Relationships are hard. We hear that phrase so often it’s starting to lose meaning, but it’s still so true. Recently I was driving (something I do a lot as I commute 45 miles each way for work!), and the phrase “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” just kept running through my head. It was like when you have a song stuck in your head; it just rolled over and over through my mind. When I was done driving, I looked it up, and sure enough my memory was right (and King James version, of course, because that’s what the Sunday School curriculum was during my childhood).

Psalm 17:22 – “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Later that day, my husband and I had a good honest talk about our stressors and schedules. Our interests, personalities, and abilities are very different. And with a kid at home and both of us in grad school, our schedules just aren’t very nice.

I know many of you are in the same place. The normal stuff of work, school, raising a family, and the general busyness of being an adult can put a lot of strain on relationships, including your marriage, your friendships, your parenting, and even your relationship with God. And major issues like health problems or financial difficulty can just push you over the top. It’s easy to go into “survival mode,” thinking that once you get past this phase or crisis everything will be great and you can get back to nurturing your relationships. “This will be worth it,” we tell ourselves during the late nights and early mornings. “It will be over soon.” But one phase or commitment can easily turn into another, and eventually survival mode becomes our normal. We begin to treat relationships like luxuries instead of the life-sustaining foundation they’re meant to be.

A broken spirit will dry out your relationships, and sometimes they get so brittle they can’t be restored. But don’t lose hope. A merry heart, spending time together creating positive memories, is like medicine that heals relationships. If you find yourself in a busy or stressful season of life, look up. Say no to things that don’t add value to your life. Make joy a priority. Find activities that feed your soul and nurture your relationships. Spend time in the word and in prayer. Schedule one-on-one time with your spouse, kids, and friends. Concentrate on what you have in common, not what pulls you apart. And don’t wait, because you will never have these years back again.