I have a friend who’s been married for 20 years or so. Both he and his wife are great people individually – they’re each highly successful vocationally, and they each have great and attractive personalities.

But if you were to see them together – as a married couple, I mean – it’s not a very beautiful sight to see. They bicker and quarrel and are both easily offended by what they thought the other person said, or meant, or insinuated. There is indeed painful water running beneath their bridge, and it seems like the bridge may well collapse.

It’s heartbreaking.

The wife came from a household where nothing was good enough for her mother. She learned early on not to try hard at anything, mostly because it wouldn’t be enough to please her mom anyway. And her father lacked any verbal ability to love or encourage or compliment. Not surprisingly, her parents divorced during her teenage years.

And after 20 years of marriage, they have come to a crossroads – a desperation milestone where something must change. My buddy has done the vast majority of the pursuing in their relationship. Remember, the wife learned to never try or pursue, mostly as a way of coping as a young girl. She’s now carried that into her marriage, and her husband feels worthless.

When a marriage consists of one person doing all the chasing over the long haul, it becomes an exhausting ritual of chase and catch, chase and catch, chase and catch.

But what’s a man to do who needs to be pursued himself? I’ve never once heard the wife say anything positive about him, just out of the blue. He chases her with love, and she receives it without pouring anything back into his heart – a heart that’s become dry and empty. I understand that it’s never this cut and dry, and that there are always circumstances that are unknown to someone who’s looking on from the outside – someone like me.

But my friend is at the end – at his end.

Because when a man needs to beg his wife to pursue him, even just a little bit (or vice-versa), then the man (or woman) begins to feel like he’s not worth the pursuit. And when any human on the face of God’s earth feels not worthy of anyone’s pursuit, it’s a feeling of complete hopelessness.

This is what it feels like to be worthless.

But in the tragedy of this story, and in the tragedy of so many stories just like this one, there’s a beautiful truth that’s illustrated at the opposite end of their reality.  This is, to me, the beauty discovered at the heart of the Jesus story. It’s a story of humanity being worth the pursuit of God. And with God, it’s a relentless never-ending pursuit. It involves sacrificing everything on the road to redemption.

I’m not sure what to tell my friends to do with their marriage.  But I know that in the middle of the heartbreak and the tears and the feelings of being completely not worth anything, there’s a God who thinks my friend is worth everything.

And sometimes the feeling of worthlessness in human relationships can only be consoled by the reality of the Divine pursuit.

“For God so loved the world, He gave…” is something so much greater than words we memorize in Bible class. They’re words that make us, in God’s eyes…

Worth it.