Marriage: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Norman Rockwell

Words of LIFE - Weekly Devotional

Marriage: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Mark Gungor

"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1b

Great marriages take courage. Whether your marriage is good, bad, or just plain ugly, there is always hope to make it great. But great does not come easily. It takes courage.

When we think of courage, we generally think of a person diving into an icy pond to save a friend or the soldier on the frontlines a battle. Most of us don't think of courage when it comes to facing our everyday stuff such as our marriage or raising kids. But it takes great courage to build relational intimacy, which is the oxygen of a marriage. It takes an enormous amount of courage to say, "This marriage is in trouble and we need to do something about it." It is much easier to put your troubles on the back burner, engage in the rough-and-tumble of life, and hope things will sort of work themselves out. Running from problems is always easier than solving them. But courage is willing to put on the gloves and say, "Let's fight for this marriage."

It takes courage to work through all layers of "stuff" we haul around, from masks to defense mechanisms to the select relational cover-ups we’ve mastered over the years. It takes guts to face yourself, to say to your spouse, "This is me. I know I'm wrong and I'm not proud of it."

Great marriages take discipline. When you look at successful people, you will find one thing in every case: it takes discipline to become successful at anything. Failure, for the most part, is due to people letting things slide. There is a lack of discipline. In his book The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck writes, "Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasures of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with." Discipline is simply a commitment to get the pain out of the way first.

Here is a practical idea: Don't go to bed mad. It was the apostle Paul who wrote, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." (Ephesians 4:26) Decide in advance (a secret to being disciplined) that whenever you get into a spat, you will at least quash the negative emotions associated with the argument. And do it before you fall asleep (this will make for some long nights). You might not get the issue resolved, but you at least get past the hurt of disagreement.

Great marriages take endurance. Endurance refuses to cash in -- it pushes past quitting points. We live in a culture where we have come to expect things instantly. We like fast diets, overnight success, rapid fitness, and a 100-yard-dash to marital bliss. If we don't experience what we want in a reasonable amount of time -- say, in a day or two -- we think something is wrong. Those of us over 50 were once called the "now generation." We were pretty well-known for easily quitting things before the reward showed up -- jobs, educational paths, relationships, pretty much anything complex. Why? It couldn't be had, now. Sadly, the generations that follow expect no less.

Marriage is a marathon. Sprints and marathons are two distinct and different races. In a sprint, one of the most critical elements is the start. On the other hand, the start of a marathon is not important at all. It’s the endurance.

I never cease to be amazed at how many struggling couples point to the start as the reason for their struggles. "We were too young." "We've known each other for a long." "We didn't have enough money." They are convinced that the poor start is the reason for their troubles, but they are wrong. It is not the start that leads to a failed marriage, but the unwillingness to endure the race.

You don't do marathons quickly. You have to spread out your energy over time. Endurance is what empowers a couple over the long haul. It will enable you to push through all familiar conflict zones for the 10,000th time without quitting; you just keep going and going. Scripture urges, "Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in.” (Hebrews 12:2) Study how He did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed -- that exhilarating finish in and with God -- he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. That's endurance. It makes marriages last.

This Week
Commit to a marathon in your marriage. If you are not married, save this devotional until that day arrives or forward it to someone who will benefit from the Biblical principles of a lasting, fulfilling marital relationship.

“Lord, help me to develop courage, discipline and endurance in my relationship with You, then carry it over to my marriage and other important relationships in my life.”

Mark Gungor is the senior pastor of Celebration Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He joins James and Betty this Monday and Tuesday on LIFE Today.

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