Click below to listen to this post about faithfulness in marriage on the Candidly Kendra podcast:
How can you know that your marriage will work out?
That is a question I hear often from the young women I counsel.
How can I be sure? What if he changes? What if I change?
I never knew for sure how to answer that question. I usually tried to look like I knew what I was talking about and said something like “You can only know if he is a man who is pursuing God. Above that, you have to trust him to the Holy Spirit’s work in his life. And the same goes for you, too.”
All in all, that’s not a bad answer. Acknowledging my inability to control my spouse and the future, and leaning heavily on God’s goodness and sovereignty will give me the best foundation to step into the unknown.
But, in the spirit of complete and total honesty, you really can’t know for sure that your spouse will never change. You can’t know that you won’t change.
But you can be faithful.
Faithfulness In Sickness And In Health
In our traditional marriage vows we say a version of this:
“I, Kendra, take you, Steve, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.”
When I married Steve I questioned whether I could keep these vows. I imagined Steve lying weakly in bed, flushed with fever and me, nursing him back to health with my skillful hands and charming smiles, and I thought, “Yeah, I can do that.”
It wasn’t until I read a book recently that my eyes were opened to the depths of what it might mean to truly remain faithful “in sickness and in health.”
The book that God used to teach me about faithfulness in affliction wasn’t a marriage self-help book; it wasn’t a spiritual development book. It wasn’t a book about God’s faithfulness. It was a novel, a book about a man and woman trying to make a life together after World War I. It was called The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman.
Faithfulness When Driven To The Edge
In the book The Light Between Oceans, Tom is a young man who has just returned from the horrors of war and finds peace after trauma in the mechanical, routine workings of a lighthouse on a small, private island. Through correspondence he falls in love with a young woman, Isabel, and marries her. Together they are very happy and dream of raising children on their own special island.
Unfortunately, Tom and Isabel find that they are unable to have a child, and after many miscarriages, alone on her island, Isabel is driven to near madness.
In the course of the story, Tom draws parallels between the emotional trauma that Isabel is facing as a mother with empty arms, and the trauma men on the front lines of battle faced in The Great War.
Of course, when men return from war with scars, or missing limbs, or traumatic brain injuries, the family gathers around them and cares for them. No one demands, “Why can’t you do better? Take care of yourself!”
But the rest of us have scars, too. Scars formed by the battles of living in this broken world. Sometimes the trial is so difficult and the pain so intense that it breaks us. And so Tom said of Isabel,
Who was he to judge Isabel? She’d reached her edge, that was all. Everyone had one. Everyone.
As Isabel’s broken heart became a “broken” mind, Tom stood by her. He was faithful to care for her, loving her for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as they both should live.
The Healing Balm of God’s Truth
No, my young friends, we can’t know for sure that everything will work out. Marriages, over decades, aren’t tied neatly with a bow.
But faithfulness means caring for the other no matter what trials may bring them to the edge.* It means nursing them back to health with comfort from our God until they begin to hold hope in their own hands again.
We can remind them that God acknowledges the painful world we live in and says:
“Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
*Please Note: “The edge” means different things for many of us. Often it means depression, pain, or panic attacks. But it may mean violence or self harm. If you or your loved ones are in danger, please get to a safe place immediately and seek professional help.