The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. What’s the difference? Think about the running events in the Olympics as an example. The sprints are between 100 and 400 meters in length, little more than a quarter mile, once around the track. A marathon is 42.2 kilometers (26 miles plus 385 yards). Sprinters burst from the starting line and run at top speed a race that is measured in seconds. Marathoners pace themselves to run with concentration and endurance for two to three hours. Sprints require leg power; marathons require great lung power and capacity.
As a Christian, you may feel like a sprinter at times, racing through a myriad of tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines. You say things like, “I just have to make it through this week,” or “If I can just hold it together until the kids are out of school.” But in reality, Christ has called us to remain faithful and obedient over the long haul, through the grueling marathon of a lifetime. You can see it in the following passages:
“Remain in my [Christ’s] love.” (John 15:9)
“By God’s grace, remain faithful.” (Acts 13:43)
“[Christ] will keep you strong right up to the end.” (1Corinthians 1:8)
“Let this encourage God’s holy people to endure persecution patiently and remain firm to the end, obeying his commands and trusting in Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12)
Christian marriage is a marathon in tandem. You and your spouse have linked hearts to serve God and get through life—with all its joys and pains—together. Your long-distance race isn’t about winning as individuals; it’s about helping each other go the distance and finish well. And aren’t you thrilled to have a running mate, a partner, and a helper?
You have probably discovered by now that the love that brought the two of you together—that passionate, fiery, romantic love—may be alright for a sprint, but it’s not enough to get you to the finish line. You need passion, fire, and romance, to be sure. But you also need persevering love, long-term concentration, dedication, patience, and endurance. Here are several important qualities of persevering love:
The starting point for persevering love is an all-out commitment to each other. It’s the tough stance that says, “Our marriage is bigger than any issue. No matter what is arrayed against us, we will stand together. Neither of us will ever go through a trial alone. We will stay the course—not because we have to, not even because we promised to. Rather, we will hang in there because we care for each other more than anything in this world.”
Persevering love says, “No matter how good or bad you look, no matter how much money you make or lose, no matter how smart or feebleminded you are, I will still love you.” That’s the essence of our wedding vows—for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. Unconditional acceptance chooses to continue loving even when life dumps on us a world of excuses for falling out of love.
Persevering love is the product of deep trust between you and your spouse. Trust says, “I will
depend on you to guard my heart and my life, to fight beside me always.” You may need a lot of people to pull you through a crisis. But more than anyone on earth, husbands and wives should rely on each other. This level of trust grows richer over time and under the pressure of trials, as you each prove yourselves trustworthy to each other.
Every kind of trial in life—emotional burdens, financial difficulties, spiritual doubts, physical pain, relational stresses—presents a new opportunity for you and your spouse to hang on together. Commitment helps you stay connected to each other through trials; endurance is the determination to outlast the problems, to help each other get to the other side. Think of the intimacy and friendship that can develop in your relationship when both of you are committed to getting through every trial.
In order for your love to finish well through life’s pressures, it needs to be grounded in a sincere, abiding faith in the God who designed marriage. Any of us can stubbornly pursue a lifestyle that our culture deems important and live independent of God. Sometimes a severe trial moves us to let God have his way with us and to see what truly matters in life. We often don’t really appreciate the important role faith plays in our marriage until a crisis forces us to throw ourselves on God.
Whenever you and your spouse find yourselves in a lull between the storms of life, take the opportunity to prepare for potential stormy weather ahead. The lull between the storms is the time to shore up your marriage. Work on a Bible study together. Take a second honeymoon—or third, or fourth. Read some good books on marriage enrichment and discuss them together. Attend a Christian marriage conference together. Seek out a Christian counselor and ask him or her for pointers on how to deepen your friendship for the long haul. The more you invest in your marriage between the storms, the better prepared you will be to endure the storms together—and even come through them stronger.