“I, Beth, take you Dan, to be my husband, to have and behold from this day on, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.”
Looking back, twenty-five years ago as I stood at the altar and declared my vows to my soon to be husband, I must admit I was a bit naive…
…for better or for worse
…for richer or poorer
…in sickness and health
Sure I meant every word but honestly I really did not think that much of the “worse, poorer or sickness” would come our way. I lived in youthful blissful ignorance that we would sail through life, with the Lord on our side, never really having to experience much in the way of hardship. Call it positive thinking, denial or innocence of youth….any way you look at it we were certainly not prepared for a life that included sickness, poverty or “worse” case scenarios. And yet our 25 years have included many such hardships that could have rocked our world, damaged or even destroyed our relationship.
While we realize, by the grace of God, we have not had to walk through some of the truly tragic or extremely unbearable things that could have come or way (and now that we are older and wiser we are well aware still could be in our future, God forbid) — we have not experienced the devastating loss of a precious child, life controlling addictions, infertility, total financial destitution, loss of all our material possessions through fire or flood, physical or mental incapacitation, depression or mental health sinkholes, physical separation for years on end, infidelity or trouble with the law — but we have experienced many “worse, poorer and sicker” times over these past 25 years:
- our closest and dearest friends who forsook their own wedding vows early in our marriage, leaving us shaken, uncertain and even fearful that a marriage, even between believers, could not go the distance
- debilitating sickness for each and every pregnancy (yes I literally threw up…and subsequently Dan cleaned up for over 1,800 days or 5 years of our married life) which led to much dependence on others, bed rest and even depression
- ultimate betrayal by people we trusted with everything who turned their backs on us and tried to destroy our lives
- having a child be diagnosed with a life long disease that ultimately affects everything in her life and living daily with the knowledge that this could cut her time here short
- the death of a beloved parent and the grief that grips and consumes you during a season of life
- walking through the ugliness, shock, disbelief and financial devastation of being fired from a job that you poured your heart and soul into for over a decade for refusing to mislead others through deception
- sitting in the ER while the doctor tells you that you are “very lucky” that your child is alive after a forseeable avoidable accident
- ridicule, unkind and hurtful words spoken to us often by others both friends and family members as well as strangers for our choices concerning our family size, our lack of financial resources and our decision to stay in full-time ministry to youth despite the lack of a livable wage, benefits or retirement
- standing in a hospital while the doctor shakes their head and declares your baby girl a “treatment failure” and says that she may not pull through this massive staph infection…and a few years later walking through the same scenario yet again with another child.
- and living much of our married lives in the “for poorer” column…with no financial security, where the money more often runs out before the month does and dealing with the daily stress that the lack of finances can put on a marriage
Yes, we have had our moments of major hardships as well as the daily disturbances that come when two people live together with opposite personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, opinions and of course the basic tendency towards selfishness that we all have living beneath our soul.
All of these things have put great strain on many a marriage leading to unhappiness, discouragement and discontent. These hardships have also been the primary cause for far too many divorces. I think everyone would agree that the dissolution of a marriage that started out with so much hope and promises to love, honor and cherish “til death do us part” is sad, disconcerting and simply tragic for all who have to live with the consequences of divorce. We would all like to see the fairytale ending of “they lived happily ever after” for ourselves and everyone around us.
Having reached a major milestone in our marriage of 25 years (after some research I have discovered that over 43% of my peers who were married in the 80’s have since divorced), many people exclaim…”What an accomplishment!” or ask with great interest…”Wow, how did you do it?”
Well let me tell you that, while it has helped to have some really strong foundations that statistically predicted a life long marriage like these listed here, they were not enough:
- We got married in our mid 20’s (I was 24, Dan was 26) and were college educated (both things that appear to contribute to a much lower chance of divorce)
- We shared a common faith and were regular church attenders (it is true there is a lower divorce rate among couples who attend services weekly)
- We both had parents who were in life long committed marriages (Dan’s parents just celebrated 55 years and my parents were married 35 years before my Dad’s untimely death)
- We had a solid, non romantic friendship for many years prior to committing to an exclusive relationship. This friendship was based on common interests, enjoying conversation and companionship, shared friendships and similar goals
- We did not live together (or for that matter be intimate) prior to marriage (it is a fact that couples who co-habitate prior to marriage have a higher probability of being divorced…makes you scratch your head and wonder why so many do this?)
And I would love to be able to say our commitment to a life long marriage and our ability to overcome the pitfalls that many succumb to is because we were so crazy in love with one another ’round the clock, day in and day out, year after year or that we somehow found a “mystical magical” soul mate that so many people believe is the key to a succesful marriage. And wouldn’t it be great to be married to someone who met your every need (without you even asking), was never cross, angry, mean or tired and better yet was a physical specimen, a beauty who made your heart melt every time you laid eyes on them?
But in reality, while I am the first to admit that I got a really “sweet deal” on one amazing godly husband 25 years ago – who to this day is my very best friend, my beloved and still the one who makes heart melt – even that is not what has made our marriage go the distance nor is it what will make it last the next 25 years.
Here is the bottom line truth. It is because we both love Jesus, first and foremost in our lives! We have both committed to love Him….no matter what. No matter what hardship we might experience in this life, no matter what tragedy, no matter if we lose everything or if the whole world falls apart around us…we will not forsake our Lord Jesus Christ who loves us with a perfect, unconditional, no strings attached love that manifested itself in giving up His very own life for our eternal salvation! And because of that promise to love and stay committed to the Lord…our marriage will last a lifetime and the love we have for Jesus will spill over to one another and bring us great joy and fulfillment in life.
If you are in a marriage that is struggling to make it right now…I would greatly encourage you to fall in love and commit to serving Jesus first and foremost while praying that your spouse would do the same. Do not give up! Do not quit! You will reap amazing blessings if you stay the course. And while you are waiting for the miracle in your marriage allow Jesus to meet all of your needs for love and compionship. Jesus is enough!
If you are a single young person…make your relationship with the Lord the number one priority in your life, seek Him with all of your heart and develop a “no matter what” commitment to Him. Jesus is enough! And if He chooses to make you one in marriage with another believer you will be blessed beyond all you can imagine with the fulfillment of a Christlike marriage. And if He chooses to have you remain single for a season or a lifetime….He is enough!
If you are married and “making it”…be diligent to always keep Jesus at the center of your relationship…pray together often, encourage one another in the Word, be faithful to your local church. As my dear friend and minister Donnie Moore shared at our 25th anniversary celebration service…”Your spouse was made to compliment you, not complete you. Only the Lord can complete you”. Let Him be your completion in this life and in your marriage. Jesus is enough!
As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we would love to pray for any of you – those in a season of singleness who want Jesus to be everything, those in marriages that are in crisis and need a miracle, or those who perhaps have strong marriages but want Jesus to be a greater presence in their lives. Drop us a note, message or comment and you can count on our prayers!