Every time I hear the term, “new normal”, it implies that many of the things I enjoy about life are unavailable and may never return. The pandemic has robbed so many people of peace, security and purpose that it triggers a survival instinct. In a survival mindset, you can only think about what it takes to make it through the next day. When your immediate circumstances become your truth, you may feel alone, abandoned and judged–but this is not true.
A survivor is someone who has overcome great adversity. To go from surviving to being a survivor you must recapture your identity and purpose. Your circumstances may not change, but your struggles will no longer define who you are. Even in a pandemic, the truth is,
you are a dearly loved child of God; you are not lost, or defeated and you are not alone.
I can safely say, the best premarital curriculum do not include the topic: “Thriving During a Pandemic.” But today, many couples are struggling to find God’s presence and purpose due to the pandemic’s impact on jobs, health, education, friendship and family life.
Couples have made major adjustments in the way they work, parent, shop, educate children or connect with family and friends to protect their health. At first, these new challenges can create a sense of camaraderie between spouses by working together to overcome each new challenge. However, over an extended time, a couple can become worn down and will struggle to give their best to each other. Do not be dismayed if you are experiencing new levels of tension, conflict, or dissatisfaction. All couples and families are walking in unfamiliar territory.
Marriage has a unique role in God’s mission to advance His kingdom. The nature of God is missional, and your marriage has a missional purpose as being a “sent one.” As a couple your mission begins on your wedding day. However, each couple must be willing to be sent out as ambassadors of hope. The mission of God becomes especially clear in this season of pandemic, as so many families have experienced such devastating losses. Your marriage covenant represents hope—no matter what is happening in the world. God chooses your relationship to represent the hope of Christ. This hope can be found in your love for God and each other. A couple who has hope will also have a strong sense of purpose.
The purpose of a married couple is to glorify God in everything they say, do or accomplish, and to be an expression of sacrificial love, grace, mercy and justice to everyone–especially to each other and their children.
As a couple you are a force sent into the world. Matthew 11:12 uses this idea of being a force in a unique way, “forceful (men and women) advance the kingdom of God.” To be a force means to have a wholehearted enthusiasm to spread the news of God’s reign, especially in circumstances that seem to be challenging the advancement of His kingdom. To some, the pandemic and social distancing restrictions appear to be winning the day; but they are not. Forceful men and women are advancing the kingdom.
Resilience in the Pandemic
The very idea of a life-long marriage has come under scrutiny because of the frequency of divorce, abuse and family struggles. But there is something very right about marriage. Never let these truths fade from your mind:
You are married to the right person, in the right state, at the right time, in the current circumstances; and if parenting, you are parenting the right children.
For some, the pandemic has served as an escape clause for a struggling marriage. You may feel isolated due to the additional pressure on your relationship from a spouse being furloughed or working from home, managing your child’s education, or being separated from friends or family. Before the pandemic, couples may have neglected seeking help for their relationship because conflicts seemed manageable when they only had evenings and weekends together. But with these added pressures they are exhausted and realize that they have lost hope for a better life and marriage. Take a deep breath and read the next sentence. A struggling marriage does not disqualify you from walking out your purpose and mission. On your wedding day, God joined you and all the resource of heaven are available to you.
Resilience means to recover from physical, emotional or spiritual losses. The pandemic is a force that has disrupted the connection with church services, small groups and quick access to pastors. But you are a greater force than the pandemic. Being married does not make you missional, nor does meeting in a building qualify as going to church. The Scriptures (1 Cor. 16:19-20) teach us that we are the temple of God and not a building. The pandemic, as awful as it is, can help us to recapture our purpose as God’s messengers. Currently we are not meeting in a physical building to hear a sermon, receive prayer or worship. However, we are the sermon. Your relationship is a living testimony of a holy covenant between God and His people. Church happens between spouses, parents and children and in small groups that meet online or social distancing at a park. The message of hope goes wherever you go!
If you and your spouse are struggling with your purpose and identity, you can attend the online class, Journey of Hope, starting August 1st (https://www.myvc.info/ministries/marriage-family-life/events) and discover a hope that does not disappoint. Vineyard Columbus also has marriage coaches available to meet online with premarital and married couples to help them develop a missional marriage. The Care Team is ready to engage you with individual needs as well as supporting your marriage. Remember, we are in this together.