Last weekend Rob and I traveled an hour or so from home for a long-overdue date night. We savored uninterrupted conversation in the car, a delicious meal at a new restaurant, and an uplifting time at a marriage and family event. By the time our evening was over, we felt encouraged and connected.
We stepped out of the church into a mild, rainy night. Rob stopped for gas and then steered our Toyota onto the freeway for the drive home. We noticed his driver’s-side wiper blade wasn’t “swooshing” quite right. Fifteen miles down the road it quit moving altogether. Romance and relaxation turned to stress as we faced a dark freeway at midnight with a rain-soaked windshield. The blurry visibility made for a white-knuckled trip the rest of the way home.
Panic strikes when we can’t see where we’re going in life, too. When the future is unclear, our relationship can lose its way. How do we move through tough decisions and problems without wrecking our marriage? Here are four ways to stay strong on the journey no matter what comes your way:
Build trust: Every decision is an opportunity to choose “me” or “us.” Earn trust by a strong commitment to your partner’s best interests. Refuse to throw each other’s hopes and desires under the bus of your own goals. Stay wide open about your fears and feelings, questions and concerns so no secrets come between you. Practice sacrificial love that’s willing to “lay down one’s life” for each other. (John 15:13)
Check your pride: In your heart of hearts, do you believe you know best? Are you quick to speak and slow to listen? Do you shut down your spouse before they can share their point of view? Choose humility that values each other’s insight, wisdom and experience. Ask for help and encouragement along the way. Pray for a heart like Jesus, to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
Learn and grow: Hurt, loss, and threats to our security can be powerful teachers. Become a student of your problem. Read, listen, and seek out experts who offer ideas and solutions. Invite spiritual mentors to speak into your situation. Trust God, who never wastes your pain—“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Choose hope. It’s tempting to base your expectations for tomorrow on the problems of today. Financial struggles? You’ll always be broke. Another trip to the doctor? You’ll never feel strong and whole. An ugly, hurtful argument? You’ll never learn to resolve conflict. A rebellious child? You’ll never parent effectively as a team. Pessimism and doubt keep you from joy and hope in the God who loves you. He offers his power to redeem the broken, wounded parts of your marriage. He enables you to “know the hope to which he has called you…his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18,19) Pray and believe God is with you, for you, and working in your lives every moment.
In your most difficult, confusing circumstances, God will “clear the windshield” so you can find your way home. By prayer and faith, your marriage is tougher than today’s dilemma. You’re resilient to handle change and loss. You’re blessed with all you need by the Spirit to love and serve each other well. Keep walking forward, together. Let God’s Word light your path as you follow him every step of the way.