When Marriage Monday posted a week ago, the streets of Boston were still lined with onlookers cheering for runners. Before the day was over, lives were thrown into upheaval and tragedy as the world watched horrific scenes unfold. Marriage is hard enough without suffering trauma, but when a crisis hits, some couples struggle to stay together.
If tomorrow holds unexpected tragedy for you and your mate, your marriage can survive.
We had only lived overseas for a few weeks when crisis struck our family and we watched our son’s life slipping away. While we worked to save him, it was as if time moved frame by slow frame, with screaming and shouting and loud praying all mixed in the background. In my mind I imagined the news arriving back to the States and our family becoming one of those “tragic stories” everyone remembers. Crowds of people, traffic, different languages, culture, time, and curiosity seekers stood between us and a chance at saving Jacob’s life. God intervened and spared our son, but the scars left behind for all of us were deep.
Tragedy strains a marriage, but couples can survive.
The Battle of Blame
Blame is natural response to trauma; it can be amplified in cultures where accountability is important, like in the United States. We have a burning desire to assign responsibility and know who is at fault for our pain. Those in the circle of impact may blame themselves for being at the “wrong place at the wrong time” or not being at the “right place at the right time.” Somewhere in the chaos of pain, we often deflect the blame to our loved one, our spouse, wanting someone else to be responsible. The truth is, neither of us may be responsible, but we still have a natural tendency to blame ourselves and each other.
On the night of Jacob’s accident, I lay beside him on a thin, dirty mattress atop wire springs. The open window let in cold air and diesel fumes. I maneuvered around his tubes and wires to be as close as I could to give warm to our little boy. Alone in the darkness, with just the sound of distant chanting and my own prayers, I wrestled with the accusing voices of blame. Why wasn’t I watching at that moment? Why wasn’t Jeff watching? Why did those people let it happen? Who’s to blame? Marriage only survives trauma if blame gives way to forgiveness.
The Balm of Forgiveness
The best answer for blame is forgiveness. No one deserves to be forgiven for our wrongdoing or our failures, but we are. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1). God knows we are bound to unintentionally and intentionally offend and cause pain, but Jesus covers over our crimes. Instead of turning on each other when our weaknesses result in pain, decisions lead to disaster, or poor judgement leads to tragedy, we must know we do not stand condemned before God if we are in Christ Jesus. To extend grace to each other is to display the love and forgiveness Christ shows us.
What about those who are truly guilty? Sometimes tragedy comes from intentional evil, and when it does, we can trust the only wise God as judge. To consume ourselves with making men pay can devour a couple so that all that they share is a mutual desire for revenge and a craving for repayment. Couples in crisis caused by the guilty can know that “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day,” (Psalm 7:11). He will ultimately make all things right.
The Blessing of Prayer
In addition to clinging to each other in the aftermath of tragedy, married partners find strength together in prayer. Marriage is meant to be the place of greatest trust and vulnerability, so what better place to throw ourselves before the Lord in uninhibited cries for understanding, comfort, and strength than with the one person who has loved and known us best?
God knows we are weak and frail in our times of trial, but even then He is available to us. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,’” (2 Corinthians 12:9a). As we cling to God, we cling together and endure.
Let go of blame. Extend forgiveness. Cling together to God in prayer.
Couples who face tragedy will find healing and hope through the ministry of Grief Share. You can find a support group, sign up for daily emails, and find reliable resources to help you through a time of grieving. I recommend Grieving with Hope: Finding Comfort as You Journey through Loss.
Check out these other Grief and Healing resources in this Amazon resource list:
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