4 Rules for Holding Your Marriage Together When Tragedy Strikes


My daughter just got back from Moore, Oklahoma. Along with a team from our church, she spent the last few days helping families sift through the rubble that was once their homes. They spent hours searching for the smallest pieces of their lives.


When I asked her what struck her the hardest, she told me,

Watching the families look at the debris, or the crosses in memory of the children that died. The blank look of disbelief on their faces — they’re not in there. Then when you hug them, they just drop into your arms and cry. I remember that feeling. I remembered when that was us.

So do I.

In the midst of tornado sirens five summers ago, we were summoned to a small room in the basement of a hospital. Behind closed doors, two strangers, doing their best to be kind, said to us the most horrific words I ever heard. They told us our youngest son died at the scene.

What I once knew as my home, my family, and my children — even myself  — all changed. There was no going back.

An June 2008 entry from my journal:

It is as though my life has exploded into thousands of little pieces. Daily I strive to carefully pick up another piece. What I am finding is that each piece is part of a puzzle. And I have to ask God where each piece fits.

To my surprise, the picture of my life that the pieces are forming is a much different picture than the one I knew before.

You can’t stop the storms of life from rolling in. You can, however, allow them to deepen your relationships rather than destroy them.


1. Take Turns Being Strong.


Those first days as the storm clouds roll away and the harsh light of reality begins to shine through are the best time to make a conscious decision that these circumstances will not break your marriage.

We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we choose to respond to it. During those early days, while shock has its numbing effects, we promised each other that we would take turns being strong.

When one of us would be swept away by anguish, the other would choose not to follow. If we both jumped in together to sink in our sorrow, then who would pull us out?

As days passed, we would get plenty of practice. Soon it became automatic. Taking turns being strong also allows the other the freedom to grieve as deeply as needed. Being strong is just letting someone else hurt, and offering whatever strength you have.

2. Let Go of Your Right to Be Offended.


It’s the little things.

How often have you been annoyed by a tone in your spouse’s voice, that little thing he does with his mouth, or that habit that just won’t go away. Now’s the time to let it go.

In the midst of any tragedy come torrents of emotions on top of the devastation you face. Why add another emotion? Especially one that magnifies the smallest irritants in life.


You can’t choose not to grieve a lost home or a child. But you can choose to not “take” an offense.

Being offended is too often no more than a selfish act of self-righteousness. When someone else doesn’t say or do something, or says something without taking into consideration your feelings, we take offense at the injustice.

When you’re sheltering your marriage from the ravages of tragedy, relinquish your right to become angry or hurt over your spouse’s shortcomings. Let a new day dawn.

3. Find Something to Be Thankful For.

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It doesn’t matter how black the storm clouds are, there is always a stream of light that will shine through. Some call it the “silver lining.” I call it something to be thankful for.

As the survivors of the Oklahoma storms pick through the piles of bricks, wood, and shattered glass, it is the smallest pieces of paper that bring pure joy. It’s that kind of joy that waters the seeds of happiness deep within.

You can always find something to be thankful for if you look hard enough.

Perhaps the single most powerful way to tap that power is to pray together with thankfulness for each other and the things that really matter. The funny thing is, we usually don’t recognize the most important things in our life on the bright sunny days when all is well. We often need someone to point them out lest we take them for granted. But in the darkness of tragedy, your real treasures shine the brightest.


I can’t tell you why lighting strikes. Nor can I promise that it won’t strike you. What I can promise is that if it does, there is a hidden power within that can be tapped that will give your marriage a depth you would have never known otherwise.

4. Praise Him in the Storm.

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