In Faith, Marriage & Love on
10 October, 2016

When Marriage is Less Than Perfect

Matt and Jen Preview-30

when-marriage-is-less-than-perfect

I thought I had it all figured out. Before I started dating, I thought finding a spouse was a simple process. I had read a ton of Christian dating books, so I figured all I had to do was guard my heart and make sure I found a guy who loved both God and me, and I would find my “Happily Ever After.” After all, I was pretty sure God wanted me to be happy.

But things got pretty messy for me a few years later. I got my heart broken, and suddenly the whole dating thing wasn’t so simple anymore. Through the pain, however, I found healing for my brokenness as I found my identity in Christ. I truly began to bloom. And after a few years of painful yet blissful singleness, I was ready to dive back into the dating world.

I thought, “Okay, I got my heart broken once and it ended up being good for me, even though it was hard. Now, all I have to do this time around is not be so stupid and naive! I’ll find a better guy and get it right this time.” And I am thankful to say, despite my silliness in thinking I could control my life, the next man I dated became my husband.

But that’s not the end of the story. I’m not going to stop here and tell you we lived “Happily Ever After.” Because guess what? I’m a sinner. And I married a sinner.

I’m only 18 months into this new stage of life, and I cannot begin to tell you how marriage has exposed the sin in both of our messy, selfish hearts. To be honest, when things get hard, I’m tempted to get angry and think, “God, how can you let this happen? I married an amazing guy. We were supposed to have a perfect and godly marriage! We didn’t have sex before we got married. We didn’t even kiss until we got engaged! We prayed together often and we tried our best to honor you. So why is this so hard?!”

You see, I’m tempted to live under a false impression that if I live my life in a way that pleases God, he will reward me by giving me what I want. And what I want most is a peaceful marriage with few quarrels and definitely no major issues.

But if I keep that mindset, I’m pretty much asking for perfection, and God will never give me that. And if I live as though he should  give me that, I will never have a joyful marriage. I will slam the door behind me every time my husband upsets me. I will close off my heart to both him and God because neither one of them are acting the way I want them to. I will become blind to my own sin. And I will let bitterness seep into my heart and destroy anything good left inside me. And how awful that would be.

While I may never know exactly why God chooses to do things the way he does, I do know that he is more interested in changing me than in changing my circumstances. I know this because he loves me and wants to make me more like Christ. So here are three things I want to share with you to encourage you if you are or ever have been in my place.

You are not alone in your struggles

If you’re married right now and it hasn’t turned out to be as easy as you imagined, please know you’re not alone. I don’t know about you, but I am so tempted to see the happy social media posts of other young married couples and think that something is wrong with me and my husband because we don’t always get along. But, as a friend once told me, you can’t compare your behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. It will only cause bitterness and unhappiness.

Your struggles are nothing new to God

One of my favorite novels of all time is Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which was published nearly 150 years ago. The novel follows the stories of several fictitious Russian families, one of whom is a newly married couple, Kitty and Levin, who are navigating their way through the early years of marriage. I love their relationship because it underscores both fallible humanity and true faith. Kitty and Levin have a far from perfect marriage, but they fight for it. While all the other men in the book drift away from their wives, Levin is constantly searching for something more to life than that. He eventually finds the answer when he puts his faith in God.

But the novel also follows the story of a couple in a very broken marriage, Anna and Alexey. Anna is so consumed with fulfilling her fleshly desires that she is unfaithful to her husband. And even in her unfaithfulness, which she is convinced will make her happy, she cannot find peace. She comforts herself by saying things like, “But what could I do! I am not to blame.”  She, unlike Levin, does not find refuge for her misery and her ending is tragic. As you can see, marital troubles are nothing new in 2016. They’ve been happening for many, many years.

Your struggles have a purpose

I don’t know about you, but I would rather be like Kitty and Levin than Anna and Alexey. But your life and my life are not works of fiction. This is real life. We have real marriages with real struggles. And the only way we can be successful in our marriages is if we put our hope in God and fight our sin with all we have. Romans 8:28-29a is quoted often, but I believe there’s a reason for that. It says, “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

So right now, in this moment, although the pain can be excruciating, please know that this situation IS for your good. Because you love God. Because loves you. And you WILL get through this if you trust in him. I pray you find hope and peace and comfort in that today.

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12 Comments

  • thegirlfromtheotherside

    My sweet daughter, you speak words of truth and wisdom gleaned from the hard things in life. That will hold you and keep you safe in the lords hand. Thank you for sharing your heart with so many people who need to hear truth. Beauty rises from the ashes of our life if we allow the lord to work in it.

    10 October, 2016 at 8:29 am Reply
  • Nancy Spalding

    Great insight on marriage and faith. Thank you!

    I have seen so many times that the people who do all the happy couple, wonderful wife/husband, perfect life posts are the ones who are struggling the most – trying to convince themselves that all is good.

    10 October, 2016 at 11:07 am Reply
    • Jennifer Hope

      Thank you so much, Nancy! And yes, I have to remind myself that what I see on social media is not always true – and when I see a couple that I am tempted to feel jealous of, I should even go as far as to pray for them because they have their own struggles!

      12 October, 2016 at 9:04 am Reply
  • Lauren White

    That Romans quote speaks volumes! Such a well written post — I find myself looking at the “perfect” images of couples on Insta and have come to the realization that I’m glad my marriage isn’t perfect — we meet each other halfway and work together on compromises and dealing with the struggles we sometimes face.

    10 October, 2016 at 11:23 am Reply
  • Ruth Klein

    Jennifer, you have a great perspective because marriage is a daily renewal with your mate. Just like we need to daily renew our relationship with God, the same is necessary in marriage. And, we’ll be married 30 years in just a few weeks.

    Keep working on and growing together in your marriage. Don’t let the fantasies of this world cloud your focus.

    10 October, 2016 at 1:03 pm Reply
    • Jennifer Hope

      Hi Ruth, Thank you so much for the sweet comment and for your encouragement!

      12 October, 2016 at 9:03 am Reply
  • ordinarilyextraordinarymom

    What a beautiful post. Thanks for your openness as well as your insight. God never promises perfect. He only promises peace. I needed this.

    10 October, 2016 at 6:28 pm Reply
    • Jennifer Hope

      Thanks so much!! So glad to hear you were encouraged.

      12 October, 2016 at 9:09 am Reply
  • Amy

    I can’t tell you how much this convicted me, Jen. As you begin talking about us battling our sin, I can tell you becoming a wife and then a mother has truly transformed my heart. God has opened my eyes to become more loving, appreciative, respectful, patient, and a constant giver of grace.
    Next month will be my 5 year anniversary and I can tell you that we wouldn’t have lasted without the Lord.
    I’m so so glad that you shared your heart and your marriage. We have a lot more in common than I thought 😉 I waited too.
    Keep it up girl!

    10 October, 2016 at 11:49 pm Reply
    • Jennifer Hope

      Awww, Amy!! Happy almost anniversary, friend! Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts on my post! Yes – we have so much in common! So thankful that I know you!! 🙂

      12 October, 2016 at 9:21 am Reply

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