The surprises in store after vowing to love “for better or worse”

When my wife and I stood at the altar and promised to love each other “for better or worse,” we had no idea how much of the “worse” times we would go through.

In each of our 12 years of marriage, there’s been some major, stressful event that has rattled my wife and me. It’s gotten so predictable that we’ve come to expect it.

“Wonder what it will be in 2020,” I said on New Year’s Day.

My wife chuckled.

We didn’t even make it through March before a crisis hit, and I’m not talking about COVID-19 either (file this under “unspoken” prayer requests).

Our circumstances aren’t exceptional though. If you’re married, you and your spouse have had your own awful trials. Bad things happen to couples all of the time, because life happens. And in those times, my instinct is to fix, fix, fix (or at least try to). My wife usually has a different approach.

Raquel’s instinct is to keep trying to turn everything over to God during stressful circumstances. She often wants to pray things out, while I want to talk them out. But before it’s all said and done, we eventually end up praying through our problems together.

That’s not to say that the only thing we do is pray together in our “worse” times. We lean on friends and seek wise counsel, and it has helped. But we need more than good friends and their advice in the face of challenges. We need spiritual intimacy.

For us, spiritual intimacy means prayer as well as taking time for intentional reflection together and encouraging each other with Scripture. (If you want examples of how we do that, there are several in my book, Confessions of a Happily Married Man:Finding God in the Messiness of Marriage).

I had a reader recently complain that my ideas are idealistic and “Polly-annish.” Oh well. It’s the thing that works for us and I encourage all of you to try it. You can’t go wrong with drawing to the Lord together.

As we’ve fought alongside each other (and sometimes with each other), we keep coming back to Jesus. It’s what we’re doing now in the midst of our latest struggle. And even though we sometimes feel like we’re faithlessly groping for God in the fog of stress, we still hear the voice of our Shepherd calling: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NKJV).

Yes, the stress is real — what you’re going through is real and what we’re going through is too. But somehow, by the grace of God, this is a “light momentary affliction that is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, ESV). Coming to God with our spouse gives us the perspective to catch a glimpse of that.

God is not only getting us through stress as we follow Him together, He’s taking our worst times and using them to make our relationship better, one prayer at a time.

Check out my book, “Confessions of a Happily Married Man,” which tells the story of how God has worked in the ordinary (and extraordinary) of my marriage — and how you can see the ways He’s working in yours too.