Sacred Struggle: Embracing Difficulty in Order to Build Character

I have a friend who has gone through severe hardships in life, far greater than I ever have. Yet every time he calls – he speaks blessings into my life; he quotes scriptures that uplift me. I can think of several others whom I deeply love and appreciate in similar ways – they too have gone through very difficult times. Whereas many who go through the fire become bitter, others become better… better people, better friends, better lovers of those around them. It convicts me, challenges me, and gives me hope all at the same time.

Marriage can be one of the most challenging arenas from which bitterness or “betterness” comes forth.

Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage says it this way: “…collisions of marriage can create relationships of beauty. These points of impact may not be fun…but the process can make us stronger, build our character, and deepen our faith.” So very well put! One of the most deciding factors that determine whether the marriage will become bitter or better is perspective. Do you view marriage primarily as a means to happiness or a means to holiness? If it is happiness, every disappointment will lead to frustration followed by selfish ambition to get what you want. James speaks of this in chapter 3:16, saying this will only lead to “disorder and every kind of evil.” NLT Interestingly, viewing marriage as a means to happiness invariably always leads to sorrow and destruction.

The other perspective is to view marriage first and foremost as a tool in God’s hands whereby He shapes and molds each person into holy vessels like Himself. In a conflict between my wife and I earlier this week, God had to work in both my heart and my wife’s. After she seemingly deliberately did something I asked her not to do, I was quite angry. She on the other hand felt angry at what I had decided – that it was completely unnecessary and didn’t really apply to her. Before we had the opportunity to talk about it, we had gone our separate ways. For several hours we vacillated between stewing over our wounds and listening to the Spirit. In time, the Spirit won out. We came back together, listened to each other’s heart, humbled ourselves before the other and once again experienced our relationship being strengthened.Interestingly once again, viewing marriage first as a means to holiness, not only moved us further in that direction, but also ended up with us both being more happy!

You may be thinking – “yeah, but you have no idea what hardship I face in my marriage.” This is true. The reality is, none of us get to choose what trials we face in life, but we can choose what we will do with those trials. We will either let them ruin our lives and spawn bitterness in the rivers of our soul, or we will let them drive us to our knees where we seek the Potters hand to shape, convict, transform and direct us to become better than who we were the day before.

The next time you find yourself angry and hurt at your spouse ask yourself some questions like: what does God want to teach me through this? What is He calling me to do? How and where can I grow through this experience? And what does this all look like in light of eternity?

My challenge to you is this: put holiness before happiness, and in the end you will experience more of both!

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