My husband Dale and I have experienced medical challenges—cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple surgeries, hospitalizations, and illnesses. We’ve had challenges in our adult children’s lives—financial stresses, unemployment, school struggles, health issues, and major moves across the country and the world. We’ve had life challenges—job changes, aging parents, home and car repairs, and so much more.
Yet all these circumstances have actually brought us closer together because we’ve chosen to lean on each other, to draw strength from each other. You can, too.
Sometimes your marriage will be easy. But other times the potholes or detours of life, the circumstances and the challenges that come your way, will test your marriage and your faith. Yet if you embrace the wisdom of God, He will lead you and guide you through the tough times. He will even carry you over those treacherous mountain passes and through the valleys of hard times . . . if you allow Him.
Especially in the tough times, remember that your marriage is so much bigger than just two people joining forces to journey through life together. It’s even bigger than your family, although that is definitely big!
It’s about how you love each other God’s way. Dale and I make sure we keep this in mind as we make life-decisions.
How have your marriage challenges brought you together? Leave us a comment; we’d love to know.
Susan Mathis is the author of The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy and four other books. She is vice-president of Christian Authors Network. For more, visit www.SusanGMathis.com.
Valentine’s Day creates a lot of stress and pain in those who don’t have the expected “valentine”, no one to give a gift to or get a gift from can often become a polarizing situation in a culture that pushes the holiday commercially. It’s sometimes embarrassing to get asked what you’re doing for Valentine’s Day. Some people cringe or go to great lengths to avoid that topic from past hurts but secretly ask, where is my valentine?
We believe the myth that romantic, true love makes everyone happy.
Romantic love, then, becomes an idol in our culture. Love is good. Love is beautiful. But true love comes from God, not a human being. Lonely people can feel the knife of that idol as it gets driven by unreasonable expectations focused on one specific date. That date may not connect with our real life timelines, or God’s will, or God’s best plan for our future spouse. But still an overwhelming onslaught of commercials and chatter about fancy chocolates, red roses, poetic cards, giant teddy bears, and engagement diamonds teaches us that we have no value unless we have romantic love and are showered with presents physically expressing that love for all to see.
The emptiness of being the only one without a “valentine” spirals when it becomes the only topic of conversation for a few days each year. But the underlying questions that deepen the pain are: Doesn’t anyone love me? What’s wrong with me? Or the mortifying look of pity from someone who thinks they should feel sad that someone is unattached. The pressure of Valentine’s Day isn’t just for the unattached though. Married people feel pressured to express love on that day as if it isn’t important the rest of the year. It has to be over-the-top. Financially, adding the cost of presents might even add unnecessary budget pressures to a relationship teetering weekly to meet real needs. Relationally, a spouse may put so much importance on that day that they feel unloved if a present doesn’t show up or the physical union doesn’t happen…as expected. Year after year, the pressure to top the last Valentine’s becomes a powerful fear for many people afraid of disappointing the one they adore.
Nothing is wrong with someone who doesn’t have a specific romantic connection on a commercialized holiday. Nothing is wrong with someone who doesn’t want to “celebrate” that specific day in an expected way. Nothing is wrong with a couple that chooses to express love every day and ignore the commercial holiday. And nothing is wrong with anyone who chooses to express love on that holiday either. We simply need to drop the expectation and judgement so that when we express love, it is authentic.
But if you were wondering where your valentine is and if you’re loved unconditionally—yes, you are loved deeply. Not just one day a year, but you are loved every day of your life. Unconditionally. The distraction of man-made expectations can set us up for loneliness and despair creating a false desire for what someone else deems as necessary. Breaking it down to the basics, what we want may not be what we need. It’s too easy to get distracted when our eyes are on something other than the purpose and goals God knit right into our very beings.
Think about a time you were very, very hungry. A broth tastes good, but wouldn’t satisfy and certainly wouldn’t last long. What a very hungry person wants and needs is a full meal. God is your full meal of love. But, we often don’t recognize how that works and so believe we have to tangibly feel it to “really” feel His love.
So how does it really work, that love thing?
If we set our eyes on the One Who Loves us every day of our lives, who has our best at heart, who inspires us to reach for the dreams and goals He designed for each individual, then we have a sense of fulfillment. An awe that draws us forward into the path of those who also have been called to a similar journey. Fellowship, friendship, and fulfillment blossom out of relationships built on that journey. Relationships that feel real because God put those people in our lives to be His hands and feet, His arms wrapped around us. Stepping off that path, distracted by wanting the “comfort” of a commercialized expectation, the desire to fit in opens up comparison. Comparison morphs into the sin of coveting. Coveting blinds us to the specialness that could happen…if we were on the path to that personalized purpose.
Does Love = Value?
Our value comes from the One Who Loves. God sees the value in you. He designed an amazing, unique, experiential purpose for your life and mine. Purpose that gives a deep sense of satisfaction. Where there is satiety, there’s no hunger. Satisfaction, joy, and an outward expression of love for others that build a life of ultimate happiness no human being can begin to replace. Building a satisfying, joyful life experience pushes out loneliness and the need to perform to others expectations.
But what about love and valentines? Yes, we all need love. God has given us community and fellowship to help fill that need. But it isn’t up to others to fill us up. No lover or spouse can do that. Expecting that person to be everything and fulfill all sets them up for dismal failure and sets you up for disappointment. Their expectations and opinions don’t make us empty or worthless either. It’s up to God to fill us up, and in that process of overflowing love into our souls, we lavish that deep, soul love onto others. We can pour that love out by becoming involved in the natural interests God designed specifically for us. While at work, at play, at church, traveling…do what interests you and you’ll meet interesting people.
One of the best ways to fill a hole in a lonely heart is to get involved in a volunteer program. Use skills you have or sign up to learn skills you’ve always wanted, and then use those opportunities to build authentic relationships. Loneliness disappears when we give of ourselves to enrich the lives of others.
Whether you’re single, married, widowed, it doesn’t matter. Fellowship, deep relationships, come because we first pour out love to someone else. That’s the model the Lord set. He first loved us and so we love Him. It’s a natural reaction. If loneliness, unmet expectations, or wanting “what everyone else has” put a scar on your heart, consider a personal prayer to realign to God’s loving will rather than the distraction of worldly ways.
Dear Lord, Forgive me for getting so easily distracted by expectations fueling my wants and defining my comfort. Help me to focus when I wake on the things you want me to do including eating properly, exercising daily, and pouring my energy into what you have prepared for me. None of those things are always easy and they can make me uncomfortable. I want to be available to You and the people You put in my life. I desire real relationships, not hollow ones. Help me to set my mind on what you desire for me so that it becomes what I desire. Help this Spirit-led life to flow love out of me into my words, actions, and relationships. Fill me with joy as I fill myself with You and direct it outward into my community and world.
In Jesus name, Amen
Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is–what is good and pleasing and mature. Romans 12:2
Have you felt pressured or unloved on Valentine’s Day?
What kind of interests have you ignored that you might try now?
Have you considered volunteering for a cause or organization to pour out love and build relationships?
Have you considered gaining new skills through volunteerism?
Have you explored job opportunities or changes through volunteerism to help you get back on the path you feel God designed for you?
About the author: Angela Breidenbach is the Christian Authors Network president, radio show host, and author of over 15 books.