By Tracey Eyster

I used to watch people running along roadways and think to myself, It must take a special kind of crazy for someone to run … on purpose … without being chased. I mean really, why would someone want to run? I certainly never would.

Never say never.

I used to hear about Christian couples who were getting a divorce and I’d think to myself, I could never imagine any of my Christian friends getting a divorce.

Never say never.

In the last few months these above declarations of “never” have come together to teach me a very valuable life lesson.

The run

I was curious to learn why someone would run. Then a friend said if I could walk, I could run. Well, my preferred form of outdoor activity has always been walking and hiking, so I thought I’d take her up on her challenge. I committed to train for five months to be a runner and run in a half-marathon (13.1 miles).

At first the running was fun. The training started with brief runs and the mileage slowly began to increase. You’d be amazed at what the human body can do with the proper conditioning and practice. I had a weekly training schedule and I stuck to it.

What came to mind on those long runs was, Push through—you can do it. No one said it would be easy, but when it gets tough you need to push through the physical and mental pain. There were times when I thought it would just be easier to stop, but I had made a commitment and I was determined to keep it.

Race day arrived. After about six miles I thought I had lost my mind when I thought I would actually be able to finish the race. I questioned my commitment, and thought, Who would blame me if I quit? But I recognized that I had to make it. I had trained, my body was ready, and I was committed. I had to push through.

I finished the race, and the feeling of crossing the finish line was amazing. It was a true personal victory for me.

Pushing through in marriage

I’ve always thought committed Christian couples understood the importance of staying married. They know about covenant relationship and recognize God’s design for marriage. They are committed to staying together through the good and the bad for the glory of God.

In the last town where I lived, I was part of a Bible study group for a few years. The seven couples in the group were from different churches, but each couple was committed to each other and to their faith. We met together regularly to study the Bible and better ourselves as believers and spouses. We also did fun things together, had graduation and birthday parties together, and planned weddings together.

But most of all we were in training together—biblical life training. And we took our training seriously.

Imagine my surprise when I heard that one of the couples from the Bible Study group was getting a divorce. Just like that, the wife walked out one day. Why? They argued, it was hard, she felt her needs weren’t being met, they grew apart.

Most couples could pick a reason, dwell on it and conjure up enough reason to quit. Does the reason really matter? Not if they are committed, not if they understand the need to take their covenant seriously. This couple has two children and a legacy to think about as well. What would it do to their children if they just quit?

What about all the training, what about pushing through? I thought. What happened to persevering, working through the problems and the pain? They can’t give up just because it’s hard—they know what to do. God expects them to push through, honor their commitment, and allow the experience to make them more Christlike.

My heart aches, I grieve … they quit, before the victory of the finish line.

Running the race of marriage is God’s tool to improve us as individuals. He binds us together as a couple and uses our spouse to hold up a mirror and reveal our true selves. Then, through love and commitment, we recognize how much we need Christ in our lives and we spur one another on to finish the race and love each other unconditionally … forever.

You can read more by Tracey Lanter in FamilyLife’s blog, MomLife Today.

This article originally appeared in the March 30, 2009 issue of Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter. To subscribe free to Marriage Memo and other FamilyLife e-newsletters, click here. For the Marriage Memo archives, click here.