When “For Better or Worse” Means “For Better or Worse”

Today I saw “for better or worse” in action. She’s in the hospital with an infection. She has Alzheimer’s Disease. She doesn’t really recognize me. But she knows him. And he knows what it means to say “for better or worse.”


Long ago they both said:

For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death parts us, and I pledge you my faithfulness.

We’ve all heard that spoken at weddings, but it’s hard to really know what it might mean until something actually happens in a marriage:

  • A bankruptcy
  • A child with birth defects
  • A knock down, drag out argument
  • A diagnosis
  • An embarrassing blessing of riches
  • A child gone astray
  • A job that takes one away for long periods of time
  • A memory that begins to fail

A promise is made, before God and everyone gathered, that these vows will be kept “until death parts us.” Just a quick glimpse at our world and our society shows that this is all easier said than done. But kudos to those who do it. It takes hard work. It takes commitment.

More than most everything else, it takes forgiveness:

  • “I’m sorry for what I said”
  • “I’m sorry for what I did”
  • “I’m sorry for what I spent”
  • “I’m sorry that I didn’t treat you the way I should have”
  • “I’m sorry that I’m selfish”
  • “I’m sorry that I wasn’t there for the kids”
  • “I’m sorry that I didn’t love you in the way that you deserve”

But it doesn’t end there. The work isn’t finished or complete until at the very least this is said:

  • “I forgive you for what you said”
  • “I forgive you for what you did”
  • “I forgive you for what you spent”
  • “I forgive you for not treating me the way you should have”
  • “I forgive you for being selfish”
  • “I forgive you for your absence from the kids”
  • “I forgive you for failing to love me the way you should have”

Then act like you really mean it.

There’s a book I like to recommend to couples about to get married. It’s just as good for couples who are already married. It’s The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, by Timothy Keller. It will be a boon for your relationship and a reminder of the things that are most important.

As I left the hospital this morning there were tears in his eyes. He meant what he said when he said, “…for better or worse.” He’s fulfilling his vows in a way that is to be respected and admired. It can’t be easy.

But he’s showing that it can most certainly be done. 

With the help of God.

When have you seen “for better or worse” in action?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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