I heard the news that a young couple in our community is getting a divorce after only one year of marriage. What went wrong? All I know is this is a tragedy. I remember the wedding announcement we received with their bright smiling faces, their eyes so filled with love for each other.
I want to tell them, “Don’t give up! Your story isn’t over yet.” In Alcoholics Anonymous, they say: “Don’t give up 5 minutes before the miracle.” Sometimes 5 minutes can seem like an eternity, but when the miracle comes, you don’t want to miss it.
My husband Randy and I are celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. When I look back, I remember the tough times we faced in our marriage. It seemed hopeless. Struggling with Randy’s alcoholism loomed like a never-ending problem with few solutions. In retrospect, it was 5 minutes. The miracle of Randy’s sobriety and the years we’ve enjoyed since then, have truly been a miracle worth waiting for.
But…even if Randy hadn’t gotten sober and I’d finally had to make the hardest decision to end our marriage, I would’ve been convinced I’d done everything possible to give us and our marriage the chance we deserved. I also know that I’m a different person today because of what I’ve experienced–stronger in my faith, more compassionate, more willing to forgive, less self-absorbed. I would’ve missed all this if I’d given up.
So if you’re thinking of throwing in the towel with your marriage, here are some benefits of not giving up that you might consider:
When you wrestle with hard situations, you can expect to grow in unexpected ways.
A passage from Romans says a lot about this type of growth.
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary–we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
Romans 5:3-5, THE MESSAGE
- We learn about perseverance.
It isn’t easy to hang in there when you have every reason to leave, when you’ve been betrayed or hurt in your heart’s deepest places. Yet there is something powerful about having the ability to persevere, to keep moving forward against all odds.
I used to complain to a friend that I felt stuck in my marriage. I worried that nothing would ever change. She assured me that as long as I was moving forward, I would never be stuck in the same place. She was right!
- We learn about the power of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a difficult process, but one that ultimately sets us and the person who has hurt us free.
At one alcohol treatment program, Randy and I and our sons spent time sharing our grievances. We crumpled up our papers and threw them into a fire pit while we held hands and prayed together. It felt freeing–like we had a clean slate ahead of us. However, it took time for trust to be rebuilt as trust must be earned. Only by observing trustworthy behaviors over time did this change for us.
- We learn what it means to love someone well.
Loving generously means that we love unconditionally.
My typical response to Randy’s drinking was to punish and threaten instead of loving him with God’s unconditional, no-strings-attached kind of love. This love can require taking a firm stand. I finally told Randy the truth with love. I love you too much to watch you destroy yourself by drinking. I will always love you, but I will only live with you if you are sober. I never would have learned how to draw difficult lines with love if I had given up on my marriage.
- We learn that marriage, in God’s bigger story, is a picture of His relationship with us.
The Bible tells us we are the bride of Christ. We learn more about our relationship with God when we understand the covenant relationship of marriage.
- We learn that God is able to do more than we could ask or imagine in our wildest dreams.
When we give up, we miss the blessing of what might have been in our marriage–walking through life together, celebrating the good times, grieving the losses, and leaving a rich legacy for our children and grandchildren.
I’m so thankful Randy and I didn’t give up. We had every reason to call it quits. We could have missed the miracle, but instead, we can celebrate God’s amazing grace in a 45-year old relationship. Now that’s a miracle worth waiting for!