There is a dish my husband loves to eat which features pork stir-fried with a bumpy cucumber-shaped vegetable called the bitter melon. While I have no qualms about eating my veggies, this gourd is one I desperately stay away from. Although nutritious, the bitter melon has a very strong, acrid taste that can leave one shuddering after a single bite. My husband though can’t get enough of the bitter melon’s pungent flavor and always willingly eats my share.
Once when he saw me turn my nose up at this vegetable, he jokingly said, “You don’t like to eat it because you don’t like to eat bitter.” I laughed indignantly at his comment because in Chinese the phrase eat bitter translates into the term “to endure hardship”. I understood what he was implying: I’m not good at handling hard times.
Like bitter melon, my husband’s remark left a bad taste in my mouth. My pride didn’t want to admit that he was right, but the truth was, he was right. When life is smooth sailing and things go my way, I am happy. However, when hardships come, I am prone to complaining and wallowing.
When I stood at the altar over thirteen years ago, I honestly didn’t understand the seriousness of the vows I was making. Although I pledged in all sincerity to love my husband “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”, I did so naively. I believed these were merely sweet words to say because, surely, our marriage would be immune from adversity. But as any married couple can attest to, it’s not a matter of if difficulties will come, but when.
What have I learned since our wedding day? That all marriages will face hardships, but couples can endure hard times by holding on to these three truths.
1. God is bigger. There’s a Veggie Tales song that states, “God is bigger than the boogie man.” God is also bigger than anything your marriage will ever face. He is eternal and unchanging. He exists outside of time and knows every detail of what is to come in your life; nothing that happens ever surprises Him. Above all, He is loving, faithful and good.
When you encounter hardships, remember that God is always with you. Seek Him for wisdom in whatever situation you may be facing. Look to Him as your provider and source of peace.
“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8)
2. Two are better than one. Marriage is meant to be an intimate partnership, one in which a husband and wife can lean on and support each other. When facing difficulties, it is more crucial than ever to remember that you are part of a team. Make an effort to share your fears and insecurities, as well as listen to your spouse’s heart. Find strength and comfort in the fact that you are not alone and that you have someone who is walking with you in the valleys of life.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
3. Hardships have a purpose. Nearly a year ago, my husband and I had to swallow some “bitter melon” in our marriage. Due to some difficulties in his job, he experienced extreme anxiety, which resulted in him losing eight pounds in the span of two weeks. The emotional roller coaster he was on also added great stress to our relationship. At the time we both struggled to hang on to God and one another as we rode out the ups and downs of everyday life. In retrospect, however, my husband can say without a doubt that we came out stronger because of it. I would agree, too, although I did dread every second of it.
Even though hardships are not welcome at the moment, they are often the very things we need to grow as children of God, as well as marriage partners. Hardships do have a purpose. Face adversity with the knowledge that it can deepen your and your spouse’s faith in God and your love for one another.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
When (not if) you and your spouse face adversity, may you remember these three truths: God is bigger than anything you will ever go through; two are better than one when enduring hardships; and difficult times do serve a greater purpose. It is my hope that as we learn to eat bitter, we will also come to taste the sweetness that results from a marriage fortified through hardships.
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