We all have some basic idea of how we think life should be; what we expect out of ourselves and others, what our marriages and family lives should be like, how our jobs will go, what we’ll do for rest and relaxation, maybe even what retirement will be like. The problem is, life just doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes it happens in little ways that disrupt an hour or two of your daily schedule. And sometimes it happens in big ways that mess up days, weeks, months, or maybe even years of your life.
As you move through scripture, you routinely see lives interrupted. Joseph didn’t want to be hated by his brothers. Moses was content being a shepherd. He didn’t want to go back to Egypt. David didn’t want to be the target of King Saul’s jealousy. Jairus knew his daughter was sick, but a 12 year old isn’t supposed to die. Bartimaeus didn’t want to be blind. Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross; “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”
Interruptions in our lives, in the way things are supposed to be, are a part of living in a fallen world. Our lives are broken because our world is broken. In marriage, interruptions can range from mildly irritating, to frustrating, to painfully devastating. While every interruption is framed by a unique set of circumstances specific to the couple involved, here are seven reminders that might help you navigate the minefield created by interruptions.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Honestly share with your spouse how the interrupting situation is affecting you; how is it affecting you physically, socially, emotionally, mentally, and most of all spiritually. Listen attentively as your spouse speaks. And above all else, whether you are just blowing off steam or baring your soul, keep your communication healthy and above reproach.
- Lovingly give perspective. As you communicate, lovingly guide your mate into understanding a realistic perspective of the interruption. Sadly, we can often either minimize real problems to justify our own harmful behaviors, or we can blow up little inconvenience and stresses into monstrous proportions. Remember, if the interruption involves both spouses, fears can run high and emotions can be raw, so be careful to check your own perspective as well.
- Seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Without forgiveness, a relationship cannot survive. We all fall short and we all hurt our spouses with our words and our actions. While we don’t want to flippantly excuse harmful behaviors, we must live in forgiveness, grace, and mercy with each other. When interruptions occur on a couple level, don’t argue and seek to justify your perspective, and don’t delay until you “feel like it”—just humble yourself before God and your spouse, apologize and ask for forgiveness.
- Give extra attention to your spouse. Sometimes, when our spouse’s lives are interrupted, the interruption doesn’t affect us in nearly the same way it does them. Because I am not affected the same, there may be a temptation to minimize the significance of the interruption. Be cognitive enough with what is going on in your spouse’s life, particularly when he/she is away from you, to recognize when he/she is hurting. During those times, give extra hugs. Listen more attentively. Be more willing to help him/her with chores or other household responsibilities.
- Don’t take out your stress on your spouse. Typically, the higher stress levels go, the lower communication, conflict management, intimacy, and other key areas of healthy relationships falls. Stress will come out one way or another, and if it is not properly managed it will build up until we explode at those we love. When your life is interrupted let your spouse help you deal with the stress of the situation, not become your target.
- Remember, your spouse is hurting too. It is easy to lapse into anger, frustration, and depression when our lives are interrupted. But when bad things happen to us as couples, we can become so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget our mates are hurting too. Your mate may not process pain the same way you do, but that doesn’t mean he/she isn’t equally wounded.
- Reaffirm your commitment to your marriage covenant. In the middle of the chaos that is often caused by life’s interruptions, help your mate to recognize that your marriage relationship is solid ground. Don’t just assume he/she knows how you feel. Verbalize your love and commitment to your spouse often.
Interruptions are a reality that we all have to deal with. As we look at God’s Word, it becomes clear over and over again that even in the middle of all of our problems and pains, God is still in control. God is still at work. God is still loving, gracious, and kind to us. Couples who remember that are often the ones most open to God working through their lives, bringing reconciliation, showing love, grace, mercy, and compassion, and being salt and light—to each other and also to others around them.
When life is interrupted, it can be painful. But remember the words of the Psalmist, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley…You are with me.”