Husbands are fragile people. We have sensitive egos. We may come across as strong and indifferent, but that is our presentation, not our reality. We are actually quite vulnerable. I wonder if you know this.
I am going to break the code of men and reveal the secret handshake: men are weak. God did say He was going to make a woman for the man because it was not good for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18). There is a definite implication about the problem of independence and isolation.
It takes at least two people to effectively image God, which makes the importance of covenant companionship a God-centered directive. Many husbands are too proud or too stubborn to admit this. These husbands have bought into the cultural lie of self-reliance and independence. This kind of thinking defames God while truncating the opportunities a man and woman have to put the LORD on display.
Husbands can be burly, gruff, and a bit unkempt, but that is a facade. Within that rough canvas exterior is a little boy who must experience the love of God. This is a God thing. It’s the kindness of God that changes people (Romans 2:4).
- How are you doing at loving your man?
- Are you for him? Do you love him?
- Does he feel your affection and appreciation on a regular basis?
Women are weak too
I need not make a case for the fragileness of a woman. Most people understand this common vulnerability. It’s the man who is more likely to bury his weakness. The average woman is not proud that way, which makes a husband’s unkindness even stronger if he refuses to love his wife the way he should.
Anger, harshness, unkindness, passiveness, and apathy are some of the more common ways a husband will hurt his wife. This is inexcusable and Christ-less. It also drains the transformative power of the Gospel from the marriage.
I understand why a man may treat his enemies with unkindness, though it is wrong (Matthew 5:44), but it is unfathomable for a husband to be mean to the person he promised his unbroken love until death separates them.
Almost without exception when I ask a husband why he is not actively and practically loving his wife, he will inevitably begin talking about how she has sinned against him. With complete blindness and a lack of remorse, his self-righteous statements deny the very thing he loves the most about the Gospel.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 (ESV)
Most spouses have a conditional love. “I will love you as long as you [fill in the blank].” That is not how God’s love works. It is not how He loved you, and you thank Him for not giving you what you deserve. Loving undeserving sinners is the best side of God’s love.
God was for them
If you are going to imitate the LORD in your marriage (Ephesians 5:1), then being for your spouse must be a logical and loving practice. Listen to how Paul framed the matter.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31 (ESV)
God is for you. Think just a moment about how God is for you and how that motivates you to love Him. God being “for you” is the highlight of the Gospel. He is the one person you cannot have against you.
Before Paul gave the Christians in Rome that great sentence in Romans 8:31, he told them how God is for them by providing a few practical examples (Read Romans 8:29-30). Paul was not just making a random statement about God’s affection for them, but he backed it up with facts about God’s active goodness on behalf of those He loves. Here is how he said it:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. – Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)
There were not left to wonder about God’s “for-ness” toward them. They were assured of His love, based on His work. He foreknew them, predestined them, called them, justified them, and glorified them.
What about you: Is your spouse assured of your love, based on your works (James 1:22)?
Reminders of love
Do you remember the context in which Romans was written? The Christians in Rome were being killed. They were being slaughtered. It was a time of personal discouragement and defeat. The culture had turned against them and Paul wanted them to know they were not alone: God was there. God was for them.
Not only does he remind them of what God did (vs. 29-30) by bringing them to the point where they could clearly see God’s activity in their lives (vs. 31) but he continued to hammer the Gospel nail by repeatedly reminding them of Sovereign God’s protective care. (Read Romans 8:32-39)
Speaking about God’s love for them only once was not enough for Paul. He believed in Gospel redundancy–using different words and ways to say the same thing until his audience not only believed what he was saying but they were transformed by that knowledge.
What about you: Do you practice Gospel redundancy when it comes to loving your spouse?
Doing unto others
The reassuring message of God’s love for you should be something you regularly and practically model in your marriages. Not only can you remind each other of God’s triumphant love, because of the Gospel, but you can be specific in how you demonstrate that love to each other.
This is my appeal to you: Are you clearly communicating your affection to your spouse in a similar way God communicated His affection to the Christians in Rome? Every person should be experiencing the love of God.
- Experiencing the practical applications of the Gospel is a deterrent to sin and relational dysfunction.
- To withhold the practical applications of the Gospel perpetuates problems in your marriage.
What about you: Are you withholding God’s love from your spouse or practically giving it to your spouse?
Practically loving your spouse
Though your heart is prone to wander and you can do awful things, the good LORD is always on the job, loving you, especially when you are at your most undeserving (Romans 5:8). This is amazing love and unmerited favor, brought together and dumped into your lap.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. – Luke 6:37-38 (ESV)
Few things will test you more than when you are called to love your spouse when he is acting in the most unlovable ways. If your Gospel means anything to you, then it must mean something to you in those moments.
- Is your spouse resting in the full assurance of your affection?
- Is your spouse basking in the goodness of your practical outworking of the Gospel?
While it is easy to say you are for your spouse, it would be good to practically examine what that looks like on a daily basis. Remember what Paul did for the Christians in Rome? He left nothing to mystery. He wanted them to know specific ways in which God was for them.
He rooted their hearts in the realities of the Gospel because He knew their awareness of God’s love would stabilize them through the suffering they had to endure. What better thing could you give to your spouse? If the LORD is for your undeserving spouse and you are for your undeserving spouse, then your spouse is in the best place any human could possibly be.
The two greatest things that could ever happen to a couple is for them to live in the overflowing awareness of God’s unmerited pleasure while experiencing each other’s undeniable affection.
You would do well to follow Paul’s example by examining your heart as it pertains to how you think about and treat your spouse. With that in mind, here are some questions that will aid you as you think about the Gospel and its practical outworking in your marriage.
I would like for you to pray, asking the Spirit of God to illuminate your mind to help you see where you may be failing. Ask the Father to give you the power to set aside what you want, while enabling you to provide Christ to your spouse.
I recommend you sit with a pen and journal in hand (or tablet). Be prepared to write down the thoughts that come to mind. Take your soul to task while resisting all temptations to make this about what your spouse has done to you. (You can change the pronouns from “he” to “she” since these questions apply to either spouse.)
- Think vertically: What you have done to the LORD.
- Practice horizontally: What He has done for you.
- Are you aware of the power you have over your spouse?
- Do you love your spouse? What practical ways support your answer?
- Do you respect your spouse?
- Are you quick, ready, and willing to forgive your spouse? This does not mean you are to ask your spouse to forgive you. It may not be wise due to your spouse’s meanness. The question is about your attitude of forgiveness: Are you willing to forgive your spouse?
- Are you quick, ready, and willing to ask your spouse to forgive you? Same as the question above. Some marriages are too fragile for this kind of reconciliation activity.
- Do you submit to your spouse? (Ephesians 5:21) This applies to both spouses. From an ontological perspective, each spouse has strengths and weaknesses. They should be mature enough to understand this and allow each other to live out God’s gifts for the benefit of the marriage.
- What is your first thought when you think about your spouse? Is that thought a synonym of love?
- Would you be characterized as a nag or an encourager? It’s the kindness of God that motivates a person to change, not your discouragement.
- Do you talk negatively about your spouse to others? Is your spouse aware of this?
- How would other people describe your attitude and affection for your spouse?
- Will you ask them? What did they say?
- Are you actively loving your spouse, even though he does not deserve your love all the time?
- Do you wait to love your spouse after he changes, after your spouse meets your preferences and expectations? How does God treat you? Does He love you after you change or does He love you even when you are not changing?
- Do you punish your spouse when he does not meet your expectations? If so, how do you do it? Anger? Silent treatment? Something else?
- How are you humbly leading your spouse by your Gospel-motivated example?
- Has your behavior assisted in pushing your spouse toward other people or other things? If so, how so?
- Will you write out the answers to these questions and begin making a plan for repentance, if you need to repent of anything?
- Will you begin thanking God if He has brought any wrong attitudes and behaviors to light?
- Will you talk to your spouse about these things? I’m assuming your marriage is strong enough for this kind of communication. Perhaps you need third-party interventions.
- Will you ask your spouse if he is assured you are for him and then ask your spouse to give you specific examples for why he answered that way?
Also published on Medium.