Editor's Note: This article is part II of a two-part series. For Carla's perspective, read: Why I Stayed: A Wife's Focus on God Saves Her Marriage.

I remember the dream. She would be my cheerful and loving companion, someone who believed in me, someone with me, someone for me.

Well.

My wife still seemed cheerful and loving—with others. But she appeared to see little value in me or in the things I did. I was convinced she was more against me than she could ever be for me.

Sometimes the dream dies. Where do you go from there?

We moved to California when I got a job with a telecom start-up. God arranged the move for us, in dramatic fashion, just before the telecom market crashed and massive layoffs in my industry began. I was one of the fortunate few with a job that was relatively secure. Provided we could keep the company afloat.

Hours were long, and so was my commute. I would leave before my kids were awake, and return after they were asleep. If I was travelling I could be gone for weeks at a time, with perhaps an occasional brief stop home to crash, do laundry, and repack my suitcase.

The work environment was often dysfunctional, sometimes toxic and abusive, particularly during the first years. It was very difficult. I became much more diligent in prayer as a way to survive, making good use of that long morning commute. I kept my focus on serving with integrity and as much wisdom as God would grant. It was one day at a time.

And for the most part I did it alone.

Yes, my wife handled the home front, and you can argue that in doing so she was supporting me. But she no longer knew my story. She wasn’t with me.  She wasn’t for me.

And I wasn’t for her either. I had lost sight of her story too.

Where do we get this crazy notion that love should be so easy? I wish there were more sermons on Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 7:28: “those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” Many troubles… that sounds about right to me.

Yes, marriage can become a great blessing. But it is guaranteed to bring greater trouble into your life. And that trouble means more effort and diligence is required.

Some say I should have simply quit my job to be home more. I say it’s not so simple. Yes, being home does help, but it’s not all about being physically proximate.

And sometimes you can’t be. It’s true my options were limited in California because of a job shortage—and there were plenty of people waiting for a chance at my job. But the simpler, deeper truth is I stayed in my job out of obedience. On several occasions I pleaded with God to release me to do something else, only to hear Him quite clearly say no.

And that’s the first thing you do when the dream has died, when your spouse seems against you, and you can’t see any hope. You obey God.

Pursue God first

When trouble strikes, it’s natural to focus on solving the problem. It’s all too easy to allow something urgent to derail what’s really important. In my experience that’s a recipe for disaster.

Your best first step is always to plant your primary attention and focus squarely on Jesus Christ. Don’t plant it on your spouse and marriage, or on whatever trouble you’re facing, or on any other pursuit. Plant it on Jesus. Make choices that force you to grow in Him. This is the one thing you dare not fail in, and the one thing that allows all else to fall properly in place.