Monday, October 24, 2011

Pain: The Departure of Weakness (Part 1)

Storms are inevitable

Many couples fail to anticipate the trials and problems they will inevitably face. Then, when the troubles do hit, many husbands and wives mistakenly turn against each other rather than turning together to God.

Part of the strategy for facing troubles is realizing that God allows difficulties in our lives for many reasons. I’m not saying He causes difficulties. I believe He allows them for many reasons, but difficulties do not mean something is wrong with your marriage. And God wants us to trust Him in the midst of these storms and to grow together as a couple.

Trials do not bring neutral results: They drive two people together or apart. The natural tendency is to go through a difficulty alone and not share it as a couple. The following are some principles we’ve learned:

1. Give your spouse the time and freedom to process trials differently from the way you do. The problems Barbara and I faced that year brought us to a crossroad: Would we share our difficulties with each other and give the other person room to process the problems? I remember feeling tempted to think that Barbara was silly for being so introspective during the months that followed her heart episode. I had to fight the urge to discount her emotions and say, “Snap out of it, Dear. Everything is going to be fine.” But Barbara wanted to share her fears with me. She needed me to listen. Men and women process suffering differently, so don’t try to make your spouse like you.

2. Realize that there will be a temptation to become self-focused and to withdraw from each other. The desire to pull away is greatest during these periods because it is very difficult for another person to carry your burden. As a result, you end up thinking the other person doesn’t understand, and the pain associated with that conclusion makes you want to pull back to safety.

3. Respond to trials by embracing God’s perspective of suffering together as a couple. The couples who learn the art of facing storms together by seeking God’s perspective can develop a sweet and robust spiritual oneness. As we struggled with our trials, Barbara and I learned a principle for handling problems: “In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It isn’t a simplistic excuse to put your head in the sand and ignore reality. On the contrary, I believe when we give thanks in all things, we express faith in a God who knows what He’s doing and can be trusted.

4. Remember that your spouse is never your enemy. Realize that your struggle is not against your spouse; resist the urge to punish or think that he or she is the problem. Your spouse is your intimate ally, a fellow burden bearer who is there to encourage you as you go through a difficult time.

5. If the burden or suffering persists, seek outside help. If you feel you are slipping off in a deep ditch as a couple, don’t wait until you have all four wheels stuck before you seek help. Find godly counsel by calling your mentoring couple, your pastor, or a biblical counselor to gain outside perspective.

...[Learn] that suffering is common to all marriages. The way in which you respond to it will determine whether your marriage flourishes or flounders.

Adapted from Starting Your Marriage Right, © Dennis and Barbara Rainey, 2000, Thomas Nelson Publisher.

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