Loving others can be extremely difficult at times. A common phrase to refer to those people that we consistently find ourselves challenged to love is “extra grace required” people. But even people we generally like can sometimes be difficult to love. The main reason we run into difficulties in loving others is sin, both ours and that of those we try to love. … Battling both our own selfishness and sin tendencies and dealing with the selfishness and sin tendencies of others can make love a chore.
Question: My wife and I have been married for 11 years, and though we still love each other, our relationship has grown stale. What can we do to put the magic back in our marriage?
After 21 years of marriage, I discovered a new way of keeping the spark of love alive.
A little while ago I went out with another woman.
It was really my wife’s idea.
“I know that you love her,” she said one day, taking me by surprise.
The course of true love never did run smooth.
—William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for.
—Erica Jong (b. 1942)
Clark and Mary were in love. Clark proposed marriage, and Mary accepted. But it wasn’t as simple as that. Clark knew that to have a happy and harmonious marriage, he needed to win the approval of Mary’s parents, Clarence and Goldie—especially Goldie. He’d heard how mothers-in-law could be, you know, a little difficult. He braced himself and hoped for the best.
“Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.”1 The first time I heard that Bible verse, my heart hurt, and I felt so ashamed. Why? Because I knew there were people I hadn’t forgiven. Yet I really wanted God to forgive me for the things that I had done that hurt someone else.
Years ago, I was in a complicated and unpleasant work situation with one of my coworkers. Things didn’t improve, and I was relieved when he eventually moved on. Some time later, I received a short email from him with two simple words: “I apologize.”
I love reading invigorating stories of people who have started NGOs, founded orphanages, adopted foster kids, created fair-trade organizations, or pulled off some other world-changing feat. But as inspiring as these people are, most of us aren’t called to that kind of mission. We’re in one place, woven through a family and a community, living pretty low-key lives.
I don’t think that God intended any relationships to be perfect. I think of it as the “thorn” factor that He allows into the equation—that element that we shrink from, but that He knows we need. You may wonder, Why would we need differences of opinion, sensitivities, misunderstandings, jealousies, resentments, comparing, sacrificing, arguments, emotional upsets, fears, heartbreaks, and adversity? Those things don’t sound like they would build a very strong relationship.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all had someone say a few words of encouragement that radically changed our day or the course of events, just because of the extra inspiration and change of perspective those words brought. Maybe we were at the end of our rope, and someone’s encouragement opened a whole new horizon of possibilities. Or maybe we’d simply had a long and tiring day, and a few cheerful words renewed our inspiration and energy.