Are you trusting the Lord to change something that seems like it’s absolutely determined to never change? It could be your income, your weight, your physical health, an attitude, or a situation in your marriage. No matter what it is, it’s very frustrating when you don’t see a change, particularly over a long period of time. Let’s establish a caveat: if you are in an abusive marriage you need safety and help, seek both. Both individuals in an abusive marriage need help and our prayer would be that both seek help and are able at some point to be restored in wholeness and healing. With that being said, let’s proceed.
The word of God reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13:4 that “love suffers long and is kind”, but what exactly does that mean? No one writes books about longsuffering. Rarely do you hear messages about longsuffering on Sunday morning. I can never recall any ministry putting on a conference or retreat to deal with longsuffering. Oh, but it’s real and many marriages are dealing with it with no idea how to endure their season of longsuffering.
Long-suffering is defined by Webster’s as: “having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people”. It appears that Webster’s literally took its definition from the Bible. “To show patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people” is exactly the same as “while you suffer long be kind”. Clearly the Word is telling us that no matter who did what or is doing what, be kind to them in spite of themselves. In other words, love the unlovable like the Lord has loved you.
I find it interesting that the Word of God declares an attribute of love is longsuffering. I wonder if that’s wrapped in “for better or worse”, which many have said but absolutely did not mean. No one actually means they want to hang in there for worse, right? Well in marriage, that’s exactly what it means, worse. It means if the day ever comes when your spouse is unlovable, love them anyway and show kindness. I can hear someone saying “how long is long suffering?”. As long as the Lord allows. Can you handle that? If not, you have to evaluate your understanding of Christ’s relationship with you. He suffered long for your benefit, to ensure you have salvation and eternal life. Christ’s long suffering allows us to have the Holy Spirit with us daily to guide us through any situation that our marriages may encounter. Long suffering doesn’t mean “lone suffering”, the Lord is with you, directing you, encouraging you, strengthening you, showing you how to love the unlovable. You are empowered to do what you never thought you could do. Exercise patience and be kind with one another and watch the Lord put His super on your natural to bring healing of hearts, wholeness and oneness in spite of long suffering.
I know this can be a hard subject because none of us what to suffer long. When we understand the context of what this means in marriage and what it means for our lives, I believe we begin to see suffering the way the Lord sees it……to strengthen us, to push us to maturity, to equip us for service to the Kingdom. Marriage wasn’t designed to make us happy, it was designed to make us holy. When you walk in holiness you reap the benefits, one of which is joy. Joy is the result of putting all your faith, hope and confidence in Christ and putting your expectation in Him and not your spouse. Joy is a state of being, happiness is an emotion that comes and goes based on external circumstances. When you make a decision to love patiently and be kind “for better or worse” you make a decision to have joy no matter what!
In marriage, it can be extremely difficult to endure seasons of longsuffering but you truly can make it through. Long suffering isn’t designed to kill you, it’s designed in love to perfect you! So, the next time your spouse is working your last nerve with the exact same thing you’ve been dealing with for 8 years and been asking the Lord to change remember, love suffers long and is kind”, then ask the Lord what does He want to perfect in you through the suffering? Nothing is wasted on God, not even long suffering.
In all you do, do it in love,
Kevin & Tanya Murphy
Love in the 1st Degree Institute for Marriages & Families