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I thought I was one of the world’s biggest fans of marriage, until I asked a question on Facebook (“What do you love most about marriage?”) and found out there are legions of marriage fans out there!

In the revised and updated edition of Sacred Marriage (published in 2015) I wrote,

“I love marriage, and I love my marriage. I love the fun parts, the easy parts, and the pleasurable parts, but also the difficult parts—the parts that frustrate me but help me understand myself and my spouse on a deeper level; the parts that are painful but that crucify the aspects of me that I hate; the parts that force me to my knees and teach me that I need to learn to love with God’s love instead of just trying harder. Marriage has led me to deeper levels of understanding, more pronounced worship, and a sense of fellowship that I never knew existed.”

Sacred Marriage admits that parts of marriage can be very difficult, but when it’s good, it can be very good. That’s a view shared by Jillian on Facebook who wrote, “Marriage is hard…especially when you’re acting selfish….but it’s also a freaking blast!!!”

In our two previous posts we celebrated good husbands and awesome wives. The final post in this series celebrates the joys of marriage. So many singles who have witnessed some truly awful marriages ask me, “Is marriage worth the risk?” Accordingly, I asked married couples on my Facebook pages to brag about the benefits of marriage and here’s some of what they shared:

The most common answer to what people love about marriage was “friendship, companionship and sharing life together.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 captures this aspect of marriage so well:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.”

Second, couples pointed out the spiritual benefit of pursuing God together.  You don’t just gain a husband or wife when you get married; you live with a brother or sister in Christ. You will never experience such a level of accountability and the possibility of encouragement and inspiration with anyone else quite like you can with your spouse. This reminds me of Hebrews 3:13-14a:

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ…”

Shelly wrote this about the spiritual benefits of her marriage: “It has caused me to grow closer to God than I ever imagined possible and strengthened that relationship first, so that I can see my husband, my best friend with more of His eyes and consequently love my husband in a deeper, more meaningful way that is connected to Christ. Without my marriage, my relationship with God and others would be just less, less complete.”

Third, we can’t leave out the benefit of…being naked together. The wonder of sexual intimacy, when there is an amazing spiritual bond, relational bond, and incredible physical sensations, not to mention the wonderful feelings of closeness afterwards—few highs in life will ever come close to sexual intimacy in marriage. Song of Songs 5:1 exalts,

I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,

I gathered my myrrh with my spice,

I ate my honeycomb with my honey,

I drank my wine with my milk.

Eat, friends, drink,

and be drunk with love!

There were times when our kids were young and Lisa and I would do “date evenings” at a hotel. There’s just something different about hotel sex. I don’t know why, but there is. Not having to be quiet, having a door that is locked and barred and clean sheets that you can leave dirty… Driving to the hotel was half the fun. Knowing what would soon happen, that I was with the woman I cherish above all others, and what we were about to do wasn’t just acceptable to God but blessed by God and celebrated by God!

I should probably do more in this blog to celebrate this aspect of marriage, as does Chris, who writes that he loves “Having a best friend that is also smokin’ hot.” And Jen, who says of her husband, “He’s just so stinking sexy I can’t hardly believe he’s mine!”

Having each other’s back was another common response to the benefits of marriage. I love the way Lindsey captures her marriage with Steve: “Knowing that no matter what the world, the family, friends, or even the church tosses at me — my man always has my back and loves me even when I am wrong. It’s the peace of knowing my heart is in his hand.” (But Lindsey I know you, and you’re rarely wrong…)

Reed says something similar to Lindsey, praising “The warm embrace and kindness of my wife when I come home after the world has beat on me all day long and her heart of defense for me and our marriage as a team and unit.”

Other benefits of marriage Facebook people identified:

  • Knowing who your first call will be (for good news or bad)
  • Facing sickness and life disappointments (unemployment, the death of loved ones, etc.) together.
  • Someone to celebrate with
  • A treasure trove of inside jokes
  • Alison mentions, “Being each other’s sounding board! Offering each other an ear when one needs to vent or one wants to share ideas or ask questions! I love it!”
  • Quiet evenings or mornings where you’re doing nothing, but you’re doing nothing together
  • Growing old together
  • Sharing parenting duties together
  • Reno wrote about “The sharing of life experiences…. the look across a crowded room that says “let’s go home.”

I personally love having someone to bless, and several others said the same thing. The Bible calls us to be devoted to good works (Titus 3:8,14), and it’s a great joy to do things for your spouse that makes her or his life easier or more pleasant. If you live a life of worship and walk in grace, you’ll feel compelled to love and serve others. It’s God’s Spirit within you, orienting you toward a life of blessing, and marriage provides the most immediate context in which to live that out.

More good news for wary singles: many couples testify that marriage tends to get sweeter with time. If you’re both growing in the Lord, you haven’t lived your best day of marriage yet! More sweetness is up ahead. Jaime puts it this way: “There is a buried treasure that seems to only be discovered when you’ve stuck it out through the years and the hard stuff.”

Bill adds, “We’re seamless and the longer you are married you begin to realize what true relationships look like. It goes to higher levels unlike anything I could have ever imagined.”

Alison Tidmore’s words capture the wonder of marriage as well as anyone could. In fact, her words are so beautiful and true to life, let’s end the blog with this:

“I realized this summer what I love most.  I have gone on a few trips to visit family with just my kids. Greg has stayed behind to work. After a few days I was ready to go home. I missed being home. This summer our family of 5 took an almost 2 week road trip and there wasn’t one second I wanted to go home. I looked at Greg one evening and told him he was my HOME. Wherever he is, I am home. Thinking about what home represents summarizes marriage to me–so much security, love, family time, rest, quiet times with Jesus, safety in storms of life; that is my husband and my favorite part of marriage.”

Thank you, God, for the many and varied wonders of marriage!

The man who finds a wife finds a treasure,

and he receives favor from the Lord.

Prov. 18:22

What a joy to be married to a godly woman! A godly wife isn’t a possession, but she is a treasure.

On my Facebook personal page and author page, I asked men to brag about their wives, telling me the three things they most appreciate about their spouses. Four qualities clearly rose to the top.

This is in no way scientific. Most men following me on Facebook are Christians. But I love the way some stereotypes were obliterated. For example, not a single man chose as one of his favorite qualities his wife’s physical appearance. Only two out of about a hundred even mentioned “lover.” Guys are often characterized as focused primarily on sex, but the husbands who responded to my request clearly aren’t.

This post has a triple purpose: to thank you wives for being so wonderful; to encourage single men that, when looking for a future wife, you would do well to consider these qualities; and to encourage wives who want to grow in their husband’s affection with the knowledge that these are the things long-term husbands most admire. Your own husband may value different things, of course, but these are what men chose to publicly celebrate. At the very least, this post could spawn some enlightening conversation on a date night.

The four qualities men on Facebook (I’m not saying this is my list or what I think is most important; mine would be somewhat different) most celebrated about their wives, in this order, were:

Number 1: Faithfulness and Loyalty

Wives, your husbands are grateful for your commitment to your marriage. They believe you hold true to your vows, you won’t cheat on them, and that you will stick with the marriage through disappointments.

Many of us are astounded that a woman agreed to marry us. And we are ever more grateful that, even as you get to know our weaknesses, you stay by our side. We’ve been cut from the team by coaches, rejected by university admission committees, fired by or passed over for promotions by employers, sometimes rejected by our own children, but the story of our lives has been a woman who has walked through all of that with an unyielding, iron-willed faithfulness and loyalty.

And for that we are truly grateful.

I celebrated this gift of loyalty in my book Cherish when I imagine a wife saying to her insecure husband, “You’ve made it across the finish line, into my arms. I’m yours and you are mine. We’re one. I’m thrilled with you. I love you. You can rest in my acceptance. I will recharge you with my affection. I won’t pull away when I get to know you; I’ll draw closer. I won’t disrespect you when I find the dark within you; I’ll pray for God to flood you with his light. I won’t compare you to any other man because to me you are the only man of my affections; you are the standard; you are my man of all men. I won’t look at another man, I won’t touch another man, I won’t compare you to any other man. I will feast my eyes and fill my heart with my love for you.”

What this also means, wives, is that unfaithfulness is perhaps the biggest wound a woman can inflict on her husband because loyalty seems to be closest to many men’s hearts. Flirtation outside the marriage can crush a man, particularly if he values faithfulness and loyalty above all else, as a clear plurality of men in this survey seemed to.

Number 2: A Devoted Follower of Christ

Wives, thank you for bringing more of Christ into our homes. Your knowledge of God’s word, your devotion to prayer and worship, your eagerness to be a part of the local church, and your commitment to godliness blesses us in so many ways.

The closer you get to God, the stronger you become for us. The wiser you become, the more we gain from your perspective. The more peaceful you become, the more spiritual rest we have at home. We don’t look at your faith as something you should do for us—it’s about you and God, first and foremost—but we are blessed immeasurably by the practice and fruit of your faith.

Single men, this is why the Bible urges young men to value a woman’s faith over beauty and charm (Prov. 31:30). Beauty as the world defines it fades. Godliness grows, because God by his Holy Spirit makes it grow. If you marry a woman who is surrendered to God you will be even more in love with her on your thirtieth wedding anniversary than you were on your third. That’s certainly been true for me.

Number 3: A Nurturing Spirit: Kindness, Compassion, Graciousness

I had to lump all of these together under “nurturing spirit” because different men use different words, but they all point to one thing: the disposition of Christ who came not to be served, but to serve. This points to wives who love and give with daily kindness; the kind of wife who is a soothing presence in her family rather than one who brings even more drama into her home. Men praise the peacemakers rather than the warriors (A woman in an abusive marriage may need to become a warrior in order to escape and protect her children, but these posts aren’t talking about abusive marriages; we’re talking about marriages worthy of celebration).

Women, husbands don’t want home to be a battleground. They so appreciate gracious, kind, and compassionate wives. There’s so much drama at the office and sometimes with extended family members. People are at odds with each other in the local church, businesses, sporting events, competing with each other and tearing each other down. What a blessing to be married to a woman who brings a nurturing presence into her home.

Number 4: Forgiving and Patient

We know we mess up. We know we keep messing up. So for all those times of forgiveness and patience, thank you. We wish we could be better for you, and we’re trying. But your acceptance means more to us than you could possibly know.

Single men, as mentioned already, I was shocked at one thing that not a single husband mentioned when searching for his “top three” things to celebrate: his wife’s physical appearance. When looking for a bride, attractiveness usually tops the list for single men. I get that. But the absence of its mention on this list tells me that you would do well to put character and faith first when considering who to marry. Sacrificing character for beauty is something you’ll almost certainly regret. There’s nothing wrong with looking for a woman who is beautiful to you inside and out, but I’m just telling you, in a decade or so, you will be most mindful of her inner beauty.

So, godly wives, thank you for being you. Thank you for putting up with us husbands. In this post, we celebrate you in all your excellence. We know you’re more than a wife: you’re God’s daughter with your own dreams and worth and purpose outside of your relationship to us. But what you bring to us can’t be measured.

A wife of noble character who can find?

She is worth far more than rubies.

11 Her husband has full confidence in her

and lacks nothing of value.

12 She brings him good, not harm,

all the days of her life.

Proverbs 31:10-12

 

Husbands, feel free to add more comments about what you appreciate about your wives in the section below. And in keeping with the previous post, we won’t post comments from disappointed husbands on this particular post. We want the comments for these two posts in particular to be positive and encouraging.

Lisa and I were at a women’s conference when Lisa asked the wife sitting next to her how she had slept the night before. “Terrible,” she replied. “I’m used to my husband’s backrub every night and it’s hard to get to sleep without it.”

“Every night?” Lisa asked.

“Every night.”

Plenty of these blog posts have challenged selfish husbands (and, admittedly less often, wives). But in the next two posts, I want to celebrate some very good husbands and then some very good wives. Instead of always talking about problem spouses, let’s stay in the spirit of Thanksgiving and celebrate the good ones. My hope is that singles will learn what married spouses end up valuing most, and for all of us married people to be inspired to become the kind of spouse that our wife or husband would call “the best of the best.”

I was moved to write this post the weekend that Harvey hit Houston. Lisa and I invited a married couple over to watch the Mayweather/MacGregor fight Saturday night. Technically, Harvey landed on Friday, and then there was a lull Saturday morning and afternoon. We thought maybe we had escaped it and called some friends to come over and watch the fight. The rains hit really hard just before the fight started however, so our neighborhood was transformed into water world between the time they arrived and the time they left.

Actually, one of them left a little earlier to check on their dog. The dog is old, deaf, and almost blind (it probably should have died five years ago but is just too stubborn), but the wife was worried that poor Bella would be scared so she asked her husband to go get her (they live about two miles away). Her husband patiently pointed out that a deaf and blind dog wouldn’t know it if a hurricane blew their house apart, but he loves his wife so he went to their house to get Bella. It took him over 20 minutes to make the drive one way, and just as long to make it back.

His wife knew she was making a bit of an unreasonable request, but he went anyway. And while he was gone, she praised him as “one of the best husbands in the world.”

There are husbands like this out there, and there are plenty of husbands who cherish and spoil their wives.

When wives praise their husbands like this, I often probe to find out what they think makes their husband so special.  I’ve come up with three things in particular that most wives seem to praise. There are others, of course, and I’m asking married women to add to this list in the comments section below.

Single women: this is what you should look for, if you’re like most women. And husbands, these are the kinds of things we should aspire to if we want our wives to be thankful they married us.

Temperament

Without fail, wives that are particularly grateful for their husbands are thankful that he’s not mean, harsh, or prone to temper-laden outbursts. Life’s too short for explosive drama. These wives praise patience and gentleness. They know they can mess up and even occasionally make absurd requests, but even then, they don’t want to have to “pay” for these requests and mistakes with volcanic temper tantrums.

Single women: you will be happiest if you marry a man who is kind, patient, and gentle with you. If he’s harsh, vindictive, if he yells and makes you “pay” for not being perfect, you’ll live with many regrets. Temperament is a huge thing.

I know a woman who has, in her mind, met perhaps the man of all men—he has a high profile law enforcement position where he can act like an alpha male (“Move this car now!”), but then he turns to her and gently says, “So, babe, what can I get you to eat this evening?”

Married men: this is one area where we can grow and mature if we choose to. Think of the kindness with which God has treated you and give that same kindness to your wife. You know you’re not perfect. Give your wife the same grace that you need. The “perfect” Christian husband could be summed up by Colossians 3:12:  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

Faith

Wives generally love to be spiritually challenged by their husbands. The wife who spent part of Harvey with us was raised by an alcoholic father. She decided in college that maybe it would be best if she didn’t drink. Early on in her dating relationship with her now husband, she shared her resolve to abstain from drinking and why. Then, at a party, he caught her holding a mixed drink. “Hey,” he said, “If you and I are going to date, this kind of thing isn’t going to fly.”

He wasn’t controlling; he was just firm, essentially saying, “You can drink or date me, but you can’t do both.” She had never had another guy call her to follow through on a commitment she had made to God before, and from that point on, she was smitten.

So often, I see single women trying to drag their boyfriends to church, but the girlfriend is the one who sets moral boundaries, who makes sure they stay active in church, who brings up God and prayer and Scripture. Women, if you have to drag him to faith, don’t ever expect him to challenge your faith. Find a guy who already challenges you just where you are.

Guys, it’s hard to hold our wives accountable when they see us making compromise after compromise. One of the best gifts we can give our wives is consecration to God—reading his word, yielding to his will, surrendering to his moral call.

Security

I’ve never met a wife who calls her husband the best of the best if she feels the least bit threatened by him physically. Every husband will get angry from time to time, but the best husbands know how to deal with their anger without letting their wives feel threatened.

Single women, don’t even think about marrying a man if it’s even remotely possible in your mind that he could possibly hit you. Marriage is too intense, and living together makes you too vulnerable, to put yourself in a place in which you could be in danger of bodily harm.

When a man is stronger than his wife and his wife knows his strength goes only one way—protection, not harm—she feels doubly blessed. If he’s stronger than her and she’s not certain which direction his strength will be used, what could be a blessing becomes a potential threat.

Husbands, Colossians 3:19 tells us to never be harsh with our wives. That not only precludes physical violence, it also rules out abusive language.

The other aspect of “security” is a willingness to pull our own financial weight. If we are lazy and refuse to use our strength to help provide for the family’s financial needs, she’ll never respect us. I’ve never met a wife who respects her husband when he refuses to work or accepts long-term un-employment or under-employment without working hard to change it. I’ve seen wives praise husbands beating the pavement to find work and being understanding about a difficult economy. But when a guy doesn’t care about his unemployment as much as his wife does? That kills her respect for him.

So if you’re a single woman and you want to be happy in your marriage, choose a man with the right temperament, a maturing, strong faith, and one who brings security to your life.

If you’re a single man and you want to make yourself a wise catch, work on growing in patience as much as you maintain your abs. Become the kind of contagious Christian that makes others want to grow closer to God. Learn to deal with frustration without becoming violent, and develop a nurturing, protective posture toward others—physically and financially.

If you’re a married man you can build your wife’s affection by growing in all of these areas. And if you’re a married woman, just know that what gets praised often gets reinforced. When I hear my wife brag on me that makes me want to become more of what she’s bragging about. If your husband hears more of your disappointments than your praises, he may even begin to shut down.

Married women, what would you add to this list? And disappointed wives, please know we want this to be a positive post, so we won’t be posting comments that berate husbands or state how much you wish your husband was more like this. I hope you understand.

 

September 14, 2017

The Whole Story

Guest Author — 

 

We all know that marriage begins long before a woman walks down the aisle. The way she views the intimate aspects of marriage are influenced years and sometimes even decades before any man places a ring on her finger. Therefore, one of the best ways to help our daughters grow into vibrant women who have vibrant marriages is to help them grow into a healthy and biblical understanding of sex. May our parenting be a stepping stone to their sexual fulfillment within marriage rather than a roadblock. I’m thrilled that my friend Sheila Gregoire has worked with both of her adult daughters to provide a wonderful resource for moms to talk with their young daughters about sex. I’m a fan of all three of these women! I’ve loved Sheila’s blog, I’ve already read (and greatly enjoyed) Rebecca’s book, and have laughed with and forwarded Katie’s You Tube videos many times. They are joining forces to provide a wonderful resource for moms and their daughters.

****************************************************************************************************************

I’ve been called “the Christian sex lady.” I speak every year to thousands of women about sex. I blog about it almost daily.

But even I was absolutely terrified when it came to teaching my own daughters about sex and puberty. In fact, my husband had to sit me down and tell me when it was time to get our youngest daughter a bra.

It’s not that I didn’t notice. It’s just that I was very good at avoiding what was ever-so-obvious right in front of me. Katie was only ten, and she was still a little girl with Barbies. I wasn’t ready for this!

Looking back, there isn’t a whole lot that I did right when it came to talking to them about growing up.

When Rebecca, my oldest, was ten, I took her away for a weekend to explain the facts of life. We used a program to help talk about sex, and the main aim was to teach her that she wasn’t supposed to have sex until she was married, and then encourage her to pledge to wait.

Honestly, she was so grossed out by the whole thing she would have pledged never to talk to a boy again! Reflecting on it now, Rebecca says that the hard-hitting “you must wait” message gave her the impression that Jesus loved her mostly because of her virginity.

Whoops.

I receive emails everyday from young wives struggling in their marriages because they grew up with shameful messages about sex–or else they were never told much of anything at all. One woman told me she learned about sex because her mom put a bookmark in the encyclopedia under “sex”. Another woman told me that as soon as she started to develop breasts her mom gave her such a long talk about modesty that it made her paranoid that older men at church were staring at her. She took refuge serving in the nursery. These women desperately want great marriages now, but these messages are hard to eradicate.

One of the most important parenting missions is to raise our daughters with a healthy view of sexuality, pointing them to their worth in Jesus and to the beauty that God made us for. It sets them up for a far healthier future marriage, and a far healthier self-image. God made sexuality to be beautiful; it’s the world that has corrupted it and added shame to it. We must reclaim it, and point our kids on the right road. We simply must get this right.

Yes, it starts with giving them the right information about puberty and the facts of life. But it doesn’t end there.

It also needs to involve keeping the lines of communication open, even, or especially, in the teen years. I did manage to muddle through the facts of life–barely. But we never talked about porn (even though teenage girls are the fastest growing group of porn users). We didn’t talk about masturbation (my girls were good girls, after all!). And I certainly never told them about male anatomy or what their guy friends were going through! It’s in the teen years when kids need us to continue those conversations by making them more personal. Our job isn’t done when they know about the mechanics of sex; they need our help navigating how to handle relationships, peer pressure, and body image issues.

Sound intimidating yet? Well, here’s some good news.

It’s okay if you’re scared.

Really! Kids don’t need perfect parents. They need authentic parents who aren’t afraid to be real with them.

It doesn’t matter if you’re scared. It only matters if you let being scared stop you.

I let being scared stop me from having some important conversations with my kids. And I was scared of a lot of things. I was scared that they may have sexual feelings that I didn’t know how to deal with. I was scared that they may realize that I had sexual feelings! (what would happen if they realized what my husband and I were actually doing?!?) I was so scared of the subject in general that it just seemed easier not to say much of anything at all.

I’m sorry that I missed the chance to guide my girls better when they were younger. But as they grew older, and I got more comfortable, God’s grace covered a lot of my mistakes.

My daughters are 20 and 22 now, and they have ministries of their own. Rebecca has a big book coming out in October called Why I Didn’t Rebel: A 22-Year-Old Explains How She Stayed on the Straight And Narrow–and How Your Kids Can Too. Katie has a large YouTube channel hoping to introduce millennials to Jesus in an unintimidating way.

Recently we were laughing about the mistakes I made talking to them about puberty (Rebecca remembers learning that the penis was like a finger. That really confused her. If guys have a finger there, then why do they need to scratch so much?).

After the hilarity died down, and we started thinking about how moms can do it better, we decided to try to help. We created what we wish we had had: an online, video-based course for moms and daughters called The Whole Story: Not-So-Scary Talks on Sex, Puberty and Growing Up. My girls star in the videos teaching about body changes, sex, peer pressure, boys, and self-care, while I provide coaching for moms. The videos start the conversations, but then discussion questions, checklists, and mother-daughter activity ideas help moms continue them.

Check out The Whole Story!

Your girls are going to get messages about sexuality, body image, and relationships from school, from friends, and from the media. But what they really need is to hear from you. And you can do it! God appointed you, as a mom, to do this. Even if you’re scared.

Sheila Gregoire’s course The Whole Story is available for moms with daughters aged 10-12 or 13-15. It’s not a replacement for moms; it’s a resource to start those important conversations, and make it much easier to continue them.

Sheila Wray Gregoire
Inspirational Speaker, Marriage Author and Blogger
Website: http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com

September 7, 2017

For Worse

Gary Thomas — 

A woman from a war-torn country told an American, “The difference between Americans and the rest of the world is that you expect everything to go fine and are surprised when something bad happens. The rest of the world expects life to be dreary and is surprised when something good happens.”

I don’t know about “the rest of the world,” but when you come from a country where the government has always been corrupt, most people regularly face destitution, and food supply has never been certain, I’m sure many Americans must seem rather spoiled. In this woman’s view many of the people rioting about “injustice” here in this country, so filled with outrage, wouldn’t last a week where she comes from. That’s not to say there aren’t any reasons here for outrage—it’s just to challenge our expectations that we could live in a country where everything is expected to always go right and to assume that we will always agree with the people who are in elected office.

Writing from Houston in the aftermath of Harvey, with some dear friends displaced from toxic water, perhaps makes me especially sensitive to this insight. When you see the pictures in Houston with homes flooded, just know that’s not “nice” river water flowing through homes. It’s worse than sewage—a toxic stew requiring houses to be stripped and bleached before they can be rebuilt. Second Baptist, leading the way with recovery efforts, has a nurse on staff giving tetanus boosters and antibiotics to volunteers. This is nasty stuff.

“Good” people don’t get to avoid bad things. We know a married couple who have heroically served many pastors and our church and still, their office was flooded. You might hope “special” servants could get a miraculous pass from the Hurricane, but that’s not how it works.

On one of my first longer runs following Harvey, I slipped on some mud, fell against a buckled sidewalk, and tore some cartilage in my chest. It only hurts when I move, take a deep breath, or, God forbid, sneeze. Lisa immediately got me on turmeric, arnica and some lotion with mustard in the name, but she also began recounting the litany of running injuries I’ve faced through the years, with the implication, “Are you sure you should keep doing this?”

Next year will mark some forty years of running for me, and that must mean at least 50,000 miles on roads and trails. I can’t deny several medical issues (or the funny look in the doctor’s eyes this time when he asked me what I was taking for the pain and I replied “arnica and turmeric”), but my reply to Lisa was, “Given that I’ve run 50,000 miles, I think I’ve come through surprisingly well. Running in the dark, in storms, in bad weather conditions, with dogs and careless drivers, I’m surprised it hasn’t been worse. Yes, I think I should keep doing this!”

When we look at any marriage with occasional bad episodes, no matter how many miles we’ve travelled together, we might also ask, “Should we keep doing this?” We pledge to stay married “for better or for worse” but most of us never really expect the “for worse.” So when something bad happens, if our expectations are that only good things should happen, we can question our commitment.

Let me ask: do we truly think we can be married for a long time and never have bad things happen? Do you think a couple can be married for twenty years with no medical emergencies, no financial hardship, no major weather events, no employer or investor issues where you’re treated unfairly, no relational frustrations?

If we get married only expecting the “for better” and are surprised and resentful of the “for worse,” we’re going to be like the masked rioters who live in outrage because everything isn’t going exactly as we think it should.

Do you expect to raise several children without one of them having medical issues, developmental challenges, or any spiritual rebellion at all? Do you think you can be a member of a church and never be disappointed by a pastor or fellow church member? Do you expect to agree with all parts and every one of a pastor’s sermons and every decision made by the church leadership? Or do you get outraged at one disagreement and loudly storm out the door, telling everyone on Facebook why?

Do you think one disagreement with a spouse, one behavioral issue, one lethargic season is one too many?

Just what does it mean, really, when we pledge to be together, “for better and for worse?” Is there a place in our lives for the “worse” or are we going to make the “for worse” even more miserable because we’re outraged that life isn’t always perfect and then storm out the door?

When I see in a documentary a husband and wife leading their kids out of a bombed-out city, carrying everything they own on their backs, walking through the rain, and then I talk to a couple who leave their million dollar mansion to tell me why they can’t be happy together anymore, you’ll have to forgive me, but sometimes I think that woman from the war-torn country was on to something. As long as we expect every day to  be perfect and every season to be “happy,” every storm to be minor, and every marriage to be always connected and euphoric, I don’t know why we ever pledge to be there for the “for worse.”

I don’t think it’s possible to run 50,000 miles without an occasional injury. And I’m not sure it’s realistic to be married for 50,000 hours without some major disappointments.  But that, alone, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep doing it. Let’s thank God for the “for better,” but let’s not curse him (or each other) for the “for worse.”

Every marriage, every life, will have plenty of both.

[Note: with the other blog posts I’ve written, I trust readers will understand I’m not considering abuse as a part of the “for worse” that needs to be accepted rather than fled.]

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

August 24, 2017

Good in Bed

Gary Thomas — 

Thus I have become in his eyes like one bringing contentment.  Song of Songs 8:10

“Don’t let this lawyerly facade fool you,” Sandra Bullock warned Hugh Grant in the movie Two Weeks’ Notice. “I’m actually really good in bed.”

I was eating an airline dinner, flying somewhere over the Midwest, when I put on the headphones and caught this piece of dialogue. In a Christian worldview, a single person wouldn’t know whether he or she was “good in bed.” But since I was stuck in an aluminum tube 30,000 feet above the ground, I had plenty of time to think, and the question challenged me in another context.

When did I last ask myself whether I was good in bed? While it’s a grave mistake to reduce sex to mere mechanics, the question can go much deeper: When did I last care about that question? And why do so many women’s magazines that cater to singles feature this question, while publications reaching out to married couples almost never even raise it?

How sad, I thought, that a single woman who has no long-term interest in a man could be more determined to please her boyfriend sexually than a married woman would be in pleasing her husband. Shame on me if I spend less time thinking about how to pleasure my wife than a single man might think about how to keep his girlfriend interested.

We have to fight against taking our spouses—and our responsibilities—for granted. And taking them for granted is easy to do, because on the day we marry, we gain a monopoly of sorts. Our spouses commit to have sexual relations with no one else. In a faithful marriage there exists no competition or even comparison. The only intimate life our spouses can and will enjoy is the intimate life we choose to give them. Regardless of whether we act thoughtfully, creatively, or selfishly in bed, they receive only what we provide. It’s sheer laziness if I give less attention and care to the mother of my children than some twenty-something kid gives to a young woman he met mere weeks ago.

Rather than make us careless, this exclusivity should make us grateful, and therefore even more eager to please our mates. The principle goes well beyond the bedroom, of course. You’re the primary person for intimate talk and encouragement. Are you “good in communication” too? You’re the first person who should be supporting your spouse in prayer. Are you “good in prayer”?

But let’s not act as though the bedroom is unimportant: When did you last ask yourself, “Am I endeavoring to please my spouse in bed?” If we’re slacking in this area, our spouses can’t really do much about it—but we can, and we should.

Here are some questions to ask: Do I want to reward my wife’s commitment to me, or do I want to make her regret it? Do I want to bless her, or will I take her for granted? Do I want to be a generous lover, or am I content to be a miser who reluctantly doles out occasional “favors”? Am I creative? Am I enthusiastic? Am I initiating?

Honestly ask yourself, “Am I good in bed?”

 

 

This post is an excerpt from the newly re-designed Devotions for a Sacred Marriage.

This book has 52 short devotions for couples to read and reflect on—one a week for a year. If you’re looking to give a “spiritual boost” to your own marriage, or want to offer a gift to another married couple, this beautifully designed book could be just what you’re looking for.

 

 

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

July 20, 2017

A Higher Kind of Love

Gary Thomas — 

 

About five centuries ago, Copernicus changed the way we think about our universe when he postulated what we all now know to be true: the Sun, not the Earth, is the center of our universe. Archimedes, Plato, Socrates, Augustine, and Aquinas all lived without understanding a basic truth that any educated person today takes for granted.

One hundred years later, just four centuries ago, Sir Isaac Newton discovered what we call gravity, something that even a contemporary fifth grader could describe.

The relative youth of basic knowledge is rather stunning. For all his wisdom and brilliant insight, Aristotle knew less of hard science—astronomy, anatomy, and even physics—than the vast majority of advanced placement high school students do today. It’s remarkable to consider relatively recent advancements in intelligence and understanding.

Regardless of one’s view of evolution, early humans (whatever date you would assign to them) would seem like brutes to us today. In fact, a TV series like Mad Men, initially set just fifty or sixty years ago, seems like a ridiculous relic of an atrocious past—men treated women like that? People were that insensitive to race issues?

Just as intellect and social understanding has grown, so our love should grow, as well as our view of what marriage can and should be. What was accepted as the highest and truest love in the ancient world of Paris and Helen of Troy, or the medieval world of Shakespeare, or the romantic era of Jane Austen, might perhaps look rudimentary to spiritually perceptive persons today, if we were to apply the same scientific methods to love and marriage as we do to science. Yes, of course, Jesus defined the very highest love for us about two thousand years ago, but how this love applies to the way a man loves his wife and the practical way a wife loves her husband can still evolve, as so much of other human understanding has.

Why shouldn’t the love of a husband and wife of a Christian couple in 2017 look vastly different than the love of a husband and wife in 1617 or 1817? Why, indeed, should we glamorize marriage from the 1950s instead of asking even more of marriage today? Why would we let marital love lag behind physical or social science? And shouldn’t Christians lead the call for the spiritual evolution of marriage?

A New Model of Marriage

There’s a key to “marital evolution” in the vows most of us uttered to “to love and to cherish until death do us part.”

Cherish is an attempt to define that higher love between a man and a woman. Just as we have sought to better understand the intricacies of the human brain, the vagaries of our climate, the shamefulness of racial prejudice, so we should seek to understand true honor, selflessness, service, kindness and even happiness as it relates to marriage. We’ve killed forests’ worth of trees writing books about “love.” Perhaps it’s time we pay attention to “cherish,” a higher kind of love. We should expect more of Christian husbands and wives, just as we expect more of today’s screenwriters, academics, and social commentary. People said things thirty years ago they would never say today—or pay a heavy price if they did. There will always be those who “lag behind,” who fail to keep up with the advancement of society, but we don’t want to be among them. Not because we are proud, but because we want to breathe the purer air of a higher, more refined existence.

The interplay of love and cherish is best demonstrated by ballet. Ballet requires enormous strength, significant endurance, balance, and athleticism—the same things required of an NFL wide receiver or even linebacker. What makes the dancer different is that she also has grace, fluidity, beauty, poetry in motion. Love—sacrifice, service, commitment—is and always will be the backbone, the strength, and the muscle of marriage. Cherish brings the beauty and poetry—it’s supported by love, but it complements love, showcases love, and delights in love. It’s not just about sticking it out together; it’s about turning marriage into a beautiful dance.

As love is known by First Corinthians 13, so cherish is captured in the Song of Songs.

Love is about being gracious and altruistic. “Love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Cor. 13:4)

Cherish is about being enthusiastic and enthralled. “How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume more than any spice.” (Song of Songs 4:10)

Love tends to be quiet and understated. “[Love] does not envy, it does not boast.” (1 Cor. 13:4)

Cherish boasts boldly and loudly: “My beloved is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand.” (Song of Songs 5:10)

Love thinks about others with selflessness. “Love is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking.” (1 Cor. 13:4-5)

Cherish thinks about its beloved with praise. “Your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.” (Song of Songs 2:14)

Love doesn’t want the worst for someone: “Love does not delight in evil.” (1 Cor. 13:6)

Cherish celebrates the best in someone: “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!” (Song of Songs 1:15)

Love puts up with a lot: “[Love] always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor. 13:7)

Cherish enjoys a lot. “His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely.” (Song of Songs 5:16)

Love is about commitment. “Love endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:7-8; ESV)

Cherish is about delight and passion. “Your name is like perfume poured out.” (Song of Songs 1:3)

Love and cherish never compete—they complement each other and even complete each other. At times, they certainly overlap. By pursuing “cherish” we’ll become better lovers as well.

Men, your wives don’t want you to just “love” them in the sense of being committed to them. They want you to cherish them. They don’t want us to stop at, “I will be committed to you and never leave you.” They want to hear:

“You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride, you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes.” (4:9)

And women, you’ll discover that a cherished husband is the happiest of husbands. A friend of mine asked seven male friends, “Do your wives love you?” and every one of them answered “yes.” He then asked, “Do your wives like you?” and every one answered “No.”

All seven husbands feel loved, but none feel cherished.

Husbands want to hear their wives say, “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, is my beloved among the young men.” (2:3)

Cherishing your husband will motivate you to pursue him, and thus raise the temperature of your marriage: “I will search for the one my heart loves.” (3:2)

Choosing to Cherish

The good news is that cherishing your spouse is something you can learn to do. People talk about “falling in love” (which is a misunderstanding of biblical love), but cherish is clearly a choice. It’s not just a feeling that comes and goes; there are spiritual and relational practices that generate feelings of cherishing your spouse as you act on them so that you do hold your spouse dear in your heart. Learning to cherish actually creates joy, fulfillment, happiness and satisfaction. It’s one of those spiritual realities that may not make logical sense, but when you take it by faith and put it in practice, it works.

It just does.

Learning to take our marriage from polite co-existing or even just basic friendship to the much higher spiritual call of learning to truly cherish each other is a spiritual journey before it’s a marital journey. God’s word will instruct us; we’ll need his Spirit to empower us and his truth to enlighten us to shape our hearts in such a way that we are able to cherish someone who “stumbles in many ways” (James 3:2), even as God cherishes us as we stumble in many ways. If you believe your marriage has all but died or even just gotten a little stale, the hope behind learning to cherish each other in marriage is found in this: God is more than capable of teaching us and empowering us to treat and cherish our spouses the way he treats and cherishes us.

Envy, Not Pity

May God raise up in this new era a renewed church that demonstrates a different kind of marriage. Not just a marriage that sticks it out—people have been doing that for millennia. But marriages that grow in grace, sweetness, kindness, service, joy, and understanding; where we even value cherishing each other more than we value being infatuated with each other.

Isn’t it a little pathetic that two young infatuated people think they have something deeper, richer, and more profound than what most married couples share after twenty or thirty years of life together? Yet hasn’t that been the popular, almost unquestioned cultural message for the past three or four generations? By pursuing cherish instead of just love, we can build the kind of marriages that inspire younger couples rather than make them feel pity for us. A thoughtful, cherishing marriage can make infatuation look like a Neanderthal kind of love.

If God has been gracious enough to allow us to grow in our understanding of the physical world; if God has allowed us to advance from the abacus to the slide rule to the calculator to the computer, why would He not allow His church to move marital love from mere commitment to active cherishing?

It’s not that cherish is opposed to love or in competition with love, but rather a higher, deeper understanding of love applied.  Jesus taught us that others should know we are his by our love. Our marriages should be factories of such a love. Cherishing marriages can be evangelistic as others will ask, how can a husband and wife cherish each other like that after thirty years of marriage?

The battle against redefining marriage is significant and necessary, but like in World War II, we have to fight on multiple fronts. We can’t let the battle over the definition of marriage lead us to ignore the battle over personally experiencing and demonstrating a higher, purer love, a marriage in which two people truly cherish each other, in our own families.

The analogy I make in Cherish is that just as God the Father cherished Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16), and just as Jesus cherishes the church, so we are to cherish each other in marriage. God laid the cornerstone of a cherishing marriage when he first began his relationship with Jerusalem roughly five thousand years ago. An ignored city has risen to become one of the most, if not the most famous city in the history of the world, because God chose to cherish her. His act of cherishing lifted Jerusalem to a new place of being.

A cherishing marriage can produce the same kind of people and point us to a higher kind of love.

A New Day

A young couple I’m preparing for marriage recently asked me an honest question: “Gary, we’ve had so many older couples tell us that there’s one and only one secret to a happy marriage, and that’s for the husband to learn two words: ‘Yes, dear.’ Is that true?”

Though this is an old, bad joke, it was refreshing to see a young couple be all but mystified by it. The subtext of their question was sincere astonishment: “People used to look at and define marriage like that? Do we have to do that?”

No, they don’t.

People my age (I’m 55) have to understand that the way our children relate to each other in terms of gender roles is very different from what we grew up with. This shift is going to have a huge impact on the quality and nature of marriage. There will be some new challenges—as there is much to appreciate about old truths—but also potentially many key gains.

I’m not talking about the complementarian/egalitarian debate. Thoughtful complementarians take pains to distinguish what they believe from 1960s’ chauvinism. Yet young people in their twenties can’t even imagine women being “kept” or condescended to; they are valued, listened to, considered as true partners, with equal intelligence and worth. How can this evolving understanding fail to positively impact the depth of intimacy a couple might have in marriage, if, that is, we are willing to expand our view of marriage from merely loving each other to cherishing each other?

I think it’s rather promising. Old jokes and old prejudice must die, or preachers will start sounding like ad executives from Mad Men when we talk about marriage.

It’s all in the Bible. We just have to move past thinking of the Song of Songs as something that exclusively discusses what’s happening between the sheets and expand it to also include what’s happening within our hearts and minds.

I’ve been infatuated, and I’ve been in a cherishing marriage.

Cherish is better.

Perhaps it’s time to spread the good news that the world is setting its sights much too low when it comes to the standards of true, intimate marriage. We’ve spent so much time talking about love. Let’s raise the bar and start talking about cherish.

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

 

I received the following email (edited for length and taking out any identifying information) from a reader:

 

I am so grateful a friend recommended your book, Sacred Search.  I’m currently on my fourth reading!  I’ve found it so helpful in evaluating my dating relationships….as well as realigning my beliefs & hopes about marriage with Scripture (& confirmation of the Holy Spirit).  I can’t thank you enough.

Still, I have a lingering question.  Is it wise to marry someone if deep down you’re not as proud of them as they deserve?  Or worded another way…What do you do if your only hang-ups about a potential spouse are superficial traits (like physical appearance or position/profession) you wish didn’t matter to you at all, but in reality, still bother you?

I believe marriage is a choice, and I want to make a wise choice based off qualities God values.  With that in mind, if I don’t want to be a superficial person, do I just ignore the fact that I’m bothered or embarrassed by my boyfriend’s appearance, profession/position, etc?  Or should I trust that if a man’s character isn’t enough to make traits I don’t want to value in the first place seem unimportant, then he just might not be the wisest match, after all?

 

Here’s how I’d respond:

The marital choice is a lot about preference. We should definitely marry a believer (1 Cor. 7:39). We should marry a person of high character (Prov. 31:10ff.). But on issues of preference—appearance, personality, vocation, there isn’t any absolute “this is the right or wrong thing to decide.” It’s more “What are you willing to live with?”

I think the greatest weakness of The Sacred Search is that it may set the bar a little too high. Some have written to me that the kind of person I’m describing in that book doesn’t really exist–everyone must make compromises. I agree to a certain extent; it’s just that I’ve seen what happens when people compromise too much, and I want to help people avoid that, so maybe I went too far in the other direction.

Having said that, to answer this person’s question: I, personally, wouldn’t marry someone who embarrasses me. “Embarrassment” is a strong word and respect is the backbone of a solid marriage. Both husbands (1 Peter 3:7) and wives (1 Peter 3:1) are biblically commanded to respect their spouse, which is difficult to do if you’re embarrassed by them.

It’s impossible to “fake respect” someone for very long; eventually, he or she will catch on, and that will launch a number of negative things into your marriage.

When a guy doesn’t feel respected, he’ll feel like a “project,” as it will be difficult for you not to keep needling him about the issue(s) you hope will change. He may get discouraged that you don’t respect him and, as a defense mechanism, stop trying to earn your respect and worse, seek to be respected somewhere else. There are plenty of other ways a disrespected guy might respond and none of them, frankly, are good.

If you’re embarrassed by your wife, how is she ever going to feel cherished? How can a man tell his wife, “My dove, my perfect one, is the only one” (Song of Songs 6:9) when he wishes she looked more like someone else, acted more like someone else, or had another woman’s personality or job? And if you don’t cherish your wife, no one else is biblically allowed to, at least not in that way, so you are choosing to keep your wife from ever experiencing a marriage as God designed it.

We all have to compromise somewhat as no one gets to marry the fourth member of the Trinity. But in general, I want to see premarital couples feeling proud of each other, eager to show each other off, and each feeling like they got the best end of the deal.

When a couple is meeting with me and the woman can’t wait to tell me, “He’s not the kind of guy I’m usually attracted to,” that’s a bad sign, in my view. She’s apologizing for him before he’s even opened his mouth. Why does she want me to know that, anyway? Why should it matter to me how he looks? That’s a statement of pure embarrassment, and since I’m not much of a judge when it comes to masculine appearance, it’s a wasted observation anyway.

Making a reasonable compromise or two is a necessity in a fallen world when you’re marrying an imperfect man or woman. Accepting something that embarrasses you is, in my opinion, too big of a compromise. 

The writer’s last sentence sums it up well: “Should I trust that if a man’s character isn’t enough to make traits I don’t want to value in the first place seem unimportant, then he just might not be the wisest match, after all?” To that I’d say, “Probably so.”

What do you think? Let’s get a conversation going.

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

Preachers and teachers on marriage (and I have been among them) often warn young moms about being moms first and wives second. It’s certainly a dangerous and ever-present temptation that deserves attention. But this post is for the young husbands who have their own temptation—expecting their wives to be more than any one woman could possibly be while raising their kids.

One August morning in Houston I waited just a little too long to go out for a run. The sun was unmerciful, and all the shade was gone. My pace slowed, and I even had to walk. I thought I could power through the run as planned but it was stupid not to shorten it before turning around, and I paid the price for my stubbornness.

About a mile and a half from home, I noticed the distinctive bounce of my wife as she pedaled her bike my way. She had a towel and a bottle of electrolyte-laced water.  “They said on the news that it was dangerously hot and humid today and I thought you should have been home by now so I figured I better go find you.”

I fell in love with my wife all over again. She is the best.

But she’s also an empty nester.

When she was a homeschooling mom of three, I don’t think, number one, she would have had time to watch the news in the morning. Number two, I don’t think it’s likely she would have noticed I had left, as she would be trying to keep child number one from ripping up her assignment, child number two from throwing a ball through the window, and child number three from having a diaper accident. Not to mention keeping our dog Amber from eating somebody’s shoe.

I suspect, fifteen years ago, had we lived in Houston and I had gone out for a run, I’d limp home, my wife would see me dripping sweat on the floor, and she might say, “You went for a run? In this? Are you crazy?”

As an empty nester, I now get all her care. There’s a lot of it, but it’s just…different when it’s not divided among four people. There’s just me now. We don’t even have a dog anymore.

Young husbands, please give your wives a break. Try to understand. She wants to be a world class wife—most women do. But when she’s got a job, kids, a pet, and a house, never forget that there’s only one of her and about ten of them (if you add everything together).

Yes, she should be a wife first. But you’ve got to do your part with understanding. I wish I had been more empathetic as a younger husband. Back then, I could occasionally be resentful. Lisa would freely admit there were seasons when she was definitely a mom first.  I thought the problem was her, but now I’d tell my younger self that the problem was really her situation. “Give it time, Gary,” I’d say. “Let her work this out. By the way, some amazing years are coming.”

If your wife really cares for your kids, she’s a caring person. When the kids are gone, all that care will be poured out on you. If you leave her now, she’s likely to end up with someone else and then her care will be poured out on that person. You’ll have endured the years in which she was stretched the most, only to miss the years when she could focus on you and love you the most.

It’s not a coincidence that I wrote Sacred Marriage about embracing the difficulties and challenges of marriage when I was in my late thirties, and now, in my fifties, I’m writing about building a marriage based on cherishing each other.

Same wife, but a different life.

So, young husband, be gentle with your wife while she figures all this out. Don’t let a very exhausting decade or two define your marriage or her.

I’ve been in a number of running groups. We meet Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday mornings in our running gear, and leave looking sweaty and hot and tired. Every now and then there will be a “social.” And the most common comment you hear runners say to each other is “Wow, that’s what you look like all showered and clean!”

Defining your wife’s love and care by how she acts when she’s raising small children is like defining a woman’s beauty by how she looks in the middle of a marathon.

It’s not fair.

Give your wife a thankful hug. Even more, give her truckloads of understanding. And remind yourself whenever you feel neglected: it might not be her. It might just be her situation.

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

April 28, 2017

Married for Adversity

Gary Thomas — 

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  (Prov. 17:17)

You’d be miserable indeed if you trained to become a fireman and resented it every time there was a fire. Not that you want there to be a fire, but putting out fires is what you’re trained to do. It’s what you signed up for. You don’t run from the fire—you move toward it.

In the same way, when we get married, we sign up to be there in times of adversity. If it is true that a brother is “born for adversity,” it is doubly true that a husband or wife is “married for adversity” for when I marry my wife, I become her closest friend in addition to being her brother in Christ. We’re thus signing up to be there during our spouses’ worst moments, most trying seasons, and even most irritating personal challenges.

What if we took Proverbs 17:17 seriously and thus considered ourselves “married for adversity?” Rather than resenting adversity, or feeling sorry for ourselves (instead of empathy for our spouse) that we have to deal with adversity, we would see adversity as a call to action, to closeness, to encouragement and support.

Imagine wives facing down social embarrassment with their husbands, but working with him instead of laughing at him: “This is one of the reasons I married him, to help him through this.” Imagine wives suffering a husband’s long bout of unemployment, thinking, “We got married so I could keep supplying the confidence and hope he needs.” Imagine the same attitude if he’s fighting an addiction, depression, or discouragement—a strong woman of faith realizing how dire things are but saying to herself, “I was born for this! I can love my man in the midst of this!”

Imagine husbands married to women who are gravely ill, doubling down on their affection and assurance: “I was born to help my wife get well (or even, sadly, to help her face her death).” What if a man discovers he married a sexually wounded wife who needs special care and understanding and he becomes more concerned about his wife’s healing and health than his own satisfaction? Imagine a husband who is married to a gifted woman who wants to start a business, but whose dad always told her she’d never amount to much. That husband provides the support, encouragement, and confidence she needs to become who God created her to be: “I was born to help my wife achieve her full glory!” Whatever the challenge, imagine Christian husbands taking up this biblical truth and instead of feeling sorry for themselves that they have to deal with adversity, loudly proclaim, “I can do this! With God’s empowering Spirit, I can love this woman! I was born to do this!”

Instead of seeing a weakness or limitation as a point of frustration, Proverbs 17:17 calls us to let adversity define our commitment, call out the best in us, and depend on God’s love working through us.

We live in a broken world where broken realities break our hearts. Knowing this to be so, God created marriage to confront this reality, not to be crushed by it. Marriage doesn’t remove us from the brokenness of the world but it does help us confront it together, and even to overcome it. Proverbs 17:17 is a rallying cry to let marriage be a castle against confusion. Rather than allow the brokenness of this world to cause us to question our marriage, Proverbs 17:17 says brokenness should remind us of why we got married.

The truth is, most of us marry for selfish reasons, but the Bible describes love as being showcased most clearly when we’re called to serve in the face of difficulty. A biblical friend doesn’t love only in wealth, health, social success, and sunny days. A biblical friend loves at all times. So, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves when our spouse hits a dry spell, or when he or she is going through a difficult time, let’s lace up our shoes a little tighter and remind ourselves, “I was born for this, to love my spouse at all times, especially in adversity.”

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.