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This Isn't for Quitters

Why couples need stamina and courage for marriage

Last summer when it got hot and steamy and I discovered that our air conditioning was on the blink, I made it only a couple of hours before I dragged my kids and the stroller off to the cool of the mall. I also take Tylenol at the first hint of a headache, and I begged my obstetrician for painkillers during delivery months before my babies were due to be born. As you can see, I'm all for making life comfortable whenever possible.

I thank God for aspirin, personally, and for the many other ways I escape discomfort simply because I can. But sometimes I wonder if we take our "escapes" at the expense of God-given instructions to "persevere" and "forgive grievances" and "endure." I think maybe we're missing out because we're too quick to be quitters. Nobody likes pain, of course, but sometimes enduring tough times is necessary to learn to do what's right. In a culture where pleasing yourself has become the national pastime, nobody really wants to hear that doing what's right is more important than being "happy"—but it is!

There are gray areas certainly. It may be right to change jobs, neighborhoods, or churches when things become unbearably difficult. Those are situations that call for prayer and guidance from God.

But hanging in there in your marriage versus giving up is a no-brainer. The Bible states clearly that God considers the covenant of marriage sacred. This is not an area where we can afford to be quitters. Yet it's happening all around us.

Now that I'm in my thirties (okay, late thirties), I've reached the age where I'm hearing that friends from work or church or college have split up. To tell the truth, I find it depressing, especially when it turns out that everyday marital stresses—communicating over roles or money, handling the balance of work versus home, in-law issues—pushed these couples to that feeling of hopelessness.

My friend Diane Eble once wrote about marriage calling for courage. When problems—even big glaring problems—come up, it's the courageous who speak up and get help, who knuckle down in humility to work at their marriages, who hang in there until time and effort do their work and things get better.

Nothing wrenches me more than when couples race to the idea of separation. I can imagine the despair of feeling that problems are so painful, so wide-ranging that the only option to reach for is a way to stop the pain. But I'd love to encourage those couples to hang on. To get help from everywhere—friends, church, counselors, and the God who changes lives. I feel like telling them stories of folks I've known who hung in there—and later were so glad they did.

My friends Ann and Jim started out pregnant and struggled their way through years of young children, unemployment, and marital disappointment. You should see them now. Their marital unity is something they treasure because it was so hard-won.

I know two couples who reunited after counseling and short separations following the extreme betrayal of adultery. In both cases, the recovery was slow and sometimes joyless, but the end result for both couples was joy and gratification. Both couples were so satisfied and hopeful about their marriages that they went on to have more children together. It can happen, with God's help.

My best friend went through a tough time in her marriage when she discovered that they were in financial ruin because of her husband's long-term addiction to pornography. Not only are they still together, but today she trusts her husband completely. God gave her grace to deal with her hurt and anger over time, and her husband discovered an incredible love for his family and for God. They're expecting another baby, too.

Let's not be quitters. Let's have the courage and humility to do what's right, day by day, in our homes. Even if there's discomfort and pain now, in the end, doing what's right will bring you the ultimate comfort and joy.

Annette LaPlaca, a freelance writer, lives with her husband and her three kids in suburban Chicago.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Courage; Marriage; Strength
Today's Christian Woman, Winter, 2001
Posted September 30, 2008

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