Seasons of Change in Marriage
I don’t often find myself in the book of Ecclesiastes when I am reading the Bible. It’s a great book; don’t get me wrong, but it ends up with the likes of Nahum, Joel, or Numbers in terms of my “go-to” books to read. Recently, a verse in Ecclesiastes keeps popping in my head, however – especially during marriage counseling with some of my couples. The verse is this:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecc 3:1)
The chapter goes on to list things there is a time for: a time to mourn and a time to dance (v. 4), a time to search and a time to give up (v. 6), a time to be silent and a time to speak (v. 7), and a time to tear and a time to mend (v. 7). (As I’m listing these, the song “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)” by the Byrds may be popping into your head. I know I can’t stop singing it now!).
The Power of Seasons
The author of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon, is really emphasizing here the power of seasons of our lives. Our lives are always moving, changing, and growing. Sometimes we go through periods of joy, other times we go through periods of suffering. Sometimes life seems really boring and uneventful, other times we wish life would just slow down so we could catch our breath.
Life is full of seasons, you see, and what God has been teaching me lately is so are marriages. Sometimes I will see couples who are so discouraged by their own actions or the actions of their spouse that they end up feeling very trapped and hopeless. And I think what oftentimes is happening is that these couples are becoming short-sighted amidst the hardship. All they can see is today, so any glimmer of hope for a different future, a different “season”, is not even on their radar.
When couples get discouraged in my office, I have been instructing them to read and think about these verses in Ecclesiastes. Because the reality is, marriage is sometimes really easy and fun, and other times it’s really hard and frustrating. But if you are able to see the hard times as a season, you will realize that those hard times will one day come to an end, and that you as a couple will be able to experience a season of joy and renewed love in the next.
Remember Who is in Control
This takes a little bit of the pressure off of us and allows us to put control in the right hands – in God’s hands. Because if our husbands are going to change, it’s going to be because God works on their hearts. If our wives are going to change, it’s going to be because they are seeking God for refinement and approaching Him with humility.
We cannot change our spouses – but that doesn’t mean we can’t expect a brighter future. We must surrender that change to God, entrusting Him with this season of our marriage, and clinging to the hope of a new season around the corner – a better season. When we step back and see the big picture, we realize that we are works in progress. We are not finished. And there’s breathing room in that fact.
We realize that our spouses do not have to stay stuck in their bad habits, and neither do we. We realize that if we both are seeking the Lord with our attitudes, words, and actions in our marriage – He is without a doubt going to give us direction. And then this season of hardship seems a little more manageable, because we know it has an end date. Just like the Byrds say in their song:
There is a season … and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to gain, a time to lose; a time to rend, a time to sew; a time to love, a time to hate.
A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late!
If we surrender our marriages to God, it is never too late for change. This season is one of many that your marriage will go through. So be patient, wait it out, and look forward to the day when a season of joy comes to take its place.
About the Author:
Courtney A. Ellis, MA, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor providing professional private counseling to individuals and couples in the Tampa Bay area. Courtney offers Biblically-based support in a safe, confidential atmosphere. Areas of specialization include, but are not limited to, marital and premarital counseling, anxiety, depression, and body image. Visit www.HealingHurtingHearts.com to learn more.