Staying Together through the Storms of Life

This week, I want to talk about strategies that will help you hold your marriage together when the circumstances of life are pulling you apart.
First of all, I want to remind you that marriage is God’s gift. I know that during especially stressful times, it can become difficult to remember that. God gave marriage to humanity for several reasons:
Marriage provides the security that lasting love brings. All of us need to be loved and understood. Marriage is intended to meet that need in a secure way that is lifelong.
Marriage provides companionship that helps us overcome loneliness. God created us with a need for a close companion to share life with. We need someone who will know us deeply and accept us completely. Marriage is God’s answer to that need.
Marriage provides someone to help us through life. Life is difficult and challenging. God created marriage to provide someone we can count on to help us through life.
Marriage provides someone to help us grow as disciples of Christ. Marriage is the ultimate environment for spiritual growth. As marriage partners, we see each other more fully than anyone else does. We see each other’s flaws, weaknesses, and strengths. We can pray for our mate when he or she is struggling. We can remind him or her of God’s promises during times of fear and doubt. Most importantly, we can help him or her get up and start over after they fall.
God intended that marriage would provide someone to meet your emotional, relational, and physical needs.
My wife and I have been married nearly 37 years and we have travelled through many seasons of life. When we first got married, we were very naive, thinking that we could face anything we encountered with ease because of our love for each other. However, we soon discovered that life can throw you some challenges that make you feel like you are being ripped apart. In these times we learned
that it is crucial to fight for our love. Circumstances can extinguish the flame of love .. if we let it. Some of the things that can blindside your marriage and throw you into a fight for survival are: financial stress – the effects of that never ending pressure to pay bills can be overwhelming, sickness – when your mate or a child becomes terribly sick and requires long term care, it creates a powerful challenge, seasons of life – we go through seasons of change: pregnancy, post pregnancy, having small children, having teens, empty nest, mid life changes, etc.,Extended Family Drama – when family members begin to exert negative pressure on the marriage, it can be a real mess to deal with. All of these have a negative effect on our marriage.
Are you feeling one or several of these ripping you apart? I will be sharing some strategies this week to hep you overcome and find the joy of staying together! I hope you can join me! Remember, your marriage is a great gift to you from God Himself!
The first strategy I want to share with you is to abandon the blame game. First Corinthians 13 tells us that real love is kind, patient, not boastful (includes “I told you so”), keeps no list of mistakes, always protects, trusts, and perseveres. These qualities of love make it impossible to point a finger of blame at our mate and truly love them at the same time. The blame game is a destructive cycle that works like this:
A stressful event occurs – financial, sickness, a new season of life, extended family drama, or a job change.
Laying blame – “It’s your fault!” You caused this by… or You allowed this to happen because you failed to stop it … I am suffering because of something you did or failed to do! Does laying blame or pointing a finger solve anything? Of course not!
This establishment of blame justifies our release of anger and rage and punishment! This is the opposite of real love. This brings great harm to our marriage. Is this how we want our mate to treat us?
Blame and angry outbursts bring a response of defense and retaliation or acceptance of a beat down and giving up on the relationship.These are common responses, but they are also the responses that keep the destructive cycle going.
The problem is now worse and the cycle continues around and around until either the stressful event passes or until the marriage is ruined.
As life goes on, another step is added to the blame game … reminding the guilty of all their past failures.
One note – I am addressing normal everyday run of the mill problems. If you are dealing with adultery, violence, or substance addiction you should seek help from a Christian counsellor.
All of these aspects of the blame game are counter productive and very destructive to a marriage. A better way to face the stressful times of life would be to:
Acknowledge the problem and resolve to work together to find a solution
Discuss possible solutions with respect until you can agree on a plan of action.
If this is the result of someone’s mistake, choose to forgive and move forward.
Be gracious and regularly affirm your mate of your love for him or her.
Look for ways to help your mate get through it. As we help each other, the burden becomes lighter.
Don’t let the blame game ruin your marriage!
To reinforce this point, I want to share a story with you. I once spoke to a couple who had been in the blame game for about 5 years. The wife had run up some credit card debt without the husband’s knowledge. Their solution was for her to turn over her paycheck to him until it was paid off. Five years later, he was still blaming her and giving her the cold shoulder as part of the punishment. I spoke to them for about an hour and it was clear that he was not going to give it up. So, I calculated the numbers and pointed out that she had paid off the debt a couple of years earlier. When he saw the numbers, he realized his error and agreed to drop it and start working on rebuilding their relationship. The point is that when we start the blame game, we don’t plan to quit… it is never enough and it becomes a lifestyle dynamic in our marriage. If you are playing the blame game … it’s time to stop!
Today, I want to encourage you to begin to develop teamwork. Ecclesiastes 4:9&10 say- “ Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” This is a picture of marriage. God intended that marriage would provide someone who would always love us and help us up. However, that doesn’t always happen on its own… we need to be intentional about it.
The first step is to realize that your mate is in this with you. These circumstances are happening to your mate also. The impact and their response may be different, but both of you are being affected by the stressful event. Since you are both in this together, it is important to open up and have conversations about it. The key to effective communication is good listening. When the storms roll in, we become so focused on our own emotions and plan of response that we assume our mate is thinking and feeling the same and we tend to isolate ourselves in the struggle. In stormy times, it is more important than ever to have good communication with our mate. So, here are a few thoughts about communication in the storm:
Maintain control in your words and your responses. It is so tempting to allow all the pent up emotion to spew out all over your mate. Here are some conversation starters that might be helpful: “I am upset about the circumstances, not you”- “ I am concerned about how this effects you”- and “I love you and want us to help each other through this” .
Choose to be loving toward each other. Refuse to take out your frustrations on each other.
Be respectful of your mate – Your mate probably reacts to stress and pain differently than you. So, rather than being upset that their response is different, give them permission to react differently and set out to understand his or her reaction better so you can learn how to be a better support. You are in the storm together – Help each other make it through!
Revoke the permission you gave yourself to be grouchy toward your mate. Sadly, when we face times of difficulty, we put forth the effort to be polite and respectful to our friends, family,and co-workers, but we tend to be lax in how we treat our mate. When we are with our mate we might be grouchy, harsh, closed off, or just plain angry. We tell ourselves that its ok because we need a place to let our guard down and just express ourselves. When 2 people engage in this behavior, closeness and companionship are undermined and soon we become 2 completely disconnected people who are not helping each other. This behavior hurts the one person who has pledged to stand by us through all circumstances. So, revoke the permission you have given yourself to be harsh with your mate, choose instead to to value your mate’s pain and choose to work together to help each other make it through.
Be complimentary and encouraging toward your mate. There is a real wonderful thing that happens when a couple make an intentional effort to speak encouraging words to each other, pay each other compliments, and give each other affection. Making a point of saying something uplifting to your mate is very important. Remember, touch is very comforting. Make a point of holding your mate’s hand and giving warm hugs and kisses. Develop the habit of giving these things to your mate. By the way, this is the most effective when we feel like it the least. Real love requires lifting up the other when we don’t feel like it.
Pray for your mate. God hears and answers prayer. He has promised to help those who obey Him overcome any obstacle they might face. So, pray for your mate and pray with your mate about the circumstance you are facing.
Dream with your mate about better days. Reminisce about the good ole days. When the pressure of trouble is bearing down, it is very helpful to remember happy times of the past. Reminisce about how you met, dating, your wedding, happy times as your children were growing, and amazing blessings from God. Talk about how you made it through other storms of life. dream about what you want to do when this storm passes. This provides a great distraction that is encouraging and uplifting and reminds you that you are in this together! Storms are a part of real life, but God has a plan to carry you through them!
Next, I want to encourage you to keep the trouble in its place. When we are in the midst of a storm, it is easy to allow the uncertainty, pain, and the need figure out how to fix it to overtake our marriage. Sometimes storms can last for months or even years. Unless we act to prevent it, the emotions from the storm will become the new culture in our home. Every conversation will be about the problem. Expressions of sadness and concern will replace the smiles. Laughter will be replaced with awkward silence and angry outbursts. Hope filled conversations will be replaced with worry. Love and warmth will be replaced with distance and coldness. Storms just naturally tend to pull us in that direction. The only escape is to be deliberate in our determination to avoid this.
Here are some suggestions:
Create trouble free time together. This takes a lot of effort, but it is worth the effort. Agree to spend time together talking about something other than the trouble. We all tend to picture a nice date at a cozy restaurant with pleasant conversation, but that may not be possible. The point is not the surroundings, the point is to make a meaningful connection with your mate about life outside of the storm. Talk about how much you love and appreciate your mate. Talk about happier days. Share funny family stories. Compliment each other. Look your mate in the eye and remind him or her of your unswerving commitment to them. Tell your mate how happy you are to have him or her. Remind your mate of God’s faithfulness to you throughout life. Share God stories. Create trouble free time together.
Create light hearted moments. It is important to hang onto laughter in the midst of the trouble. Proverbs tells us that laughter works good like a medicine. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Take advantage of the opportunity to be silly or to laugh about something together.
Remember God and remind your mate. In the storms, it is easy to forget about God. The Bible is filled with examples of people who could have forgotten about God in the midst of a difficult time, but chose to remember Him and put their faith in Him. These are the ones who saw God do amazing things. David was led to the throne in spite of Saul’s efforts to kill him. The disciples saw Jesus feed thousands in spite of having only a small amount of fish and bread. God sees your situation. He is a great shepherd, He has already made provision to take care of your situation. Turn your heart to Him and wait patiently for His deliverance. In the meantime, abandon the blame game and help your mate make it through. God is faithful! He will see you through and make something beautiful out of the experience … God will help you stay together when circumstances are pulling you apart!
Before I go, I want to recommend I Still Do, A Guide for the Marriage Journey. This relationship devotional was designed to strengthen your marriage. Order yours today at nolareallife.org or at I Still Do on Facebook.


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