Ten years ago, as the assault on marriage was growing, I asked WORLD readers, “What in your marriage should lead people to make up their minds to wed, in due time?” Several hundred readers who had been married for at least 20 years wrote in, and my columns in June 2003 quoted responses.
One of the moving letters came from Jeanne Damoff, who wrote, “Almost seven years ago, our oldest son nearly drowned at 15, leaving him in a coma for two months. [Now] he remains dependent and may always be. God has preserved our marriage through these and many lesser trials. As we’ve clung to Him and to each other, we’ve seen our faith grow and our love deepen. For every sorrow borne, we’ve been given far greater measures of joy and delight.”
I recently wrote to Jeanne asking for an update: She responded, “I can report to you with great joy that there’s nothing I would change about my former statement. I would only underscore it. We’ve seen God work in remarkable ways over the past 10 years. At 31, our brain-injured son still lives with us, and we expect he always will, but we don’t resent that. On the contrary, he is a treasure and delight.”
She continued, “Our other children, who were 19 and 17 ten years ago, are both married to precious Christians and joyfully serving the Lord. Suffering with their brother and seeing God work in and through his life helped prepare them for the inevitable challenges to their faith. Everywhere we look, God has worked all things together for good and done immeasurably more than we asked or imagined. … Last year we bought a house across the street from my parents, who still live in the house they built when I was 6 years old. Mom has Alzheimer’s, and we are walking with my father through this long good-bye.”
Her conclusion: “It’s hard on all of us, but as I watch my husband serve my parents, pray for them, and love them unconditionally, I understand again, for the thousandth time, that God’s best gifts come in unexpected packages. … If I could give any advice to young couples, it would be this: God really is sovereign, loving, and good, and He is working out plans formed long ago with perfect faithfulness. Nothing you would choose for yourself could ever surpass the beauty and wonder of the gifts He has prepared for you.”
Other emails have also testified to God’s grace. One of the longtime marrieds who responded in 2003, Dan Cole Younger, writes in 2013 about his wife, “I am so bonded to this woman that the very thought of life without her horrifies me. Nearly everything we do is aimed at deepening and strengthening that bond.” A couple, Lonnie and Paula Marcum, wrote to me in 2003, “We weren’t fully aware of His bountiful blessings or the wideness of His mercy. But now 30 years and six wonderful children later, we stand amazed.” They responded to my recent inquiry with news of their 40th wedding anniversary and their family: Five of the six children are married, the sixth is preparing for college, and they have grandkids.
With all the sound and fury about marriage in the past decade, it turns out that little has changed. When marriages have difficulties, church support and counseling are important. If couples believe that failure is not an option, marriages on the rocks regularly turn into marriages remade in heaven. (Some academic research backs up this: See Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.) Children are important in marriage: Those who put off having children for fear of divorce make it more likely that one will occur.
I’ll close with a note from Elaine Neumeyer, who 10 years ago advocated marriage while young and wrote, “Missed opportunity traded for ‘perfect’ circumstances may lead to a lifelong attempt to find a close approximation, or two … or three.” She wrote me recently, “If I had allowed my handsome new Naval Academy grad to head off in 1976 for flight school in Pensacola while I established myself as a fashion designer in NYC, someone else would have snapped him up in a heartbeat! We grew up together, rather than apart, making adjustments to each other as we went along.”