The law of entropy in a marriage works thusly: All things decline to a lowest common denominator. We fall to what is easiest. Stasi and I like to go out to eat. But I’ve noticed over the past couple years that we always choose restaurants close to our home over restaurants that are funner, or tastier, or might prove to be a new adventure. We could go across town or we could go down the street; when we are tired, we always end up down the street. After a while we are sick of the same old burrito, so we stay home.

The law of entropy happens in conversation, too; we fall into a kind of shorthand that requires the least amount of energy.

“How was your day?”

“Fine. Yours?”

“Tiring.”

“Your mother called.”

“Oh.”

“Where are the boys?”

“At the game.”

How many arguments happen for no other reason than that you are both tired? How many times is “sexual disinterest” not an issue of lost attraction, but simply exhaustion? The question is, Why are we so tired? Has the world crept in and stolen the life from us? Jesus, is there something about the way we live that needs to change?

Perseverance

There is a passage in the book of Hebrews we do not like very much. “Although he was a son”— it is speaking about Jesus Christ—“he learned obedience from what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

Dang. If Jesus needed to learn through suffering, well, it just does not leave any room for complaining, does it? How are we going to skip this class if he had to take it? Suffering will be a part of our education as God’s children.

This is NOT to say that every bad thing that comes your way is God’s discipline. It does not mean that marital crisis is some sort of retribution for past sins. That is bad theology and it has hurt a lot of people. A friend was suffering from a terrible flu; she said, “I sure hope I learn what God has for me in this, so I can get over it.” I didn’t want to be unkind, so I kept my mouth shut. But inside I thought,

You think God made you sick!? There are others things at work in this world. Germs, for instance.

We live in a broken world; disease, accident, and injury are just part of life east of Eden. This world has foul spirits in it, too; they cause a lot of havoc. The sin of man is enough to sink any ship. Stir all these together and you have got plenty of reason for suffering.

So don’t go thinking that every bad thing that happens is God punishing you.

As Dallas Willard reminds us, What we learn about God from Jesus should prove to us that suffering and “bad things” happening to us are not the Father's preferred way of dealing with us— sometimes necessary, perhaps, but never what he would, on the whole, prefer.

Not his preferred means; keep that in mind.

Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to any human being. (Lamentations 3:32–33)

Having said that, we do have to accept the reality that suffering is a mighty powerful teacher. There is nothing that will get our attention like pain. The good news is, it has a surprising effect upon us:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5)

Hope is a fruit of proven character; proven character is forged through persevering during times of suffering. Some hard times are simply for our good. “Neurosis,” said Carl Jung, “is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” There is legitimate suffering. There are certain things you never discover about God until you go through hard times; there are things you never discover about yourself, too.

And so it is good to ask God: Father, is this from your hand? Is this simply something you are asking me to endure?

Stand by Me

These are hard times for marriage. Family is distant for most folks these days. Community seems like a thing of the past; and church feels less and less relevant (whether it is true or not). We’re all so busy we have practically no time for genuine relationships, especially together as a couple. And so we get isolated. And that is dangerous.

No marriage can make it on its own. We need the loving support of others. For most of the past twenty- five years, Stasi and I have been a part of a small group, a home fellowship of some kind or other.

What a relief to have friends who care, who pray, and who help us work through hard times. John Donne could just have easily substituted the word “marriage” for “man”—“no marriage is an island.” Don’t make any big decisions alone— decisions to leave, to separate, or to end the marriage. Get counsel from friends who know your marriage, your pastor or priest, a Christian counselor, people who walk with God. You need the eyes of others on your marriage.

You need other couples. In fact, it would be a beautiful thing to invite a few couples to join you to do the Love & War DVD series for small groups together. It would deepen existing friendships, and open the door to new ones as well! It would also provide a context for you and your spouse to explore these issues in a loving and supportive environment.

Excerpted from Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge Copyright © 2009 by John and Stasi Eldredge. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

John Eldredge is the director of Ransomed Heart in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a fellowship devoted to helping people discover the heart of God. John is the author of numerous books, including Wild at Heart, Waking the Dead, and Desire, and the coathor of Captivating. Stasi Eldredge is the coauthor of Captivating; she leads the women's events of Ransomed Heart. John and Stasi have been married for more than twenty-five years and they have three fabulous sons.