Have you ever put the words “durable” and “marriage” in the same sentence? Probably not. Durability is a word we use with mechanical things, like cars. They have to be durable to stand up to years of mechanical stress. Besides, it costs so much to replace one if it breaks down. The cost of a broken marriage is greater. Much greater. It touches our children, our friends, and often other people as well. You cannot measure the damage in money lost, only in the pain and despair that follows a marital breakdown. For that reason we really need durable marriages.
Strong marriages are always the result of the sustained efforts of determined people. Yes, a mediocre marriage can continue for many years, but what is it worth? We need toughness to build truly successful relationships. Love is romance and flowers, yes. But it’s more.
I am really worried about Jane and Sean. They are planning to get married, but Jane has a problem. She lacks emotional strength. If she were a rose, her petals would drop five minutes after they bloomed. If she were a goldfish, she would be belly up when the water temperature changed by even a degree. You need a lot more strength than that to make a lasting enjoyable marriage. You need toughness.
What is toughness, and why does every marriage need it and require it? The dictionary defines tough as . . . strong and durable; capable of great endurance; sturdy; hardy. Men and women who have those characteristics build the best marriages, because marriage is much more than romantic emotions or good intentions. A healthy, lasting marriage requires tough, determined, endurance.
Not all strength is what it seems. How often have you heard someone described as a strong person, only to find, when you meet this person, that he or she is really inflexible, demanding, and manipulative? That’s not a strong person; that’s a person hiding weaknesses and fears under a hard shell.
Just one dictionary entry above the word tough, you will find its emotional opposite, touchy. Touchy people are easily offended. The smallest irritation, imagined or real, can cause a hurricane.
Diane and I once did a survey on anger with some couples in Singapore. Nothing scientific, just a simple question or two. One lady described herself as a ticking bomb. Quite a statement, isn it? She’s ready to explode at any moment. With a wife like that her husband would always be on edge, never knowing when the explosion will occur. Definitely a touchy situation.
I learned something about toughness the first time my family and I went to live in another country. Culture shock begins with the jolt you feel when you step off the plane in a new land. Then it builds gradually. As it intensifies, you can become irritable, defensive, and hard to live with. That was my experience in Africa. Everything, and everyone, irritated me. Finally one of our colleagues had as much of my negativity as she could take. “Toughen up, Mike!” she admonished me. “Quit criticizing and complaining so much. We’re not trying to make life difficult for you. In fact, the people here love you. Why don’t you relax a little and let them?” She was right. I did need to toughen up.
Not one of us is perfect. We are all sinners whom God is turning into saints. In many ways, we are works in progress. As much as I want my wife to enjoy being married to me, I know there are times (hopefully few) when she has to endure me. For that reason, I am glad I married a tough lady. She’s not hard, thank God, but she does have staying power.
One evidence of God’s presence in our lives is longsuffering, patience, or endurance. (See Galatians 5:22.) Longsuffering is an old, picturesque word that means exactly what it says: to put up with something longer than you think you should have to.
So God’s Spirit, gives us endurance when and where we need it. When our marriage passes through a difficult time, God is there to help us endure. Have you ever notice that the glasses at restaurants don’t seem to break as easily as the ones you have at home? I know why. If you look at the bottom of some of those commercial glasses, you’ll see the word tempered or durable. Those glasses have been treated with a special process that makes them less brittle.
Isn’t it great to know that God, who is working in our lives to make us complete lovers, can do the same thing with us? He makes us durable by tempering us. Are you durable? If not, ask God to help you develop true strength and endurance. Stop gritting your teeth, acting like some hero in an adventure movie. Rest in God, and let your relationship with him give you the staying power and durability your marriage needs.
Think, Act, Pray
Consider these pairs of words:
Do more of the words on the left or words on the right describe you? Which list describes your spouse? The more of the words on the left that describe you, your spouse, and your marriage, the tougher you, your spouse, and your marriage are.
Find some examples of endurance in the Bible. Can you think of any Bible characters who felt like giving up? What sustained them?