I got engaged when I was 42. But I didn't marry until I was 49. In between, a broken engagement left me with a former fiancé and an unused bridal gown. Not quite what I had imagined for my life.
When I finally did make it to the altar, my husband came with a 6-year-old. Although his son was a gift to my 49-year-old self, dealing with the sensitivities of co-parenting was not part of the marriage I had envisioned. But, I'm learning to choose faith even when parts of my story aren't what I originally wanted.
I have a best friend who married right out of college. We have the same anniversary — 28 years apart. When all four of her kids were under the age of 7, her husband's insurance company took an unexpected dive. I was a witness to her tears as their nest egg was decimated. This family of six was forced to move into a two-bedroom apartment, but through the storm they chose to cling to God and to each other.
Another friend of mine married a youth pastor. After he was exposed in several instances of sexual abuse, my friend faced a divorce and became a single mom. It took 13 years for her to be able to trust enough to marry again. Her new husband had to absorb the pain left by the former husband, but their marriage ultimately became stronger because of the struggles they endured.
Looking at the way my various friends have handled their pain, it reminded me that darkness can move any married couple either closer to each other or it can drive them farther apart.
Your challenge may be different from mine, but it's likely that something is going on in your marriage that was not a part of your plan. Whether you're dealing with an unfaithful spouse, a romance that has nothing left or a child who is wreaking havoc in your home, rest assured that we all go through some kind of snag or loss at some point. Here are a few encouraging words to help you cling to God — to have faith in the dark:
1. Your story is bigger than your struggle.
God may be using this struggle to prepare you for something bigger than you can see, or there may be something that God wants to build in your character. Saying yes to this season means you are willing to wait for what will be accomplished through this storm. David speaks to this in Psalm 131:2 when he says, "I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me." By referring to his soul as a weaned child, David declares he is willing for something he wants now to be withheld from him for the sake of his future growth. This could be your season to grow — personally and in your marriage. So cling to God and to your spouse.
2. Your pain is for a purpose.
The title of Henri Nouwen's book The Wounded Healer reveals one of the important purposes for your pain. God can use the difficulties in your marriage to touch the lives of others. Included in the video that goes with my book Finding Faith in the Dark is a segment about a couple whose struggle with infertility led them to foster and adopt two children — and they influenced another couple struggling with infertility to do the same. Four children now have better lives because one couple decided to give their struggle to God. Stories like this help us see God our Father as described in 2 Corinthians 1:3 where Paul refers to Him as "the God of all comfort." God wants to expand your story, and He can use your pain for something more than just for you and your family.
3. Your story isn't through.
One of Satan's greatest tools is to convince us that our story is over — that things will never change and we might as well give up. While you don't always have the power to change your circumstances or your spouse, you almost always have the power to change yourself, and this will have an effect on your marriage. Your response to your struggle could make the difference in the way your marriage ultimately evolves. Sometimes this will mean tough love in the wake of a spouse's bad choices, but many times it will mean empathy for your spouse and what he or she may be facing. The prophet Isaiah encourages us that there is always room for hope when he writes, "Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God" (Isaiah 50:10).
If we give up on our story before God finishes writing it, we miss out on what our story has to give both to us and to others. Sadder still, we miss out on what our story could become. Take hope — if you still have breath then your story isn't over yet.Laurie P. Short is a public speaker and the author of Finding Faith in the Dark. Her video and blog can be found at LaurieShort.com.