If you’re going through a dark valley in your marriage

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The month of July marked twelve years of marriage for us. This past Tuesday, we cuddled up on the couch to watch the first lesson in The Heart of the Family courseAs we listened to Kirk and Chelsea Cameron talking about their storyit caused me to reflect on our own marriage.

I remember how often we were told, “we wouldn’t make it.”

We were told while we were dating that we wouldn’t last because we were “so different.”

We were told, “most couples don’t survive the first year.”

We were told we’d fall apart when we hit “the seven-year itch.”

We were told that raising a child with a developmental disorder would likely tear us apart.

We were told that law-enforcement officers endure high rates of divorce.

We were told that an officer-involved shooting decimates most couples.

We were told that his subsequent PTSD and my subsequent depression would likely destroy our marriage.

If God had not been at the center of our marriage—and frankly, the center of both of our hearts—all those dire presentiments would have come true. If one of us had abandoned God, it could have come to pieces. We would not be anywhere close to where we are today without the Lord.

Marriage is a commitment. For the Christian couple, marriage is not simply a pledge to another human being, but a promise to the Lord of heaven and earth! He does not take lightly any vow, as He Himself is faithful in keeping His own.

Our wedding day was beautiful. The decorations were nice, the dress was lovely, but what made the day truly special were the people—our guests, the helpers, our wedding party, and our family. Most of the people who helped with the wedding—the photographer, organizers, the florist, the baker, and the preacher—were friends or friends of friends. Our guests had the opportunity to make speeches during the reception and their words have carried us through some of the darkest times.

My Father made a beautiful speech, and quoted this passage from Ecclesiastes:

“Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

He said, “That threefold cord is made up of the two of you and the Lord. Keep Him at the center.”

In some of our darkest hours, those words returned to my mind and acted as a balm on my heart. If you have dealt with a loved one impacted by PTSD, you will understand what I say when there were days I felt like I had lost my husband. Those words my father said on our wedding day—ancient words of life—spurred me to remember the One who was at the center of our marriage. I had made vows before the Lord who instituted marriage—vows to love under all circumstances.

The Lord held us together.

The Lord reminded me that I cannot really love Him unless I love my spouse.

The Lord, through His excellent word, convicted me to stop being self-centered and to love as Christ loved. I believe there were times He convicted my husband to do the same during the countless times I myself was difficult (or impossible) to love.

As Kirk and Chelsea pointed out in their class, true love is not a feeling, it’s a choice:

A choice to set self aside in order to meet the needs of the one loved.

A choice to fight against the tide of circumstance pulling you and your spouse apart.

A choice to repent of selfishness.

A choice to demonstrate love even when ardor is cooled by the ordinary everydayness of life.

There is a certain amount of will power involved in keeping a marriage together, but I am convinced that we need the Lord to lead our team if we are going to survive. Each partner needs to keep God as King of his or her heart. Each partner needs to keep God as King of his or her heart.

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side… then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters… Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Psalm 124:4-8

If you are going through a dark valley in your marriage, I want to encourage you to turn your focus away from all that is wrong and fix your eyes on the Lord. The Lord loved us when we were unlovable; He demonstrated love while we were still sinners. How can you show love to your spouse today —even if your feelings are the furthest from love?

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