Recently, my husband and I experienced our first family bereavement since our marriage: his beloved grandfather passed away after a short and serious illness. In the same period, I faced an enduring period of poor health, and another family member was given a devastating prognosis. The beginning of this year has been a trying time for us as a couple!

We have been married for almost three years, and in that time have enjoyed a fairly stress-free, joyful period of life. There have been changes in work, some minor illnesses and other stressors, but this was the first time when things really felt like they were crashing down around us.

Marriage hands

PICTURE: Rachael Crowe/Unsplash

But we are making it through. We are supporting each other, we are honest and kind to each other even amidst grief and stress, and we are working towards regaining a sense of normality and happiness once again, though there is, of course, lingering sadness over our loss.

This whole experience has made me realise just how important it is that we continue to invest as much as we can into our marriage in the good times of life, so that when bad times come we can face them without completely crumbling under the pressure.

We are not perfect. We argue sometimes, we can be selfish, we annoy each other occasionally. But overall, this recent experienced proved to me that we are strong. In God’s grace, He has enabled us to grow together and reach a point where our roots are deep and no storm can shake our relationship.

How did we reach this point? I think it comes down to two things, which may seem contradictory but which actually work together beautifully in a Christian marriage:

1. Surrender
Marriage is a unique relationship, unlike anything else. In binding myself to my husband, I have become closer to him than I will ever be to another person. His grief is my grief. His joy is my joy.

I used to think of myself as a fiercely independent person, a woman who didn’t need no man! And, of course, I would survive without my husband, because ultimately the only thing I need is God. But my husband and I have chosen to surrender ourselves to each other fully.

When God created marriage way back at the beginning of the world, this surrender was part of His plan. Genesis 2:24 reads: "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh."

We are trying to take the “one flesh” part of marriage seriously, and it’s working. It sometimes seems ridiculous to me that we are actually still two distinct people, because our lives and our futures are now so intertwined!

I believe that’s a key part of why we’ve been able to withstand difficulty: we’ve thrown ourselves into the connectedness of marriage, not resisted it. So when the storms come, it’s easier to face them together. It’s much harder to tip over a chair with four legs than a ladder with two!

2. Perspective
Now having said all that, my husband is not God! As amazing as I think he is, he doesn’t even come close to my Creator and Saviour. Obviously, I’m not God either! Though we love each other and depend on each other, we also recognise that we cannot give each other everything we need.  

As David puts it in Psalm 16:2, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’”

Keeping this idea in mind has allowed us to face the tough times in life with patience, grace and compassion. When I am frustrated about feeling unwell and I take it out on my husband, he may be saddened but he doesn’t feel completely let down, because he knows I’m not perfect – and that’s OK! We keep each other in perspective. Only God is perfect, and remembering that helps us to face each other in tough circumstances without feeling completely disappointed by our weaknesses and failings. 

Now that we know what it’s like to endure a seriously trying time together, my husband and I will continue investing in the strength of our marriage by surrendering to each other, and keeping each other in perspective. I pray that your marriage may also be strengthened by these things.