Marriage can be excruciatingly tough, and there were seasons when I wondered if I should call it quits and get a divorce. Today, my husband Scott and I have a strong marriage and a united sense of purpose—but it wasn't always this way.
I met my husband, Scott, when I was 23 and he was 21. He was a believer and he introduced me to Jesus. We dated seven years and thought we knew each other well when we married in June 2001. But in reality? We didn't.
Sure we knew each other's quirks, likes, and dislikes, but we had no clue on how to do this thing called marriage. I came to my husband with loads of luggage and, although he was aware of the pain in my past, we hadn't truly considered how it would impact our marriage.
I was also pretty ignorant about the spiritual aspect of marriage. I didn't really know what it meant to make a lifelong commitment. Because I didn't know what God intended for the covenant of marriage, I couldn't fully comprehend the vows I was making to my husband and to God. As a result, I entered into marriage with unclear and unrealistic expectations, and I was blindsided by what marriage demanded.
Our first year of marriage was extremely difficult. Scott had saved himself sexually for marriage while I had not. Sexual intimacy was a problem for us right off the bat; I still carried a lot of guilt and shame related to the sexual sins in my past. I felt like sex was dirty even after I was married, and I wasn't able to give myself fully to my husband.
Yet, even in the midst of these struggles, God was at work in my life. Over time, layer by deep layer, God began to heal me from the scars inflicted by past sexual encounters. I was finally able to believe that being sexually intimate with my husband is not only right but is honoring to God. My spiritual life also began to change. A few months prior to the wedding I had encountered God in a very real way during a weekend retreat. Completely overwhelmed by his presence and love for me, I began to seek God more each day. I prayed to desire more of God, fearful I might lose the real life experience I had with him. And so I began to grow.
But while I was growing in my faith, it seemed to me that Scott was not growing alongside of me. I knew he loved God, but that didn't seem to be enough for me. He had been kind, gentle, giving, and loving since we first met, but I desired more from him. I wanted my husband to be everything I needed him to be—and, of course, exactly when I needed him to be those things. I expected him to fulfill all my emotional and spiritual needs even while I doubted his desire and ability to provide them. I didn't realize that what I wanted from him only God can provide.
As Scott failed to meet my (unrealistic) expectations, I began to doubt whether I'd made the right decision to marry—and even if I had married the right man. I found myself comparing my husband to other men whom I thought were more spiritually mature, wishing he were more like them. Because these thoughts were lurking in my mind, the idea of divorce was not lagging much further behind.
That Dangerous Voice
I often felt guilty for even thinking of divorce because I knew my husband was a good man and, deep down, I understood that I was extremely blessed to have him. At the same time, though, I still sensed that something was missing from our union. Married life was more work than I'd anticipated, and I wasn't as happy as I thought I would be. Whenever we had disagreements or I couldn't have things my way, I'd become angry at Scott and would wait for him to change to fit my needs. The voice of doubt would echo in my mind: You married the wrong person, Phuong!
The voice became louder and more threatening after our first son was born in March 2008 when my husband was working more than 70 hours a week at a CPA firm during tax season. As the sole provider for our family, Scott felt he needed to dedicate his time and efforts primarily to work. What he had left for his family after work was limited time and a lot of exhaustion. Meanwhile, between my own huge life change of resigning from full-time employment to become a stay-at-home mom, now being housebound with no vehicle, recovering from an emergency C-section, and experiencing the onset of postpartum depression, I was drowning in despair. During this time I contemplated divorce because I was hurt, disappointed, and felt so alone in the parenting journey.
God at Work
Through much prayer, God helped us make it through the first year of our son's life with our family still intact. While I still struggled to believe that I was in the right marriage, God was working on my husband's heart to help him become a husband and father who is present for his family and is willing to fight for us.
God understood my own inner desperation and came to the rescue with a book by John and Stasi Eldredge called Love and War. The authors' transparency about the struggles in their own marriage gave me hope for mine. I began to understand the biblical idea of the covenant of marriage, and God brought clarity to the unsettling doubts I'd had about my marriage since the first year. I began to pray for my marriage like I'd never prayed before. The more I prayed, God began to show me that my decision to marry was not a mistake, and I did not marry the wrong person! I began to understand that God was using my husband to help shape me into the woman God created me to be as a wife, mother, and follower of Christ. As this truth became more evident in my life's purpose, divorce was no longer an option for me. I stopped resorting to defeat and believing that divorce is a way out.
God also made me aware of the wounds I was still carrying from my past, which led to a marred sense of self-worth, battles with an eating disorder, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I had to face these issues so that God could heal me, one area at a time, and restore me to physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. This healing journey has helped me to rely on God to make me whole—something I'd expected from my husband for far too long.
Finding Our Purpose
God continues to restore the damage done in my life as he brings me closer to himself and to my husband. The closer we come together as a cord of three, the clearer God's purpose for our marriage becomes. Scott and I have both come to understand that God is using our marriage to demonstrate his love to the world. He has placed a burden on both of our hearts to help the needy, the hurting, and those who are searching for purpose in life. Together, we eagerly pray for the privilege of being used by God to help others find the peace, hope, and love we have experienced in Christ. Our shared dream is to always do more to convey God's truth and love to those around us.
Because God has helped me better understand both the purpose of marriage and the specific mission he has for our marriage, I am able to enjoy and appreciate being married more and more each day. I am delighted and honored to serve God alongside my husband as he uses us to touch many lives for Christ.
God has also worked in my husband's heart to help him mature spiritually. The near loss of our marriage has motivated Scott to rearrange his priorities. He still serves the Lord diligently in his work, but has prioritized his family. He adjusts his work schedule during tax season so he is away from home more when we are sleeping so we won't miss out on as much time with him when we're awake. He makes time for our marriage and plans family time each week so our family can stay connected even during his busy season at work.
An Adventure . . . Together!
Today, our marriage continues to become healthier and stronger because we are closely connected to God. Marriage is exceptionally challenging. It requires consistent efforts and sacrifice. But the God who created marriage is with us and promises to help us in each season of change. He wants to use marriage to reveal his love to the world—your marriage and mine. So, are you ready for the adventure God has planned for your marriage?
Your mission as a couple is unique and God can use your unique experiences as individuals and as a couple to reach the hurting, the needy, and those without hope. Let God heal your heart so you can be fully restored and whole for your spouse. Then, pray for and pursue the great purpose God has for your marriage, and you will experience the excitement, adventure, and passion God has planned for your life together!
A refugee from Vietnam, Phuong Schuetz came to the U.S. in February 1980 with her parents, 4 siblings, and maternal grandmother after escaping communism in May 1979. She is currently a stay-at-home mom and has a passion for encouraging people toward the healing power and life-changing truths of Jesus Christ. She writes encouragement articles for her home church's monthly newsletter and blogs for WCTL, a Christian radio station in Waterford, Pennsylvania. Phuong resides in Erie, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Scott, and two boys, Isaiah and Caleb.