It is hard to thank God for the difficult situations in our lives, but each time we surrender to the Lord, he works a miracle in our hearts.
Honestly, I am grateful that Michael and I endured some trials before we got married. Engagement, while a joyful time, can also be a time of intense formation in preparation for marriage. It is an opportunity to wash each other's feet, to face challenges together, and to rely on Jesus as the source of your strength and love.
You and your fiancé are sharing many joys during this time, but probably some sorrows as well. If one of you suffers, so does the other, and this shared experience can happen at a whole new level now that you have committed to becoming a family. It feels raw and vulnerable. But Jesus teaches that intimate relationships involve serving each other—and being vulnerable enough to receive service.
One of the most tender moments in Scripture is when Jesus washes his disciples' feet. At first, Peter refuses to let the Lord wash his dirty feet, but Jesus explains that this service, although messy, is crucial to their relationship (John 13:4-17):
“Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
At first I, like Peter, was reluctant to allow Michael to serve me. I was determined to contribute equally to the relationship, and Michael expressed a similar sentiment. Neither of us wanted to be a "burden" to the other. But throughout our engagement, the Lord humbled us over and over again, sometimes in not-so-small ways. There were cockroach infestations, broken down cars, a minor surgery, a lost job, and even a death in the family.
With our pride stripped away, we were better able to humbly receive service and support from each other.
And as our relationship grew stronger, we realized it didn't matter if one of us was doing more serving and the other more receiving. We were becoming a family, and families don't keep score.
This lesson has been extremely important in our marriage as we continue to lean on each other. While some of our experiences during our engagement were sad, I can see now that the Lord didn't let any suffering go to waste. He used each trial, whether big or small, to bring us together and to teach us how to carry each other's crosses.
Furthermore, there is a whole new kind of challenge during engagement: making big decisions that affect you as a unit, as a family. Maybe you and your fiancé are deciding where to live after you get married, how to budget, or how to navigate the maze of wedding preparation. When there are bumps in the road, you are now affected as a couple. Two lives have already begun to become one.
One of our bumps in the road was our marriage paperwork. Through our own oversight, our files were lost somewhere between the Roman Catholic parish and the Byzantine Catholic parish. Many phone calls, emails, letters, visits to parish offices, and five months later, the files were in one place, and we were finally allowed to attend our first premarital counseling session.
We felt the effects of our mistake not as "my problem" or "Michael's problem", but as something we would have to solve together with God's help. At the time, I did not embrace these difficulties with grace. But looking back, I thank God for them.
During our engagement, we discovered that we can love each other, suffer together, and stay faithful to God's plan even when it doesn't look like circumstances are going to work out as we would prefer them. So when we encountered an unexpected cross during our first year of marriage, it wasn't the first time we had been challenged as a couple.
Here's the thing, though: we couldn’t have done any of that without Jesus. "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Christ is the source of strength and love in all marriages. As Catholics, we have access to Scripture and the sacraments, where we encounter God and receive his graces.
I can't be strong for Michael, nor him for me, if we rely only on ourselves. And it isn't enough to rely on each other, either.
Sometimes we both feel stressed or sad. In those moments, Jesus reminds us of his love for both of us. He even feeds us with his own body in the Eucharist to give us strength to keep going in situations that seem beyond our capabilities.
So as you and your fiancé progress together through your engagement, I pray that every difficulty, every disagreement, and every decision will bring you both closer to each other—and, more importantly, to the God who created you and loves you both. Your vocation is a call to holiness, so why not start embracing that attitude as you prepare for marriage?
Whether great tragedy or minor inconvenience, suffering doesn't have to be pointless. We can allow God to use those moments to sanctify us. Remember, "In all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
About the Author: Kiki Hayden is a writer and Bilingual Speech Therapist living in Texas with her dog Goldberry and her husband Michael. She is a Byzantine Catholic. To find out more about how God is changing her life through speech therapy, visit her website, Speaking with Kiki.