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NIV Devotions for Couples - Week of February 15

When Trouble Divides Us

Verse: Ecclesiastes 12

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.”
Ecclesiastes 12:1

There are days—sometimes many of them—when it is hard to remember what it was about your spouse that you once found so lovable. Most of us expect a few waves on the voyage to marital bliss. We might even find humor in our spouse’s foibles and failings. But what happens when those waves swell into crushing tsunamis? What do we do when a spouse falls into a depression, when infertility becomes the only topic of conversation, or when one of us loses a job?

In his first year of teaching, my husband walked into a war zone. He taught fourth-grade boys with severe emotional and behavioral problems. Between their physical aggression, verbal hostility and profound inability to control their inappropriate behavior, these young boys sucked the spirit out of my husband. He would come home exhausted, unable to offer our family much of anything.

For the first few months, I remained sympathetic. But as the year went on, I came to resent his job—and his desire to do it—for the toll it was taking on our relationship and our children. That year I lived with Jim at his worst—his most depressed, most damaged, most disillusioned self. There were days when I truly wondered if I could sustain our marriage with him doing that kind of work.

Yet in the midst of all this awfulness, God kept showing me the things I loved about Jim: his heart for broken people, his strength of character, his resilience and tenderness. It would have been easy for me to miss the good Jim was trying to accomplish because of the overwhelming nature of the bad it brought with it. It certainly wasn’t my strength that kept our family together during this time; it was God’s.

Look carefully at Ecclesiastes 12:1. It doesn’t say, “Remember your Creator just in case the days of trouble come.” It says trouble will come. It comes to everyone sooner or later. That’s not a reason to despair but a reason to shore up our reserves. Like a cruise ship equipped with lifeboats, we need to be prepared for the hard times by treasuring the good.

So spend some time remembering your dating days. Flip through the photos from your honeymoon. Tell each other what you admire about each other and why that will never change. Then, when trouble comes, you’ll have a trustworthy life raft to hold you up as you make your way to the calm shore on the other side.
—Carla Barnhill

Let’s Talk

• Was there a time in our marriage when it was hard to remember what we loved about each other? What got us through that time?
• How can the memory of that success help us get through the next relational rough patch?
• Let’s plan a project together—creating a photo album, a compilation CD, a computer slideshow—that tells the story of our life together. When we hit a difficult season, we’ll revisit this project to help us remember what holds us together.

This devotion is from the Couples' Devotional Bible by Zondervan. Used with permission.

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