In a previous Marriage Memo I began my discussion about Hebrews 12:1-3 and the admonition to “run the race with endurance that is set before us.” This is the race of life—of following and serving Jesus in all that we do. An important part of this marathon race is marriage, and the words of Hebrews 12 offer sound wisdom for those who want to fulfill their wedding vows to remain together “until death do us part.”

In part one I discussed the encumbrances and entanglements we need to lay aside in the race. Now let’s look at some additional phrases from this passage in Hebrews:

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith …” The race of marriage is really a race of faith.  This is the part that so many couples forget. They try to maintain their marriage in their own power, and so often they fail because they don’t realize that marriage is ultimately a spiritual relationship—between a man, a woman, and God. Not only does God call you to pledge lifelong commitment to each other, but He also gives you the strength to keep your vows, no matter what happens.

When you fix your eyes on Jesus as you run the race of marriage, you realize your purpose is to serve Him and not seek your own fulfillment. When you and your spouse follow Him and draw closer to Him, you draw closer to each other. You recognize that there is much about marriage that is beyond your power; who has the ability, for example, to “love your wife as Christ loves the church” (Ephesians 5:25)? Instead, it is God who is “at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). He will “equip you in every good thing to do His will” (Hebrews 13:21).

“… who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God …” Running is a painful exercise, especially when you are pushing yourself in an endurance race. These words take me back to my 800-meter races in high school.   The 800 is a two-lap race around the track, and typically the first lap is run more quickly than the second. That second lap is a test of your willpower and tolerance for pain. I remember that with 300 meters to go, I would often look across the field and spot the finish line.

I could see it there, waiting for me. I knew the joy I would feel when I crossed it. And then, encouraged by the joy set before me, I would increase my pace and begin my drive for the finish.

In marriage there are seasons of trial and testing, when all you can think about is the long and painful road ahead. But God’s Word gives us hope, and promises us the joy that can only be found when you know Christ as your Savior and Lord. As Psalm 126:5-6 tells us, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” You probably will not endure hostility in the same way Jesus did during His time on earth. But it is easy to grow weary and “lose heart in doing good” (Galatians 6:9) in the marathon race of marriage. So many couples give up when faced with conflict, boredom, or suffering. Yet we can count on God to work wonders when you keep your eyes on Him.

One couple wrote to FamilyLife about how they regained hope and strength when they determined to grow closer to God:

Last year was kind of rough on our marriage. We’ve been trying to have children, but to no avail, and as a result of that frustration and a combination of being apathetic about our marriage, we both began to wonder if it was even right for us to be together.

I found a couple’s devotional book in an airport shop and showed it to my wife. She just rolled her eyes, like I was trying to make a smart remark. But when we got back home, I bought Moments Together for Couples and put it under the Christmas tree, labeled “To Us.” My wife opened it on Christmas morning, and we made a pact that we would read it this year.

It has done wonders for us! We have communicated more in the last seven weeks than we have in our entire marriage. We have learned things about each other that we had never known. We both want our marriage to work, and now it shows. Nowadays, I can’t wait to get home from work and see my wife. It reminds me of when we first started dating. I love her more each day.

Don’t give up. Don’t stop running. And don’t lose heart.

© 2009 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.