May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.Colossians 1:11 ESV
When we read this full prayer, we notice that Paul is praying for the Spirit to strengthen the people of Colossi with the power of His glorious might so that they would have endurance and patience. That’s an interesting dichotomy to me. Strength and power are typically associated with force and influence, with the courage needed to fight a battle. Strength is generally active, but endurance and patience are the opposite—they are idle verbs. By the world’s standards, endurance and patience are often associated with weakness because they require no action. So, at first glance, it may seem that Paul is praying for the people of Colossi to be strengthened in order to be weak. But to any of us who have been on this journey of marriage for any length of time, we know that we need supernatural strength to love our spouses in a manner worthy of the Lord.
If the purpose of God’s strengthening is endurance and patience, it’s important we try to understand what Paul is referring to with these words. The original Greek word for endurance refers to long suffering toward people. In other words, we need endurance when we have difficult relationships. The world suggests we walk away from difficult people. We are taught to set healthy boundaries around people who may not be kind to us, or to step away from those who don’t consider our feelings or who might take advantage of us. The world tells us we should only surround ourselves with people who make us feel good about ourselves or who build us up, and to distance ourselves from people who are discouraging. The world justifies ending a marriage to someone who doesn’t treat us according to our expectations. We’ve grown apart, he just doesn’t care about me anymore, I shouldn’t have to put up with the way she treats me.
But God doesn’t teach us that at all—God calls us to live in peace with all people.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.Romans 12:18 ESV
It grieves God deeply to see conflict, most especially when it happens between two of His children. As a parent, there is little that grieves me as much as when two of my children quarreling. Imagine how God must view our marital arguments. God doesn’t want you to walk away from your spouse because they’re difficult, because they used harsh words in an argument, because they don’t seem to care how you feel. God wants you to lean in to that difficult relationship and work toward peace—for that you will need to be strengthened by His Spirit. You can’t do it alone.
Some may use the argument that their spouse is not a believer to justify walking away from the marriage. I married him before I was a believer, it was a mistake. This union isn’t blessed by God because she’s not a believer. Don’t be mistaken—walking away from a nonbeliever is not God’s plan either. Romans 12:18 teaches He wants us to live peaceably with all people—believers and nonbelievers alike. God uses those unions to impact unbelievers and draw them to Him. How well are you working for the kingdom when you cut off a relationship with an unbelieving spouse? And what does it say about God if you are acting as His ambassador? He would never close the door to you, He would never distance Himself from you, He would never say He needs to take a break from you, and He would never pull Himself away from because your relationship is not healthy or needs boundaries. How dare we say that about the people He has placed in our lives.
Obviously, I’m not referring to physically abusive relationships—there are situations that it is necessary for our safety to place boundaries in a relationship. The problem is many have chosen to distance themselves from difficult people, and have defended it under the ‘boundaries’ category. Not only does that diminish those who truly deal with abusive relationships, it’s simply not what God calls us to do.
God calls us to endure difficult relationships. In fact, He allows those difficult relationships into our lives to chasten our rough spots of self-righteousness. The reality is God chose your spouse to bubble up to the surface the darkness that lives inside your heart. He knew your spouse would challenge you and bring out the worst in you. That’s right, most of us only want to be with the people that bring out the best in us and we avoid the people that bring out the worst. But God wants the worst in you out in the open where He can work on it with you—it’s difficult to change you when you keep the worst hidden away in your heart. If you struggle to recognize the sin in your heart, just listen to the complaining, harsh, and unforgiving words coming out of your mouth the next time you argue with your spouse—that’s the part of you He wants to change.
Perhaps reading that has been convicting to you. But here’s the kicker—you can’t just think about the difficult relationship with your spouse and resolve to be kinder to them. It won’t work. You need to be strengthened by the Spirit to be able to demonstrate the endurance needed to deal with a difficult marriage. That’s how He grows us. If we walk away from a difficult marriage or we set boundaries around our challenging spouses, we never acknowledge our need for the Spirit to fill us, we never acknowledge our need to rely fully on Him. Instead, we have a tendency to act in our own strength and manage the situation. I’ll avoid them, I’ll bite my tongue, I’ll set boundaries around them.
When you tap into that strength of the Spirit to heal your marriage, God is glorified instead of you. That’s what He’s after. Allow Him to fill you with the strength to endure.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗