Well, Punxsutawney Phil, the nation’s unofficial official ground hog, has made his appearance for 2016. The ultimate question that he has to answer every year is, “Is winter almost over, or is there more bad weather to come?” Now, if you live in a climate that is warm year round, then you probably don’t care. But if you live in a place that has been slammed by snow and ice, you’re probably looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve survived, but you are tired, isolated, and ready for something better.
Have you ever been at that point in your marriage? Marriage is always a challenge, because you are bringing together two imperfect people who will make mistakes from time to time. Any marriage will have times of joy, excitement, and life, but it will also have times of sadness, stress, and lifeless broken heartedness. When we are walking through the dark valleys of pain and loneliness, we want to know when it will finally be over and we will see the sun again. “The car repair will cost how much?” “Are you sure that is the diagnosis?” “Our child was caught doing what?” “My job is being ‘phased out’ how soon?” “How much longer does my sister have?” “Why is our church in such an uproar?” “Where will we find the time to take care of that?”
When the days come, and your marriage feels the strain of your seemingly never ending "winter of discontent," here are a few things that can make the long nights easier.
First, do your best to maintain a healthy environment for your marriage. Encourage each other. Show gratitude. As you are able, take on tasks the other one normally does. Speak your love and show your love, even if the emotion is not present at the moment. This is not always easy, especially if you feel like lately all you do is argue, but it is so important during these times to do everything you can to cultivate a good environment.
Second, pray together often. Pray during times of conflict. Pray honestly. Pray humbly. Give God thanks as much as you pray for things you need. Pray for each other. Especially pray with each other.
Third, don’t isolate yourself. It is easy to feel alone during stressful times. Sometimes a spouse doesn’t know what to say to his/her mate, but the mistake we make is withdrawing if we don’t know what to say. If you mate is hurting, just be present for him/her. One of the greatest blessings of marriage is that you have someone to walk with you through the dark valley.
Fourth, forgive. Your spouse will make mistakes, but you will too. If you both keep score of offenses, you will be locked in a downward spiral. Failure to forgive is poison to a marriage relationship.
Fifth, find hope. During stressful times, it is easy to see everything through a dark filter. Celebrate every victory, no matter how seemingly insignificant, and keep your hope alive. If a dark shadow is hovering over your relationship, look for any place that a sunbeam can break through. Our perception becomes our reality, and hope creates a positive perspective that will help a couple survive.
In case you didn’t hear, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this morning. If you believe large rodents can predict the weather, winter is coming to an end and spring is on its way. Even if the shadows of your current circumstances mean prolonged or even permanent changes in your relationship, find your hope in God and your strength in each other. Spring is just around the corner.