. And His blessing rests upon those who seek that holy place rather than a quick fix based on rushed, angry, or empty feelings.
And for goodness' sake, how about going out on a date? What have you got to lose?
Kids bring many blessings to a family, but they also make it tougher for parents to experience romantic feelings unless they intentionally work on it. During courtship, it didn't require much effort. The adrenaline and infatuation fueled plenty of romantic feelings. But diapers, deadlines, and discourteous behavior all take a toll on the romance factor.
So reflect on the blessing of your children as you seek to get back to that "happy place" in your marriage. You can get there. But it is going to require forgiveness, mental focus, and spiritual power from the Lord.
Your kids may be young or old. But either way, just think about how God gave them to the two of you. I imagine you would love to see your children experience a lifetime of stability and romance with one person. By God's grace, you can model that experience for them.
If you have already gone ahead with a divorce, then there is a different set of questions to consider for yourself and your kids. And as always, the grace of God is available for anyone who brings their sin to Christ to receive forgiveness.
In many ways, marriage is as difficult as the Christian life itself. Both call for perseverance. Both have their ups and downs. And at the end of the day, both provide a strong dose of peace for those who look to God for help, forgiveness, and "normal" feelings of contentment.
Wherever you find yourself today my friend, the Lord is there to help you move forward. His grace and direction will be the key. Your response to His grace will determine whether or not you and your family receive all the spiritual blessings He wants you to receive. I pray that God will give you "a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better." (Ephesians 1:17)
The better we know God, the more wisdom and power we will have when attempting to make it over the highest hurdles in marriage and family life. The obstacles in your marriage may seem overwhelming right now, but just remember: "Nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37)
You and your spouse certainly celebrated that fact each time you welcomed a little baby into the world. Remember?