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Hard. Marriage is hard. I’ve been looking back on what has been what feels like just a few moments, but in reality, it’s been ten years. Just about ten years ago Rob and I were married, and in that time, I’ve learned so much that I will surely not remember to say it all here. This will probably become at least a two part series.

One of the foundational things I’ve learned is that God is not concerned about my happiness in marriage, but He is infinitely concerned about my joy in marriage. Those are not the same thing.

Happiness is fleeting. It’s a feeling that ebbs and flows. Happiness can be shattered by a stubbed toe or being cut off in traffic. Happiness is cheap compared to joy. God is concerned about my joy in marriage – just like He is concerned about my joy in every other place.

Joy is not so easily shaken. Joy reaches deep down into my roots and stabilizes me in those deepest of places. Joy that is that deep keeps me from being blown about when the storms come. The storms have come in our marriage and they will surely come in the future. Without that deep joy anchoring us, we wouldn’t have made it through.

Our joy being found in Christ is what has helped us through the storms and back to steady seas. Those seas have been turbulent at times. We are not perfect. We are both sinners. Remembering that has honestly been a big help. Even when we sin differently, we are both in need of the grace all the time. Remembering this reminds us to extend that grace- even when we don’t feel like it.

“Love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, that always acts on behalf of its object.” Dr. Voddie Baucham gives this definition and it’s one of those treasures that has served as an anchor. This is a different definition than most people would use because most “love” is driven by feelings. “You did this and made me feel that!” “You only think about yourself!” “You hurt me!” “You don’t make me happy anymore!” Love lived that way is fleeting. Loved lived that way is selfish. Love lived that way is conditional. Love driven by emotion is being on rough seas with a hole in your boat that you are both too mad to plug so you sink and drown together instead of setting aside your pride to get to what caused the hole in the first place.

Marriages fail. Marriages fail all the time in and out of the church. Marriages end before the exit. Marriages don’t even have to be nullified by divorce to be over. Marriages begin their end long before anyone walks away. Marriages fail when the way we love is more concerned with happiness than deep joy. Marriages fail when we are in it for ourselves. Marriages fail when we can’t get our eyes off ourselves enough to see that we have been wrong too. It’s easy to think, “If he/she would just not do X and get her/his crap together, we wouldn’t have these problems!”

How do we get there? How do we thrive and come out of the storm together? Well, it’s not in the rough seas. It’s too late to pack a life jacket if you didn’t do it before you left the shore. It’s in everything you did before the seas got rough. “Train for the trial you aren’t yet in.”- Levi Lusko. It’s what you do everyday before that makes or breaks you. It’s how you abide in the Lord. It’s how you pray. It’s how you pursue God’s heart. It’s a lot like sanctification.

Sanctification does not happen over night. You have to do the hard yards of walking with Jesus. Marriage is an overflow of that. As you pursue God’s heart you see marriage for what He says it is, not what your feelings say. It is always to be a display of His splendor and love for His church.  

In this I would also say that there are probably submission issues at every level. If the husband isn’t properly submitting to the Lord in how He’s operating in his marriage, he won’t love with a self-sacrificing love. If a wife is not being loved well, the usual default (not correct one) is to neither respect or submit to her husband. This lack of submission is often what keeps the fight going because it’s not living marriage God’s way. It’s about power and winning. Here’s the truth, there is no way one person can win this fight. Either you both win or you both lose. There’s no other result.

That’s a heavy responsibility. It can’t be blown off. It can’t be ignored because you don’t feel like it today. It demands the laying down of self and the honoring of who Christ has been. Unconditionally. No one deserves that kind of love. We all mess up, but how much better would life be if we could always strive for this?

I’m writing this ten years in. If you’re just starting out and are ready to throw your hands up, hear me: JUST LIKE SANCTIFICATION, THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT!

Begin each day by training for trials that will come. Seek the Lord and shelter yourself in His promises and the love He has for you. He should be your first counselor. He has also given you people to walk with. Don’t go it alone if things get rocky. Seek wise counsel from people who love you and the Lord who will only take the side of your marriage. That is very important.

You will both see your own side clearly. Get passed that and onto the side that says I have to be for US and never just for ME! It’s never just about you again.

I have so much more to learn, but the things I know after a decade as a wife it’s that marriage is serious. Marriage is hard. Marriage requires me to press into God so that I can love and forgive like He does. Marriage is also the second best gift I’ve ever been given.

I look back on adventures that included being excited about having sandwich stuff, gas in our cars to make it to work and school, and $5 left the day before one of us got paid. I look back on traveling and seeing things and places I always dreamed of. I look back on pushing each other to be our best and reach our dreams. I look back on feeling baby kicks and watching our children take their first breaths. I look back and realize that there is so much that lies ahead. I am thankful for it all, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Love you Rob. Always. No matter what!