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March 09, 2015

An Iron-Willed Determination

Life will test each of us severely, if not during younger days, then through the events surrounding our final days. Jesus spoke of this inevitability when He said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Dr. Richard Selzer is a surgeon who has written several outstanding books about his beloved patients. He describes the experience of "horror" that invades one's life sooner or later. When we're young, he says, we seem to be shielded from it the way the body is protected against infection. Our bodies' defenses effectually hold them at bay … at least for a season. Likewise, each day we walk in and through a world of horror unscathed, as though surrounded by protection.

We may even be unaware that distressing possibilities exist during the period of youthful good health. But then one day, without warning, horror seeps into our lives. Until that moment, it was always someone else's misfortune … another man's tragedy … and can be devastating, especially for those who do not know the "good cheer" (John 16:33) Jesus gives in times of tribulation.

Having served on a large medical school faculty for fourteen years, I have watched husbands and wives all too commonly shattered by the new stresses that invaded their lives. Parents of a mentally retarded child, for example, often blamed one another. Instead of clinging to each other in love and reassurance, they added to their sorrows by attacking their partner. A basic ingredient was missing in their relationship. That essential component is called commitment.

Marriages that lack an iron-willed determination to hang together at all costs appear to be secure until they are put under heavy pressure. That’s when the seams split and the foundation crumbles. It appears to me that young couples today are in that incredibly vulnerable position. Their relationships are constructed of unreinforced mud which will not withstand the weighty trials lying ahead. The determination to survive together simply is not there.

Committed Love is Critical

This is why committed love is critical to the success of a marriage. Minor irritants, when accumulated over time, may be even more threatening to a relationship than catastrophic events. There are times in every good marriage when a husband and wife don't like each other very much. There are occasions when they feel as though they will never love their partner again. Emotions are like that.

What will you do when unexpected tornadoes blow through your home, or when the doldrums leave your sails sagging and silent? Will you pack it in? Will you pout and cry and seek ways to strike back? Or will your commitment hold you steady? Nothing short of death must ever be permitted to come between the two of you. Nothing!

This determined attitude is missing from so many marital relationships today. I read of a wedding ceremony in New York years ago in which the bride and groom each pledged "to stay with you for as long as I shall love you." I doubt their marriage lasted even a few years. The feeling of love is simply too ephemeral to hold a relationship together for very long. It comes and goes. A weak marital commitment will inevitably lead to divorce.

The Wisdom of Experience

Those views don't sound particularly romantic, but they do carry the wisdom of experience. Two people are not compatible simply because they love each other and are professing Christians. Many young people assume that the sunshine and flowers that characterized their courtship will continue for the rest of their lives. Don't you believe it! It is naïve to expect two unique and strong-willed individuals to fit together easily like a couple of machines. Even gears have rough edges that must be honed before they will work in concert.

That honing process usually occurs in the first years of marriage. What often happens at this time is a struggle for power in the relationship. Who will lead? Who will follow? Who will determine how the money is spent? Everything is up for grabs in the beginning, and the way these early decisions are made will set the stage for the future.

Consider Others

If both partners come into the relationship prepared for battle, the foundation will begin to crumble. The apostle Paul wrote, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3, NIV).

That one verse contains more wisdom than most marriage manuals combined. If heeded, it could virtually eliminate divorce from the catalog of human experience.

From Dr. Dobson's book Love for a Lifetime.

Related Resources

Is Love Enough to Make a Marriage Succeed

Marriage Without a Bailout Plan

What Would You Give for Your Spouse?

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