Suffering with hope, Together Through the Storms

Our Hope In Life and Marriage

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Together Through the Storms

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CHAPTER 1

Our Hope in Life and Marriage

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42 v 2, 5-6)

Who are we to write a book on marriage? We have a far-from-perfect marriage—and some days, it doesn’t even reach that yardstick!

Those were the first things that came to mind when we thought of writing this book. Yet as we continued to pray, we realized that what we wanted to write about was not our own sufficiency or wisdom but the goodness, faithfulness, and sufficiency of Christ when everything in life—including your marriage—is being tested and tried.

So our approach toward this book will look different than many marriage books. Our aim is not to offer a “how to” guide on having the best marriage but rather to walk alongside of you and your spouse, sharing the realities of suffering and the effects it can have on marriage, but then lifting our eyes above our trials, off of our spouse, and onto our all-sufficient Savior.

If you and your spouse are in a different place spiritually right now—or maybe even on a different planet—here’s the good news: Your relationship with Christ and your ability to honor him are not dependent on your spouse. Quite the opposite, actually: your relationship with your spouse is dependent on your relationship with Christ.

So that is where we must begin and where we must keep our eyes fixed as we navigate the storms of this life and the pressures they place on our marriages. Our hope needs to be not in our marriage—in what it is, or was, or may one day become—but in Christ alone. And the wonderful truth that we’ve learned is that when our hope is in Christ, there is always hope for every marriage.

 

LEARNING FROM JOB

Because of the nature and length of the trials we have experienced since the beginning of our marriage 16 years ago, we have often taken comfort from the life of Job, and it’s his life that provides the framework for this book. If Job teaches us anything, it is that there is more to suffering than meets the eye. We’ll see that in Job chapter 1—but before we get there, we’re going to begin at the end of the book.

Job knew trials. He lost his livestock, camels, and servants (in other words, his wealth and his livelihood); he lost every one of his ten children in a single day; he was struck with horrific sores from head to toe; and, as if that weren’t enough, his friends were convinced he had brought it all upon himself.

Understandably, Job’s suffering was so crushing that he longed for death and pleaded with God to make known the cosmic reason behind his torment (Job 23). And yet, after wrestling with his friends’ accusations, his unrelenting misery, and, finally, with God himself, Job came to this conclusion:

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted … I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. (Job 42 v 1, 5)
Job’s life ended with an amazing picture of redemption, restoration, and healing (including wealth, children, and friendships). We aren’t promised a “happily ever after” in an earthly sense, but all those who follow the risen Jesus are promised an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1 v 4).

Yet our hope isn’t only in the eternal happiness and healing to come, but in the blessing of experiencing what Job did—of seeing and knowing our God more, even in—especially in—our darkest days. It was in the midst of his deepest suffering, and not after it, that Job came to see God—to know him, to experience him, to marvel at him. Through what was—to him—inexplicable suffering, he came to grasp “the greatness, majesty, sovereignty, and independence of God” (John MacArthur Study Bible, notes on Job 42 v 6).

Our prayer is that as we press on with a future hope of better days to come, we will not miss the life-changing blessings that Christ has in store for us right in the midst of our suffering.

WHY WE NEED JESUS

So this is where it starts, as it did for Job: we need not only to know about Jesus, but to know that we need Jesus.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But… (Ephesians 2 v 1-4a)

Saved and loved we may be, but we still sin. So, despite the “perfect-marriage face” most people put on each Sunday morning and when they’re with friends, our marriages are going to be sites of struggle as well as joy, because all our marriages are made up of two sinners. Tension and problems will blow up on good days—and when storms come to two sinners in the same boat, we’re often more tempted to push each other off the boat than help each other bail out water.

So, whatever else happens to us, we need to cling to the “But” at the start of verse 4:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2 v 4-10)

Hard as it is to remember this when the storms hit, our suffering is never our greatest problem—our sin is. And our sin is what God has dealt with, fully and finally, through the sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel—the hope we have not only for eternal salvation, but for each and every moment of our lives.

 

This is what Job realized—that most of all he needed to see and trust God—the God who was far greater than him, whose plans were far beyond him, and whose designs for him were far better than his finite mind could understand.

It’s this—seeing God and our need of him—that makes our marriages into stable vessels, able to withstand storms even as we are being tossed about by them. If, as you read this, you feel hopeless—about your inability to change your own heart and love your spouse in the way God calls you to, or your inability to forgive and move forwards, or your inability to withstand everything that life, or God, is throwing at you as a couple right now—we want to encourage you to bring your disappointments and hurts and inabilities to Jesus. By faith, ask Jesus to open the eyes of your heart to see him more clearly and know his life-changing power.

A FUTURE-LOOKING HOPE

We recently heard one of our former pastors, Bev Savage, give a powerful testimony of God’s faithfulness amid the many heartbreaking circumstances throughout his life. He reflected on his experience of walking toward Michelangelo’s famous statue of David in the Accademia Gallery in Flor- ence, Italy. As you walk toward David, you walk past strik- ing, partially finished sculptures known as Michelangelo’s Prisoners. As one site describes it:

“All the unfinished statues at the Accademia reveal Michelangelo’s approach and concept of carving. Michelangelo believed the sculptor was a tool of God, not creating but simply revealing the powerful figures already contained in the marble. Michelangelo’s task was only to chip away the excess, to reveal.” (www.accademia.org/explore-museum/artworks/michelangelos-prisoners-slaves)

“This striking image,” Bev noted, “often comes to mind as I think of God as our sovereign Sculptor, little by little chiseling his children into the image of his Son. Rather than thinking, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I think, ‘What excess is he chipping off of me in order to reveal more of Jesus?’”

Though the blows are often painful and it’s hard to see their purpose, we can trust the hand of our Almighty Sculptor, who promises that he is using each painful strike of his chisel to accomplish his loving eternal purposes and reveal more of the image of Christ within us.

If it were up to us, we would stay a comfortable, shapeless block of marble! But our heavenly Father loves us too much to keep us as we are. For we are God’s workmanship; having saved us through Christ, he chisels us into Christ-shaped people (Ephesians 2 v 10). And it’s clear to us, looking back, that one of God’s chisels is our marriage. He’s used it to chip away, to reshape, and to refine—and that’s often painful but always good. And we know he’s not done yet!

If Jesus is Lord of your life, then let this be your perspective on the marriage he has given you and the storms he is leading you through. Nothing in your life—no grievous losses, no perplexing circumstance, no marital struggles— will fall to the ground as useless. Every moment of them is chipping away, gradually revealing more and more the glori- ous image of Christ.

Christian, one day we will stand in glory, and our eyes really will see Jesus. Sin, suffering, and struggle will be no more, and we will look back in awe and amazement and comprehension at all that seemed so confusing and devastating. What joy we will have when our faith becomes sight and we see how the kind and skilled hand of our heavenly Father chose us as his own, and faithfully worked to reveal in us the image of his Son—for his glory and our eternal joy in his presence.

REFLECT

  • Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If not how might the truth of the gospel change your sense of hope, both for today and eternity? If you’re a Christian, how does the gospel change your suffering and your perspective on marriage even when challenges arise?
  • What do you hope to take from this book? In what ways do you think you most need God to help you or change you as an individual?
  • (Together, if possible) What trials are putting pressure on your marriage? Do you believe that Christ can use these trials for the good of your marriage? Why/why not? How have you seen him chisel each of you to make you more like Jesus?

    PRAY

    Lord, thank you that nothing in my life is hopeless because you laid down your life for me, offering forgiveness, freedom, and eternity with yourself. You see my sufferings and know the hidden places of my heart and marriage that need to be renewed, healed, and redeemed. Help me trust that you have purposes beyond what I can see and that nothing is impossible for you. Help me lay down what I think is best and submit my desires for my life, family, and marriage to you. I believe that you are worth following, no matter the cost, but help me believe this more deeply. Thank you for your grace and forgiveness when I live in fear instead of faith, selfishness instead of sacrificial love, and pride instead of humility before you and others. In the weeks ahead, open my eyes to the truth of your word, and chisel what you must to reveal more of your image within me. Amen.

For further meditation: Psalm 130; 1 Corinthians 1 v 26-31; Ephesians 1 v 16-21; Hebrews 12 v 1-2, 3-13.

This sample chapter is taken from Together Through the Storms: Biblical Encouragements for Your Marriage When Life Hurts. To read more, you can order the book at Amazon, Thegoodbook.com, or many other retailers (Hardback, Audio – read by the authors, Kindle, or Audio CD). If you purchase 3 or more to give away to those in need, email Togetherthroughthestorms@gmail.com with proof of purchase and we will mail you a free copy!

@COPYRIGHT  – THEGOODBOOKCOMPANY 

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