We watched through the window as news cameras swarmed and helicopters hovered above our children’s school. What in the world could be going on?!
Then the email hit our inbox: “Two families in school have been asked to quarantine themselves because of possible exposure to COVID-19.” Out of all of Illinois, our hospital, our town, and our school were one of the first to make the news.
What we thought would quickly blow over has now turned into weeks of enforced quarantine, changed vacation plans, a sudden stop to my husband’s job search while we go without income, and homeschooling our four children for the foreseeable future.
It didn’t take long for the pressure, anxieties, and fears to arise within our marriage. How will we manage if companies cease hiring? Will we have access to our family’s medications? How will we homeschool when this next month is already filled with other obligations?
Trials—from small annoyances to seasons of deep suffering—will test every marriage. But not every marriage will be shaped by them in the same way. The mark these trials leave on us ultimately depends on our response when they come.
As we all navigate uncharted waters—with plans, routines, and expectations being turned on their head—it’s important that we acknowledge the temptations and challenges that will naturally arise in our marriages if we aren’t proactively reminding ourselves of the truth. Here are three key truths to remember in the days ahead.
1. Your Spouse Is Not Your Enemy
In times of trial, and because each spouse processes situations differently, it’s all too easy to take out our frustrations and anxieties on one another. In hard times, minor annoyances are suddenly magnified.
Instead of coming together as a united front, spouses are tempted to retreat into our own little worlds or turn against each other in our pain and fear (sometimes over the most minor things), all while an invisible (but real) Enemy is hard at work to destroy our marriage, turn us against the Lord, and rob us of the gold God wants to refine in us as we trust him.
It’s easy in the midst of pain or disappointment to give little attention to the spiritual battle being waged, and too much attention to battling each other. Satan wants to convince you to rely on your own resources and turn against the Lord in these uncertain days. And he wants to persuade you to turn against your spouse in the process.
Instead, let’s fight the temptation to turn against each other by being honest with each other about what we’re struggling with. Then take time each day to read God’s Word and remember that you’re on the same team, fighting the same spiritual enemies, united by the same Christ.
2. God Sets the Boundaries
When we’re snapping at our spouse or our children, we need to stop and ask ourselves: What is at the root of my sinful reactions right now? Am I getting frustrated with my husband or wife because I’ve put my security and hope in them more than the Lord? Am I annoyed with my children because their being home is interrupting my normal routine? Am I taking my fears out on those closest to me because it’s simply easier than bringing my fears and anxieties to Christ and my spouse in humility?
If so, we need to remind ourselves that these circumstances we face, both globally and personally, are not out of our sovereign Lord’s hands. This truth can bring peace when circumstances seem chaotic and trials feel unending. Though we may not understand God’s ways, we can be confident that all things are within the good and sovereign bounds of our heavenly Father. And he wants these circumstances to draw us to him in deeper reliance and trust.
As Charles Spurgeon wrote:
The Lord, the ever merciful, has appointed every moment of sorrow and every pang of suffering. If he ordains the number ten, it can never rise to eleven, nor should you desire that it shrink to nine. The Lord’s time is best. The span of your life is measured to a hair’s width. Restless soul, God ordains all, so let the Lord have his way.
Hard though it is, we too can—and must—trust that everything is within the wise bounds of our good and sovereign Lord. Instead of our fears, stress, and anxieties creating tension in our marriages, peace and rest will grow as we remind ourselves that we can trust the One who has control.
3. God Can Grow Us Right Here
When we’re faced with difficult days and our marriages are squeezed in confined quarters, remember that God’s grace is sufficient for each day. We can either look at what we can see—or we can lift our eyes to a hope beyond what we can see. And every day, we can look to the cross.
The cross was the darkest moment in history, and it was God’s initiative. God allowed his only Son to give more, and lose more, than you or I can—the riches of heaven, the worship of angels, even his own life. If you want to see the moment of Satan’s greatest apparent triumph, look at the cross, where surely he smirked at the Son of God dying alone and in agony. And yet what looked like Satan’s greatest triumph was in fact his ultimate defeat.
It’s not hard to imagine Satan smirking today, tempting us to frantically grasp for control, snap at each other, and doubt God’s goodness in allowing COVID-19—only to discover these circumstances have drawn us closer to the Lord in dependence and trust, and grown our marriage and family to reflect more of Christ (Job 23:10).
In order to resist the Enemy’s lies, we need to be ready to play spiritual defense—namely, by drawing near to Christ through his Word. Over time, as our marriage becomes grounded more in his Word than in the circumstances around us, we and our marriage will gradually reflect his peace and joy, even as the storms around us rage.
In our own marriage, the Enemy has worked hard to knock us down, both individually and as a couple. At times, it’s appeared like he’s won. But as we look back, we see how God has not only carried us through but has also refined us, strengthened us, and brought us closer to him. May the same be true for you.
Jeff and Sarah Walton
You can now order Jeff and Sarah Walton’s forthcoming book, Together Through the Storms – Biblical Encouragements for Your Marriage When Life Hurts (Releases May 1st) here or on Amazon. Or you can order Sarah’s first book, Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Meditations to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering here. To hear more of their story, you can watch the book trailer here-
[This article originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition]