Wanted: A Spouse Willing to Suffer

The title of the article caught my attention in 2016. In 2018, I would understand why. The link is https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/wanted-a-spouse-willing-to-suffer

Suffering in marriage is a touchy subject. That idea may immediately bring up thoughts of abuse, control, manipulation, addiction, violence, and any number of other painful and destructive ideas. I just want to get this out of the way right now: those behaviors are never OK. Never. Period. End of story. If there is abuse, manipulation, or violence going on in your marriage, get some help now!

“Marriage is not supposed to be about suffering, but it’s not about happiness either. We lose much of what marriage is all about when we assume that its purpose is to make us happy and that our spouse is there for our benefit.” That … what I just said came from three books I am reading:

  • “Sacred Search: It’s not who but why”, Gary Thomas
  • “You and Me Forever: Marriage In The Light of Eternity”, Francis and Lisa Chan
  • “This Momentary Marriage: The Parable of Marriage”, John Piper

Marriage never works when one or both partners are primarily looking for what they can get out of it. I have come to realized that it is only Jesus who can satisfy my hunger and thirst for validation and significance. Christians should remember to place their ultimate hope in God Himself, whose love never varies, and who is always trustworthy, always kind, always faithful, and who never misses a single detail. And whatever life ends up being like on earth, our “threescore years and ten” down here is only the briefest of preliminaries to an eternity of love, worship, service, and unspeakable joy on the Other Side.

Marriage is not about suffering or happiness; rather, it’s about learning to love well. And maybe suffering is God’s vehicle to us how love well.

“In sickness and in health.”

Could we say those words with the full confidence?

Few people consider sickness and suffering when picking a mate. They consider how the other person might look in the morning or what bad habits they might have. They consider what offspring they could produce or what extended family they might bring to the reunion. Yet few people ever consider what is a vital question—can I suffer with this person?

Few have the grace to suffer well. Those who do suffer well are a well-spring of life and faith.

  • Who do you want holding your hand when the test says “cancer?”
  • On whose shoulder do you want to lean when the doctor says, “We’ve done all we can?”
  • With whom do you want to lie beside when you don’t know where your child is or if they will ever come home?
  • When your world turns upside down, in whose eyes do you want to look?

Another book worth reading is “Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story”

Find someone who suffers well.

I know it doesn’t seem important when life is perfect. A beautiful smile is far more attractive than a quiet determination. A common interest is far more appealing than internal strength. Yet when life falls apart, you want someone you can run to, not someone you want to run from.

  • You want someone who believes in you.
  • You want someone who instills faith, not causes doubt.
  • You want someone who hopes no matter the circumstances.

In the Bible, Job’s wife responded to his suffering by saying, “Curse God and die.”

Had he not suffered enough?

Was life not difficult enough?

Enduring hardship was enough, yet Job was also forced to rebuke his wife during his time of struggle. Life is hard enough; there is no need to make it harder. Choosing a spouse who does not suffer well makes life harder.

It makes every grief stronger.

It makes every sorrow more painful.

It makes every hurt deeper.

Yet,

when our spouse knows how to suffer, when they have don’t live in denial, but confront the sorrows of life,when they don’t live in despair but know how to laugh and cry at the same time, when they offer support and hope in all of life’s challenges, when they can see the big picture of life, then,

every grief is wedded to hope

every sorrow is matched with love

and every hurt is paired with healing.

One of the great guarantees of life is that every person, every couple, will suffer. When choosing a mate, My choice is someone who suffers well.

In John Piper’s book conclusion was this (What Marriage Is About)

“I have said nothing about the effect of marriage on poverty, or health, or employment, or earnings, or the material success of children. The reason for this omission is not that marriage isn’t significant for these things. It is enormously significant. “Marriage is an issue of paramount importance if we wish to help the most vulnerable members of our society: the poor, minorities, and children.

The reason for the omission is different: Focusing on the pragmatic effects of marriage undermines the very power of marriage to achieve the effects we desire. In other words, for the sake of all these beneficial practical effects, we should not focus on them. This is the way life is designed by God to work. Make him and the glory of his Son central, and you get the practical effects thrown in. Make the practical effects central, and you lose both.

Of course, there are unbelievers whose marriages last and who prosper materially. But the personal dynamics that hold them together are rooted more deeply in God’s design than they know. They do not look into each other’s eyes and say, “Loving you was a shrewd financial transaction.” Crass materialism sustains very few marriages. The vestiges of God’s vision for marriage remain. They may be distorted and nameless, but they still remain. God’s common grace grants many cut flowers to flourish for a lifetime.

So my concluding plea is not offered in ignorance of the importance of the material benefits of marriage. I want people to flourish in every way. I want the poor to rise into joyful, self-sustaining, productive work and stable households. Therefore, for the sake of these good effects of marriage, let it be heralded with joy that there are reasons for marriage that are vastly more important.

Marriage is not mainly about prospering economically; it is mainly about displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church. Knowing Christ is more important than making a living. Treasuring Christ is more important than bearing children. Being united to Christ by faith is a greater source of marital success than perfect sex and double-income prosperity.

If we make secondary things primary, they cease to be secondary and become idolatrous. They have their place. But they are not first, and they are not guaranteed. Life is precarious, and even if it is long by human standards, it is short. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4: 14). “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Prov. 27: 1).

So it is with marriage. It is a momentary gift. It may last a lifetime, or it may be snatched away on the honeymoon. Either way, it is short. It may have many bright days, or it may be covered with clouds. If we make secondary things primary, we will be embittered at the sorrows we must face. But if we set our face to make of marriage mainly what God designed it to be, no sorrows and no calamities can stand in our way. Every one of them will be, not an obstacle to success, but a way to succeed. The beauty of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church shines brightest when nothing but Christ can sustain it.

Very soon the shadow will give way to Reality. The partial will pass into the Perfect. The foretaste will lead to the Banquet. The troubled path will end in Paradise. A hundred candle-lit evenings will come to their consummation in the marriage supper of the Lamb. And this momentary marriage will be swallowed up by Life. Christ will be all and in all. And the purpose of marriage will be complete.

To that end may God give us eyes to see what matters most in this life. May the Holy Spirit, whom he sends, make his crucified and risen Son the supreme Treasure of our lives. And may that Treasure so satisfy our souls that the root of every marriage-destroying impulse is severed. And may the marriage-watching world be captivated by the covenant-keeping love of Christ.”

2 thoughts on “Wanted: A Spouse Willing to Suffer

  1. Thank you for sharing this. There’s a lot of food for thought in this post, and it inspires me to look to God and ask how I may be a better wife and shape my marriage to be more Godly.

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