Sunsets and Lilies and Crows: On Finding Peace When Marriage Is Hard

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3824468094_0dac9f09ed_bMy online friend Lore writes things that are beautiful and profound, and this last week was no exception. In her post Birds and Lilies and Beards and You: on why a girl should never settle, she reflects on a single friend’s question: if the pickings are slim and dating is tough, how can a girl avoid settling?

Lore’s answer is this: don’t settle. Not in the sense that you may have hoped for a man who was bearded and wouldn’t date a nice, kind, clean-shaven man (as in her case), nor in the case of asking God if you could please, pretty please, find a man taller than you (in my case… and really not an issue for the very petite Lore. God knows our prayers are personal.) No, instead, she writes:

The question of settling is not attached to a man at all, but to the God whose job alone it is to give you the gift of a mate. So the question is not “Should I settle for a man who is less than what I envisioned?” and really, “Should I settle in the belief that God doesn’t hear or care about the desires of my heart?”

She goes on to describe the little ritual she and her husband of six months, Nate, have developed; where at the end of the day they head for the lake and reflect on their days. They process their days, and whether in quiet or in conversation, reflect together. Lore waited a long, long time for her Nate—a blessedly and bountifully bearded man— and the relief she feels at thinking that God knew all along the good he intended for her, is palpable and beautiful. See? He cares about the lilies and the birds and beards… and he cares for you.

But I’ll confess this: I sighed and then I grumbled as I read, for I’ve been married twenty four times as long as this couple who literally head off into the sunset each day, and there was part of me that wanted to moon over her post as one does over the perfectly packaged romantic movie, but then dispatch it into the world of make-believe. They’re in the honeymoon period, I thought. Just wait until marriage starts to get REAL.

Because honey, marriage gets hard. And there may come a day when the last thing you feel like after a long day is heading off to the lake with your husband. There are seasons in marriage when the tears don’t come because the world is hard (and then you cry together), but because togetherness is hard (and then you cry alone).

It did not take long, though, for me to stop short and hear the cynicism in my voice, and to begrudgingly admit that while this couple’s marriage may be new, the question she raises about settling is still deeply and profoundly true; even for married people. For even when one is long-married, one still needs to pause and reflect on whether you’re settling. On the days when things are not all idyllic and tucked-into-your-loved-ones-back-as-the-sun-sets, the question is STILL “will I settle in the belief that God cares deeply about the desires of my heart?”

I heard someone who mentored dozens of men once say that no matter what the issue was that someone was facing, he would always ask them this: “Do you trust Jesus to lead you through this?” That IS the question: for most every challenge we face.  Not “What should I do in this situation I am so anxious and grieved about?”, but “Do I trust that God is good and that He will lead me through this?”
Single women worry about settling, but the unspoken secret among the married is that we can settle, too. We can let disappointment and hurt oust hope from our hearts: a dangerous abdication if ever there was one. “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God;” writes the pastor in Hebrews, “that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble.”
Whether we are single or married, weeding out the bitterness that comes from a short view of God’s grace is daily work. For the truth is he cares about lilies and birds (even crows!) and yes, he cares about us. He sees us when we are feeling lonely. He sees us when we cry. He hears our hearts’ desire, and his longing for us is that we will YET see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13)
Married friends, let’s settle for nothing less.

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9 thoughts on “Sunsets and Lilies and Crows: On Finding Peace When Marriage Is Hard”

  1. Such wise words that I so agree with, and I have four years on you. Yep, my husband and I have been married 28 + years. It is hard and it is difficult and there are ups and downs and too many fights but somehow, we keep on keeping on. Forgiveness is huge and as you note here, not letting roots of bitterness grow. Till death do us part. . . and we actually were both close to death this past January in our accident. -great post.

    1. Forgiveness is SO HUGE: both for ourselves and for our spouses. I had no idea I had the capacity to hurt someone I loved so deeply until I got married. Like you, I am so grateful for grace. Thank you for reading, and I too am so glad you both survived your horrible scare earlier this year.

  2. “but the unspoken secret among the married is that we can settle, too”. YES. I love this for so many reasons: 1. because it’s true, and because I’m living it right now. My husband and I choosing not to settle, which is actually terrifying both of us. And 2. Because we in church so often pass off this married/single dichotomy as if the struggles are completely different, and there’s something less-then in singleness, but the truth is that both realities have their own disappointments and pitfalls. (And joys and blessings). Thank you for this, Bronwyn.

    1. I spent a lot of today thinking about how this has become an increasing theme in my life: how “similar” so many of our relationships are. It’s not as if there are different values for dating and for marriage, or for marriage and friendship, or for family and co-workers: respect, kindness, forgiveness, trustworthiness… these things are the bedrock of most every relationship, regardless of the type. And so, just like you and your husband are bravely doing, we must choose not to settle in marriage and KEEP ON pressing into kindness and truth and forgiveness, amen?

  3. No matter what we’re facing, it always involves trusting God. I wish people wouldn’t try to make marriage out to be some special category or aspect of life. It’s not. At least, not in the sense of God having one way to guide us in all the rest of life and then some super special way that only applies to relationships. Thanks for setting the record straight here, Bron.

  4. jacquelinegwallace

    Forty-two years in — in love, in marriage, in the bumps of relationship. Oh boy, am I thankful there are such things as grace, and forgiveness, and mercy, and forgiveness and love, and did I mention forgiveness? So thankful both my husband and I have our sights set on the God who came up with grace and love and mercy and forgiveness. I don’t even want to contemplate life without Him! Thank you for those good words, Bronwyn.

  5. Really love this Bronwyn, it’s funny how the relationship I most longed for, most dreamed about is now so familiar that I take it for granted or even occaionsally resent it. Thankful that Jesus offers hope in the midst of the everyday, even in the spaces and relationships we take for granted. I appreciate your reminder.

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