"I will say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go around in sorrow? Why am I beaten down by my enemies?" My body suffers deadly pain as my enemies make fun of me. All day long they say to me, "Where is your God?" My spirit, why are you so sad? Why are you so upset deep down inside me? Put your hope in God. Once again I will have reason to praise him. He is my Savior and my God. Psalm 42: 9-11
Some of the very best researchers on the subject, people who’ve listened to hours and hours of conversation between ordinary married people, have come up with very interesting assertions. Good lovin’, they claim, may not be at the heart of long and happy marriages, even though it’s what we’d like to believe. But what they've discovered is that a marriage drenched in passion isn’t necessarily a marriage which will last.
Okay, what then? It seems that the success of a relationship may be more dependent on the ability to fight than the ability to love, some researchers say. Marriages fail, they claim, when spouses can’t deal with the inevitable conflicts relationships create. Maybe I can put it this way—couples who learn how to fight, learn how to love.
It doesn't take a Ph.D. to know that conflict occurs even in the best of relationships. But those marriages that make it, a new study says, do so because spouses learn to keep those conflicts from escalating into something next to murder, the death of love and respect for one another.
I don’t really know how our fights—my wife and mine—rank with others. There have been some stiff ones, I know. Thankfully, I’ve not been around enough other couples’ tiffs and rants to judge the relative nastiness of ours. But we’ve been married now for 35 years, and I seriously doubt we’re in any kind of trouble, thank the Lord. We must have learned to manage our brawls, I guess, but don’t ask me to write the “how to.”
The fact is, it’s impossible for me to imagine myself alone now. In the give-and-take of marriage, I’ve pretty much lost the inherent (and not sinful) egoism that arises, quite naturally, from being single. I’m not perfect, and I still want what’s mine—and then some. But I can’t remember the last time I told myself, somewhat bitterly, that the only reason I’d done something less than savory was because I was married, because, well, (growl) "for her." It’s been a long time, thank the Lord.
All of which is not to say we’re home free. I’m far too old to be shocked.
Mostly, Psalm 42 is lament. Three times (vss. 5, 8, 11), David pinches himself in the dark night of the soul, reminds himself to think on God’s goodness; but he does that only because he’s trying like mad to engineer an escape from the despair that surrounds him. Twice, in fact, he falls back into the darkness after trying the best he can to pull himself out.
I don’t want to be prescriptive because God’s love comes to each of us in so many shades and sizes that one size never fits all; but Psalm 42 makes me wonder--when I ride its roller-coaster emotions—whether some sweet believers need to understand that some others of God's people, as if they were in a marriage, need to learn to fight in order to learn how to love.
No one ever talks about that in Sunday School, but it seems to me that the proof is here in this rugged testimony, a song so laden with darkness. And there are other psalms like this one, lots of them, more than good Christian people are often willing to advertise.
But they’re there. Maybe David—or whoever wrote this psalm—has learned how to love the Lord in all his mystery, only because he’s also learned how to fight.