Love at a Distance
Most marital problems come down to this: you love yourself more than you love the other person.
My husband Gary and I have been married for twenty-one years, and will celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the day we met in just a few short weeks, on Valentine’s Day. When I share this with women, they almost always respond with smiles and a sweet, “Oh, that is so romantic.” Their smiles and cooing tend to disappear, however, when I share that he is an over-the-road truck driver, and that we have spent relatively little time together for most of the last twenty-two years. In 2018 our average time spent together each week was about 36 hours.
The trucking lifestyle is not for everyone, but I can honestly say that God has used it for His purposes. It is not easy to have a newborn baby, two toddlers at your feet, and watch your husband leave for a trip out of town. Nor is it fun to call your wife for words of comfort only to hear her complain, or learn that she forgot to pay a bill that you requested to be paid. Yet God has been full of grace and mercy to grant us determination to stick with it and honor Him in our vows and life. On occasion, Gary and I will reminisce about our lives together, and quite frankly we laugh in wonder as we just don’t know how we do this life sometimes.
Because of the influence of the surrounding culture, I can see why so many couples think divorce would be a solution to their marital issues. On the surface it seems logical for a couple to think they are not compatible, have outgrown each other, or even just made a mistake; but in reality, God is not interested in how compatible we think we are. He is interested in how well we present a picture of Christ and His bride, the Church. In Ephesians 5 the apostle Paul writes to the believers about marriage, then reveals, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church."
God is serious about marriage. He does not take the vows we make lightly. In Malachi 2, He takes the priests to task for divorcing their wives to marry younger women. God was so upset about this that He tells them their offerings are unacceptable (verses 13-14). Personally, I take this passage to heart. I do not want anything to make my offerings of praise, worship, or giving to God unacceptable.
In 1 Peter 3:7 we read this STUNNING verse: "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." Although he addresses men here, I do not want my prayers—or anyone else's—to be hindered because of the way I treat my spouse.
Gary recently made a job change, and I have struggled to feel at peace about my part as Gary’s wife. His time away has increased, and I have been feeling detached and uneasy in the marriage. Over the past few weeks, parts of a passage in James kept coming to mind as I pondered what I was feeling. I mentioned my struggle to a friend who was kind enough to help me explore my thoughts and pray with me about my marriage. Confirmation came two days later, as I was listening to a sermon in Malachi. Part of the teaching included the exact passage I had been thinking about:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1-3)
I have yet to figure out exactly what my problem is, but I can say that I have a biblical game plan to sort it out. When I am distressed about something in my marriage, I can be confident of several things:
- God loves me no matter what.
- God will never leave me.
- God loves Gary no matter what.
- God wants to help me and is working to change both Gary and me through our difficulties.
- God will use relational discomfort to show us our idols and to correct us.
The passage from James 4 also gives us a good foundation for marital problem-solving. Each time I feel confused, angry, mistreated, lonely, or sad I should not immediately blame Gary. Instead, I can have a biblical and loving plan:
- Submit to God (James 4:7).
- Resist the devil (James 4:7).
- Draw near to God (James 4:8).
- Confess/Repent (James 4:8, 5:16).
- Be humble and trust that God will lift me up (James 4:10).
After I have gone through this process, I can then approach my husband about any issue I need to discuss with him. This model can be applied to any relationship near or far. I am grateful to Jesus for showing us how to interact with others, especially since I am in a long-distance marriage.
Father, You are the creator of relationships. I love that You, the Creator of all, desire to be with us! I do not understand it, but I revel in it. Please help us as we negotiate all the relationships in our lives. Help us to come to You first and to build our lives according to Your ways.
In Jesus I ask. Amen