Allume 2013,  Marriage,  Military and Veteran Life

How to keep loving when your marriage is running on empty

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The words of Jennie Allen had knocked me to the ground as I came face to face with one of my biggest struggles: How do I keep loving my husband when I’m running on empty? How do I survive in a struggling marriage? Is there hope for a difficult marriage?

The words of Bianca Olthoff built me up and gave me vision – hope in a big God who can work miracles – if only I am faithful to do what He says and believe in Him.

Bianca spoke from Ezekiel 37:1-14, the passage where God commands Ezekiel to prophesy over a valley full of dry bones so their flesh could be restored and they could walk as human being again.

I cannot adequately share the entire session with you in this brief space (you can watch it here), but I will share a few things Bianca said that touched me:

“Again and again God asks his people not to do what they can do, but to do what they can’t do.” <—Tweet This!

How apropos for me, having just admitted that sometimes I wonder how I can keep loving my husband.

“Sometimes our greatest opportunity is hidden behind our greatest adversity. That sometimes we just have to show up and believe to see God do the impossible?”

And this. I still hear it echoing…

“Do you believe me for the dry bones in your life? Do you believe me for the dry bones in your life? Do you believe me for the dry bones in your life?”

While Jennie Allen used the illustration of an exhausted runner, Bianca used the illustration of a valley of dry bones. Again, I saw my marriage:

Life for the last few months has been a lot to handle. Early mornings, tired evenings, three meals to cook, dishes to wash, clothes to clean, cars to repair, church services to attend, no money for date nights, and a little boy who exhausts us both. Over time, the marriage gets dry. Emotional intimacy doesn’t flow as it should. Romance is scarce. We mean well, but we are less than intentional in loving each other and often end up coexisting, but not really connecting.

We are both stressed, tired, anxious. Wondering when things will get easier. When there will be more money, a better place to live, and more time for each other.

I watch my husband struggle with it all: wanting to provide more but knowing that he can’t; wanting to be used by God and have a voice with which he can influence others, yet not having the opportunities. I try to encourage him. But sometimes, that means keeping quiet about my own struggles – the things I wish could be different. For to lay that upon him will just make him feel worse.

A valley of dry bones.

But God says: “Do you believe me for the dry bones in your life? Do you believe me for the dry bones in your life? Do you believe me for the dry bones in your life?”

“Do we trust God to do the work that he’s entrusted to us?” <—Tweet This!

“Impossible is where God shows up.”

Hearing those words, I felt so inspired. I fully believe God has something mighty planned out for my husband and for our family – but our circumstances have clouded our vision and we just can’t see beyond our current situation. Instead, God has us in a time of waiting, of famine. Why? I’m not sure, other than to refine us, teach us, and heal us from our past hurts.

We see dry bones but He sees life. He asks us only to believe.

And He asks me to keep loving in the mean time.

Bianca asked us to join hands and pray:

Father God we come before you a valley of dry bones who is standing as a mighty army in the name of Jesus Christ, coming together bone to bone believing that you are raising us up, four hundred fifty three soldiers who are fighting a love war, Lord God – a liberation war, believing that you have called us, that you want to do great and mighty things among your servants. So we are calling out to you, believing, Lord God, that you can take our widows mite, that you can take our two loaves, that you can take the little oil that we have, and you can multiply what we have, Lord God. You can begin to do supernatural things in our lives, despite our circumstances, despite our doubts, in spite of us and our brokenness and our mars and our failures – You are God. . . . we believe that you are a God that can, that does, and will do impossible things time after time, day after day, month after month, year after year, lifetime after lifetime, and generation after generation. May our generation not be known for our words, but our works and our words and our faith and the blood of the Lamb and the word of the testimony in the name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

As soon as Bianca uttered the words “the little oil that we have,” I was overcome with a visual picture of what God was asking me to do – how He was going to work in me and through me in regard to my marriage.

How to keep loving when your marriage is running on empty - when you're exhausted - when your love tank is empty

That afternoon, I was supposed to work with an amazing organization during the conference time dedicated to “Impact Opportunities.”

I was exhausted. My heart had been racing dangerously the entire weekend. I had had too many late nights and not nearly enough rest or water. I knew that if I returned to my family in such a state, I would be a worthless mess incapable of meeting their needs. So I skipped the Impact Opportunities so I could have a better impact on my family.

I spent the entire afternoon in the prayer room. I studied the story of Elisha and the widow of Zarapheth backwards and forwards, the vision God was giving me growing right before my eyes as I saw my marriage in the story. I sat down and wrote the following parable:

She sighs wearily and her heart constricts with fear as she looks at the pantry of her heart. On an empty shelf there sits a barrel with only a handful of meal remaining and a singular cruse of oil.

God has asked her to nourish a man, a man in hiding. Unseen. A man whose only source of life has dried up. He is hungry and thirsty and hurting and has lost his will to live as he runs from the danger that haunts him.

She knows her God can work miracles. God could feed this man on his own. He could have made a spring in the dry bed of that brook; but instead, He sent this man to her. Into her home and her heart and her space. And He has commanded her to sustain him.

She gathers sticks for the fire at home that she struggles to keep flamed. The man asks her for a drink of water. And before she can even meet his first need he asks for bread to eat. She is pulled in multiple directions and the responsibility of sustaining this man with her little weighs upon her. She is dying from hunger herself, barely able to meet her own needs, and yet God commands her to sustain him.

She explains her little. Her meager. Her own hunger – the death she fears is imminent.

The son she is responsible to care for is hungry and needy too. But the man says “meet my needs first.” He is her primary job. Her needs and the needs of her son become secondary to the man who is hungry and thirsty.

But God says “don’t be afraid.” And then He gives her a promise:

“I know it’s only a handful. A small cruse. I know you see it and you are scared because your resources of love are depleted and you are trying to deal with your own hunger. But one more time. Deny yourself and give. Use your hands to lovingly prepare for him. Pour out your love. Keep on loving and giving, even if you feel like it’s the very last time you can give before your resources of sustenance are exhausted. I promise it won’t fail. I will provide sustenance for that man and for you and for your son through the last of what you have and what you are until the rain you long for comes.”

So she arises. She uses the tired hands extending from her weary, hungry soul to give loving sustenance one last time – to care for the man, the son, and herself.

The man stays with her many days while they wait together for the provision of the rain, the guidance for the life-plan of the man, and the giving of God’s Spirit on the parched landscape of their lives. Somehow her love, her weary work, and her depleted resources are multiplied in the hands of the Almighty God and they are all fed and sustained, even in the famine.

This is what God was asking of me: to keep giving, keep loving, even when it feels like my love is depleted. He is responsible to multiply what love I give. And through my loving, my obedience – He can work miracles and my family can be sustained.


To read more about my Allume experience, please check out my conference landing page:

takeaways from allume

How to keep loving when your marriage is running on empty
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