To be free means to be released from being torn in two directions at once. It means to have one passion only – only one pearl of great price – rather than half a dozen conflicting passions.

But how can that be so in marriage? How can one be free when most people look at marriage as a loss of freedom? Being single is viewed as being free! Free to roll, baby! Marriage, and raising a family, is seen as stress.

But is stress bad? Is having a family really stressful?

Stress is recognized to be the cause of many major diseases. Trust me, as a lecturer of medical physiology, I understand the various diseases that arise out of the physiological stress exerted on the different body systems. Popular books warn us of the dangers of stress, and teach us to avoid stress or, failing that, how to cope when it arises.

Many of us here in Uganda are always glued to the western television channels. We like the western movies and reality shows. We love our celebrities so much! On those western channels, marriages are made and broken in weeks and the phrase “irreconcilable differences” has become common language to us.  

From the western world – where people enjoy liberty and prosperity – movies, seminars, and even church sermons deal with ways of eliminating stress. In sharp contrast, seminars and church sermons in our third-world country – where there is quite a lot of suffering and therefore tremendous stress – offer instructions on faithfulness, and sticking it out.

By and large, people in the third-world countries take stress of marriage for granted. When we are not struggling merely to survive, our joy in the family seems to make us indifferent to the cost of family service: raising kids, looking for food, paying school fees, fighting disease with little medicine, etc. And we generally live in quite large, extended families.

It seems that while our brothers and sisters in the west live in an artificially secure environment, perhaps those of us in the third-world have a better chance of seeing life as it really is. When the skulls of starvation grin at us, when danger makes life a day-by-day affair, when there is no technology to buffer the crudities of life, one has different values – values less inimical to humanity’s true essence in our hearts.

Being married, and raising a family, involves us in more stress, rather than less. The call of marriage and a family is a call to advance from stress to stress. Happily, it’s also a call to go from strength to strength. 

We’re mistaken when we suppose that stress is an evil that must be avoided at all costs. The same stress that kills can also make us tougher, stronger, more resilient.

One of the greatest men I admire is British prime minister Winston Churchill. During World War II, he was under ceaseless stress, working constantly, sleeping little, and bearing crushing responsibilities. His country could have been invaded at any moment, only 22 miles of sea separated it from the greatest evil power on earth. Yet his personality blossomed and he thrived on the experience.

This can be true for us when we are working through the stress, and in reverence, of the institution of the family, we can thrive.