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Letter to a suffering spouse



My Dear Sister and Friend,

A couple of things come to my mind every time I think of you, which has been almost daily in recent months. You are right that no one can possibly understand how hard this has been, and continues to be for you. You have felt betrayed, unloved, stricken, misled, and so many other deeply painful things. The person you want to trust in most and find the greatest comfort in on this earth, has seemed fickle and deceptive. I cannot imagine how deeply that has wounded you. 

How I wish that I could pluck this pain and suffering right up out of your life, and magically see things resolved and restored with the snap of my fingers. But I can't, no one can. I know you already know that. I do know one thing for certain, and it's not just a cliche. It's that God is in the business of transforming things -- people, marriages, relationships. All of it. The pattern of his Word shows us that he is constantly maneuvering, and redirecting us to be in a greater position to see more of himself.

But we humans are obsessed with time. We count the minutes. We check the clock repeatedly. And we grow weary when the waiting doesn't come with an expiration date. During these moments when restoration seems elusive, it may help to recall God's past faithfulness. God has been patient and kind to you, slowly drawing you to himself. And look at you now. No, not perfected, but certainly you're experiencing a sense of his loving grace toward you. That is our model for how we show patience and kindness toward others. You'll never be able to muster up the strength in your own willpower to keep loving your husband even when things remain messy and ugly and uncertain. But you may be a particular demonstration of love that draws him closer to Christ. And in the process, you are being wooed nearer to Christ and his beauty. You are radiant because of his unconditional and "for you" love.

I cannot promise you that your marriage will be revived. I cannot promise that your husband will want to be reconciled to you. And no matter how much I wish I could erase all the struggles you face when you review the history of your marriage, that's not reality. We'll never be able to remove all the "baggage" we see when we look back.

One thing I can promise you is this -- "hope does not disappoint us" -- and that's not about a hope we have in this marriage's survival. The only hope that won't disappoint us is Jesus. Even if the worst thing happens, he is our hope. Even on the days when you feel like this could be the end, or that there is no hope for your marriage, fix your eyes on the better hope of the Savior.

We meditate on things with excruciating attentiveness, dissecting each careless word and every heated argument. It becomes easy to convince ourselves of just about anything. In those moments, when you sense your mind drifting toward doubts and speculations, start training it to redirect your gaze back to Christ. Say it out loud if you have -- "NO! I will not dwell on what my husband said (or what he didn't say that you think he should have said). NO, instead I will dwell on Jesus, my great High Priest, the one who loves me perfectly, who has promised to never leave me or forsake me. The one who stores my tears in a bottle, who knows the number of hairs on my head. The one who suffered all of the wrath that I deserved, and who won me the freedom to pursue reconciliation with the one here on earth who has hurt me."

The only way you'll be able to cultivate hope is by reminding yourself continually that your hope can't lie in the *success* of this marriage. Our hope must be fully settled in Christ if it's to be the kind of hope that won't disappoint...and that's possible just as the verse says, because of God's love. It's a hope that is fixed, certain. And by the presence of the Spirit, you have access to that hope. It's not hiding from you. You won't wear out your welcome as you cry out to him. He draws near to the brokenhearted, and those who are crushed in spirit. His love is the receipt for your hope. God's love for you is what literally guarantees your hope!

So, do not despair. Your heart may not always feel settled in your husband's hands, but it is perfectly secure in the Savior's tender grip.  

"and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."  (Romans 5:5)