“Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” —Malachi 2:14 NASB
Take a look again at our photo today. That couple holding hands? Those are my parents. My dad and mum kept their marriage covenant and have companioned together for over 65 years. Not only are they together, they still like each other despite the fact that they have essentially been home alone for months, not even going to church or the grocery store due to the 2020 pandemic. Oh, they have their moments. They’re human like the rest of us. But they genuinely love each other. I snapped this picture last week on a walk with them. That’s something else they do faithfully. They walk each day, mostly along their country road in Maine. They are true companions and walking buddies.
Ray’s parents were also of the enduring love variety and were together over 50 years before God took Ray’s mom home and left Ray’s dad to soldier on with a badly broken heart. Ray and I are an anomaly in today’s culture. We had the joy of witnessing parents who stayed married and who grew in love for each other throughout the years. This has definitely helped us as we have walked toward enduring love in our own marriage—now over 40 years. Our heritage makes it hard for us to even imagine divorce. When you marry and covenant together before God to stick with it? You just do.
And yet … I know there are many, many hurting ones who have experienced the nightmare of divorce, and this blog is not meant to judge or to wound. It’s offered with the hope that it will help those who long for enduring love in our less-than-marriage-friendly culture. If these simple words can help a couple somewhere try and try again to stick it out and rekindle a love grown cold, I will be so very happy.
So, today I offer three simple statements. To enjoy a long-lasting marriage, they cannot be repeated enough. My mother is living proof when she tells me these words are at the heart of her abiding, forever love.
I love you. Say these words often. Out loud. Several times every single day. Say them when you feel all fluffy and happy and your spouse is behaving well, and say them when your spouse is a morose and miserable mess. The kind of love that endures is not based on current feelings or actions, but a choice fueled by the enduring love God pours into us. God loves us always. His love for us definitely does not depend on our own goodness but on His. In the same way, out of the goodness given to us by Christ, our love flows over to our spouse. Do you know what that kind of love does? It makes a home feel safe. Whether I burn the dinner or break Ray’s favorite coffee mug or dent the car … I am loved. Whether Ray speaks sharply to me or forgets to take out the trash for the one-thousandth time or forgets our anniversary … he is loved. We promised we would love—and so we do. We are called to love as God loves us. Paul puts it this way: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NIV).
I am sorry. To say you are sorry—especially when you know full well the whole current situation was not all your fault—takes maturity. To own our own sin and bad behavior and not justify it requires a humble heart. We need to be fully aware of our own selfishness in order to recognize when something we said or did hurt our spouse. I’ve always loved what Emerson Eggerichs says about apologies: “The more mature person will apologize first.” [Ha!] Even if you are always first to say “I’m sorry,” owning your share of an argument (or even a misunderstanding) brings peace to a volatile situation. Expect to say it often. My parents do, and so do Ray and I. In his letter to the churches, James encourages us to be quick with our confession and with our forgiveness: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed …” (James 5:16a NIV).
I forgive you. If we are Christians, we know firsthand the amazing and ongoing forgiveness of our good God. We know how often we have to ask His forgiveness for our tempers or our critical thoughts or our hurtful actions. It’s downright embarrassing how often we have to go to God and say we are sorry … again. And yet, every single time, God forgives and cleanses and gives us a new chance to get it right. Who are we then, to deny forgiveness to the very person we promised to love “until death do us part.” [Gulp.] Ruth Bell Graham famously said, “A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Yes. Yes. Yes. This can be very hard when we have been hurt badly. We will need God’s help to forgive. We need to also remember that forgiving does not mean that what was done is okay in any way. Forgiving agrees that a sin was committed, that the other person was in the wrong, and therefore needs forgiving. Never think that forgiveness excuses bad behavior. It simply releases that person from your desire to hurt them or pay them back, and lets God deal with them in His own perfect way. Be a good forgiver. Don’t allow a bitter root to spread in your heart and crush out the love. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).
There you go. Three simple statements. Hard maybe, but simple … that need to be said often in an enduring marriage. This is only possible by God’s great grace. Will three statements solve every dilemma and make you feel warm and squishy toward your spouse all the time? Of course not. Sometimes you stay in a marriage because it makes your heart sing and other times you stay because you said you would. But when you have been together for decades, you discover that the arguments are fewer, and the words spoken most often are the love words. You look back on the hard times, and you thank God you stayed with this one, the one who also stayed and did all of life with you—the good, the bad, the boring, and the miraculous. You celebrate that you have one by your side who knows you at your worst and who has walked with you through the fires anyway. In that rich soil of remembrance, love blooms deeply. Here’s to enduring love and God’s beautiful design for helping us grow more like Him day by day!
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your enduring love for us. So often, Lord, we are faithless, but You remain faithful. Keep us close to You, Lord, and help us to exhibit Your kind of love in our own families. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
If you are being abused in your marriage, the most loving thing you can do for yourself, your children, and your spouse is to leave and get help. Don’t allow your spouse to demean himself by abusing you. He was created for better things than that—and so were you. May God help you if you are in this kind of crisis situation!
If you are divorced and actually chose to read this blog despite the obvious potential it had to wound, please know that you are loved. That no matter what happened in your marriage, you serve a God who sees you and feels your pain and loves you and is able to heal and restore, comfort, and renew. May He speak just the right words to your soul, dear one. His love for you is real and so is His comfort. May He grant you His peace and may you find in Him the perfect lover of your soul. Love, Sharon
You are loved,
Sweet Selah Ministries
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