How to Hang in There When Life Gets Hard

Learning to See God's Invisible Hand

I spent the first ten years of my marriage trying to turn Cynthia into me. (Can you think of anything worse than a female Chuck?) Finally, she’d had enough.

Marriage
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

I’ll never forget when she said to me,

I don’t want you to keep telling people we’re ‘partners’ because we’re not partners. I bear your children, and I cook your meals, and I clean the house, but I’m not really your partner. You’ve never accepted me for who I really am.

Yes, I have.

No, you haven’t.

Yes, I have.

No, you haven’t!

As we stood toe-to-toe in our kitchen, I got louder and she got louder, until she finally walked out in tears . . . and I was staring at a sink full of dishes.

While doing the dishes I pondered her words and finally softened. I had to admit to myself, She’s right.

We began a four-year process to break that habit in me. It involved some serious counseling that we both sought . . . it was painful but extremely helpful.

And through that process literally, it became a turning point for us as I realized how true her criticism was.

I did very little encouraging back then. She really wasn’t my “partner.” Thankfully, that began to change. I changed!

Sticking it Out

Many years later at a gathering with some friends from our radio ministry, someone asked Cynthia,

“Why don’t you share some things about the broadcast?”

She walked up and briefly told the history of Insight for Living Ministries. She closed by saying,

“The best part about this is that Chuck and I are in this as partners.”

At that moment her statement put a big knot in my throat. She hadn’t said the “p” word since I’d heard it on that cold kitchen floor years earlier. I’ll be honest . . . we almost broke apart those first ten years.

We didn’t though, because she stayed with me. She stuck it out.

A few years ago, the church where I had served as senior pastor celebrated its twelfth anniversary. I can’t tell you the times during those years I was tempted to say, “I’m out of here!” On one such occasion, I lay in bed with tears streaming, and I sighed to Cynthia, “That’s it. It’s over.”

No, it’s not (she replied calmly.)

Yes, it is.

(I’m sure by now you’ve picked up on the fact that we’ve gone to bed more than once harboring a bit of disagreement going.)

You just don’t understand (I told her.)

I do understand, you’re not going to quit.

I am. I’m going in tomorrow . . . and I’ll tell them it’s over.

You have how many people in our congregation? Most don’t even know there’s a problem. Don’t you dare do that to all of them.

She was right . . . again.

Waiting on God

I owe so much to Cynthia—more than our marriage and our ministry. She has encouraged me by her example to hang in there when things got tough. And as a result, I’m able to look back and see God’s invisible hand.

I am able to celebrate more than twelve years at our church, more than thirty years at Insight for Living Ministries, and more than sixty years of marriage with my “partner.” Those are things I would have missed if I had walked away.

Some of you are on the edge of quitting. I’m certain of that.

  • You’re determined to live for Jesus in your marriage, but it’s tough sledding.
  • You pray for that child—or that aging parent—and nothing changes.
  • Maybe you’re not getting the credit you deserve at the church, or the results you expected.

Waiting on the Lord is the hardest part of the Christian life. But God does some of His greatest work in the lives of those who wait for Him (see Lamentations 3:22–32).

I urge you, my friend, to hang in there. God is working even though you cannot see it.

I’ve never regretted the times I did not quit . . . though at the time it was all I could do to stay. I’m so glad I did.

You will be too.

—Chuck

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  • Linda Thrower

    That hit the spot…at just the right time…it’s that time of year when we all need to encourage each other to hang in there!
    Thanks Chuck!

  • Thanks Chuck, I needed that.

  • Robert

    Thank you for your honesty. It is refreshing to know another minister struggles with issues at home and discouragement at church. I have almost quit a couple of times in my thirty year ministry. Glad I didn’t.

  • Pablo

    Thanks Chuck for opening your life/heart and encouraging us.