Marriages don’t survive on their own; even long marriages require care, tending and commitment. We cannot place love into another person’s heart, but
we can tend to the love that we hold for one another.
After many years of married life, it’s apparent to me that love in marriage is constantly evolving. What starts as a little seedling, properly nurtured, tended and cared for, can grow into a beautiful well-manicured tree. Marital love, when properly tended, mellows and deepens – especially due to the ebb and flows of life. The love I now know is vastly different than the love I knew on my wedding day.
In our wedding ceremonies many of us have taken traditional marriage vows – “in prosperity and adversity alike” – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Prosperity is easy to accept – all would happily accept the good which God gives. However, adversity is much less welcome. Yet, adversity teaches in ways that prosperity cannot. Enduring adversity requires trust, patience and faith in God in the midst of trials. With the marriage vows comes a lifelong journey and commitment to a spouse which God has given as a help meet (Gen. 2).
Even though there are many long-lasting marriages, there is no perfect marriage. Each spouse brings to the marriage that which he or she has learned from life experiences; perspectives and opinions are formed from these. Communication is vital for love to grow, but it’s inevitable that at some point communication will break down. When that happens, respect is of utmost importance. Things said disrespectfully can have long lasting implications. In the end, each person stands to win if he or she finds compromise and common ground. A healthy relationship requires much care and forgiveness. It has to come from within and humility is needed.
Enduring through periods of illness in marriage can require a great deal of self-sacrifice that rarely brings recognition. For example, a once very capable partner compromised by illness can be physically and emotionally changed. This can challenge and also change the relationship, and the sick one’s spouse – often also the caregiver – wishes and prays that their loved one and their relationship could return to what once was. Sometimes good health is granted again, other times not. Sometimes there is left a new normal, where better health returns but not as it once was. It is good to prayerfully trust that all of this too is from God. And we can know and be comforted that when we are faithful to our marriage vows and love our spouse, God will bless and care for us even through difficult trials of illness. Trials remind us that here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come (Heb. 13:14).
One reason God allows trials is so that we can be companions and escorts to those in similar life situations. We have learned in our life together how much comfort comes from a call to an expectant mother, prayers offered when we have suffered loss or a visit from an angel-friend when we’re weary from the heat of everyday life. Life teaches us that we can in turn offer the same love and support to those who are now experiencing similar trials.
There are ways to upkeep a happy marriage. Ride the waves together – when accepted from God, trials are good and remind us of His care and protection. “Count your blessings” is a reminder to be grateful and thankful for all that God has done. Above all, use the gospel of forgiveness generously. It is God’s greatest gift and it is the key to long-lasting marriages.
Soon forgotten are the busiest days when so many things were left undone or incomplete. In my life there remains a loving vine with fruits of her labor hanging like lovely blossoms on the walls of Zion (Ps. 128). There remains a deepening love, a tenderness that in the busiest days was hidden under everyday duties and worry and concern. Hands, now work-hardened, still have a tender touch.
God has given special blessings as our day of life turns toward evening. A believing spouse can share the special gift of forgiveness, on which all marriages should be founded. It is God’s gift to us. God blesses in obedience and faithfulness. It is our special duty to care for one another in the twilight of life, “until death do us part.”
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:1).Eric Jurmu