“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Prov. 17:17)
You’d be miserable indeed if you trained to become a fireman and resented it every time there was a fire. Not that you want there to be a fire, but putting out fires is what you’re trained to do. It’s what you signed up for. You don’t run from the fire—you move toward it.
In the same way, when we get married, we sign up to be there in times of adversity. If it is true that a brother is “born for adversity,” it is doubly true that a husband or wife is “married for adversity” for when I marry my wife, I become her closest friend in addition to being her brother in Christ. We’re thus signing up to be there during our spouses’ worst moments, most trying seasons, and even most irritating personal challenges.
What if we took Proverbs 17:17 seriously and thus considered ourselves “married for adversity?” Rather than resenting adversity, or feeling sorry for ourselves (instead of empathy for our spouse) that we have to deal with adversity, we would see adversity as a call to action, to closeness, to encouragement and support.
Imagine wives facing down social embarrassment with their husbands, but working with him instead of laughing at him: “This is one of the reasons I married him, to help him through this.” Imagine wives suffering a husband’s long bout of unemployment, thinking, “We got married so I could keep supplying the confidence and hope he needs.” Imagine the same attitude if he’s fighting an addiction, depression, or discouragement—a strong woman of faith realizing how dire things are but saying to herself, “I was born for this! I can love my man in the midst of this!”
Imagine husbands married to women who are gravely ill, doubling down on their affection and assurance: “I was born to help my wife get well (or even, sadly, to help her face her death).” What if a man discovers he married a sexually wounded wife who needs special care and understanding and he becomes more concerned about his wife’s healing and health than his own satisfaction? Imagine a husband who is married to a gifted woman who wants to start a business, but whose dad always told her she’d never amount to much. That husband provides the support, encouragement, and confidence she needs to become who God created her to be: “I was born to help my wife achieve her full glory!” Whatever the challenge, imagine Christian husbands taking up this biblical truth and instead of feeling sorry for themselves that they have to deal with adversity, loudly proclaim, “I can do this! With God’s empowering Spirit, I can love this woman! I was born to do this!”
Instead of seeing a weakness or limitation as a point of frustration, Proverbs 17:17 calls us to let adversity define our commitment, call out the best in us, and depend on God’s love working through us.
We live in a broken world where broken realities break our hearts. Knowing this to be so, God created marriage to confront this reality, not to be crushed by it. Marriage doesn’t remove us from the brokenness of the world but it does help us confront it together, and even to overcome it. Proverbs 17:17 is a rallying cry to let marriage be a castle against confusion. Rather than allow the brokenness of this world to cause us to question our marriage, Proverbs 17:17 says brokenness should remind us of why we got married.
The truth is, most of us marry for selfish reasons, but the Bible describes love as being showcased most clearly when we’re called to serve in the face of difficulty. A biblical friend doesn’t love only in wealth, health, social success, and sunny days. A biblical friend loves at all times. So, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves when our spouse hits a dry spell, or when he or she is going through a difficult time, let’s lace up our shoes a little tighter and remind ourselves, “I was born for this, to love my spouse at all times, especially in adversity.”
This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.