I recently read The Splendid And The Vile by Erik Larson, a book about Winston Churchill during the first year he was Prime Minister of Britain. Churchill’s first year in office witnessed the Blitz—a period of nightly German bombing of England in preparation for an outright invasion of the British Isles. In Churchill’s own words, it was one of the “darkest hours” of British history.
Just like Britain during the Blitz, our marriages can sometimes go through dark times. Sometimes these dark times are brought on by things out of our control, like the death of a parent or child, the loss of a job, or the failure of a business. Sometimes they are the consequences of choices that we or our spouse have made. In dark times like these, we feel stuck, and we don’t see any way that things can get better. We have no hope.
I distinctly remember a day in my own marriage when, for the first time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be married any more. My marriage had hit rock-bottom and even if it was possible to repair, I wasn’t sure I wanted to put in the effort to repair it. That was the darkest, most hopeless day of my life.
Now back to Churchill. One of Churchill’s favorite phrases was “grasping the larger hope”, which was from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. He used this phrase on many occasions, including this speech before Parliament:
We all hope [war] will never take place, and I am not at all prepared, standing here, to assume that it will inevitably take place. On the contrary, I still grasp the larger hope and believe that we may wear our way through these difficulties and leave this grim period behind.
To Churchill, “grasping the larger hope” meant looking beyond your current circumstances and believing that things will get better by trusting in a power beyond your own means. So what does “grasping the larger hope” mean in the context of our marriages?
First, it means hold on. As Derek said a few weeks ago in a sermon, H.O.P.E. stands for “Hold On, Possibilities Exist”. Don’t give up on your marriage. Keep trying, even if your spouse is not. Keep praying for change, even if you don’t see any yet. Keep deciding each day to love and serve your spouse, even if you are not seeing any love or service in return. Churchill himself said it best during a speech a few months after the Blitz:
Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
Second, “grasping the larger hope” means trusting in a hope larger than your marriage. Your marriage can only truly experience the peace and love that God desires when God Himself is at the center of it. My wife and I went for years without ever praying together except occasionally at meal times. But shortly after our rock-bottom day, perhaps out of desperation, we decided to start praying together. We have prayed together every day since then. That simple decision has done more than anything else to bring us closer to God and closer to each other. So before you begin fixing your marriage, first make the decision that God will be at the center of your marriage. Even if your spouse has lost interest, turning to God will give you the strength to keep loving and keep serving that spouse.
Last, “grasping the larger hope” means you are not alone. You have brothers and sisters in this ministry at CF who are here to help. Whatever you are going through, there is most likely someone else who has experienced the same thing. Reach out, and let them help you.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)