Suffering in Marriage

Suffering in Marriage

Suffering in marriage is common. I’m honored to be posting over at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. Thank you, Sheila Wray Gregoire, for the opportunity! I hope you’ll check out all Sheila has to offer, and read the full post there.

Suffering in MarriageMarriage isn’t supposed to be about suffering, is it?

There may be a few marriages where everything goes smoothly and life is truly “happily ever after,” but truthfully I haven’t known any marriages like that. I considered my marriage very happy, happier than most, but it was not devoid of suffering. But it was actually those challenging aspects that brought me the greatest satisfaction and became the most valuable.

Suffering in marriage is a touchy subject. That idea may immediately bring up thoughts of abuse, control, manipulation, addiction, violence, and any number of other painful and destructive ideas. I just want to get this out of the way right now: those behaviors are never OK. Never. Period. End of story. If there is abuse, manipulation, or violence going on in your marriage, get some help now!

But there’s a whole other aspect to “suffering” that is much more common, perhaps universal.

As human beings we are basically selfish, and when two selfish people become joined in marriage there is certain to be suffering.

You are certain to be hurt if you get close enough to someone, and you are certain to hurt them also. And life has a way of bringing its own suffering in a thousand different ways. It’s not a matter of if, but of when. But it’s what you do next that really counts.

Suffering can crop up in many different ways. Your spouse wants sex when you don’t, or you want sex when your spouse doesn’t feel up to it – over and over again. Your spouse develops a serious illness. Your teenage child gets involved in drugs. Your baggage or your spouse’s baggage from your family of origin spills over into your life now. You’re forced to choose between a job you love and doing what’s best for your marriage or family.

Your suffering may be larger or smaller than someone else’s, but it feels really heavy – and probably unfair.

I hope you’ll check out the rest of this post over at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. There I talk about how to tell the difference between “good” suffering and “bad” suffering. I’d love to see your comments and questions.

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Raging Against Death: The End of the Story

Raging Against Death: The End of the Story

Bible with Dead LeafYou can handle a lot – for a while. You can handle separation from your sweetheart if you know you’ll be greeted with an embrace on your return in a few days. You can put up with a horrendous mess as your kitchen is being remodeled – for a couple weeks. You may be able to tolerate the grueling radiation or chemo for your cancer while you count down the six weeks until it ends. Knowing the end of the story makes things easier.

But what if you don’t know the end of the story? Jim Collins writes of his interview with Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was the highest-ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp during the Vietnam War. Tortured over twenty times times during his eight-year imprisonment, Stockdale was credited with helping other men deal with the torture, instituting an elaborate communication system among his fellow captives who were often held in solitary confinement, and exchanging secret intelligence information with his wife through their letters. When questioned about what allowed him to make it through that time with his sanity intact, he credited his ability to be both brutally honest about his present circumstances and at the same time confident that he and the others would get out and prevail in the end. He told Jim Collins,

This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. (Good to Great, p. 85)

Jim Stockdale was confident of the end of the story even though none of the circumstances around him provided evidence of such. That makes me think of our own circumstances – and of the end of the story that we are each a part of right now.

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Facing Grief at Easter

Facing Grief at Easter

I am the Resurrection and the LifeToday is Good Friday. Sunday is Easter. Is there a more important weekend in all of Christianity? The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith, our hope, our joy, indeed our entire existence. And it’s this weekend that we remember and celebrate that reality.

This weekend is especially poignant for me in the aftermath of my husband’s death just a few weeks ago. It brings death and life and eternity into a new kind of focus. What do I do with my grief at Easter? What does Easter have to say to me in the midst of pain, loss, and even confusion?

Perhaps you’re facing something just as difficult. Perhaps you’re facing trouble right now in your marriage, your finances, your health, your job, or your family. Perhaps this Easter, like me, you’re reeling after the death of someone you love. How can you and I feel joy in the middle of all that? What does Easter have to say to you in the middle of your troubles?

When we think of Easter we think of the stone being rolled away and Jesus coming out of tomb with an earthquake, a blinding light, and a glorified body. And well we should. He is alive! The tomb is empty!

But Easter is meaningful, and Jesus’ resurrection glorious, precisely because of how horrible death is.

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What to Do With the Question, “Why God?”

What to Do With the Question, “Why God?”

Man MourningAt some point you will face difficulties that will cause your faith to be challenged. You may or may not question the existence, goodness, or power of God outright. But when you become overwhelmed, there will come a time when you ask some version of the question, “Why, God?”

The cause of your question may be current or long past, a single incident or long-term suffering. It may not seem that devastating to someone looking on from the outside, but it wrenches and tears at you in the deepest places of your soul. It might be:

  • Child abuse – your own, or that of someone you care about
  • Domestic violence
  • Betrayal in your marriage
  • The death of someone you care about
  • A child’s sickness, disability, or serious injury
  • A news report such as the terrorist shootings in San Bernardino, CA

You may ask your WHY in a number of ways: Why didn’t You stop this from happening? Why can’t You bring relief or healing? How could You allow something so evil to happen? How long will this suffering go on? Couldn’t You have fulfilled Your plan some other way?

You know the Bible stories of those who asked some variation of that question.

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Declaring the Death of Death

Declaring the Death of Death

This weekend we laid my wonderful husband Al Tanksley to rest. Although my heart is broken, my spirit is determined to carry on the legacy that he left behind, and worked so hard to prepare me for. These are some words that I shared at his going-home service. Next week the regular blog post schedule will resume.

It’s OK to rage against death. And I do! This is not the way it was supposed to be. God did not create us to live a few years – or even many years – on this planet, and then to die. We were created for eternity. We were created to live forever! Death is an imposter. The Bible calls death “the last enemy to be destroyed.” (1 Corinthians 15:26)

As good as this life may get, it’s never enough. It doesn’t matter how many years you live, how much money or things or success you have – or don’t have. It doesn’t even matter how many people you have around you. It’s never enough. It never can be enough. Because we were created for more. Al Tanksley was created for more. You and I were created for more. And right now Al is finally experiencing that “more.”

And we will have that more in eternity. I know that heaven is real. When people say, “I’m sorry you lost your husband” I want to say, “No, I haven’t lost him. I know exactly where he is!”

Yes, we are separated for now, but not forever.

This is not my husband. Al Tanksley is not in this box! This may be his body, his shell, but this is not him!

Paul said, “If only in this life we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19) We can grieve. I will grieve for a time. That’s as it should be. But I know that this is not the end. For Al, it is the beginning! As Buddy (the preacher) charged us at our wedding just seven too-short years ago, Al and I were given a mission. And that mission is only partially completed. And now, it’s up to me to continue that mission, and I’m committed to doing so.

Death, you may think you have won. Yes, the wounds you have inflicted are deep. And we will mourn as we nurse those wounds somewhat. But in truth you have lost again! While to human eyes you may seem to have won this battle, you have already lost the war. And every life you take – temporarily – such as Al Tanksley’s, is but another nail in your own coffin. Death, you will be destroyed! And Al Tanksley, along with me and all the rest of us who trust in Jesus, will live forever.

Now, “Where, O death, is thy sting? Where, O grave, is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

As the gospel preacher said, “It may be Friday. But Sunday’s coming!”

Honey, I love you! And I’ll be looking for you next to the Jesus that we both love. You are, and always will be, the wind beneath my wings!

Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!

P.S. For those who wish to make a gift in Al’s memory, you can do so here.

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