Light in a Dark Christmas

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The holiday season is a time of great joy for many people. The holiday season is also a time of darkness for many people.

Take a look at the story of one woman who experienced the latter and then found light in the midst of the darkness:

The Darkness of Christmas

By Courtney Reissig

Christmas season has always been my favorite time of year. I love the food, the carols, the parties, and the giving of gifts. I love the focus on the incarnation of Christ. I love the bright lights and hues of green, silver, and red. And I will even admit that I love a good, cheesy Hallmark movie. Christmas makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Nothing would bring me greater joy than admiring all of the different types of outdoor Christmas lights adorning the streets.

dark christmas treeUntil one year, when it didn’t.

I had been married a little more than a year when my first dark Christmas hit. I had every reason to think I would be bursting out of my normal clothes and growing a little baby. But I wasn’t. There were no food aversions, no bouts of nausea, and no need for stretchy pants. The baby inside me had stopped growing weeks before. I was devastated. I felt little Christmas joy that year; there was only Christmas ache and a longing for what might have been. It wasn’t my last sad Christmas, as we waited for God to provide us with children. What was once such a happy family time for me, suddenly became a stinging reminder of the very thing I wanted most but still lacked-a family filled with children of my own.

Whenever we talk about Christmas we think about happy, joyous times, and that is most certainly the case for many. In the years since our first loss, we’ve had Christmases of joy and Christmases of sorrow. We know the feelings of both. But for others, Christmas can carry a dark cloud of sadness, a sadness that never seems to let up and is only exacerbated by the happiness swirling around you. For some, Christmas is a reminder of the darkness of painful circumstances. It carries no tidings of great joy. Maybe you are facing your first Christmas without your spouse or parents. Maybe you are reminded every Christmas season of your longings for a spouse. The loneliness can make celebrating the holidays too much to bear. Maybe your table is missing a beloved child who is wayward, and things never seem the same without him. Maybe your parents are divorced and you shuffle between two houses on Christmas day, while your friends spend family time together. Christmas feels isolating and meaningless when all is not as it should be.

Whatever darkness you are facing this Christmas, know this: with all of the songs and festivities that point to good cheer and great joy, Christmas recalls darkness unlike any we will ever experience, but a darkness that brought light into a fallen world.

Mary’s Soul-Piercing Pain

While Christmas is about the dawning of great joy in the coming of our Savior, it also foreshadows the darkness of his crucifixion. Simeon told Mary of her son’s purpose, that a sword would pierce her own soul (Luke 2:35). Mary, the woman whose heart warmed for her son with every kick in the womb. Mary, the woman who nursed and diapered the very Son of God. Mary, the woman who loved and raised her son like any other mother would do. And while he was no ordinary son, he was still her son. Bearing the Son of God did not make her numb to the often painful realities of motherhood, and her pain would be excruciating. No earthly person felt the weight of Christ’s purpose like she did. While many were rejoicing at his coming, she would one day face the agonizing grief of watching her son suffer on the cross for her sins and our sins.

It’s easy to idolize Mary as a super-human vessel, ready to do whatever was asked of her. While she was certainly godly, she was still human. She was still a mother. This is what Simeon is getting at in his prophecy. With the atonement for our sins came the motherly pain of Mary. As she stared at that little baby in the manger, she may not have fully understood all that was going to take place, but God the Father did. The birth of our Savior carried an ominous shadow of the darkness to come.

God’s Chosen Pain

Mary may not have fully understood what Jesus was sent to do, but God the Father knew of this imminent grief and ordained it to be (Isa. 53:10). Jesus knew what was expected of him, and he agonized over the grief and suffering waiting for him at Calvary (Luke 22:39-46). With every shepherd’s praise and magi’s gift, the Father knew that the perfect fellowship would soon be momentarily broken for sin. In her book When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty, Joni Eareckson Tada wrote of the Father and the Son’s grief at the cross:

The Father watches as his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself, sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah’s stored rage against humankind from every century explodes in a single direction. “Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!” But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot, who will not, reach down in reply. The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him. The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished. The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The Rescue was accomplished. God set down his saw. This is who asks us to trust him when he calls on us to suffer.

With the joy over this little baby in the manger came the promised reality that the joy would soon turn to momentary grief. We have a perfect heavenly Father who knows what it means to grieve over loss. The darkness of our Christmas is not foreign to this God. He is not aloof. He is present with us, because he knows us deeply and walks with us in our pain. He has endured deep pain, too.

When we think about Christmas and are heartbroken to face another holiday with tears, we have hope. While Mary faced heart-piercing grief as she birthed her son, this grief was for the good of us all. While God the Son suffered at the crucifixion, by this suffering we are healed (Isa. 53:5), and he is a great high priest who can sympathize with our sufferings (Heb. 4:15).

Whatever darkness you face this Christmas, it is not the final word in your life. It may be lifelong. It may feel like it will never let up. It may threaten to undo you at times. And it is real. But we can grieve this holiday with hope that one day the baby who came in a manger will wipe every tear from our eyes and make his blessings flow for us forever (Rev. 21:4). The darkness that hovered over his cradle did not win. And it won’t win over us either.

Why Some of Us Aren’t Crazy About Christmas

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Why Some of Us Aren’t Crazy About Christmas

By John Myer

Christmas TreeChristmas doesn’t seem to work for everybody.  No, I’m not going to blame holiday consumerism.  It’s too easy a target, anyway.  My brother asked me the other day, “Can I use an Amazon gift card to buy somebody an Amazon gift card?”  That sounds like a blog post just waiting to happen.

Maybe it’s the overdose of seasonal music that makes us long for January. Personally, I like “Silent Night” the same way I like my opera…in 15 minute doses and then I’m good for a very long while. Here are a few other opinions on holiday music that I lifted from real twitter posts:

  • I just wanna get drunk off some wine, listen to sad music and watch Christmas movies all night
  • Christmas music is ruining all of the country stations.
  • People who don’t like Christmas music frighten me a little
  • I hate Christmas music. sorry
  • Isn’t it weird that there’s a whole music genre dedicated to one day (Christmas)

Feelings are all over the board.

The exciting, hug-yourself, crazy Christmas joy we ought to be having doesn’t seem to be there for some of us.  Several news sources estimate that millions will basically suffer through the holidays this year—singles, displaced, bereaved, empty nesters, forgotten seniors.

Even for those of us with generally good, over-the-top memorable Christmases, we can still be afflicted with a weird, Charlie Brown melancholy.

Is Christmas broke?  There’s no way of telling until we unplug “Christ” from “mas” and take a closer look at each of them.  First, “Christ” :

An angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds the night of Jesus’ birth, saying, “I bring you good tidings of great joy…1  Okay, so far, no depression, no sorrow.  No loss.  No melancholy.  No loneliness.  In fact, just the opposite.

“…great joy which will be to all people.”2  That includes lonely singles, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, folks in assisted living, and anyone who ever lost anybody.  This good news is all about “a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” 3

Then there was “a multitude of the heavenly host  praising God.”Angels found the news so compelling they couldn’t restrain themselves.  And the shepherds couldn’t either—“glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen…”5

Okay, no problem here.  Christ isn’t broke.

But the “mas” of Christmas introduces Bing Crosby, stockings, parties, mistletoe, egg nog, It’s a Wonderful Life, trees, elves, Black Friday, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and Santa Clause.  None of these things are necessarily bad.  It’s just that they stir traditional sentiments, not praise.  Enjoy them.  But don’t expect to be lifted into some transcendent place.   Don’t expect to return to work on January 2, and like those shepherds, be forever changed.  Neither holiday ham nor neighborhood lights can do that.  Only the gospel can.

The confusion point occurs when we blur the line between the incarnation of the Son of God and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.   One stirs the presence of Almighty God, the other ghosts of Christmas past.  One is the meaning of life itself.  The other is for fun.  Never forget the difference.

After I’m done with an awesome visit with relatives, and my Charlie Brown tree has been packed away, and I’m back on the treadmill working off the Christmas cookies, I can count on one thing.  That is, I’ll kneel down in my basement near the thud-thud-thud of the washing machine, and talk to the One who originally caused the angelic outburst and the shepherd’s celebration.

He’ll say, I am here.

And for the ten thousandth time, I’ll rejoice.


1 Luke 2:10

2 Luke 2:10

3Luke 2:11

4 Luke 2:13

5 Luke 2:20


Photo by btbman80

Marriage: Helpful Attitude

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In marriage, we can adopt helpful attitudes that will help conflicts to be constructive and improve overall marital satisfaction. Here are a couple:

Marriage good will


For more help in enhancing your marriage relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003.

Dealing with Holiday Depression

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Holiday Depression: Fixable and Something Not to be Ignored

By the American Counseling Association

According to lots of advertising, TV specials, and magazine stories, the winter holidays are a period of endless warm family activities, elaborate gift giving and wonderful parties with friends. For most people, the holiday season is indeed a happy time, but it can also be a period of sadness, anxiety and depression.

Holiday depressionOne major cause of the holiday blues is the unrealistic holiday expectations many of us have that create fantasy goals impossible to achieve. None of us have “perfect” families and “ideal” holiday experiences such as we see portrayed over and over in the media during this season.

We may also feel left out because we aren’t having the holiday experience we believe others are enjoying. There are parties we aren’t invited to, gifts we can’t afford, or new holiday clothes beyond our budget. We feel depressed because we are comparing ourselves to how things “ought to be” and that leaves us feeling we’re being cheated or missing out..

Fortunately, holiday depression is very fixable. The first step is simply recognizing that media-promoted perfect holiday images aren’t realistic. Refuse to compare yourself to that “ideal” TV family or those neighbors you imagine are having incredibly wonderful holidays. Instead, focus on all the good, positive and real things in your own life and emphasize those things that you really enjoy during the season.

Another way to fight holiday depression is to focus on your lifestyle. The holidays can bring changes in your daily habits that directly affect your moods. You may be eating differently (holiday cakes, candies and probably more alcohol), exercising less or not at all (you’re busier, it’s too cold, gets dark earlier), and you may be more tired thanks to a busy holiday schedule.

Making a conscious effort to get back to a healthier diet and to increase your amount of exercise can do a great deal to overcome holiday depression. Try to plan your time better and ensure you get a good night’s sleep each night. Many people find that taking a herbal supplement such as these Gold Bee gummies can also help to improve mood, as CBD is known to lower stress levels and promote relaxation.

Lastly, don’t wallow privately in your depression. Go meet with friends, not to discuss your feelings but just to enjoy them socially. Friends and family can do a great deal to lift your mood.

But if you find that your holiday depression is not going away despite your best efforts, try talking with a professional counselor. Serious depression is not a health problem to be ignored.

Want Help Sleeping? Put Down That Bedtime Snack!

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food sleepSometimes we like to grab that extra glass of water or a bedtime snack to try to help us relax and go to sleep at night.  But is it really helpful or could it actually be enhancing your sleeping struggles?

The Mayo Clinic has the following suggestions regarding helping yourself get to sleep:

1) Avoid large, high fat meals late in the day.  Eating a large meal, especially one that is high in fat, will contribute to your sleeping woes.

2) Avoid caffeine in the last few hours of the evening.  It can take a few hours for the caffeine to be out of your system, so avoid that last minute cup of caffeinated tea or coffee.

3) Avoid alcohol before bed.  While you may feel sleepy due to the effects of alcohol, it will prevent you from entering into a deep sleep and may cause you to wake up during the night.

4) Avoid excessive fluids before bed.  Some little kids drink a lot of water on Christmas Eve to wake up to catch a glimpse of Santa (because they have to pee).  The results are the same on adults.

5) Have a healthy lifestyle.  Eating a proper diet, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, plus regular exercise will help keep you healthy which will in turn help with your sleeping.

External Resistance to Boundaries

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“Boundaries are personal property lines that define who you are and who you are not, and influence all areas of your life.”
(Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, front flap, 1992).

boundariesExternal Resistance to Boundaries

Angry Reactions

“The most common resistance one gets from the outside is anger.  People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem.  Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort” (p 241).

First, you need to understand that it is the angry person who has the character fault, not the boundary setter.  Maintaining your boundaries will help the angry person learn to respect other people.  Second, if you stay separate from the person’s anger, not allowing yourself to get angry or giving up your boundaries, you will allow the other person to sit with their emotions rather than transfer their emotions onto you.  Third, you need to be prepared to use physical distance and other limiting factors as consequences to maintain your boundaries and ensure the angry person to learn to respect you and your boundaries.  “Sometimes, the hard truth is that they will not talk to you anymore, or they will leave the relationship if they can no longer control you” (p 243).  Even though this may be difficult, it may be the best long-term result.

Guilt Messages

People who say things intended to produce guilt are attempting to control you.  “They are trying to make you feel bad about deciding how you will spend your own time or resources, about growing up and separating from your parents, or about having a life separate” from them (p 244).

You can deal with these guilt messages by recognizing them as internal issues projected at you.  Limits and boundaries enable the other person to sit with their own anger, hurt, or sorrow.  If you notice the feeling of guilt arising, don’t blame them for “making you feel guilty”.  Once you start blaming them for “making you” feel a certain way you are giving them power over you.  Instead, recognize your internal emotional struggle, hold to your boundaries, and step back mentally to see how they are attempting to manipulate you emotionally and that you do not need to give them that power over you.  Also, do not explain or justify your boundaries to the one attempting to induce guilt – you do not owe them an explanation and if you offer one you fall into their guild trap.

Consequences and Countermoves

Sometimes people counter our boundaries with their own consequences in order to try to keep you under their control.  Be sure to count the cost and then consider if the cost is worth the loss of your “self”.  If you suffer loss, be proactive to make up for what you lose – this is one of the great reasons to ensure you have a healthy support group in your life.

Pain of Others

When we set boundaries, sometime other people feel hurt.  If you care for them, it can be difficult for you to watch; but it is important for you and them that you maintain your boundaries.  Sometimes those who hurt then blame you for the hurt – but you must remember that they are the ones with the character problem.  “Listen to the nature of other people’s complaints; if they are trying to blame you for something they should take responsibility for, confront them” (p 250).  In confronting them in a healthy way, you will learn how to not own the pain of another person and help that other person own and healthily deal with their own emotions and thoughts.


For more on establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003.

Myths About Boundaries

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“Boundaries are personal property lines that define who you are and who you are not, and influence all areas of your life.”
(Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, front flap, 1992).

internal boundariesCommon Boundary Myths

  1. If I Set Boundaries, I’m Being Selfish

Selfishness is when we are fixated on our own wants or pleasures while ignoring or minimizing our care for others.  Establishing healthy boundaries comes from the recognition that we are responsible for our own lives and therefore need to ensure that we are healthy to properly care for others.  Boundaries enable us to say “no” to people and activities that are harmful to us or others so that we can properly steward our time, abilities, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors for the best care of others and ourselves.

  1. Boundaries are a Sign of Disobedience

Boundaries can be a sign of disobedience if we say “no” to good things for wrong reasons, but saying “no” in and of itself is not a sign of disobedience.  The ability to decline may be a healthy exercise of saying “no” to an unreasonable request or allowing room to say “yes” to a great thing by saying “no” to a good thing.

  1. If I Begin Setting Boundaries, I Will Be Hurt By Others

It is true that some, but not all, people will get angry, aggressive, or passive aggressive when we start using healthy boundaries.  “Boundaries are a ‘litmus test’ for the quality of our relationships.  Those…who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness [even if they don’t agree with them].  Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our no.  They only love our yes, our compliance” (p 108).

  1. If I Set Boundaries, I will Hurt Others

“Boundaries are a defensive tool.  Appropriate boundaries don’t control, attack, or hurt anyone” (p 110). Boundaries help protect us and they help others take responsibility for their lives while we take responsibility for our lives.

  1. Boundaries Mean That I Am Angry

Emotions are indicator lights.  Anger is an emotion and may indicate that we are perceiving a threat to our boundaries.  If anger isn’t dealt with properly, old angers from boundary crossing hurts can flare up when we think our newly established healthy boundaries are being threatened.  In this way, old hurts can be exposed and given the opportunity to be healed (as long as we don’t try to ignore them, excuse them, or bury them) through our setting up boundaries, thus eventually making us less angry people.

  1. When Others Set Boundaries, It Injures Me

It is true that inappropriate boundaries can injures us, but we must avoid projecting our hurts onto others’ intentions or feelings.  Feeling hurt from healthy boundaries can actually help expose areas that need help in our own hearts and maybe even a desire to avoid taking responsibility for our own lives or actions.

  1. Boundaries Cause Feelings of Guilt

Sometimes we have trouble establishing boundaries because of a misplaced feeling of obligation.  There are those who give us love, time, and money (or anything else that we tend to feel obligated for receiving) as a gift because they care for us.  A gift is something given freely, without strings, and does not need to be paid back.  The appropriate response to a gift is “thank you” and not guilt or obligation.

Stress Management for the Small Business Owner

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Being a sole proprietor, small business owner, or entrepreneur can be invigorating and stressful at the same time. Running a business can be rewarding eventually, however, it will most likely be incredibly stressful to start. This can be down to the expense of building a business up from nothing, especially if you’ve not got much capital to begin with. When working with a small budget, it can seem impossible to purchase everything that might be needed to create a successful business. Some of the most important things to think about are office space, equipment, and contact methods. Every business requires contact methods to help them stay in contact with their clients and to bring in potential clients. To purchase a phone line for your business, you could click here to view Eatel Business’s pricing information to see if it’s within your budget. Phoning clients is a great way to get them talking about your business.

Whilst it can be extremely rewarding to own a business, it can also cause health issues if you don’t keep your life and work balanced equally. Most small business owners have invested the majority of their money and time into these businesses, which is why they want them to be successful. Due to this though, some people might take advantage of the smaller budgets that these businesses have. That’s why it might be in your best interests to invest in a strong door and storefront which will make it more difficult for thieves to break in. Aluminum doors are one of the strongest, you could look into them by visiting a website like Https:// for example. Make sure your business is securely locked, giving you peace of mind that your business is safe whilst you’re not there. This might help you to relax more.

Additionally, there is a necessary drive to create and sustain revenue as your paycheck is tied to your productivity. This reality can drive a person but can also break down and destroy a person emotionally, mentally and physically. If you find yourself struggling to run your business because it just doesn’t seem to be picking up any leads or new clients, then you might want to consider looking into a pr agency such as NGPIMC, for example. These companies help to increase your brand awareness and publicity, which might decrease your stress levels.

However, here are some tips to help ensure your healthy stress management that can help you run at the top of your biopsychosociospiritual (a cool word meaning physical, mental/emotional, social, and spiritual) business game:

Sleep Well

Sleep is important. Though there is a cool mug that says, “There is enough time to sleep when you are dead; until then drink coffee,” the truth is that without proper sleep our thinking isn’t as clear, our stress management tanks, and our decisions become poor.

Avoid interacting with an electronic device with a screen (television, computer, tablet, smart phone) at least an hour before bed to optimize your sleep quality as you aim for your effective sleep quantity.


Aim to put in at least 30 minutes of focused physical exercise during the day. In addition to being in better physical shape, exercise has been demonstrated to reduce stress and increase healthy moods. Setting aside this short amount of time can pay off with better business productivity during the day. On the topic of business productivity, it is worth noting that there are a number of ways it can be boosted. For example, the use of a business dashboard saves time for users across your company.

Quiet Spot

Don’t let your life be defined by your business or work. You are a “human being” not a “human doing”. Social interactions are healthy and provide great support systems (even for introverts), so ensure that you have a time and place where work is not allowed to invade.


Have fun. Schedule fun. Develop a habit of locating non-work related activities that bring you healthy pleasure and energy. For those who are more extroverted by nature, these will likely be people-related, and for those more introverted by nature, these will likely be more non-people related (but let’s not confine ourselves to a stereotype of what introverts and extroverts do for fun). Whatever you do for fun that is healthy, plan and do it as your biopsychosociospiritual health will thank you.


Some people use meditation as a way to clear their minds and relax. Others use meditation as a form of spiritual practice that helps them mentally and emotionally and spiritual recenter themselves on God. Either way, studies have shown that taking time, even 10 minutes, to pause and meditate helps a person recenter and reduce stress.

Big Picture Thinking

For the small business owner or entrepreneur the idea of self-care can be scary. Thoughts like, “I could have been doing so much more if I wasn’t doing [insert the above healthy tips]” rattle through the brain. Rather than feeling guilty over proper self-care, see self-care as part of a successful business plan.

For more ideas and help with healthy stress management, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614.459.3003.

Note: Photo by Nina Frazier; article concept adapted from “Stress Management and Rest for the Entrepreneur” by Anthony Centore.

Excessive Alcohol Use and Youth Brain Problems

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alcohol bottles

Excessive Alcohol Use When Young Could Have Lasting Impacts On Brain

Originally posted on

There is growing evidence for the lasting impact of alcohol on the brain. Excessive alcohol use accounts for 4% of the global burden of disease, and binge drinking particularly is becoming an increasing health issue, highlighted further by articles written by people like DB Tribute. A new review article published in Cortex highlights the significant changes in brain function and structure that can be caused by alcohol misuse in young people.

Functional signs of brain damage from alcohol misuse in young people mainly include deficits in visual learning and memory as well as executive functions. These functions are controlled by the hippocampus and frontal structures of the brain, which are not fully mature until around 25 years of age. Structural signs of alcohol misuse in young people include shrinking of the brain and significant changes to white matter tracts.

Furthermore, for young people, the legal repercussions of being charged with Under Age Drinking can be devastating. It is therefore essential to seek expert legal guidance as soon as possible if you or a young adult you know is involved in an offence of this nature.

Age of first use may be considered to trigger alcohol misuse. According to the researchers however, changing the legal drinking age is not the answer. In Australia the legal drinking age is 18, three years earlier than in the US. Despite the difference in legal drinking age, the age of first use (and associated problems) is the same between the two countries.

Instead, the authors stressed the need for early intervention, by identifying markers and thresholds of risky drinking behavior at an early stage, while individuals are in vulnerable stages of brain development.

For the Days You Don’t Like Your Spouse

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For the Days You Don’t Like Your Spouse

By Amie Patrick

My husband, Darrin, and I are a classic case of opposites attracting. We are aligned in our faith and core values and in our commitment to and love for each other and our children. We have some common interests, and our life together includes a lot of fun and laughter.

In general, though, we’re wired very differently. The ways in which we approach life often lie on opposite ends of the spectrum. Much of the time, we’re profoundly grateful for God’s design in our union. Our respective strengths and weaknesses create a helpful and beautiful balance. We don’t have far to go to find an opinion or perspective that will likely be quite different from our own. We’re less likely to excuse one another’s sins and weaknesses. The flip side of the coin, however, is that we also have to work really hard to understand, accept, and appreciate the differences in each other. Frankly, learning to do this has been significantly more difficult than we expected.

spouse marriageAs an engaged couple, we received plenty of general encouragement along the lines of “marriage is really hard.” We appreciated the mostly good intentions behind this admonition and were thankful for the advice. Living in covenant with another sinful, imperfect human being is messy and, while full of many beautiful moments, is not a constant fairy tale. Whether you and your spouse are opposites like us, or you find yourself married to someone very similar to you, no married person lives in a difficulty-free union. It was helpful to be aware of this truth before actually experiencing it, and to know that struggling was normal.

Embrace Their Differences

However, knowing that marriage can be hard and knowing how to practically and specifically love well in the nitty gritty day-to-day are two different things. In our case, this has often meant struggling to understand the perspective and actions of each other in situations where our differences make unity a challenge. We’ve always taken our marriage covenant seriously and know we’re committed to each other and to God for life. We aren’t looking for a way out. We also want more than a “business partner” relationship, or to give into the temptation to let bitterness and anger grow and drive a wedge between us. We truly desire a marriage where we honor and enjoy one another’s differences as gifts from God. Over the years we’ve definitely found that the hard work that helps us appreciate and enjoy one another more is usually practical and specific. We’re learning to approach our moments of tension and irritation with each other as God-ordained opportunities to build a stronger marriage. In light of that goal, there are a couple steps of repentance and action we try to practice regularly.

Confess the struggle to God. It seems this simple first step is the one we most try to avoid. It’s easier to complain to or about our spouse than to admit our discontentment to God. We may just try to fix our outward behavior toward our spouse without really addressing the deeper heart issues under the surface. It’s uncomfortable and humbling to say, “I just really don’t like my husband at all today” or, “My marriage doesn’t feel like a gift right now.” I want to love my husband well, but pretending I’m further along in this than I am doesn’t produce transformation in me. And I certainly can’t respond to my husband with humility if I’m unwilling to humble myself before God and admit I need help. Our gracious and merciful God knows how needy and helpless we are. We can confess our sin and struggle and receive mercy and grace to help in our time of need.

Differentiate between personality differences, preferences, and sin. In terms of personality I tend to be slower to react, methodical, and cautious. I like to think through things thoroughly before making a decision. Sometimes, this is wise and serves our family well. Partnered with my spiritual gifts, my desire and willingness to “see how things develop” can be an asset. Other times, though, when my primary motivation is fear, my caution and failure to act can be sinful and destructive for myself and those around me.

Part of Darrin’s calling as my husband is to help me discern what’s going on in my heart. At times he’d definitely prefer that I be as eager to “jump” as he is, and that I’d just naturally act a bit more quickly. It would be easy for him to demand I be more like him and fail to honor this part of how God has wired me. On the other hand, it would also be easy for him to never confront my sinful tendency to act cautiously out of fear. In order to love me well, then, he has to be prayerful and discerning, asking good questions and confronting my sin when necessary. He may not always get it exactly right, but he’s committed to my spiritual growth and to the process of honoring the way God has made me.

The reality that our spouses don’t always respond the way we would or prefer what we’d choose doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong or in sin. That said, differences in personality and preferences do not excuse sinful behavior. So if we are to grow in our love and appreciation for our spouse, we must be committed to acknowledging and helping each other with these distinctions.

Pursue Enjoyment of Your Spouse

On our wedding day, as we were leaving for our honeymoon, my dad waved goodbye and said, “Enjoy each other!” That simple encouraging statement has stuck with me through the years. While I may not always naturally be able to appreciate all the ways Darrin is different from me, I can commit myself to the daily process of choosing to be grateful and appreciative for him and to him.

I am blessed to have a husband who is wonderful in many ways that I can choose to remember and enjoy every day. I can ask God to open my eyes to the good things I don’t easily see. I can allow God to deepen my love for my husband as I pray for him. And I can choose to enjoy the person God has made Darrin to be, believing the truth that my husband, while imperfect, is a gift from God that I get to keep discovering, moment by moment, year after year. That reality is bigger and more powerful than any obstacle our “differences” might appear to put between us.