Hoping Together

a couple sits by a lake and reads the bible together

HOPE. It seemed to be little more than a decorative plaque swinging on my hospital door. I remember looking at that little word from my hospital bed and wondering if I would ever feel hope again.

After 48 years of near perfect health, I was stricken with a mysterious, life-threatening illness. For 77 days I was hospitalized without diagnosis and without assurance that I'd improve. Physically, I felt horrible. Spiritually, I had a rich peace. My soul — the feeling, desiring, thinking part of me — was caught between the two.

Just as this season of illness made it difficult for me to sense hope, there can be seasons in marriage when couples do not feel hopeful. Every marriage has challenges. Mine is no exception. Through the years, my wife, Joanna, and I have struggled to communicate with one another, to accept each other's differences and to respect the individual values that we each hold deeply. Then I became ill and we wondered, Can our marriage bear the strain of this added stress? Our emotions varied from day to day.

I'm afraid that if we reduce hope to an emotion, we will experience seasons of despair. The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:24-25, "But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." We may not feel like our life or marriage will ever be any better, but we wait patiently. True hope is the conviction that God is working on our behalf, whether or not we can see His hand. That's when we find strength to move ahead in spite of our emotions.

Eventually, I rose from my hospital bed and took my little HOPE plaque with me. Physical recovery continues to this day, and new health is coming to my marriage as well. Some days, Joanna and I feel hopeful. Other days, we have the strength to hold on to each other because we simply know God is involved in our story and always will be.

Talk About It

  • When have we felt hopeful about our marriage? When have we not?
  • What do we know about God's character that will help us have hope in Him today?
  • If we put our hope in God despite our emotions, how would that make a difference in our marriage?

Do you know of a marriage in crisis? Learn more about Focus on the Family’s marriage intensives by visiting HopeRestored.com.

This article first appeared in the January/February 2012 issue of Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine.
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Copyright © 2012 by John Stumbo. Used by permission.

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