[God's Design for Building Your Marriage 6] Building with Love
Wisdom from the Word
Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:8a (NET)
Understanding God’s Design
Love seems to be the overriding consideration in marriage these days. We search for men we are “in love with” to be our husbands. Yet, there is little understanding of what true love looks like. The only source for recognizing love is the Scriptural teaching and its revelation of God’s example of love.
Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-7.
1. List the qualities of love from these verses. I have started for you.
2. Married women: Pray through the list in #1, asking God to show you the qualities that are lacking in your love for your husband.
3. Our culture defines love as a feeling. Is that supported by these verses? Why or why not?
Jani Ortlund may help you think more biblically about love and marriage.15
As Christian women we must rise above the belief that warm, loving feelings are what make a good marriage and keep it strong. Marriage is more than a mere alliance between two people who love each other. It is a binding commitment made before God and witnesses that goes beyond feelings. It is a commitment not only to a husband, but to the marriage itself. . . . It is a promise that says I will act in a loving way toward my husband even when the feelings aren’t there, because my marriage is more important than my feelings. Feelings are so undependable. They cave in at the least disappointment, like a house of cards jarred by the slightest tremor.
4. If you have been married very long or even had a long-term relationship with someone, have your feelings been consistent throughout? How did you handle it when the “love” was not there?
I believe that most of us go through cycles in our relationships. We begin with “that loving feeling”, but we do lose that eventually. We may then go into a wilderness when we discover things about our spouses that bring disillusionment. Once the newness wears off, you may be shocked to discover that you are now committed to this other person, whom you may not even like at this point. As a result you may have very little patience with him, affecting even the way you speak to him.
I have seen these cycles in my own life. If I commit to the marital relationship and work to follow God’s principles, I return to a feeling of “love”. The problem is with my attitude, not with a lack of “love”! Love, as we have just seen, is action and attitude rather than feeling. If I find myself in the wilderness with Gary, I must evaluate the ways I am departing from God’s Word and God’s definition of love for my husband. The emotions of love depend upon the actions of love. Commit yourself to love your husband as God loves you. He loves you despite the way you are. (He doesn’t love you just the way you are but despite it!)
5. Copy John 15:12-13 below.
6. How do these verses in John apply every day in marriage?
Arthur H. DeKruyter helps us understand how biblical love works.16
The Scriptures describe a giving love—a love that says, “Whatever I have, I want to share with you, and I want you to be what God meant you to be.” It is a love that takes first things first as far as the other person is concerned. We can see immediately that this kind of love is not emotional. One does not fall into and then out of this kind of love. It is a love of the will. It is something addressed to our volition. We do it because we make ourselves do it. We order ourselves. Because of Christ, we are motivated to love. We do not wait for attraction or like interests.
Arthur H. DeKruyter
Read Romans 5:6-8.
7. What was our relationship with God when Christ died for us? Why is God’s love so amazing in the light of that relationship?
8. What example does that set for the love we need to show our husbands, even when they are unloving or unkind?
As wives, we are told to love our husbands (Titus 2:4), but the command is not for the kind of love we have just considered, the word agape in the Greek (as in 1 Cor. 13). Titus 2:4 uses the Greek word fileo, meaning a friendship kind of love. Obviously, we are to love them with agape love also because every command applies to marital relationships, and we are commanded to love one another. However, God is apparently concerned that we love our husbands with a warm feeling of friendship as well.
Over the years my friendship with my husband has grown. In the beginning I was more reluctant to share my feelings with him, knowing that he might not understand or respond as I hoped. However, I not only need his friendship when we see things alike but also when he has a different perspective. He balances my thoughts so often and gives me a new way to consider the things that come into my life. With my friends, I can share anything knowing that they are trustworthy and honest. The same is true of my husband.
Share your life and your thoughts with your spouse. Just know that he is wired differently from you and may not always understand the importance of what you tell him. Patiently continue sharing and helping him comprehend your feelings. Do not let his disinterest or lack of understanding deter you from pursuing him as a friend.
Building Your Marriage with God’s Design
How can we build a sacrificial, selfless love (agape) for someone else?
Read Romans 5:5.
9. Where can we get this kind of love for our husbands according to this verse?
10. In a practical sense, what do you need to do in order to love your husband in the light of this verse? Where do you focus and how?
11. If you obey Mark 12:30, how do you expect it to affect your relationship with your husband?
Jesus taught us to love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Are you praying for your husband, who is not your enemy but part of yourself? Are you praying for him and getting annoyed that he is not changing, or are you thanking God for him each and every day and praying that God will work in his heart? Sometimes we undermine our marriages by focusing in prayer on the problems and shortcomings of our spouses rather than on God who wants the best for them. Be thankful for your spouse. Concentrate on what he has to offer rather than what he lacks. Pray generally that he will seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Know that when he seeks God first, God will change his life. Don’t give God a list of changes! Do not grow impatient with God when nothing seems to be happening. Maybe God needs to do a work in you first, before He can change your husband!
During one of those wilderness times in my early marriage, I was trying hard to change Gary so he would be more like I wanted him to be! In His timely way God put in my hands a book called Lord, Change Me by Evelyn Christensen.17 The author emphasizes focusing on God’s work in us rather than God’s work in the lives of others. That was a life-changing principle for me. I began to see that I was not the wife I needed to be, and I quit concentrating on Gary’s shortcomings. Even today as I pray for him, I do not list for God what He needs to change about Gary. I pray for him to love God with all his heart and for him to seek God’s kingdom. I pray that God will complete the work that He has begun in Gary. God has changed him a great deal since I altered my prayers and my focus, but truthfully I have changed even more. I encourage you to pray for your husband but to pray much more about yourself!
12. Write a prayer asking God to change something specific about you that is not in accordance with the love that you are to show your husband (when you marry).
We may need to consider for just a minute what love is not. Love is not overlooking any and everything that someone does. Love desires the best for someone else. Because God loves us, He is honest with us and grows us up to become more like Christ. In the same way because we love our husbands, we desire them to grow in the practice of faith. Sometimes that does mean confronting them. We will discuss this more when we get to the next lesson on disobedient/unbelieving husbands, but you need to be sure that you haven’t fallen for a false definition of love.
13. What do you see in the definition of love in 1 Cor. 13 that would not be consistent with the idea that love means always overlooking sin?
14. To balance this is 1 Peter 4:8. Copy it below.
15. In love you give grace and sometimes that means that you overlook a transgression against you. Write down your thoughts about the balance here.
Parenting with God’s Design
The same truths about love apply to our children. Love does not mean that we just put up with anything they do and overlook it.
Read Hebrews 12:4-11.
16. Copy the verse that explains the relationship between love and discipline.
17. Explain the concept of these verses in the light of what you have learned about love in this lesson.
Wisdom from a Mentor (Mary)
Several years after Andy and I were married, he learned that he was a diabetic and had many other health problems associated with this disease. He was insulin dependent almost immediately. The result of this was the loss of many jobs as he would become sick and be let go due to absences. I would pray and pray that God would help him to get a good job and keep it. I began to greatly resent the fact that he wasn't working and I was the breadwinner in the family. Of course, as my resentment and bitterness grew, I began to doubt my love for him.
One day as I was praying, (I still remember being on my knees in our guest room that a.m.), God showed me that my attitude was sinful. I confessed the sin of resentment and bitterness to the Lord and began praying that God would help me to love Andy more. God answered my prayer in a way I would have never imagined. He began to lay on my heart a desire for Andy to quit his job searches and just become a “house husband”. The more I was obedient to pray for a deeper love for my husband, the more God dealt with me about what the rejection (on job hunting) was doing to his health.
One day, I approached Andy about what God was showing me and he agreed after a period of time, to stay home. It was hard for him as his ego was hurt at first. However, God so blessed our decision in this, that it soon became apparent this was His will for our lives. What followed was 8 years of "invincible love" in our marriage. All the arguing and spatting ceased, and we fell more deeply in love than I could have imagined in the early days of our marriage.
When Andy went to be with the Lord, I was able to look back at how God had blessed me by showing me how wrong my attitude had been. I am convinced that if we had continued the way we were going before God got hold of me, Andy would have probably died long before he did. When we obeyed God, he solved our financial woes by giving me many salary increases and bonuses. Not only that, He was growing my pension fund so that I would be taken care of during this season of my life. How I praise Him even now for His goodness in this.
Summing It Up
18. Is there anything you need to implement in your marriage or your home because you have studied what true love is? Name one loving action you will take this week at home.
15 Jani Ortlund, Fearlessly Feminine (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2000), 77.
16 Arthur H. DeKruyter, in Family Concern, J. Allan Petersen ed., vol. 10, no. 3 (1986).
17 Evelyn Christensen, Lord, Change Me (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1977).