When Your Marriage Isn't What You Hoped It'd Be: Encouragement for the Mom Struggling in Her Marriage
To be honest, I didn't think we'd still be here. True, our marriage has become stronger and better in a lot of ways since we first said "I do." Becoming parents has especially challenged and changed my husband and I, showing us how we best work as a team and leading us to reprioritize things so that family comes first.
But then there are some things about our marriage I had really hoped would be different by now. There are sin habits not yet broken. Attitudes and perspectives still not changed. Weaknesses we continue to wrestle with. Although becoming parents has brought out an exciting new side to us, there's an uglier side that now likes to come out, too. One that is worn down, impatient, and not so kind or forgiving.
These are genuine concerns that matter -- not just for us, but for our children who will be watching and learning from us, being impacted by the stability and peace (or lack thereof) we offer in our home.
Lately I've become more and more aware of the fact that our daughter, now almost a year and a half, is not getting any younger. I've had to ask myself, how much longer do we have before she picks up on the cold silence or harsh words exchanged between us?
These past couple of years have been filled with pregnancies, babies, and transitions, and this has done a number on us physically, emotionally, and relationally. Will we ever regain the passion and romance we once had? Will there come a day when the disconnect between us is just too much to mend?
Then there's also the matter that even though I can still picture us being that godly, united husband and wife, leading our family in faith and being an example of Christ's love to those around us, I sometimes feel like we're a million miles away from reaching it. What if there comes a point when I can no longer picture it?
These are some of the questions and worries I've been bringing to the Lord again and again, desperately hoping for change -- or at least some answers. At one time, I believed God wanted the same things as I and that he would somehow just make it happen. But lately I've been feeling more like the prophet Habakkuk, crying out, "how long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?" (Habakkuk 1:2)
I have to admit, I have no clue what God is doing in our marriage at this time. Despite my many attempts to get a word or revelation, he isn't offering me many answers.
What I've found is that he is offering me questions instead. The kind of questions that could maybe, just maybe, change the trajectory of our marriage if I let it. The kind of questions that take my focus off of my hopes and dreams not yet fulfilled and puts it back on my role, my responsibility, and my faith. The kind of questions that are honestly a little painful to answer.
What are the things you're holding onto that you need to let go of and entrust to Me instead?
What are the things you're speaking over your marriage? Are they declarations of faith or declarations of fear? Are they words of life or of death?
Do you believe that I am moving in your marriage even when everything still looks the same?
And most importantly --
Is My love enough for you if your marriage never turns out to be what you hope it will be?
These questions have challenged me and humbled me in ways I didn't even realize I needed. Until recently, I have mistakenly held on to the belief that fixing and improving our marriage rests on my shoulders and that I need to push, nag, or berate my spouse to make things happen. I've been looking down on him, thinking that if he would just pull himself together, our marriage would be so much better by now. But now I see that I'm the one who needs to pull myself together. I need to reign in these crushing expectations before I damage us even further. I need to surrender control to the only One who can produce the change and growth in our marriage I've been hoping for.
This is what the Lord has been doing in my heart recently. It's not pretty, I'll admit. But despite any embarrassment I feel, I also know I can cling to the truth regarding my identity and the Lord's unending grace for me. And that being real about the struggles in my marriage, as well as sharing how the Lord has been humbling and freeing me, can be an encouragement to women feeling helpless or hopeless in their marriages, too.
So here's where I want to end today.
Many of us are crying out to the Lord with those same words uttered by the despairing prophet: "How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?" (Habakkuk 1:2)
I believe that we can cling to the Lord's response to Habakkuk in regards to our marriage: "Look at the nations and watch -- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told" (1:5).
And I also believe that, like Habakkuk, we are responsible for the measure of humility in our hearts moving forward and how we obediently anticipate the fulfillment of the Lord's promises. Like Habakkuk, we have the choice to either strive for change through our own flawed methods or to stand firm in the Lord and entrust those changes to him. We have the choice to either say, "I will do it myself," and so hurt our marriage in the process, or to say, "I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look up to see what he will say to me..." (2:1, emphasis mine).
There is something powerful about this image of Habakkuk stationing himself on a high tower, eyes toward heaven. He is showing us the posture of someone leaning into the Lord. He is showing us what it looks like to have confidence that God is who he says he is and will do what he says he'll do.
And I love that the Lord's response to Habakkuk's firm, prayerful stance, is this: "if it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay" (2:3). Even still, the Lord did not give the prophet the details and answers he originally demanded. He instead spoke the words he knew were needed most -- Trust me, My child. Though it may look like nothing is happening, My timing is perfect and My promises are sure.
Earlier I shared some of the questions that the Lord placed on my heart regarding my faith and attitude towards my marriage. I now have some questions for you.
Will you be the wife who surrenders her marriage to God? Who, instead of clinging to control and recklessly striving, gets on her knees and becomes the prayer warrior her marriage needs her to be?
Will you be the wife who speaks declarations of faith over her marriage rather than declarations of fear? Will you speak life over your husband rather than speaking death?
Will you be the wife whose trust will remain steadfast in the Lord, though there are hopes not yet fulfilled and answered prayers not yet seen?
And most importantly,
Will the Lord be enough for you if your marriage never turns out to be what you hope it'll be?
My prayer is that the Lord reveals exciting, powerful things regarding your marriage, but even more so, that your faith grows stronger in the waiting and silence.
I pray that, like Habakkuk, you will stand firm in your marriage and say, "Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation" (3:17-18).