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Patience in Marriage

Charlie Wingard

Charlie Wingard

Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary Jackson and Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City, Mississippi

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 In 1893 Scottish Presbyterian minister, Alexander Whyte, published his famous lectures on John Bunyan’s characters from The Pilgrim’s Progress. To modern readers, the language and style may seem dated, but his words on patience in marriage are just as timely as ever:

“To begin with, how much impatience we are all from time to time guilty of in our family life. Among the very foundations of our family life how much impatience the husband often exhibits toward the wife, and the wife toward her husband. Patience is the very last grace they look forward to having any need of when they are still dreaming about their married life; but, in too many cases, they have not well entered on that life, when they find that they need no grace of God so much as just patience, if the yoke of their new life is not to gall them beyond endurance. However many good qualities of mind and heart and character any husband or wife may have, no human being is perfect. When, therefore, we are closely and indissolubly joined to another life and another will, it is no wonder that sometimes the ill-fitting yoke eats into a lifelong sore. We have all many defects in our manners, in our habits, and in our constitutional ways of thinking and speaking and acting, – defects that tempt those who live nearest us to fall into annoyances with us that sometimes deepen into dislike, and even positive disgust, till it has been seen, in some extreme cases, that home-life has become a very prison-house, in which the impatient prisoner chafes and jibs and strikes out as he does nowhere else. Now, when any unhappy man or woman wakens up to discover how different life is now to be from what it once promised to become, let them know that all their past blindness, and precipitancy, and all the painful results of all that, may yet be made to work together for good. In your patience with one another, says our Lord, you will make a conquest of your adverse lot, and of your souls to the bargain. Say to yourselves, therefore, that perfection, faultlessness, and absolute satisfaction are not to be found in this world. And say also that since you have not brought perfection to your side of the house any more than your partner has to his side, you are not so foolish as to expect perfection in return for such imperfection. You have your own share of what causes fireside silence, aversion, disappointment, and dislike; and, to what may not now be mended. And then, the sterner the battle the nobler will the victory be; and the lonelier the fight, the more honour to him who flinches not from it. In your patience possess ye your souls.”
– Alexander Whyte, Bunyan Characters. 1893 (vol. 1 of Bunyan Characters; Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2000), 102-103.

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