Brave Your Marriage
“You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now
The love that made the way”
As the sanctuary filled with a congregation of voices singing these words from Bethel’s song “You Make Me Brave,” I felt his fingers reach for mine.
It was his brave act of the day.
You see, we’d had a rough month, my husband Ted and I. In fact, you could say we felt a bit like Alexander. You know, the little boy who had the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Except ours dragged on and on and on for weeks.
While we hadn’t woken up one morning with gum in either of our hair or tripped on a skateboard before dropping any sweater in the sink, much like this literary poster boy for not-so-great days, we had one thing after another go wrong. Including a lousy car ride. If only our vehicle woes, like Alexander’s, could have been summed up by longings for a window seat.
Nope. Not ours.
Our troubles began with me and a dead car on a freeway off-ramp. Two hours from home and from Ted. In the middle of nowhere. Just me and our 8-year-old daughter and a car that had overheated itself to death.
What followed next was a series of frantic phone calls, a tow truck, a 30-minute $60 taxi ride, and a rental car. By the end of the day, I was physically, mentally, and emotionally beat.
Two days later, when we returned the rental car, we were over-charged. The over-charge demanding more than just our money. It cost us over an hour of time at the drop-off location along with tears of frustration as one of the managers attempted to pit Ted and me against each other. Both of us returned home exhausted.
It then took two weeks for the shop to even diagnose our car’s problem. And once they did? Well, the bill was enough to fund a weekend Disney World getaway for our family of six. Three weeks into the drama, we made the 2-hour trek to pick it up, only to find out 20 minutes after leaving the shop that the problem which had left me stranded still existed. Once again, our car needed a Mater-like lift back to the shop. Defeated, we drove home with one less car than we’d planned.
This was only the beginning, though.
On the heels of the rental car fiasco, came a stomach virus. And Ted’s blood pressure – an issue his doctor had been trying to manage for months – started inexplicably fluctuating again. The changes took both a physical and emotional toll on him. And us.
Yep, we had almost a month of what felt like terrible, horrible, no good, very bad … frustrations.
I wish I could say that Ted and I actively put into practice the words of James. The ones about “counting it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.” Instead, we both got grumpy with each other. Very.
Fights. Lots of little, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fights. Everything I’d written about in Team Us, we needed to go back and re-read ourselves. Yep, a communication sandwich or ten would have been helpful … if we’d only chosen to put the effort into making them.
But that morning, as we sang that song, Ted bravely reached across the frustrations and the grumpiness and the poor communication for my hand. Our relationship still strained, he put himself out there for rejection. Would I – his wife who wasn’t currently feeling connected with him – reach back? Or would I ignore his attempt? Would I shut him out?
As I felt his touch, I did reach back. I went against my feelings of hurt and irritation and disconnectedness and I interlocked my fingers with his. If Ted could be brave, I could be brave too.
Because if those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weeks reminded me of anything, it was this: my feelings are fickle. They aren’t reliable. Sure, they can be convincing when I’m stressed and tired and grumpy. Yep, they seem real in those moments when I look at Ted and think, “Hmm … I don’t really like you all that much right now.” But they aren’t really.
The Bible confirms this. In the Old Testament, we read as God – through the weeping prophet Jeremiah – told the people of Judah, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” How true this is. How much I need to be continually reminded of this truth about the heart. Ted’s heart. My heart.
You see, it’s in those moments when my feelings point me away from Ted, that I need to cling tightly to that promise I made for better and for worse. The promise that is weightier than dead cars and stomach viruses and weeks when we both could wear the shirt, “I’m with Grumpy.” It’s that promise that can and should trump my fickle feelings.
Every single time.
And here’s what’s interesting. I’m finding that when I do accept Ted’s hand – that is, when I respond with right action even if my feelings aren’t inclined to – that’s often the first step to reconciliation when we hit rough patches. Because my feelings? They’re fickle, remember? The funny thing about them is they’ll eventually follow where I choose to lead them. They’re good that way.
Maybe like Alexander, you’ve had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day recently. Or like Ted and me, a not-so-great month. Maybe it’s left you grumpy with your spouse too. If so, why not choose to be brave today? To reach across your own frustrations and take the other’s hand.
You may just find, like us, that with time, your feelings will soon remember how much you really do love each other, even like each other … bad days and all.
AshleighSlater.com and MarriageTogether.com
For practical ways to cultivate and strengthen unity in your marriage, check out my book, Team Us: Marriage Together. Also, take my fun quiz, What TV Couple Are You and Your Love Most Like?
Ashleigh Slater is the author of the book, Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). As the founder and editor of the webzine Ungrind and a regular contributor at several blogs, she unites the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage couples. She has almost 20 years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication. Ashleigh and her husband, Ted, have been married for more than a decade. They have four daughters and reside in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com.
Thank you… I needed to wake up and read this today.
Brianna, I’m glad it was timely for you.
Such a great post and so timely for me! My husband is exactly 4 weeks post op for his spinal fusion surgery. To say its been rough may be a bit of an understatement. This past weekend I felt like I had reached my limit and became grumpy…ok, maybe down right nasty. He’d already exceeded his grumpy quota quite a while ago and understandably so, but it is still difficult. 🙁 Thank you for this great reminder that I can reach out to my husband and move past my feelings of stress and resentment. He just needs to be loved right now and even if he isn’t in a place to reciprocate, eventually he will.
Kim, I’m so sorry you are going through this difficult season. I’m glad that my words could help encourage you in the midst of it and serve as a reminder to reach out to your husband. It isn’t always easy, but I’ve found it’s worth it.
Ashleigh isn’t it funny how a song can change the world in and around you. So glad your bad month can start healing. You two have an amazing love together that has withstood a lot more. Thank you for the encouragement and reminder of Me Too.
I totally needed to read this today. Thank you!
Betsy, so glad it was timely for you.
Thank you we needed this0
Kimberly, I’m glad it was timely for you also.
This was an absolutely wonderful post and I thank you for sharing it with us.
This line really stood out to me: “respond with right action even if my feelings aren’t inclined to”. How often my feelings are not inclined to! Thank you for the reminder to respond with “right” rather to react with wrong due to the hurt and anger.
Have a blessed day!
Thanks for commenting, Suzanne. It’s definitely something Ted and I are seeing more and more as important … and even vital … to marriage.
What a terrific article! I’ve been here many times in 21 years of marriage, and even though I don’t want to “be brave”, when I yield to the Holy Spirit it’s amazing how God blesses my obedience. Thanks for sharing your God-given talent for writing 🙂
Thanks for commenting, Woody! Congrats on 21 years of marriage!
This post couldn’t be better timed. We’ve had a horrible past couple of weeks, and just as the writer, that involves car troubles. We’re both incredibly stressed, angry, upset, and probably a little depressed about our situation, but we’re learning to praise our perfect God through even this stuff and to cling tightly to each other. And sometimes, my husband is braver than I am. Thank you for sharing!
Laura, I’m so sorry you’ve had some horrible weeks too. Praying for peace for you both as you cling to each other and to God.
Working on a family budget is stressful. We each feel we are giving up more than the other which can create tension and lots of grumpyness. Time to stop being selfish and reach for that hand. Thank you i needed this today.
Mina, I’m glad it’s encouraged you to reach for that hand.
What if your the only one making the effort or putting the hand out to “grumpy” and still not getting your emtional needs met but know its important to do that for your spouse and do so all the time because God commands us to do so. More so, your spouse has consistent excuses of why their needs are greater than your own thus is unable to provide or meet my needs. God says I am to pray for him and I have and do, God says I am to give him all my burdens, hurts, and pain but that never fulfills my emotional needs within my marriage with my spouse. The only thing that helps is if I stop caring about myself. Something tells me my father in heaven does not want that for me. But hey at least I am there for my spouse, right?
Praying for you and your marriage tonight, Andrea.
When we stop to realize that our reward comes from God and not from the one that we love, we see that our efforts to love the unloveable aren’t fruitless. We seek happiness, in the temporal. God offers everlasting joy and peace to those who put their trust in Him.
Andrea said, “The only thing that helps is if I stop caring about myself. Something tells me my father in heaven does not want that for me.”
Paul said, “It’s no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me.”
The Bible tells us that we will have trouble in this world and that we shouldn’t be surprised by the troubles we face. Peace and joy don’t come from another persons reaction to our efforts, it comes from faith in Jesus Christ.
People will always disappoint us. If we put our faith in them, or if our happiness depends on them we will be disappointed time and again.
I absolutely agree with you and have had troubles my entire life, most not my doing but if your surrounded by negativity its hard to wade through and be happy all the time even with God in your heart. Guess what i am human not a super hero. God made to feel and have emotions. If he just wanted me to be fake happy he would have made me that way. At this point all I want is to be free of this burden but know just like my other failed marriages if I leave then I will be letting my Father down. At this point I dont care for myself and would really like to get to heaven. My faith is in God and all my prayers for my husband to God are not working. I do expect to have a husband that will put me first instead of himself and his messed up relatives. That hasn’t happened and I have prayed and asked God for the strength I need to stay strong for my kids, he always answers that. But im left with being in a marriage that is not a marriage and definately not one God would want for me. I have made so many mistakes I do not want to make another and let down God. So your saying as long as I keep my faith and derive happiness from God then everything will all be ok? I dont know about you but I am human and have human relationships that effect me on daily basis. To say don’t let that effect your happiness is saying you don’t need really need oxygen to breathe you just think you do. God made man and woman to be as one. If one or the other isnt holding up their end of the deal then how can they be as one as God commands. Just have faith in God that in some miracle way it will happen? I get what your saying but sometimes God doesn’t want us sitting around pretending everything is ok and just be happy and have faith that it cuz he loves us. I think he wants action from us too. I know that regardless if I am married or not. I believe the Lord intended on us to have faith in our spouses and to definately derive happiness from them. But, yea I could be wrong.
I’m so sorry. It sounds like you are in a really tough spot and my heart goes out to you. I’m not trying to paint a PollyAnna picture for everyone, so I apologize if I came off that way. The truth is that some people are in tough circumstances that won’t change, ever, like for example the death of a spouse. Will everything be okay? Not necessarily, but I do believe that joy and peace are for everyone.
The apostles were persecuted, imprisoned and killed for their faith. And still Paul considered them conquerors,
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:36-39
When my dad was dying of cancer, he was 85 pounds at the most. His body was riddled with tumors and the pain was severe. Through it all, there wasn’t a single day he was gloomy.
I said to him, “Well, the Bible tells us to count it all joy when we are faced with trials.”
And he corrected me, “Not just joy,” he said. “be exceedingly glad.”
No, everything was not okay. But he was joyful because he had complete faith that God was at work behind the scenes in his life.
We shouldn’t have to pretend. The more that we grow in fellowship with God, the more we learn to trust Him in every situation.
It doesn’t mean that everything is working according to our expectation or terms. It means that we trust God with our lives.
You asked, “God made man and woman to be as one. If one or the other isn’t holding up their end of the deal then how can they be as one as God commands.”
This was the same concern that Jesus had just hours before his death. In the garden of Gethsemane He prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
When we are in unity we bring glory to God, but the fact is that we live in a fallen world where relationships are fractured every day. This is why the marriage covenant is so important.
But here’s the thing… in order to bring that unity where sinners are united with God, Jesus had to put aside His own happiness. He was put to death so that we could be united with God.
It’s because of His death that unity with the Father is possible.
The story would be sad if it just ended there. But it didn’t. Three days later He rose again and now He sits with His Father in Heaven.
Reading that was comforting even though the ship has already sailed in my relationship. Your husband is a blessed man. I got tired of trying to be the brave one for years on end. For years, it’s been a dead end emotionally, psychologically, physically, you name it. In the end, and against my genuine wishes and in contravention to the vows I made “for better or for worse” I’ve decided to jump ship. I’ve moved out. I hold no negative feelings towards her, but going back or trying to give it another go is not an option.
But reading about the sort of affirmative action that you took to reciprocate your husband’s approach tells me this world is not devoid of God-fearing, vow-honouring wonderful women such as yourself and your contributors in here.
Blessings to you and to anyone who genuinely seeks to brave the matrimonial storm. There will always be storms, but we can seek shelter and guidance under the umbrella and loving embrace of The Lord.
Tommy, I appreciate the time you’ve taken to comment.
What if you find that being brave just isn’t enough anymore? What if you find yourself questioning your entire marriage? When is it enough? Do I have to sacrifice everything to get nothing in return? When it is enough to finally feel like you can walk away?
Jessica, I encourage you to find a trusted, godly friend or counselor to confide in and ask for help from when it comes to your marriage.
I can honestly say this article couldn’t have been more timely! I must be braver in my marriage…Thank you for this article. Please know it is appreciated so, so much.
Elle, I’m glad it was timely for you.
I am not sure why we bring up the Jeremiah verse time and again when jesus lives on the inside of us. He is changing us every day for the better but I am not going to be fake. I believe God wants us to be truthful with our feelings after all He gave them to us. Then He can minister and heal where we are angry, hurt, etc.
Janet, I personally believe the Old Testament is still relevant for us as believers today. We can glean truth and guidance from it. And yes, while we are being changed, we aren’t perfected here on earth. And because we aren’t yet perfect, the feelings we experience aren’t either.
To clarify, I’m certainly not advocating being fake. That’s not what this article is about. I highly value and encourage authenticity. And within our marriage, Ted and I aren’t dishonest with each other about our feelings. We do talk about them and attempt to work through them. But we also realize that like everything else, the feelings God wired into us have been negatively affected by the Fall. As a result, like I mentioned, they aren’t perfect. We can’t always trust them. I have watched as friends have allowed following their feelings to destroy their marriages.
Because of this, what I am advocating is realizing that our feelings shouldn’t be the thing leading us. The thing that acts as the authority for our decisions. Instead, when we experience feelings that contradict promises we’ve made to God and our spouse, we should strive to respond with right action. Because the truth is, we can make the choice to take action to influence the way we feel.
I was studying about “the heart” last night. Such an interesting topic. The old testament (Jeremiah for example) often refers to the heart of man. What we often see in the New Testament is the use of the word “flesh.”
We learn from Paul’s letters how the flesh is constantly at war with the Spirit. We want to DO good, but our passions and our desires want to do what feels good.
We choose to hold on to bitterness and anger.
I know that Ashleigh is not talking about faking an emotion, she’s referring to an attitude of joy and thankfulness. She’s encouraging us to change our focus.
If we could only learn to turn our eyes off of ourselves and our problems and turn them onto the Lord, we would find our place of joy.
The apostles sang hymns while imprisoned. Countless people have given testimonies of the inner joy they’ve discovered in the worst of circumstances.
God knows we’ll be angry, but commands us, do not sin in your anger.
Its refreshing to read about your experience and know that there are still couple out there that can hold on and move past the hard times in their lives. But what if the husband is constantly lying. He has a problem but wont get help but he claims to love you. The trust is long gone but you still love him. Can God fix that? Or is it time to let go?
My husband wants a divorce a d is beyond the point of handholding, he has severed communication with me and forbids me to mention our marriage to him. He just wants a divorce in Novemeber regardless of God’s power to change etc. I so badly want to share some of what you wrote with hi. Every fiber of my being wants to email this to him, but like you said, I’m afraid of his response, I’m afraid of rejection. I am trusting God to do a miracle in our marriage and still through all my growth and God’s forgivness, my husband is still hardened toward me.
Keep on trusting and praying for a miracle. I’ll pray tonight too.
So timely to read this tonight. Thank you. We have a lot of baggage, have had some ups and downs. Now I am doing what feels like all the work to keep us on track. I get resentful over time that I am putting in all the effort in the hope that he will one day meet me part way. He is happy now, life is good for him. My feelings and needs have been ignored. It is pretty easy for him now, he gets what he needs with minimal effort so life is good. I am irritated tonight by some ongoing (12+ years) issues that he creates without regard for the impact on me, so reading this shifted me back. I will try again, push aside the anger, and focus on being brave. Thank you.
I loved to hear this. We have been arguing quite a bit lately. My husband has Bipolar. Our grumpy days are more than most. When his health is always the only thing that matters almost daily it can be crushing to my heart. When you reach out to a bipolar spouse they are often passive aggressive and push you away. It is heartbreaking and makes you feel unloved. I pray I will continue to try to be brave even if I am left standing alone most often than not.