Today, Chris and I celebrate 17 years of marriage. It was a beautiful fall day, much like today, when we said, “I do”. I pulled out the wedding album last night to have a look, and was surprised by my reaction. I got weepy. Like, really weepy. There was happiness and joy, of course, because seventeen years is a reason to celebrate. We’ve survived a lot together, and grown in ways we didn’t even know were possible back then, or necessary. Neither of us even had a personal relationship with the Lord when we married. I smile, even now, in knowing how His hand guided us through it all – even when we didn’t give Him credit for it. God has been so faithful to us all these years.
But there was also pain in looking at those pictures. My older kids were little when we married – five and three, almost four. Seeing our new little family all posed for pictures, so full of hope, was heartbreaking now. How could we have known all we would have endure, or where that twinkle-eyed little boy would end up? Prison casts a long shadow, and the grief threatens to swallow a marriage whole, if we let it.
And this is why I say, “Praise God!” today. I know our God is the reason this marriage has held together. What He has joined, let no man separate – even a destructive son from a former marriage. I thank God for His strong arm guiding us through the valley of shadows, and leading us faithfully in His everlasting light.
I remember a particularly low point in worship a few years ago. I couldn’t stand to sing because the anguish was crushing me. Chris lovingly took hold of my elbow and pulled me up to join him in standing. Right at that moment, the words of the song were, “We know that in all things, we are more than conquerors, you keep us by your love”…. His simple but firm action strengthened me. That day, I believed we were more than conquerors, together, because of the Lord’s keeping power.
There were times when I wasn’t sure we would make it through the hard times. This fear crippled me for a season, in addition to my grief. A friend encouraged me to pray for unity. So I did, for a couple of years. And many prayed for us through what seemed like crisis after crisis. That moment of standing together in worship was victory. I saw it as fruit of those years of prayer, and a declaration of our triumph over evil through Christ our Lord.
Looking back to our wedding day helps me appreciate the truth in how God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Little can shake a marriage held in the grip of God’s love.
A verse in Jeremiah 32 became my main prayer during those years of trial. I read the chapter again this morning in anticipation of sharing this verse with you, “They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul” (Jeremiah 32:38-41).
What was interesting in reading this today is that I never realized the context of this passage before now. In this chapter, the Lord is telling Jeremiah to “buy a field” in the land that He is about to give over to the Babylonians. God said in effect, “Don’t bother fighting against Babylon because you won’t win”. Yet, He instructs Jeremiah to buy the field. It makes no sense, and Jeremiah is trying to figure it all out.
I love the analogy to marriage I see in this today. Things come against us in our marriages. Some things seems too strong for us, and defeat is inevitable. Marriage is hard, and we struggle to figure it all out. But the Lord says in effect, “Buy the field”. Invest in your marriage. Believe in my power and promise to “do good to you” and “assuredly plant you in this land”. We may lose a battle, but in Him, we will not lose the war! What God has planted, no power can uproot!
“This is what the Lord says, As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised….I will restore their fortunes, declares the Lord”. (Jeremiah 32:42, 44).
The Lord works even through the sadness and calamity. He brings us through disaster after disaster, battered but not beaten. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23).
Happy anniversary to my wonderful husband, Chris. There is no one besides you I’d rather share in this wilderness with. I rejoice in all things these 17 years have brought, good times and bad, sickness and health, richer, poorer. And I give thanks to the Lord for His passionate “heart and soul” to plant us so firmly in the land. If God is for us, who can be against us? I thank you for helping me believe we are more than conquers in Him who loves us. And today, I “buy the field” all over again in pledging my love and faithfulness to you.