Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
When husbands and wives vow to remain faithful for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, we hope that we will have more of the former than the latter. But every marriage involves plenty of both.
There is a saying, “When hard times come through the door, love flies out the window.” Sadly, there is some truth to this, insofar as it is not unusual for couples and families to turn on each other when they encounter challenges. When we are under attack, we tend to want to comfort ourselves. When we are stressed, we become angry or worse with people who dare to have feelings or needs that are different from ours—or who require us to take care of them. It can be very difficult to stick close to each other, much less grow closer, through trial.
And yet that is exactly what we are called to do as husbands and wives. Remember God’s words at the beginning of time: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18)! Satan, who is like an angry lion waiting to devour us (see 1 Peter 5:8), wants to divide husbands and wives because we are easier prey when we are alone.
Like most couples, we have seen many times in our marriage when troubles piled up and fear, anger, and self-protection threatened to take hold. Despite all the psychological tools and resources at our disposal, we can honestly say that, in many of those times, our commitment to prayer together did the most to keep us from turning against each other. . . . Praying as a couple through challenging times is crucial. Here [is one way] you can pray:
The Jewish people sing a song during the Passover celebration that tells the story of all the ways God has been present to them. The song is Dayenu (die-AY-noo), which means “It would have been enough.” The lyrics vary, but the song is based on incidents the Israelites encountered on their exodus from Egypt. For example,
If you had divided the sea for us but had not taken us through it on dry land, it would have been enough for us.
If you had led us through the sea but had not given us a pillar of fire in the desert, it would have been enough for us.
If you had led us with a pillar of fire but had not given us water from the rock, it would have been enough for us.
If you had given us water from the rock but had not fed us with manna in the desert, it would have been enough for us.
And so on.
In difficult times in our lives together, we create our own personal dayenu prayer. . . . Instead of merely searching for immediate blessings for which to be grateful, the dayenu prayer forces us to intentionally call to mind all the times, from the earliest days of our relationship, that God delivered us from some terrible thing we faced. We take turns mentioning specific incidents of sickness, serious financial crises, and other dangers and pressures we have endured. We don’t worry about listing things in order. Our primary purpose is to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness in the past, when we were sure we were doomed.
Lisa: It would have been enough if you healed me from my serious illness, but you gave Greg the grace to take care of everything without losing his mind.
Greg: It would have been enough if you had given me the grace to keep it together when Lisa was so sick, but you helped us both be present to the kids.
Lisa: It would have been enough if you had helped us stay present to the kids when we were going through that time when I was sick, but you kept us safe through our car accident.
Greg: It would have been enough if you had kept us safe through our car accident, but you took care of us when I lost my job.
Lisa: It would have been enough if you had taken care of us when Greg lost his job, but . . .
You get the idea. Psychologically, a marital dayenu like this helps you put whatever you’re going through in perspective. Spiritually, it reminds you of God’s faithfulness through trial, and it challenges you to remember that even though you were sure that God had tired of taking care of you a million times before, he always came through.
Relationally, this prayer reminds you of all the things you have been through together and the life you have managed to create together—through God’s grace—in spite of it all. It reminds you of the times you bore up well, and it reminds you of the times you didn’t; and it challenges you to do better, to hang tough and stick together. A marital dayenu is a powerful way to witness to each other about God’s mercy in your lives and to promise to stand together through this trial as well.
Excerpted from Praying for (& with) Your Spouse by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak (The Word Among Us Press, 2018) Available at wau.org/books.