We sit across the table from one another. Tears brim. I speak the painful words I have contemplated with so many:

Sometimes the loneliness in marriage is lonelier than being alone.

She nods.

house, cold aloneHer marriage is not suffering the tragedy of adultery or the horror of abuse. Instead, a cool distance has set in where warmth once bloomed. The quiet tragedy of lives lived beside one another, but not in union with one another.

Older people warned us. They told us they weathered difficult times.  We thought they meant the Great Depression or a war or an illness. One woman married over sixty years was asked if she ever considered divorce. “No, I never considered divorce,” she replied. “But I did take out the revolver a couple of times.” Behind the humor is the reality of a different kind of pain.

In every marriage there is the gradual wear and tear of life on life. Sin rubs against sin, causing relational blisters that are difficult to heal. The person that once brought smiles of joy now causes tears of pain. You used to talk for hours, now the silence screams angry.

Are some destined to a Narnia-like marriage where it’s always winter and never Christmas? Is there hope for a couple when the chill sets in?  Throughout years of ministry, I have witnessed spring bloom time and again in marriages and I believe there is hope. In the midst of a wintery season, how can a couple till the soil of their marriage to encourage new growth?

Embrace the Promise

At some point most marriages face a rough patch. Being annoyed, frustrated, or emotionally distanced does not mean you married the wrong person or have a difficult marriage. You have a marriage. There’s a reason we make a promise “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”  The necessity of a promise presupposes that at some point we may want to abandon ship. While most Facebook pages are full of apple picking families, romantic get-a ways, and birthday celebrations, believe me, the numbers of difficult stories behind those seemingly happy stories are countless. I regularly meet with women struggling in their marriages. But who shares on their newsfeed:  I cried myself to sleep last night because I had a terrible fight with my husband or my wife confessed she isn’t attracted to me anymore? An unrealistic expectation of a trouble-free marriage has a tendency to increase our dissatisfaction with it. Accepting that wintery seasons are a normal part of many healthy marriages can be a helpful first step towards healing.

Pray Daily

The Lord is able. He saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the furnace (Daniel 3). He caused the sun to stand still (Joshua 10:12). He brought down the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6). You may feel that nothing can save your marriage. God can. He is able to tear down the walls that divide. He is able to build back delight. What is impossible with man is possible with God.  Hope in Him. Pray to Him. Keep seeking, keep knocking, keep asking.

Love Unconditionally

Don’t wait to love until your spouse starts loving you. Begin today. Consider how you can demonstrate unconditional love in your marriage. In what ways can you display patience and kindness?  How can you let go of resentment or irritability?  What does it look like today for you to bear all things, believe all things, hope in all things, and endure all things?

Does it sound like too heavy of a cross to bear?  Then most likely you are loving your spouse in the very way Jesus loved you. It may feel like death to let go of hurts and unfulfilled longings, but loving in the way of the cross is the pathway to redemption.

Examine your Affections

Are you seeking from your spouse what only the Lord can give? No other person can fully satisfy or save us, but we often place unrealistic expectations on our spouse. We expect them to care perfectly, understand sympathetically, and know our needs before we even ask. Only the Lord can be this source of comfort in our lives. We have an eternal thirst that can only be fulfilled by an eternal God.  If we seek in our spouse what only the Lord can give, we set our marriages up for failure or idolatry.

Remember with Thanksgiving

Take time every day to reflect upon things your spouse is doing that you can offer up in thanksgiving. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). We can stoke the fires of resentment or the fires of passion by what we choose to think about with regard to our spouse. As Elisabeth Elliot noted:

A wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy.

Seek Counsel

Find a couple that’s been married over a decade (even better if they’ve been married two or three). Most have gone through a season of difficulty. They’ve seen that God can revive a weary and worn marriage. Be careful with your words as you share. Share honestly while honoring your spouse. Ask for their advice. Seek their prayers.

Forgive Fully

Every marriage is an uncomfortable union between two sinners. We may find that Jesus’ command to forgive “seventy times seven” is not theoretical. One friend told me, “Oh, we passed that number long ago. I counted.”

Choose to entrust your hurts to the Lord. Don’t keep an index file of wrongs to pull out as zingers for the next argument. Paul exhorts, “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).  This type of forgiveness is impossible without the work of the Spirit within us. Thankfully, His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

Wait Expectantly

Remember that spring follows winter. Expect the Lord to work in your marriage. Look for signs of new growth. God wants your marriage to be a beautiful reflection of Christ and the Church. Laughter and joy can bloom again.

To those in a difficult season of marriage, cling to Jesus, placing your ultimate hope in the wedding that is yet to come. At the same time, dare to hope for your earthly marriage, anticipating with the Psalmist:

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!  (Psalm 27:13- 14)


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6 thoughts on “The Big Chill: Hope for a Winter Season of Marriage”

  1. Carol says:

    I’m hopeful that our church will be doing a small group on marriage this fall. Reading this article has made me realize that I need to start a folder of godly wisdom on marriage. Yours is the first one. Thank you.

    1. Melissa Kruger says:

      Thanks Carol!

  2. Neil says:

    This post should leave no doubt as the understanding of one-flesh covenant marriage ONLY. We should applaud that this post considers the fact that God enters the bond of covenant marriage. I would like to add that understanding that “God is for your marriage” is not the same as “God is for your remarriage.” This post is right on with understanding that God is very much a part of one-flesh covenant marriage and having a Christ-like spirit says that divorce is never an option.

    But it is folly in believing that one can forsake a covenant marriage through divorce, and expect that God is going to bless your “remarriage” to anyone other than your living covenant spouse. I wish that this post had more clarity on the definition of marriage knowing that the Holy Spirit would not expect you to remain in what the Lord Jesus Christ calls all “remarriages” after a divorce of a living covenant spouse. (He calls this adultery. Mt 5:32, 19:9; Mk 10:11,12; and Luke 16:18)

    I immediately had these thoughts for each subtitle. Behind these thoughts is the understanding that anyone in Christ would understand the definition of marriage knowing that the popular “loophole” verses to divorce do not corroborate with a vibrant understanding of the Gospel…

    Embrace the promise- This is keeping a covenant vow you made before God and acting like He was not only the officiator of that vow, He is a spiritual addition of that covenant.

    Pray Daily-We have the Holy Spirit in us that draws us into an intimate relationship with the Lord. Expecting that He hears our prayers and acts upon them in accordance with His will is mandatory.

    Love Unconditionally- Remember, God loved you dearly enough to send His only begotten Son to suffer and die for you…while you were yet a sinner.

    Examine your Affections-Who do you love more, the Lord or your spouse?

    Remember with Thanksgiving- Being thankful for the opportunity of representing Christ’s love for the church is a gift beyond measure.

    Seek Council- Oh that more elder married couples would be spiritual guides to younger married couples. That is a worthy ministry unto the Lord.

    Forgive Fully- The same grace you received from God through the Lord Jesus Christ is the same grace you extend to those who do not deserve it…. including your spouse. Forgive as your Father in Heaven forgave you.

    Wait Expectantly-Standing for your marriage includes believing God is doing His part because you remain obedient to His promises.

    Understanding that marriage is as John Piper puts it, “God’s doing” than it is easy to understand that this article has much to say about “remaining in a first covenant one-flesh marriage” then it has to say anything about believing that this post is for those who are in a “remarriage”. I believe clarity is essential to understanding the definition of covenant marriage, and writing an article with the assumption that it also applies to “remarriages” is not only confusing, it is eternally damaging.

    Heb 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

    In Christ’s love,


    1. Laurie says:

      It seems like you’re saying that that there is no hope for those who divorce. Of course God hates divorce …but He hates all sin. To say that a divorced person may as well give up hope for any blessing in their re-marriage isn’t accurate. Again, I am NOT advocating divorce. But it’s just one sin among many and God can take anything and rebuild it if we sincerely confess and seek His forgiveness.

      1. Neil says:

        Laurie, there is hope for those who “believe” a divorce can terminate a one-flesh covenant. That hope is to remain in covenant and to trust the Lord. The problem we have today is that many do not understand the biblical definition of covenant marriage. If you believe a divorce actually ends a one-flesh marriage covenant, then you do not have a biblical understanding of marriage. The Lord Jesus Christ says that if divorce is your option, then you are to remain unmarried. (1 Cor 7:10,11) Confessing your sin and seeking forgiveness for those who “remarried” involves a divorce from the remarriage and never calling it a marriage in the Lord.

        When you start adding remarriage after a divorce of a living covenant spouse, then you have entered into adultery because a divorce does not end the marriage covenant. A “remarriage” is NOT a marriage in the Lord. (1 Cor 7:39) The Lord calls us to remain in Him in all situations, including a tumultuous marriage. Divorce from a covenant marriage (Which is “hardheartedness”) is saying that you do not trust God to work in your marriage, and that the divorce frees you from trusting Him. Regardless if you initiated divorce, or were divorced against your will (via. Unconstitutional divorce laws), you are still under the obligation to remain in your covenant vow, and so is your spouse.

        Since you are NOT responsible for the vow your spouse made to you, what will it take on your part to honor your vow to your spouse? The OP, and my response is the solution for covenant marriages, not “remarriages.”. Only by faith can we please God, and obediently remaining in covenant is the only option regardless of what the world will tell you. Applying these principles to remain in an adulterous remarriage after you divorced your covenant spouse is selective obedience. Either marriage post-resurrection is one man and one woman for life as it was in the beginning (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:4-6; Mk 10:6-9), or marriage is up for definition like it is today. You decide.

        In Christ’s love,

  3. Bob DeGray says:

    Audrey Assad captured this in a beautiful song:

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Melissa Kruger

Melissa Kruger is a wife, mom, and the author of The Envy of Eve and Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood. She enjoys teaching women the Bible and serves on staff as women’s ministry coordinator at Uptown PCA.

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