Fuel for the Long Run
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
More weddings at which I tie the knot result in strong marriages than end in divorce. Maybe that’s because I won’t officiate unless both partners can openly declare their trust in God. I also insist that they go through significant prenuptial counseling. Still, one couple lasted a mere 14 weeks because he didn’t match up to her romantic ideals and she way overspent his budget. Another marriage survived for a decade before it was asphyxiated by his hyper-controlling tendencies.
But what scares me more is when a couple calls it quits after 20, 30 or 40 years. Once you get past the “11th-year-fear,” shouldn’t some deep interconnectedness set in to provide stability for the onslaught of the years? Shouldn’t it be like the old John Deere tractor that I farmed with as a boy, which took more work to get going than to keep running? I would strain to turn the massive flywheel over the first time, but once the magnets caught, the pistons popped and the flywheel gained momentum, it almost took an act of God to kill the thing!
God isn’t in the business of killing a good thing. As Isaiah notes, he “gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29). Even in marriage? Especially in marriage, since God thought that one up in the first place. Still, how do we find the grace to run the race of relationship and not trip along the way?
Isaiah 40 isn’t about magic. Its opening verses recall the stumbling and sinfulness of God’s people. They speak also about the warm and compassionate heart of God. The rest of the chapter breathes a reminder to seek God’s care. Marriages, like careers or characters, aren’t made overnight. They happen when folks dig in for the long run and keep their eyes on the prize.
Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck said that the scariest people aren’t those who have quirky personalities or relational scars. The most threatening folk, he wrote in People of the Lie, are those who don’t believe in a power beyond themselves. When people stop praying and assume an attitude of belligerent self-sufficiency, said Peck, they shrink the world to their perspective and seek to control it according to their whims. The result is always horrifying.
Marriages that go the distance are inevitably built on trust—in God and in each other. It’s as an 81-year-old man told me from his oversized chair. Slapping his hands on the armrests, he said, “We’re 60 years married this week and mighty proud of our family. But it’s not us that did it; it’s the grace of God.”
- What do we depend on God for in our relationship? How do we express that dependency?
- Where do we need God’s help right now? Where are we stumbling or fainting? What should we ask for to recover our courage?
- Who around us has gone through rough places and survived? What can we learn from them? How might we gain new insights from their experiences?