What not to do when marriage stinks

{image: spectrelabs / 123RF stock photo}

{image: spectrelabs / 123RF stock photo}

Just in case you’re wondering, marriage is hard.

Even with a decade and a half of love, communication and solving challenges together, it’s still hard. Right now, for example? Right now, my husband is not my favorite person. We’ve faced a long-standing struggle in our family and I don’t like the direction he feels led to take. It’s costing me deeply.

Do I love the man? Yes.

He’s smart, makes me laugh (and puts up with me when I’m a nut).

Am I in this for the long haul? Yes.

Exhibit A: the wedding ring tattoo I got for our 14th anniversary.

Do I like him right now? Not so easy to answer.

Two-year unresolved disagreements can do that to a marriage. As can they leave us feeling invisible. Or wondering if anyone is even listening at all. Which kind of sounds like the guy I’ve been reading about lately. You may have heard of him. . . this guy named Job?

Turns out, Job reveals some ideas best not believed—or proclaimed—when we’re on the brink of giving up on someone (in Job’s case, God):

Unrestricted complaining.

“My bitter soul must complain,” Job says in Job 10:1. It mustn’t, actually. It wants to—OH does it want to! But complaining is always a choice, which means there is always at least one alternative. One I choose when I’m stressed these days? Gratitude. . . for health, a home, clean water, food in the fridge, the kids (even when they’re challenging), sunshine, being able to walk, talk, hear, speak. The list goes on forever, but only when I fight the lie that “my bitter soul must complain.”

Assume our own innocence.

In one rant to God, Job cries out, “Although you know I am not guilty. . .” (Job 10:7), and while he may have been blameless at the start of the book, we know that this shift toward questioning and accusing God of wrongdoing earns him the verdict “GUILTY” (and a nice big earful of rebuke) by the end of the story. What might I be guilty of? Anger. Unforgiveness. Self-pity. Self-righteousness. Fear of rejection, that leads me to not confront more often.

Turns out that what my grandfather infuriatingly used to say is true: point a finger at someone else and three are pointing right back at you.

Accuse God of evil.

After a couple of rounds of accusation encouragement by “friends,” Job let loose on God: “You gave me life and showed me your unfailing love. . . Yet your real motive—your true intent—was to watch me, and see if I sinned. . . [to] hunt me like a lion and display your awesome power against me” (Job 10:12-13, 16). Have I teetered on that same cliff lately? I won’t lie to you; I have. But I’m in good company. King David, the one God calls “a man after [His] own heart,”* struggled with this during trials too. But when he was hurt and confused, David, unlike Job (or me often times) had range. David whined, cried out, apologized, demanded justice, begged for deliverance and affirmed God’s goodness and glory in the space of a few sentences (see Psalm 13).

Unlike Job, David kept his heart open to hope in God’s goodness, even when his eyes couldn’t see it. We can too. {tweet this}

We do it when we watch what we let our bitter hearts proclaim. We do it when we’re honest with ourselves about our own faults. And we do it as we’re honest with God about our pain without projecting humanity’s broken motives on Him.

Easy? No. Will it turn crappy situations to unicorns and butterflies? No.

But who needs unicorns anyway, when we could walk on water?

Your friend in stubborn hope,


*Acts 13:22.

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  1. Kelly Schmidt says

    ouch. I needed to read this not for marriage issues right now, but extended family problems. Families…how people related to you by blood can be the source of so much pain is baffling to me.

  2. MotheringFromScratch says

    {Melinda} Laurie, what has always drawn me to you is your transparency and honesty. I have had some HARD struggles in my marriage, too. God has used them greatly to bring me to a place of humble dependence again and again. I don’t say that lightly. I have often been brought to that place kicking and screaming all the way. Marriage still isn’t easy. I have to go again and again to God and ask Him to help me let go of my “rights,” and my resentment. To let go of my “ideal” and allow God to show me what He wants to teach me. Which is often so much richer, even if it’s so hard and painful sometimes. Thank you for sharing this.

    • says

      Such a hard balance… to let go of the sense of entitlement (our “rights”) and yet be honest about what we can handle (and even to know what we can really handle… who really knows??) Some days I just take a vacation from thinking about it all. The break helps me remember how much I love that guy in other contexts.

  3. Jane Franks says

    Boy did you nail it again! Thank you. my husband and I have been at logger heads on a particular issue for sometime. From my perspectyive it’s not right, it’s not fair — and it’s best to

    • says

      Well, you summed up the whole idea in this one phrase: “either way would not be a sin in God’s eyes, except that God does have some things for us to learn, and we don’t know which way is the right one for that — yet!” Amen to that. May we always stay teachable, sensitive to His heart and leading. And may we not go nuts in the process… 🙂

      • Jane Franks says

        Hi Laurie! Hope your Easter was a blessed one. What a lot of great thinking and worshiping about the Resurrection and all it means! I love what the Apostle Paul says in I Cor. 15:14 . . . “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” That pretty well sums it up, doesn’t it! Sorry, I’m off topic, but with Easter so recent this was just on my mind.

        I love your comment . . . “May we stay teachable, sensitive to His heart and leading, an not go nuts in the process.” 🙂 A big dose of humor helps, too, doesn’t it!! It’s one of the things I’ve always loved about Chuck Swindoll!!

        Have a great week! Jane