Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Marriage

When God Has Other Plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).

Don’t you love this promise from the book of Jeremiah? It’s an oft-quoted, embroidered, and framed verse, and for good reason. Who doesn’t love the assurance of prosperity, hope, and a future? And while yes, these words were specifically spoken to the children of Israel while in exile from Jerusalem, they shine a revealing light into God’s heart for all of His children.

In high school, I remember carefully taping a pink notecard inside my locker, these precious words scribbled on it in innocent adolescent handwriting. And when it was time to head to college, many of the graduation cards I received made note of this promise, reminding me of what “big things” God surely had in store.

In those days, I had no reason to doubt such wonderful words—would God’s plans include medical school or law school? What perfect, magical husband would He send me? How amazing and world-changing would our children be?

Yes, in those days, it was as if God didn’t need to remind me that He is the keeper of those plans, for surely they will line up with what I have already planned out in my own mind!

As I look back now with the vantage of time and deeper maturity, I wonder if God smiled at my bubbly naiveté—and winced a little at knowing that soon enough I would begin to learn the simple yet difficult truth about His plans …

… they are rarely, if ever, the ones I have in mind.

This month, Aaron and I celebrated our 12th anniversary. I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage, as I tend to do this time of year.  And truthfully, reflecting on these years leaves me with a mix of joy and sadness.

Make no mistake, God has done great things for us. My heart swells with thanksgiving at how He has taken care of me each step of the way.

He has performed miracles, provided strength in the weakest of times, given refreshment in the driest of deserts, acted as shelter in the most blistering of fires. There have been good, good things. But these years have not escaped the sting of intense pain.

Heartaches that my college-self never could have imagined.

Conflict. Betrayal. Infertility. Loneliness. Autism.

No, for these things I never planned, nor did I imagine God would either. In the midst of uncertainty and fear, the words of Jeremiah’s lifeline promise can feel like a heavy weight. In churning waters, it becomes all too easy to hang our heads and conclude these words must apply to someone other than me.

But dear reader, do you know that nothing could be further from the truth? The enemy loves to send out his sinister whispers, suggesting that we land just shy of every good thing God purposes for His people. Don’t fall for this lie.

When our doubt is the loudest, we must hold onto truth the fiercest.

Time and again lately, God is teaching me that it all boils down to a simple, sometimes excruciatingly difficult choice: do I really trust Him? And will I choose to trust Him?

When the words of Jeremiah 29:11 seem impossible in the context of our circumstances, will we decide to place our hand in His and keep on trusting anyway?

Personally, the simple, loaded question of why trips me up more than anything. It’s a heavy question to ask sometimes, right? I think of my son and his autism and the manifestation of that diagnosis in his little life … and I brace for the day his big brown eyes look into mine and ask why, mom? Why did this happen to me?

I don’t know, my love—I don’t know the specifics and the intricate details of why…but what do I know? Everything that happens to us will ultimately weave its way into a tapestry created for God’s glory and our very best.

Perhaps today you are struggling with your own why?

Why cancer? Or divorce? Or job loss? Or infertility? Why this pain?

I believe it is in these darkest of places that God intended to whisper the words of Jeremiah 29:11. The nation of Israel certainly wasn’t heading off to college with the world at her fingertips, bright shiny future laid out ahead.

No, God gave Jeremiah these words at a time when His chosen people found themselves exiled, cut off from Jerusalem—living in a foreign land, facing a future they’d never imagined.

When the dark comes, when the pain comes, dear reader, choose trust. He is longing for us to believe, to trust Him enough to set aside our doubts and cling to His promises. They are enough.

He is enough.



A Love Letter To Lysa TerKeurst

Like many of you, I read the most awful, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking news this week about the demise of Lysa TerKeurst’s marriage. While I have never met her, I’ve followed and read her work for so long, she feels like a dear friend. Her honest, refreshing, vulnerable, and strong faith has made a difference in my life and countless others lives around the world.

I felt such incredible sadness, and then pure anger–anger at the enemy, who will stop at nothing to kill, steal, and destroy (see John 10:10). You gotta hand it to him–he certainly lives up to his sinister promises, doesn’t he?

I felt her sadness, and I felt my own sadness, for I myself have been a breath away from seeing my marriage crumble into ruins. It is a sick, sorrowful emotion to think that your life, your “what God has joined together” is about to be pulled apart. And sometimes, despite our very best efforts and intentions, things don’t work out in the way we would have hoped.

To think of going through such an experience in the public eye–the public Christian eye, no less–is truly horrifying.

So I write simply to express love and solidarity to Lysa. Now, more than ever, she needs the body of Christ to lift her up in prayer and–as she expressed–her husband as well, for he has been tragically deceived by Satan. She has poured her life into us, faithfully following God’s call–and now we have the opportunity to pour into her with prayer and encouragement.

May we remember to be on our guard, for our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). No one is immune, no matter how strong a faith. No marriage is immune, no matter how seemingly solid. One of our enemy’s primary targets is our families.  He wants to destroy our marriages, our children, our grandchildren, and on down the line.

The only comfort I have is in knowing that God is still good, even when life isn’t good. And He can and will draw beauty out of the ashes. What Satan intends for evil, God will transform for good. And her life will reach even more hurting hearts for Christ because of this, I am certain of it.

You know the beautiful part about the verse above, John 10:10? While the first part exposes our enemy’s evil intent, the second part of the verse provides the most comforting of promises, when Jesus says, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. Yes, we have an enemy that’s gonna wreak havoc on our lives. But we have a God who is stronger and who meets that havoc with abundance.

Precious Lysa, beloved child of God, may you hang onto this truth … may your faith not fail in this most scorching of deserts. And may we all continue to fall on our knees and run to our Savior for the strength and courage to live out our faith walks on this earth!


Roses & Reality

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy the entertainment of “reality” T.V. every now and then. On a recent episode of “The Bachelorette,” however, I found myself shaking my head and uttering the chosen term of Southerners, bless her heart.

Our lovely Bachelorette found herself on a date, waxing poetically about how true love means always feeling the “heat” for your partner. The fire should never die down. The affection should never waiver.

Oh, honey.

This reality T.V. sound bite was about as far from reality as one can get. When you’re single, this sounds cynical—but any married person can tell you, life itself simply does not lend itself to endless romantic helicopter rides, trips to exotic locations, and gourmet meals that neither of you had to prepare or clean up.

Sprinkle in some newborn sleep deprivation or a toddler circus show or a teenager or two, and that “fire” may seem like a distant memory. Add some financial pressure or a sick family member or a job loss, and you may be left wondering if there ever was any heat to begin with.

No, God did not design love and marriage to be an endless parade of roses, dream dates, and cloud 9 emotions … the truth?

He designed it to be something even better.

Something real. Something solid. Something, if done by His model, that provides a “soft place to fall,” as the saying goes. A way of living that reflects the gospel story in our everyday lives.

But we have a problem, of course: most everything in our culture undermines God’s beautiful design and intention of marriage. Seems like everywhere you turn, there’s a mockery being made of this divine institution.

With reality television, movies, and magazines defining “love” for us, is it any wonder we’re seeing marriages sputter, crashing and burning at every turn? Even as believers, it’s easy for us to lose sight of God’s reality for marriage in the midst of culture’s definition of “reality.”

Now I’m the first to admit, I am certainly no authority on marriage. I’ve been married nearly 11 years, the vast majority of which has been full of trials, difficulty, and pain. I’ve wanted to quit more than once. I’ve run out of steam on more than one occasion.

But through it all, God has been working to refine us, sustain us, and draw us closer to Himself, all the while holding our marriage together when we simply couldn’t do so ourselves. If you find yourself in a season of struggle, take heart that He is able to do the same for you!

Today, my desire is simply to redirect us to some basic truths about love—real, solid truth from God’s Word to which we can cling when we’re wanting to let go. Knowing and meditating on the pure, unchanging Word of God is the only way we can combat the lies hurled at us by this world and live out God’s good design.

My heart is so burdened for marriages and families, so I pray that God will use these words to breathe life and hope into you today!

God is Pro-Marriage

I know this seems obvious, considering He was the one Who created the institution, but I think it bears repeating. Marriage has been bruised and battered over the years. As a result, it’s all too easy for us to forget its importance and significance to God.

After creating Adam, the Lord said in Genesis 2:18, It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him (NIV). So He created Eve, the perfect partner for Adam … and just like that, the first partnership of marriage began.

This was His perfect, ultimate design: full-on intimacy, teamwork, fellowship, and joy. Sin entered the picture and forever flawed that design, but God’s intentions have always remained the same.

And God’s heart desires that marriages last. The words of Malachi 2:16 say:

“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel (NIV).

This does not negate the truth that there are indeed times divorce is warranted … even so, it’s not His heart that families be torn apart. If you’ve been through or are going through a divorce, His loving heart grieves right alongside with you. And the most excellent news is that He can redeem anything and any situation! How very thankful I am for that redemption.

The bottom line is, God is for your marriage and mine. In a world that makes us doubt the validity and usefulness of marriage, never forget that our Creator’s desire is for your family to go the distance and thrive.

Lasting Love Isn’t In Us

If we’re doing marriage in our own strength and drawing solely from our own well of love, we’re dead in the water. Like our Bachelorette, we will only last so long as the naturally occurring “fire” lasts.

The love required to sustain a marriage through the years of ups, downs, heartaches, and joys comes solely from the Holy Spirit working and moving in us. He is the Source of lasting, abiding love.

In John 13:34-35, Jesus says:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (NIV).

To love like God, we must draw from His well of love. We are only able to love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

The God Who gave His life for us can imbue us with that same Agape love for our spouses—even long after the fire has died down and life has kicked in!

 God Alone is Our Anchor & Foundation

At the end of the day, no matter how wonderful or difficult your marriage may be, God is our sole anchor and foundation in this life. No spouse can meet the deepest needs in us, those needs that only His Divine love can meet.

God is pro-marriage, and He can enable us to love our spouses for a lifetime—but He never intended for marriage to be “the thing” that brings us the lasting, soul-satisfying joy that only He can provide.

If our hope is in our spouse (or our children, our friends, our jobs, etc.), we are destined for disappointment. Others will fail us, and we will fail others—but our Father will never fail us:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness … The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him (Lamentations 3:22-23, 25 NIV).

Marriage is a beautiful gift, something to be treasured. Something to fight for. Something worth pursuing and tending to—but may we not forget that our deepest need, our strongest craving, is for Him and Him alone. He is our source of hope.

Is your marriage struggling today? Do you look around and think, this isn’t what I had in mind? Take heart, dear reader, for God is bigger than your circumstances and bigger than your pain.

Spend some time this week meditating on what God has to say about love. Ask Him for wisdom. Ask Him to fill you with that supernatural love for your spouse. He is faithful to give it!

As we discussed a few weeks ago, your story isn’t over yet … so hold on tightly to Him and live today in the grace He lavishes on you, His dearly loved child.


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P.S. – this is one of my favorite songs about love. Take a listen if you have time!




Top 5 Posts of 2015

Hello, readers!

Well, it’s that time of year where we’re all scratching our heads and wondering how in the world another year has found its way into the books. Is the earth spinning a little faster these days? It certainly feels that way.

In between the Christmas chaos and soul-soothing time with family, I’ve been reflecting on these past 12 months, as I’m sure you have too. Overall, 2015 has been a quiet year for us: we didn’t move, we didn’t have a baby, and we finally feel as though we’re finding a rhythm in our California life.

It’s been a year of steady, quiet building: relationships, children, jobs, faith. I’ve seen my own faith molded and pushed and stretched in ways I didn’t quite think it could mold and push and stretch … but the results I’m beginning to see—peeking up ever-so-slightly from beyond the horizon—thrill my soul and encourage me to continue leaning into God.

The year has also been good for me as far as writing goes. This year saw me “buckling down” with this dream of mine and making a concerted, consistent effort to listen to what God whispers into my ear and find the courage and time to write it down. And Lord willing, 2016 will see more growth and consistency.

If nothing else, God has blessed me through the written words He’s inspired, and I’ve enjoyed looking back over the year. My prayer and heart for writing and publishing anything into the blogosphere is to encourage and uplift others in any way possible. I believe our faith walks were meant to be shared with one another, for we are all soldiers fighting the same battle.

So with that, here are the top 5 posts from this past year. I hope they bless and encourage you! Whatever your 2015 looked like—happy, sad, tumultuous, calm, or anything in between—it’s now time to close the door on it and move forward in faith, hope, and love.

May 2016 be a year of continued growth and victory over the enemy for us both!

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

 Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Top 5 of 2015

1. What I Wish I’d Known Before Becoming A Mother

Some musings over the most surprising, challenging, and heart-warming aspects of motherhood. Probably my favorite post to write!

2. Decade

Reflecting on celebrating 10 years of marriage and all God has done. Marriage has been harder than I imagined, but God has done amazing things and continues to sharpen and refine me through this beautiful portrait of the gospel.

3. Finding God in the Spilled Milk & Temper Tantrums

For any of you in the thick of motherhood, I hope this post encourages you to keep up the high and holy work you’re doing in raising the next generation!

4. When Your Best Efforts Fail

Thoughts on finding strength and moving forward when your own efforts fall flat.

5. Loving Well

Encouragement for loving those people in your life who are just hard to love–something with which we are all familiar!

This Means War

Merry Almost Christmas, readers!

I’ll probably be taking a little break to enjoy the holidays and family, but in the meantime, my fingers are bursting to write about a topic heavy on my heart lately: the reality of spiritual warfare.

A heavy topic, indeed, especially at this holly jolly time of year … but unfortunately, we live in a world now torn by war at every turn. We turn on the news in the evenings, not sure of what horrific bombings, shootings, and conflict await reporting. We see beautiful cities ripped by terrorist attacks, thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives, and schools and workplaces terrorized by gunmen.

We cannot avoid the reality of war, even at the most wonderful time of the year. Opinions abound, fear abounds, confusion abounds; the threat is real and all-too-apparent. We see with our eyes and experience in our bodies the effects of terror and war. We cannot escape its reality.

Likewise, neither can we escape the reality of spiritual warfare.

Before you roll your eyes and click out of this post—for I am well aware of how unpopular such topics are, especially at this time of year—I ask that, for your own sake, you would spend at least a little time meditating on this critically important subject. And while at first blush it might seem odd to pair war and Christmas, let us not forget the whole reason Jesus came to us on earth: so that we might gain the ultimate victory over the war against sin and death!

World at War

We cannot escape the reality of physical war, but all too often, we find ourselves blinded to the reality of the spiritual war occurring all around us. And this war is just as insidious—if not more so—than our physical wars. Our spiritual enemy seeks to destroy not just our bodies but also our very souls.

When Jesus sent out His twelve disciples, He instructed them to not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (Matthew 10:28 NIV). Rather, the fate of our souls is of far more importance and significance.

It’s incredibly easy to dismiss this truth, given that we cannot see with our eyes the raging battle—yet we experience with all five senses the resultant damage of this unseen struggle. Everyday, we see evidence in the form of broken hearts, broken relationships, broken bodies, and broken lives. The Apostle Peter paints quite a word picture for us in 1 Peter 5:8:

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (NIV).

The unpleasant reality is that our enemy is out for us, just as much as the most radical ISIS fighter is out for us. He wants to destroy us, kill us. This isn’t someone with merely a mean streak. This isn’t the school bully. Satan is a thief, a liar, and a murderer.

As we say in the South, it’s serious, y’all!

 In the Trenches

For the past month or so, I’ve personally been feeling the heat and fatigue of battle. As I’ve mentioned before in posts, Aaron and I have been through some incredibly tough times in our 10 years of marriage. When some of those old issues reared their ugly head recently, I felt as though I’d been emotionally and spiritually ambushed.

When my head stopped spinning long enough to step back and gain some perspective, I cried out to my Heavenly Father and begged for His wisdom and clarity. And He was faithful to remind me of the reality of the unseen spiritual battle we face on this earth—a reality I’d lost sight of in my laser focus on the here-and-now. I’d unwittingly allowed myself to be swept along in the daily tasks of life. Such tasks are not inherently wrong, yet they threaten to capture our attention and distort our perspective.

The chilling reality is that Satan wants my marriage destroyed. He would love nothing more than to see my family ripped to shreds. And lest you think I’m somehow special in this, I’m not. He wants the very same thing for your marriage and your family. For our enemy comes to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10 NIV).

This is a terrifying thought … but we need not be terrified, for our God is bigger than our enemy! This truth should stir us to action. It should drive us to our Bibles and to the feet of God. And if you’re reading this and thinking “oh, whatever,” then I’m especially afraid for you! You’re going into battle everyday defenseless. Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11 NIV).

Without it, we’re all sitting ducks.

 Fight Song

I’m not writing these words and sharing my own personal experience to scare or condemn you, but rather to encourage you to take heart and perhaps become a little wiser to the schemes of the enemy. Are you experiencing a certain trial in your marriage, work, friendships, parenting, or some other area? It may very well be the work of spiritual warfare. If so, the great news is that we can fight it and win! Only we must take care that we’re fighting with the proper weapons:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NIV).

Because the enemy uses lies to take us down, we must fight back with the truth of God’s Word and His promises, placing our hope and focus squarely on who He is and who we are in Him. The Bible doesn’t instruct us on battling spiritual warfare in a rah-rah, cutesy manner—we’re told these things because it’s serious and deserves our attention!

Somewhere along the way, in all our comfort and luxury and complacency, I’m afraid we’ve lost the perspective that the early church had. But you know what? It’s no different today. Satan seeks to destroy believers just as much today as he did when Paul and Peter walked the earth. His approach may change with time and technology, but the core mission remains the same.

Dear believer, let me encourage you to lean into Him in a deeper, more fervent way in this upcoming year. I know discussing the topic of spiritual warfare can be uncomfortable and convicting, going beyond what we think of as normal, polite Christian conversation. But it’s so necessary. We must wake up!

My prayer for you and for me in this new year is that we may be ever vigilant, ever seeking His word, and ever wise to our enemy’s tailor-made schemes against us. May 2016 be a year of deeper spiritual growth and victory for you and your family!

A Thank You & An Addendum

Well this is unusual—I don’t think I’ve ever blogged two days in a row in my entire life!

I want to thank you all so much for your incredible outpouring of love, encouragement, and support regarding my post yesterday. It is so scary to put yourself “out there,” but my heart is happy to know that my words and our story could encourage some of you. That is my sole heart and purpose for writing in this space!

However, I wanted to add a very important addendum to my post yesterday. Thus far, things in my marriage have been restored, and we are happily in a great place at the moment—but I recognize that oftentimes, this unfortunately is not the case . . . and many times, the healing you hope and wait and pray for doesn’t come. I have several dear friends who have faced or are facing martial hurdles that have proven too difficult to overcome, and by no “fault” of their own. I have friends who have tried and prayed and stayed as long as they possibly could, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

I do not in any way want to convey the message that “God would have healed your marriage had you just done [X].” The sad truth in this fallen world in which we live is that sometimes, you can do all you can to save a marriage, but it’s still not enough. Marriages consist of two people, after all, and it takes two people to make it work through the long haul. God calls us to be obedient to Him—but our obedience is not a formula that equals a “happy ending” as we would define happy ending.

So for those of you who are enduring or have endured the heartache of an abusive spouse, an uncooperative spouse, a spouse who simply walked away or forced you to walk away for the welfare of yourself and/or your children—please know that God is still ever-present and strong and good in those situations too. He loves you dearly. He is working out His holy purposes, even in the midst of the mess and chaos our sin and the sin of others creates on this earth.

Please know that the same God who can heal and resurrect a broken marriage can put you back together again after the end of one . . . whether that end came through a divorce of your choosing, or your spouse’s choosing, or of no other choice.

And please know too that I love you—I was very close to being in those shoes myself. You are brave and strong. Keep leaning on Him to be your eternal hope and know that He holds you in His arms, close to His heart!


Today, Aaron and I celebrate ten years of marriage . . . a decade. Not a lifetime, to be sure, but still a significant number of years—especially in light of the current state of marriage!

The funny thing is, we probably shouldn’t be married today.  Considering the trials we’ve faced, we should in all likelihood be divorced. Perhaps that’s a shocking statement to you, but it makes me smile, because I see the powerful, redeeming Hand of God all over our story. My heart is thrilled that we are still husband and wife, and I’m overcome with joy when I reflect on all God has done and restored in our lives. The words of Joel 2:25 ring in my head: “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten . . . You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you . . .” (NIV). Well, today I am indeed full. Full, and thankful.

Not many people know our whole story and all the dark days and heartache we’ve experienced. But from those who know, at least in part, I am often asked how? How has your marriage survived and indeed thrived? Why were you able and motivated to stick things out in a situation where most would have walked away, dusting off hands and feet in the process?

These deep questions have had me thinking through the exact why and how. I look at our society today and the mockery we’ve made of marriage, and I am utterly burdened and heartbroken by it! My heart’s desire is for God to use our story and our experience to encourage and strengthen other marriages. Yet the somewhat scary part is, in order to do that, I have to tell our story . . . and hopefully tell it with clarity and grace!

Today, I am not ready to tell our story from A to Z—that will be a process, to be sure (and it would probably take a book, ha!). But I do want to share a few of the many lessons God’s been teaching me throughout these 10 years of marriage. If your marriage has been a breeze, then stop and thank Him for such a blessing! But for any of you who are or have been in a tough space within your marriage, I hope the following will encourage you and give you hope to keep on keeping on . . . it is worth it!

We Need to Look Different.

By we, I mean those of us who profess belief in Christ and have a relationship with Him. And by look, I don’t mean simply our outward appearance, but rather what’s in our hearts (which manifests on the outside!). I don’t know about you, but this is a tough one for me. On paper, of course, I have no qualm whatsoever . . . but when the rubber hits the road, then what?

I faced this head-on when life fell apart for us in the blazing hot summer of 2009. I’m ashamed to admit that my first thoughts were not at all related to looking different from the world. Instead, my mind went to a place of Oprah-isms: I don’t deserve this, I deserve better. I have to look out for myself. My happiness is important, and I’m not happy right now.

But in quiet moments at the end of the day, I knew in my heart that, as a follower of Jesus, I had a responsibility to respond as God would have me, not the world. If my life doesn’t look different from the rest of the world, then what’s the point? If my relationship with Jesus doesn’t reach into the darkest, hardest places of life and pull out redemption of a supernatural kind, then why am I pursuing Him?

In Romans 12:2, Paul writes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV). God desires His children to be different. He empowers us to be different. And this difference should permeate every aspect of our lives—especially the painful, thorny trials that come our way.

It certainly wasn’t an easy decision, but I told the Lord that I wanted to give Him room to work in our marriage. It was tempting to jump on culture’s bandwagon that shouts just throw your marriage away and start over! But I begged God to grant me the strength to stay while He worked, which He faithfully did—moment by moment, day by day.

We Must Cling to Hope.

For me, hope has been a lifeline in the months and years following 2009, as our marriage underwent major reconstruction and restoration. Hope is huge, but we must place our hope in the proper source. For far too long, I placed my hope in Aaron, in his ability to change, in our counseling sessions, in great books about marriage, etc., etc. But it wasn’t until I placed my hope fully and squarely upon the shoulders of Jesus that true hope bubbled up, and I was able to move forward in faith.

Psalm 62 is probably my favorite Psalm on which to mediate when I’m tempted to place my hope in lesser things. David writes, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (NIV, emphasis added). On many a dark day, when counseling had failed and self-help books had failed and marriage conferences had failed, only the rock solid Word of God remained, and God graciously taught me that this was all I ever needed. Even if the worst-case scenario happened, and even if the other shoe dropped, and even if all my efforts to save my marriage failed—even then, my soul could rest in God alone. Even then, I could stand firm, knowing He is my rock and my salvation.

These lessons were hard learned (and I’m still learning them!), and at times I thought the fire and water might consume me, but God brought us through to a place of abundance (Psalm 66:12). I am eternally thankful for this lesson learned, as it continues to prove useful and necessary in my life!

Marriage Isn’t About Our Happiness.

Gulp. Y’all, this is a big one, and a tough one, right? Isn’t every single thing we see, hear, and read about marriage setting us up to believe the fallacy that it’s about our happiness, pure and simple? As believers, we must know that isn’t the case. Marriage is about making us holy and reflecting God’s design in our lives. It’s a tool God uses to refine us, bring glory to His name through us, and accomplish His will on this earth. The sooner you can accept and rejoice in this truth, the faster you will actually find happiness in your marriage! Funny how that works, huh?

I remember my own “Job moment,” (see Job 42) when God opened my eyes to the enormity of His being and His plans for this entire world, not just my own little minuscule world. He longs to use us for good and glorious purposes (Ephesians 2:10), and He wants our hearts more than He wants our happiness.

God gave me a bigger perspective on my marriage, and slowly, I began seeing our marital trials from Aaron’s point of view rather than just my own. God wanted to heal deep wounds in him, and as his wife, I was in a position to play a role in that healing. So how could I demonstrate Christ if I left him to wallow alone in his struggles? God asked me to set aside my own perceived rights to happiness in marriage and to stand by my husband—and I’ve experienced abundant blessings as a result.

I could write much more about this, but there’s really no need—Tim Keller already has in his amazing book, “The Meaning of Marriage.” If you haven’t read this book, get a copy and read it now!

God is Good.

I’ll repeat: God is good, even when everything in life is trying to tell us otherwise! We have to cling to this truth. Psalm 100:5 says, “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations” (NIV). Indeed, God’s goodness is spoken of and attested to throughout the entire Bible. The hard truth is, sometimes we have to look for His goodness, really look. But it’s always there—His kind, loving hand print is all over your story and mine. Don’t let Satan deceive you into thinking it’s not!

In 2011, Aaron and I no sooner began pulling out of the pit we’d found ourselves in than we faced a new pit: infertility. For my personal faith, this was a “last straw,” of sorts that the enemy used to very nearly break me. Outwardly, things did not “look” good: my marriage was barely recovering from serious trauma, we would soon be moving 2,500 miles away from all family and friends, and now we faced the prospect of childlessness.

The enemy peppered me with doubts and lies regarding God’s goodness in such an intense way during that season of my life that oftentimes, I’m amazed at how God sustained me through it. And looking back now with the welcomed vantage point of time, I see God’s goodness written all over my life, even in the painful circumstances that made no sense at the time.

He always gave me what I truly needed rather than what I thought I wanted. He covered me in promises from His Word, promises that formed a small but powerful light to guide me through the darkness of Satan’s sifting. He surrounded me with amazing family and friends, who prayed for us, loved us, supported us, offered wise counsel, and always challenged us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and continue pressing ahead in truth. Through every single moment, His strong, scarred Hands held firm around our marriage, keeping us together when every other force threatened to tear us apart. I stand in awe of His goodness to us!

When the Lord chose to bless us with children and called sweet Isaiah’s life into existence, all of the tears, the pain, and the waiting suddenly and gloriously melted away. And in what I can only imagine is a part of His sense of humor, God filled our cup to overflowing by granting us our daughter Hemingway a mere 12 months and 11 days after Isaiah’s birth. What a God we serve! He is good, He loves us, and He is for us—never forget it!

We Serve a God of Resurrection Power.

Finally, let us never forget that our God is not only a God who heals, but also a God who resurrects. Take a moment to really dwell on what that means . . . even something that is dead is not beyond His reach. In the greatest show of resurrection power, God raised His own Son from the dead, conquering sin and death once and for all. And Jesus’s dear friend Lazarus was dead and buried and lying in a tomb for four days before Jesus arrived, breathing new life and eternal hope into his body (see John 11).

The theme of resurrection power is seen throughout the Old Testament as well. In Ezekiel 37, God gave Ezekiel an incredibly vivid, haunting vision, where a valley of dry bones (symbolizing the scattered remnant of the nation of Israel) rattles and rises up, coming to new life with the very breath of God.

This prophecy has always given me chills, and even more so now that I’ve experienced the miraculous, resurrecting breath of God in my marriage. For a long time, I believed the lie that our marriage was beyond help, beyond the reach of God’s healing hand, but nothing could be farther from the truth. When healing feels impossible, remember that resurrection is possible and can surpass even our most deeply held doubts.

A Challenge:

Thank you for hanging in with me in this long post, and if you’re still reading, bravo! Let me be so bold as to end with a challenge to you: will you be brave and give God room to work in your life? Whether you’re facing an impossible situation, relationship, physical ailment, challenging work environment, financial struggle, or whatever the case may be, will you step out in faith and trust God to dazzle you like only He can? Sweet reader, God is so much bigger than we give Him credit—will you choose to believe that, even when the walls are closing in? I hope so. I want you to know Him and the hope of salvation as I have come to know Him through the messy, painful trials in my marriage. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and give Him a chance to show you what “immeasurably more” (see Ephesians 3:20) could look like in your life. I can’t tell you precisely what that will look like, but I can tell you this: it will be more worth it than you can possibly imagine.

When Your Best Efforts Fail

If you’re anything like me, you read a lot of articles and blog posts about marriage. Articles with titles such as, “How to make your marriage better,” and “How to create deeper intimacy,” or “How to connect in the chaos of a busy life.” I love these types of posts, and many have proven useful . . . but what about when things simply don’t add up? For all your trying and planning and doing, what happens when your best efforts fall flat?

I experienced this lately in my own marriage. It’s no surprise that with a husband who works 60-70 hours a week and two babies two and under, free time is often akin to Sasquatch around our house. More often than not, we’re both exhausted and—dare I say—a little cranky by the time our sweet blessings are in their beds, visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.

I’d recently read an article about a husband and wife who chose a “golden hour” of the day to set aside for just the two of them—no phones, no computers, and no other distractions. Just quiet time to sit together and rehash the day over a glass of something yummy, everyday at the same time. I loved this idea, and since Aaron and I are long lost 18th century British citizens, I thought having a nightly “tea time” would be a fun way to ensure we had some focused time with each other before going our own way in the evening (e.g., Aaron watching the latest episode of “Mountain Men” and me reading Pat Conroy, or . . . ok, full disclosure, watching “Big Brother” after Aaron falls asleep on the couch). Aaron agreed, and we decided on a start date with much gusto and anticipation.

The night of our inaugural “tea time” connectedness arrived, and the giddy schoolgirl inside me longing for the thrill of a first date again couldn’t wait to settle in for some quality time with my man. So, need I explain my utter disappointment when my excitement met a glazed-over, fatigued look of half-hearted interest? I bet you can imagine the thinly veiled rage permeating the disappointed cells of my body as I sipped my tea next to my husband, who might as well have been halfway across the country. Or in a medically-induced coma.

Long story short, our time meant for connection devolved into a time for heated argument and ended with Aaron zoning out downstairs and me reorganizing my filing cabinet upstairs. Not quite the species of quiet evening for which I was hoping. On the bright side, I do love my newly organized files. I’m one heck of a cleaner when I’m lit up with frustration!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve felt that depth of disenchantment, and my disappointment took me by surprise. I felt deflated and defeated. Lord, I did what that article said, and it didn’t work! I planned something special with my husband and it was a disaster!

I felt like I was doing my part to try and be a good wife by purposefully setting aside time for us at home—so why wasn’t my husband cooperating?? So many articles make connecting with your spouse appear so easy . . . select a prayer time together every single night! Have date nights at home each week! Take 20 minutes to gaze into each other’s eyes without breaking eye contact!

Ok, I made up that last one, but you get the picture. As I sat alone at my desk that evening, covered in the quietness of my home, I opened my Bible and my hands to God and asked, now what?? I tried to do the “right thing,” and it failed, and now I’m angry at my spouse, and we’re more disconnected than before we tried to connect . . . so what next?

My sinful, selfish nature wanted to throw my hands up in exasperation and believe the lie that things will never change, and I’m justified in wagging a heated finger at my husband. In that quiet moment, God met me with wisdom and direction straight from His Word. Romans 5:3-5 says:

[W]e also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.

It’s really that simple. Not easy, but simple: trials lead to perseverance, which leads to character, which leads to hope, and ultimately an end to disappointment. What a promise! This passage is a lifeline for those times when we are crushed with disappointment or pain.

For whatever reason, in the past when I thought of this verse, my mind always jumped from “suffering” to “character.” Yet perseverance is the critical link connecting the two. Without the work of perseverance, we are stuck in our suffering, and our failures will feel just like that—utter failures.

In response to my questioning heart, God whispered into the “now what??” as He so often and faithfully does:

When failure happens, just keep going.

Keep trusting.

Keep believing.

Keep hoping.

Keep loving.

And above all, keep obeying God’s word.

The manifestation of perseverance and obedience will look different for each of us, depending on the specific trial or suffering we’re facing. For me, obedience required that I set my (perceived) rights aside, put an end to my blossoming pity party, and continue loving and respecting my husband, even though, as we say in the South, I was mad as a wet hen! Simple, but not easy, right??

On the evening following our botched “tea time,” a beautiful thing happened. Aaron and I sat on our back patio, watching our babies run around the yard and play together. As the fading rays of summer sun gently warmed our shoulders, the soft Delta breeze danced through the leaves of our Elm tree, bringing with it an abundance of natural, organic conversation. Over a soundtrack of children’s laughter, we were able to apologize, hear one another again, and connect on the deep heart level for which I had so longed. And in that moment, I experienced the dazzling hope that waits on the other side of perseverance . . . the kind of hope that most certainly does not disappoint, as it is born of the Holy Spirit and delivered generously to us, wrapped in the lavish love of our Savior.

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