The journey of marriage is meant to be a long one. And as we travel along life’s road together, we will have both celebrations and struggles. Celebrations are great and enjoyable. But struggles? None of us like them. Is there any good to be found in them?
“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.” – Romans 8:28
Last week we celebrated Sabra’s birthday. I am blessed to be able to celebrate that God has led my wife to spend another year of her life with me. I recently had lunch with a long time friend, and we spent some time reminiscing about a trip we took together exactly ten years ago to the day. It is a blessing to have long time friends. It is even more of a blessing to have a wife who is with me through the long haul.
This leads me to recall a passage of Scripture I recently studied. It comes from what we call the Pentateuch, which is the first five books of the Bible. It is the story of God and His people through the time of Moses, the exodus from Egypt, and the forty year trek through the wilderness to the brink of entering the Promised Land.
This journey is a bit like our marriages as God brings us together and sees us through many wilderness experiences if we keep our focus on Him.
The last book of the Pentateuch is Deuteronomy. Since it is the final book of Israel’s pre-Promised Land existence, God uses this opportunity to prepare His people for the future by reminding them of His goodness to them up to this point.
God has faithfully and safely brought them a long way, and He will not forsake them now. The same is absolutely true in our marriages as we follow Him. Sabra and I can certainly vouch for that.
So why this long introduction? Because I recently read a passage from Deuteronomy that God used to speak to me about His relationship with us and our marriages. It demonstrates once again how all of His Word applies to every aspect of our lives.
This passage is found in Deuteronomy 8:1-5: “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.”
Through these words God helped prepare His people for the Promised Land by reminding them about what He had done, but also why He had done it all. He reminded them how He had led them for forty years through the wilderness (v.2) taking care of their every need. He had them recall how He fed them miraculously with the manna (v.3). He brought back to their minds that their clothes and shoes never wore out (v.4). Where can I buy those?
Why did God do this? He did it “to humble and test” (v.2) them so that they would be prepared to enter the new land and trust Him no matter what they faced. The word for “test” used here is “nasa” in Hebrew. It means to prove the quality of someone or something, especially during hardship or adversity. It is found in Old Testament times, for example, to describe when war equipment was tested to see if it would stand up under battle conditions.
Thus God put His people through this forty year adventure so they could see that He could be trusted no matter what. He also put them through this so they could see their own hearts and know themselves if they would trust God no matter what (v.2). And God does the same in our marriages. We can then discover whether we are really trusting Him or if this is an area we need to grow in.
We read about this in 1 Peter 1:6-7: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
As we go through trials, we learn that God can be trusted and His Word is true. We learn areas in which we still need to trust God. We discover areas that as a couple we still need to work on and pray about. And we also grow closer together and become more effective servants of the Lord.
Recently a colleague from the seminary asked me to teach a class for him while he was out of town. I had not taught in the classroom for three years. This was a class on counseling during trauma, so I decided to include some of my own experiences. As I prepared, I went back over the past three years. I was reminded once again of the events of my illness that had kept me out of the classroom.
I was not filled with sadness, regret, or envy of my colleagues who are still able to teach regularly. I had a wonderful time teaching that evening, but there was no dismay. Instead there was joy. Joy about what God had brought me and Sabra through. Joy that God had given Sabra to me as my life mate to walk with me and help me through this and many other difficulties previously. Joy at how God had used them all in our lives to teach us and how He is still teaching us.
I’ve come to understand what God is saying to us as He had James write in James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Just like the Israelites as they wandered in the desert for forty years, God has been teaching Sabra and me as we have traveled through the wilderness together. We have learned and been reassured again and again that God and His Word are absolutely true and can be trusted. And He does the same for every husband and wife as they journey through life with the Lord.
So, as you travel the long road of marriage together, with its celebrations and its struggles, remember to cling to God’s promise in Romans 8:28: “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.” God’s goodness works all of it for good as we trust and follow Him.
Questions for Discussion
♦ Discuss this week’s teaching together. How did God speak to each of you and to your marriage?
♦ Are you going through a difficult time right now? Discuss together what God is teaching you. What Scriptures are an encouragement to you? Pray together and ask God to show you what He wants to teach you. Ask Him to keep you faithful to Him and each other as you go through it.
♦ Discuss whether you are trusting God whatever is going on in your life. Are there areas in which you are struggling with doubt? Is faith or fear controlling you right now?
♦ Close your time together in prayer. Thank God for the times He has been with you in the past, and for the things He has taught you. Ask Him to help you to continue to learn and grow in your walk with Him and your service to Him through whatever life brings.
Monty Williams is an assistant coach with the NBA professional Oklahoma City basketball team. His wife of 20 years, Ingrid, was killed in a car accident last month. His tribute to her expresses beautifully what a Christ-centered marriage means in our lives. The video of this tribute is only about seven minutes long, and I think it will bless you if you have not heard it. Here is the link: Word of Thanks.
Next week, I want to discuss more about the importance of our marriages as we go through this long way here on earth.
Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways.