Here at SUM we do make a point of making our posts positive and hopeful: that is a great characteristic that God loves.
And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love .. (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV)
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things .. (1 Corinthians 13:7, ESV)
That said, it's also important to be real and to allow each other to bleed. That is what helps us not feel alone.
So today I wanted to talk about the emotional toll that a spiritual mismatch in marriage takes. Do you find it has left an emotional toll on you? I certainly have felt like that. I feel it less so now, thankfully, but I remember a few years ago thinking to myself, 'Wow, bringing faith into my marriage has really taken its toll.'
Some SUMites have even said they became unwell from the stress; that is, the difficulty took a physical toll for a while there. The reason it's so very difficult is it's a spiritual situation: the spiritual battle for the salvations of our families and our own spiritual health is real, and it is fierce.
So what are the specific challenges?
Sometimes it's helpful to put things into words, so I thought I might articulate a few thoughts here.
- First of all we grieve the fracture between us and our spouse. We so badly want to be close to our spouse, but the fracture runs so deep that however hard we try to bridge it, it's there. That, in turn, causes sadness.
- In addition to that, we cannot easily be our authentic selves in our home -- A place we should be able to be most comfortable. We suffer persecution for our faith from the person who should be our safest ally.
- Because our authentic self is often rejected in our home, we feel we have to hide who we are. We get lonely.
- We wrestle with deep concern about our spouse's eternal future, and -- even worse -- deep concern about our children. We are continually convicted about their choices and intensely frustrated, yet we feel helpless to do anything about it, and susceptible to fear.
- Some of us wrestle with huge guilt about our marriage, and then feel bad for feeling that way about our spouse. So there's a double guilt thing going on there.
- We wrestle with envy towards other Christians who have more straightforward Christian lives.
- Friendships become complicated because we have different tastes in friends to our spouse. We grieve that.
- And finally, any act of faith that we partake is in some way a battle - whether big or small -- because our spouse doesn't love it. That can get quite exhausting!
The difficulty we face is multi-faceted. And it's hard to explain to anyone who is not walking the path why it is so difficult. I have tried to explain to my parents, for example (who are Christian), and though they have always been good listeners I've never quite been able to fully convey it. 'The saint must walk alone', as A. W. Tozer said.
So that's the battle. And, what do we do with that? Well, perhaps we recognize the depth of intensity and go easy on ourselves a little. It is hard, and we can sit with that, acknowledge it as that, and keep bringing it to Jesus. "Lord, this is HARD".
And then, self-care is really important. I did a video on self-care a few months ago, here, and I noted quite a few things we can do to help ease the emotional toll. Self-care is critical for the sake of everyone involved. We spend a lot of energy working on being the best spouse we can be, because the Bible calls us to, but we mustn't forget to devote time and energy to care of ourselves as an equal priority. That's how we can be at our best for our families.
Finally, keep on taking those difficult emotions to Jesus. Lay them out on a table before him and talk through them with him one by one. He is our merciful and wise confidante - as is the Holy Spirit.
You can always reach out to this community too :-)
So, on that note I'd love to pray for you. If you feel like sharing, post in the comments what you're wrestling with at the moment, and let's gather round you.
Love you all