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.
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.