I was counseling a couple who were getting more and more frustrated every week. The wedge between them seemed immovable, the bad habits so engrained there was little cause for hope.
At one point the wife just sobbed, and kept repeating, “I am just so tired of trying. I just want to quit.”
So, I took an admitted risk and responded, “OK, then why don’t you both quit trying for a period of time.”
“That doesn’t sound very pastoral,” the husband snapped sarcastically.
“Well, when Jesus was tired of trying, he'd go off into the desert and be by himself for an extended period – at times as long as forty days and night,” I answered.
“Oh great, I’ll book our flight for the Sahara tomorrow,” the husband said mockingly.
“Hear me out,” I replied. “Maybe what you both need is a break – Quit working on this marriage for few weeks. Try agreeing to spend time apart, even if you are living under one roof. I am not asking you to separate, but I am asking you to stop examining, analyzing and critiquing this relationship. Get back in touch with your souls. Let yourselves receive. Quit trying to be in control of the relationship and see what your hearts say. Perhaps, you may even discover what God has to say.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about Pastor Bill,” said the still teary wife, “but I’m ready to try anything, even doing nothing.”
I advised this couple to give themselves time to rest, relax and stop trying to sort everything out. Listen to their souls, and yes, to God. Take walks, read a book, listen to music, watch an old black and white movie, do whatever it is you love to do. Find things that make you lose track of time, restore your spirit, boost your energy. Just stop trying to fix the relationship.
Without divulging details, they went their separate ways for a couple weeks. They stayed under one roof, but agreed to not sleep together, and each agreed to make plans to visit with old friends. For two weeks, they focused on their need to put the disputes and analyzing to rest.
This approach worked wonders. Their time away from each other enabled them to regain perspective. Their old friends were extraordinary in offering insights garnered from their own imperfect marriages, and most importantly, they missed one another. Yes, there was still much work to be done, but taking a moment to rest and reflect had improved the situation.
We all to take time to rest and reflect, recognize it might be time to temporarily quit trying. When it feels like you’re marching in place in quicksand, it might be time to step away, give your soul a much needed rest. At times, our lives require us to know when to say both “No” and “Stop.” It is truly amazing what rest and refocus can do for a marriage, an attitude, a friendship, the loss of a loved one, or a period of significant stress.
Cultural instinct tells us when we feel like we are out of gas, on empty, we need to try just a little harder, push it a few more miles. Is it better to keep stressing over a gas gauge needle on Empty, possibly have to walk to gas station in defeat? No, the best solution is to stop at the nearest gas station and refuel.
When we are weary and in need of rest, we must simply stop, surrender our time and selves to God, and receive the embrace of Grace which is surprisingly always ready and willing to be there for you.
I received an anniversary card from this couple last year. Every year they now spend a few weeks apart, and have come to realize they simply cannot meet all the needs of one another, and that’s not a bad thing. They wrote how taking care of yourself is not your mate’s job, but your own. This frees you up to truly enjoy one another, rather than counting up petty disappointments and grievances. Sometimes, you just need to quit trying. Not very “American,” but certainly Christian.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.