Recently I heard the powerful story of a Swedish couple who served as missionaries in southern Russia. One night, on their way home from a church gathering, they were kidnapped by gunpoint—thrown into the trunk of a car, and eventually forced into a tiny jail cell with a mud floor, a bucket for their toilet, no windows—their new home for the next 165 days.
They were allowed to keep their Bible, which became their source of sanity and hope when they were beaten, mocked, and treated like animals.
The couple was allowed to stay together in their prison cell. They memorized Scripture and prayed throughout the day. They even fasted from their meager prison rations every few days.
They huddled together in the winter. They invented games to pass time. They sang worship songs together. They etched off the passing days on the wall with chalk.
As I listened to this couple recount their story, their love for each other was clearly evident. During the entire hour, there were maybe one or two minutes when they weren’t touching in some way. I thought to myself, Do you think an affair is going to end this marriage? Do you think they’re going to fall out of love with each other? Will they let little annoyances drive them apart.
I don’t think so.
This couple reminded me that my marriage isn’t something I have to huddle around and defend from the world. It’s a weapon—a powerful tool against the enemy. With my husband, David, I can endure anything. With me, my husband can conquer anything.
Christ designed marriages to be strong, to be forces for His glory, strong enough to endure cancer, job loss, and the unthinkable—torture and imprisonment.
We can face anything and fight every battle together.
Why do we let the enemy steal power from our marriages? Maybe the biggest threat to our marriages is just an easy life that never requires us to endure anything together.
Even though David and I are far away from prison, I can still quote Scripture to him. I can still pray over him. I can still be his strongest fellow warrior in battle, his most trusted confidante. He can do the same for me.
Sometimes I feel like I have the spiritual muscle tone of spaghetti. I’m no health expert, but somewhere I heard that you build a muscle by tearing it down. You overload the muscle so it gets stronger.
Sometimes God gives me the smallest challenge, and I look at Him like He just asked me to do 100 pull-ups—it ain’t gonna happen.
I think we build spiritual muscle by going through the hard times with God, with our spouses, and with our families. We can beg God to take it away (Paul sure did, and so did the couple), but if He doesn’t, we just keep going.
When we feel the weakest, when we just can’t lift anymore, I think that’s when that muscle is formed within us. That’s how our marriages become strong—by doing something for Christ together, by enduring together—even in the middle of everyday life.
Praise God that we all don’t have to be thrown in a Russian prison. But seeing this radiant couple speak makes me think maybe they understand something about the depths of marriage and intimacy only found on the other side of suffering side-by-side—something about experiencing the light of God that you can only truly absorb when you’ve been in the darkest pit.
May I not shrink back the next time I have an opportunity to build spiritual muscle in myself and in my marriage.
Article courtesy of HomeLife Magazine.
Jennifer McCaman and her husband, David, are parents of a 2-year-old son and are missionaries in Bangkok, Thailand.