As a pastor one of the things that comes with the ministry is seeing families at the best times of their lives – weddings, births, graduations, great accomplishments – as well as the worst times of their lives. I’ve stood with a family at four o’clock in the morning as a nurse pulled the body of their college-aged daughter out of the wall – killed in a single car accident. I’ve sat on the floor of a hospital waiting room with the adult, grieving daughter of a man who took his own life. I watched as she in essence reverted to a little child, holding herself, rocking and shouting, “NO! MY DADDY WOULDN’T DO THIS! MY DADDY LOVES ME TOO MUCH TO LEAVE ME THIS WAY! NO!” I met with a family in a hospital room as they received word that their fourteen year old daughter had contracted meningitis. I stood with them a few days later as they put her body in the ground. I’ve stood with families over a little casket as they said goodbye to a baby they never had the opportunity to know – stillborn. I could go on with example after example of couples I know and love when they faced the fiercest storms that ever raged against their marriage.
As sad as these tragedies are, and they are indeed sad, the tragedy often leads to a rupture in the marriage relationship. Many times I have watched a couple who stood with each other and supported each other through the storm of some tragedy only to see them enter the storm of divorce a few months or years later. How tragic, sad and totally avoidable.
I believe that the most important human relationship is that which is between a husband and wife. It is to come before the relationship that we have with our parents. It is to come before any other adult relationship that we have. The relationship between a husband and wife is even to supersede the relationship between parent and child.
Now, I’ve been a pastor long enough and I’ve lived long enough to know that the majority of people reading this have or will experience some terrible tragedy at some point in your life. That’s why I want to share some pastoral advice on how to protect and grow your marriage even in the wake of a tragedy.
1. Commit – Make a commitment before the storm begins to rage that you both will do whatever is necessary to protect your marriage. Say it out loud. Repeat it often. You see, commitment is the foundation that will help your home to remain standing after the storm has passed.
2. Persevere – Take it one day at a time – with each other. Don’t try to look a week ahead or a year ahead. If you do you will become overwhelmed and become frustrated. Get up every morning determined to faced the day together.
3. Schedule – Have a time every day where you can sit and share with each other the hurts and fears that you have. Make sure both of you talk and are engaged in the conversation. Schedule the time and then stick to it. Start on time and end on time. Do this so the one who wants to talk can and the one who doesn’t much feel like talking that day knows when the conversation will be over.
4. Avoid – Whatever you do, don’t fight or argue in the bedroom. If you feel that an argument is unavoidable then make sure you are anywhere else in the house but the bedroom. This should be the one place that is safe and where there are no bad memories. Do whatever it takes to preserve the unity and harmony of this special place.
5. Join – Sometimes the hurt is too bad for even the strongest of couples to manage on their own. If this is the case, be wise enough to recognize it and not too proud to seek counseling or find a support group where you can share and learn from those who have been through a similar experience. It’s best if you both go, but if one doesn’t feel comfortable they shouldn’t be forced. Understand that there are others who have faced a similar storm and survived even its aftermath who will be able to help you. This is the truth we find in 1st Corinthians 1:4.
6. Write – One of the best habits of any life is that of journaling. There is something very helpful about writing things down somewhere that you have the ability to go back later and see how the Lord has brought you through the storm. Also, there are some hurts and feels that are so personal that you may not feel comfortable sharing them with anybody – even your spouse. That’s when your journal is waiting to accept what you have to write without any judgmental comments or thoughts.
7. Trust – Trust God to get you through the storm and even its aftermath. Trust Him to bring you closer together. Have faith that He will protect your hearts and minds from the attack of the enemy that so often comes after a tragedy. Remember the strength that comes in a cord of three strands and realize that the strand that binds your both together and that will keep you from coming apart is none other than the Lord Himself.