Ah, Valentine’s Day. The flowers, the Hallmark cards, and the bonus candy aisle at the grocery store each signal the season of love. Likewise, we’ve all heard the stories about true love: stories with soft lighting and violin music, chocolate and sweet notes, sacrifice and hardship.
Though we like to blame film studios or marketing campaigns for our romanticized relationship ideals, the truth is we all want to believe that real love is always effortless. But unlike the “happily ever after” promised in the closing credits of romantic comedies, every married couple faces really hard seasons. Here are a few husbands and wives who show how God has sustained their love through “better or worse.”
Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada
After 17-year-old Joni broke her neck in a diving accident, many of her plans for her future seemed impossible. But Jesus didn’t leave her in her suicidal depression, and Joni eventually wrote a book, starred in a movie about her life, launched a worldwide ministry, and married Ken Tada.
Joni’s paralysis and eventual cancer, as well as Ken’s bout with depression, add up to more than the typical amount of marital stress. But through the years, God has worked in both of them through their marriage. As they later wrote in their book, “Joni and Ken”:
“God has used every trial — every hurt and heartache — to entwine us far more intimately than we ever dreamed on the day we married. And the more devastating the trials, the more He has wrapped us both around Himself.”
Jim and Elisabeth Elliot
Jim and Elisabeth Elliot never did anything halfway. While Jim once believed he was called to be celibate, he eventually asked Elisabeth to marry him; but first he insisted she learn Spanish and the language of the Quechua Indians he worked with.
After two years of marriage, Jim and four friends were killed by tribal warriors they had tried to befriend, leaving Elisabeth a widow and single mom to their 10-month-old daughter, Valerie. Later, Elisabeth and Valerie briefly lived with the same tribe that killed Jim, helping introduce them to the gospel.
Though Jim and Elisabeth’s marriage was short, it was defined by sacrifice. Their willingness to put Christ and His calling before their own comfort or desires led to a story that changed the world.
Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand
When Communists took over Romania, Sabina encouraged her husband to stand up for Christ. He did. “I had to pay for this,” Richard wrote later, “but it was worthwhile.”
As an outspoken pastor, Richard was arrested twice, spending years in isolation and often enduring torture. Sabina was arrested for a shorter period, leaving their nine-year-old son to be cared for by other risk-taking Christians. Secret police disguised as released prisoners told Sabina that her husband had died, and prison officials used a secret name for Richard so friends and family could never find information about him. But Sabina refused to believe the lies she was told.
After Richard’s second release, the family left Romania. Once in a free country, the Wurmbrands advocated for persecuted Christians in underground churches, eventually starting a worldwide ministry.
Chuck and Patty Colson
In less than two years, Chuck Colson went from Nixon’s Oval Office to an Alabama jail. Though he gave his life to Christ shortly before beginning his prison sentence, he still faced the consequences of his involvement in the Watergate scandal. His family faced those consequences, too. The separation from their husband and father was worsened by Watergate’s national publicity.
Chuck’s wife, Patty, stuck by him, visiting him as often as she could during his prison stay. After his release, when he began considering prison ministry, Patty assured him she would join him in the work. “I couldn’t possibly have done it without Patty’s support,” Chuck later wrote in his memoir titled “Born Again.”
Aquila and Priscilla
These husband and wife co-laborers are only mentioned six times in the Bible, but, unusually for ancient times, they are always mentioned together. We aren’t given a list of their accomplishments or even any direct quotes, but we know they put in a whole lotta work. Like Paul, they were tentmakers, but they also had a church in their house and mentored a passionate but semi-uninformed young man who eventually became another well-known evangelist.
Compared with some of the other marriages on this list, it may seem like Aquila and Priscilla had it easy. But we can’t forget that they were Christians living in ancient Rome. They would have faced daily uncertainty and danger, and we know they were forced into refugee life at least once. Yet from what we are told, everything they did for Christ, they did together.
Love stories for all of us
History and the bestseller lists are full of stories of true, real, lasting love, and many of us also personally know couples who have persevered through unemployment, the loss of a child, infidelity, mental illness, military deployments, financial trouble, and countless other trials.
Relationships like these, showcasing a love that stays no matter what, are a picture of Christ’s love for us on our best days and our worst. Whether we are married, dating or single, these stories are echoing reminders of God’s constant love for us.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Copyright 2021 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.