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My parents were married for over 50 years. Although the length of their marriage may cause some to think it must have been easy for them, it couldn’t be further from the truth. It was a struggle, and even though my Dad was a pastor, it didn’t keep him and my Mom from experiencing conflict throughout their married lives, even looking once like their marriage was ending. Thankfully, Mom and Dad stuck it out for the long run, and we, their family, are deeply grateful to God for helping them. 1 Timothy 6:12 describes what my parents accomplished and, as a pastor and wife, the many witnesses they had outside our family:
My purpose in discussing their struggles is not to expose their weaknesses or failures but to encourage struggling couples to hang in there. I also hope it encourages children to be compassionate and understanding concerning their parents’ failures rather than despising them for their shortcomings and faults. Ephesians 4:2 urges us to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Although my parents struggled in their relationship with each other, it didn’t keep them from being wonderful parents. Mom and Dad were faithful in teaching me to love God, loving and caring for me, and generously providing for my needs.
No finger-pointing, please.
There are different ways to view my Mom and Dad’s marriage issues. One perspective is to be critical of them because they struggled in their relationship, making life extremely difficult for their family and easy to point fingers at their failures. Still, too many adult children are unforgiving towards their parents for several reasons, including marital conflict. Still, Colossians 3:13 urges,
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Another way to look at my parents’ marital struggles is that they were fighters, not only literally in conflict with each other but also in fighting the temptation to give up on their marriage. So, rather than focus on ways they disappointed and let us down, we can look at their strengths, such as enduring their marriage amid personal suffering. Whereas many couples succumb to the pressures, distress, and weariness of a trying marriage, my parents stuck with it, an accomplishment worthy of their family’s respect for hanging in there.
God works all things together for good.
Although it seems like life would have been much better for us all if there had not been conflict between my parents, perhaps seeing them work out strife in their marriage has, in the long run, helped us in ways to face our own marital challenges, ones we might not otherwise have had the fortitude to face. Gratefully, like my parents, we can trust God to work through our difficulties in a way that brings benefits and blessings into our lives. Romans 8:28 assures us,
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
4 things we learned through their struggles:
Below are four things God taught us through my parents’ struggles about not giving up and fighting the good fight of faith in marriage.
1. Difficulty isn’t a reason to quit.
Amid my parents’ marital struggles, they taught their children how to stay the course in marriage even when it’s hard. Seeing their struggles and how they worked through differences helped prepare and strengthen our family to commit to our own marriages, especially during tough times. Although most individuals want to point fingers at the wrong actions in their spouses as reasons to divorce, Matthew 19:8 pinpoints the heart of the matter, explaining, “Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” In life and especially in marriage, God urges us to,
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).
It’s too easy to let our hearts grow cold and hard, but as painful as it can be to suffer in our marriages, God tells us, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Mom and Dad taught us that with God’s strength, we could resist hardening of the heart as a couple.
2. Longsuffering for the faith of our family is worth it.
Although it may seem like my parents weren’t thinking of us on the surface, they ultimately put their family’s well-being and future ahead of their own happiness. By being longsuffering in their marriage, they were able to reap the reward of seeing a family intact, of gathering to celebrate their 50+ years together. We witnessed “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, and till death do us part” triumphantly played out in life. When I think of my parent’s marriage, I don’t think of their failures but of their success in running the race, even if, at times, they stumbled and tripped up a bit. 2 Timothy 4:7 explains,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
3. This life is just the beginning.
As much as my Mom and Dad struggled with living together on earth, they believed in the life to come with Jesus. Instead of thinking they had to chase after earthly happiness before it was too late, they realized that their actions lead to eternal results. 1 John 2:25 explains what we as believers in Jesus Christ have to look forward to, “And this is what He promised us—eternal life.” Likewise, following God’s will ultimately brings lasting joy in this life and the life to come. To chase after temporal happiness on earth is to throw away the eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 encourages us,
“So fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
4. Reconciliation brings long-term rewards.
Sadly, my parents went through a time of separation. Although I was grown, married, and with children of my own during it, it felt devastating. Adulthood does not shield children from the suffering of their parents’ broken relationship. The breakdown of a marriage shakes a family to the core. Family members begin questioning their parents’ foundational teachings growing up, wondering if they are true. During the separation, my parents experienced the hurt it brought to our family, the loss of togetherness, and the absence of joy and peace. As much as they struggled with their relationship, Mom and Dad believed God’s words about marriage. They wanted to honor Him and not take His word on divorce lightly.
“’ The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful” (Malachi 2:16).
It was important for them to fulfill their covenant with God and to keep their vows to Him. Even though it was difficult, they put His will for their marriage over their own, staying with each other and being faithful to one another and God. With their decision to reconcile came relationship restoration and a renewed commitment to love one another regardless, no matter what, to stick together through thick and thin. 2 Corinthians 5:18 describes,
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/eggeeggjiew
Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, kirkcameron.com, Ungrind.org, StartMarriageRight.com, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.
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