No marriage will be unaffected when the people in the marriage are seeking to get from the creation what they were only ever meant to get from the Creator. The only true source of love is Christ. No husband or wife can “complete” one another, satisfy their deepest longings, or fill the “eternal hole” in the other’s heart. Neither can be the source of identity for the other, or the object of worship.
Now I am the best husband I ever am when I’m fully concentrating on, thinking on, meditating on, and sitting under gospel preaching and teaching; when I am positioned under the life-giving waterfall of the grace of Christ. I’ll tell you why. When I am completely dialed in to the fact that, through no merit of my own, through no act of my own, and because of nothing I can do, but simply because God is merciful and gracious, He loves me, then as I engage my wife, there is this overflow motivated by being loved that flows over into my relationship with my wife.
Do you know when I’m a horrible husband? When somebody preaches a sermon on, “Here’s how you be a great husband.” Because I’m a type-A moron. So I find myself buying into the lie of moralistic behavioral modification. So I will immediately go, “Let me build up this grid. Let me start to do these things. She’ll respond this way, and I’ll do this.” So I start to go, “If I do this, she’ll do that, and what will come about is bliss.” Has anybody else tried that route? Am I alone in this? Well, I think some others may have stumbled into this type of mentality as well. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work.
“The greatest threat to the church isn’t atheism or materialism, but moralism that celebrates a righteousness which doesn’t come from Christ.”
But when I continually hear, “Do these things, and get these results.” I’ll find myself beginning to buy into that lie, because my flesh loves that, because I’m a doer, because I can be crazy disciplined and stubborn, because I can control this or that. It has never brought me any freedom. It has never brought me any joy. It has never brought me any healthy fruit… but my flesh still loves it.
So I’m the best husband I ever am when I understand that God is patient, that God is merciful, and that God is gracious to me. And as I am the recipient of that love and grace, that overflows onto my relationship with my wife. I’m the best husband I am, not when I read a book on marriage that shows me how to handle my wife. I’m the best husband I ever am when I am completely attuned with God’s free gift of mercy, and grace, and wired into the fact that He delights in my strengths while growing me out of my immaturities. I’m a better husband when I’m aware that I am far worse than I ever dared to imagine, yet in Christ, I am far more loved than I ever dreamed I could be. I’m just a better husband when I’m aware of that.
So the solution to what is wrong with my behavior is not someone telling me how to modify my behavior, it’s not medication, it’s not “finding myself” or my wife just doing these or those particular things; it’s better seeing and understanding the gospel. All too often we hear messages on how to fix this, correct that, change this, modify that… but in all this if you don’t ever get to Jesus, if you’re not getting to the gospel, then it’s only playing into the pride of man. We must get to the fact that my righteousness is a gift from God, and Him alone.
The righteousness I have is God’s, it has been granted to me by the work He alone already accomplished. (Ephesians 2:1-10; We do not help or assist God achieve our salvation.) Anything good in me, is there by Christ’s grace. More than a lack of love and respect for our spouse, our problem is a lack of love, respect, reverence, awe, and worship of our great triune God: our Father, our Lord Christ Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
When I actively pursue Christ, I better understand love. True love is willing self-sacrifice, for the good of another, that does not demand reciprocation, or that the person being loved is deserving (Ephesians 5). Love is also willing… the key character quality of love is willingness. Love, loves to love. Love loves to give, serve, build up, praise, encourage, sacrifice, and love all the more.
The goodness/kindness of God leads us to repentance… not the law or the continual, consistent repetition of a beat-down explaining how we fall short in every way. So why would we think that would work differently in our marriage, which is meant to reflect Christ’s love for His bride, the church?
To the degree you forget how fully you have been loved by God, you will forget how to love others in your life. So when I am focused on myself and how to control my behavior with the expectation of getting certain results, I am forgetting how to really love my wife.
Love grows best in the soil of gratitude. When we remember the love of our Father, the sacrifice of the Son, and the help of the Holy Spirit, only then are we truly equipped and able to love others. We need the love of God to be where the roots of our hearts reside, because only there can we get what is needed to absorb and grow to love others with true love.
Some of us are still wrestling with this in monumental ways; still walking in doubt because we just doubt God’s affection for us. And that’s idolatry, because what you’re doing in essence is looking at the bloody cross of Jesus Christ and going, “That’s not enough. You’re going to have to show me something bigger than that to convince me You really love me.” Some of us are still wrestling with all of this because we doubt Christ’s affection for us despite the fact that He went to the cross and died for you. He went to the cross despite knowing you, despite knowing every stupid thing you’ve ever done, as well as every single dumb thing you have yet to do.
All the sin, weaknesses, and failures in the life of a believer have already been fully covered by the blood-soaked cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s grace is exponentially and infinitely more powerful than any sin. So we can break the silence, walk out into the light, and face the things that God is calling us to face.
God will never give you a task to complete without enabling you with the resources to accomplish it. He is the resource. We must depend on the Father’s love, the Son’s sacrifice, the Spirit’s help. We must always run back to and rest in the Gospel.