"And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not." Deuteronomy 8:2
Not exactly a verse on marriage, but today, that's where I landed as I was pondering marriage. A friend asked me to write on the common seven year slump in marriage and to be honest, I don't feel qualified. The news alert is that you can be married for 18 years and still get in slumps. If I've learned anything, it's that you have good years and bad years in marriage. You plod along, knowing that while remaining faithful in a bad year, a good year is most likely right around the corner.
The whole marriage thing takes two unique, God-image-bearing-independents and miraculously makes them one. God, in His goodness, combines the two to show off a clearer picture of who He is. He is both strength and beauty. Warrior and lover. Adventurer and safe harbor. Justice and grace. Thwarter and peace giver.
Being one is mysterious and profound and beautiful...and sometimes frustrating and sigh producing. Because here's the deal: if you are one with your husband, and he heads into a spiritual wilderness, you better pack your bags, because you are going with him...and the stay might be longer than you could have ever imagined.
So many things have driven Eric and I into wilderness experiences through our eighteen years of marriage. Some of the time, we entered hand in hand, like after losing our baby. Other times, like through the loss of various family members, depression, pride, health issues, work frustrations, running from God, and anxiety, we have run headlong into the barren land, barely leaving our spouse time to pack his/her bags and recognize the season that is about to unfold.
Sometimes, God allows us to enter the wilderness just to know what's in our hearts. He wants our faith steeled; He wants evidence of obedience, not just lip service.
Most of the time, when our spouse heads to the wilderness, we really don't want to go. Who on earth wants to be thrown into a pit? I think it's here where God whispers that this is one place where we can be faithful to Him, by standing right beside our husband as he wrestles with the hard stuff---as he wrestles with God Himself. Wasn't it Jacob that wrestled with God in a place called Peniel? Peniel means the face of God. We know the wrestling allows us to see God's face...so we stand by our spouse faithfully, and pray eyes are opened to behold Him.
So, if your husband is in the wilderness, go dwell there alongside of him. Love him well and surrender him over to God. Let loose of your expectations of him. Pray God is tender and that He will reveal Himself in a fresh way. Surrender any preconceived notions of how long the experience will last, knowing full well, it could be years.
During this time, your well will run dry. You are in the desert, after all. Pray against attacks from the enemy. Know that your living water is always available in the Word of God. Spend extra time right there and ask to be content with God filling you, even if no one else is. Look for the brief sparks of joy and praise Him a little extra in those moments.
Remember the times that your husband loved you well in your wilderness season and trust God that another "good" year of marriage is right around the bend. And never forget that when you finally get to unpack and settle in the land of promise that you will continue to carry around the lessons learned while in the barren land.