September 9, 2016

What Your Spouse Needs Most

Gary Thomas — 

What Your Spouse Needs Most

Your spouse may not realize what he or she needs most, but if you want a sacred marriage, you have to focus on what he or she will profit from the most. Jesus didn’t always give people what they wanted or asked for. He gave them what they needed.

If we want to love like Jesus, we have to do the same. I want to be so bold as to tell you what your spouse needs most.

It’s not a regular date night (though I’m a huge fan of these).

It’s not even a satisfying sexual relationship.

It’s not love notes placed around the house or office.

It’s not morning coffee or monthly flowers or dark chocolate or a new grill.

One of the best ways to cherish our spouse is by affirming God’s love for them and regularly planting that truth in their hearts and minds. The best life possible means living in constant remembrance of the simple truth of Christianity: though we are deeply loved by God, we were once separated by our own sin and won back through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Now in Christ, grace covers everything. God is our spouse’s “physician,” not their “judge,” and He treats them accordingly.

It should be our pleasure to remind our spouses of this truth and invite him or her to walk in the freedom, joy, and peace of grace.

This might sound idealistically religious and weak, but please stick with me. It’s far more powerful than you realize.

Someone who “gets” this truth and lives by it is able to love you better and will actually depend on you less (“We love because he first loved us” 1 John 4:19). They’ll keep first things first and be much happier accordingly. It will change your marriage in more ways than you can count.

Their Worst Enemy

What I’m about to say is also true of many men, but it may be especially true of many wives: they brush the teeth of their own worst enemy every day. They are so hard on themselves that they’ve essentially become an enemy to their own happiness. With good and earnest hearts, the standard they’ve set up for themselves and their refusal to embrace grace is such that no one criticizes them more than they do.dreamstime_xl_14059577

Husbands, if you’re married to such a woman, you need to be a dissenting and persistent voice counter-balancing all that stuff with God’s forgiveness, pardon, affirmation, acceptance, and lavishly undeserved love. One “lecture” or sermon is like placing a drop of dye in the ocean and expecting the Atlantic to turn purple. It takes a steady stream of spiritual encouragement to color a wife’s soul.

Remind your spouse of how God viewed Rahab. She was a prostitute, a liar, and her own countrymen could have called her a traitor. Have you ever asked yourself why she was so quickly able to hide Israel’s spies from her own countrymen? Might it not have been because a prostitute back then had to be very adept at hiding men when their wives or male relatives came looking for them? It’s not a coincidence that she immediately knew where two men could quickly and effectively hide. She had experience in the worst sort of way, yet God used that experience in the best kind of way—accomplishing His plan for Israel. And so God commends her as a “woman of faith” who gave a hospitable welcome to Israel’s spies (Heb. 11:31). She is commended for hiding two men, not condemned for sleeping with a hundred.

Your wife might have made some really bad choices as a single woman; but God the creator can use that experience to help her make some really wise choices as a married woman. She’s no longer defined by a broken past; she’s defined by a presently empowering God who gives her certain hope for the future.

Wives, consider, in addition to Rahab, Noah. He once drank so much he literally passed out and then cursed one of his sons out of his own embarrassment. Yet God declared him to be “an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Heb. 11:7)

Can you, will you, speak so highly of a forgiven husband you once (or many times) found passed out drunk? Will you define your husband as God does, or as sin does?

We could also remember Job who, let’s be honest (just read his own words), murmured against God, cursed the day he was born, certainly complained, and seemed very impatient in the face of his maladies, yet how does God’s word describe him? “Remember the patience of Job.” (James 5:11)

The patience of Job. That’s how God remembers him.

If you’re in Christ and if your spouse is in Christ, God doesn’t see your worst or even most petty sins. He sees Christ in you. Consequently, He sees the faith you’ve exercised. He sees the good works you’ve done. He sees the glory that He put in you by His Holy Spirit. He defines you by the good and the glory that is there only because He is there, but you get the credit all the same.

I want you and your spouse to walk in the joy of forgiveness and grace, your rightful excitement that, as a child of God, forgiven by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, everything bad you’ve done is forgotten—gone!—and everything good is celebrated and remembered.

Speak these words of God’s acceptance and affirmation to each other. On a date night, read Romans 3:21-26 together, discussing how this truth impacts your marriage and parenting. On another night, read all of Romans chapter 5. Be ready to speak Romans 8:1-4 whenever you hear your spouse launch into self-despising talk.  On vacation, take out your Bible and discuss Ephesians 1:3-14. Couples run out of things to say all the time; why not make it one less time by mutually celebrating the truth of God’s gospel?

These truths never get old; we need to be reminded of them every day, sometimes many times a day. The best gift we can give our spouses and children is the assurance of the Gospel (i.e., the “Christian truth” we explained earlier).

More precious than a pure gold necklace; more lovely than diamond earrings, more beautiful than two dozen roses and more refreshing than an iced tea on a hot summer day is to proclaim the truth, glory, and pardon of God’s Gospel message to your spouse.

Here’s the side benefit: A joyful person walking in grace and hope can love much more than one who is tangled up with the guilt that Christ died to remove. Our guilt serves no one. In Christ, our self-condemnation offends God, it doesn’t please Him. To walk in condemnation is to call God a liar, and Christ’s work insufficient. One of the worst sins you could commit as a Christian is to define yourself by your sin.

When our guilt has been dealt with, definitively and powerfully; when our acceptance has been declared by an authority that far exceeds our own; then, finally, we can embrace something far superior to “you’re special.” We can embrace “you’re forgiven, adopted, and secure. You’re cherished.”

Remind your spouse of that precious truth. In the dark days and cold nights, don’t let them forget the spiritual riches they enjoy.

It’s what your spouse needs most and what you’ll benefit from the most.

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23 responses to What Your Spouse Needs Most

  1. Thank you Gary for your posts. My finacee and I are getting married in a few months, and about to work through Sacred Marriage together. Your thoughts have been really insightful for us. God bless you brother!

  2. Gary, if “these truths never get old; we need to be reminded of them every day, sometimes many times a day” – what’s the difference between receiving and experiencing God’s grace as a gift and positive thinking or PMA.

    Don’t we need more than a renewed mind; but also an experience with the One who renews. Even if God “delivers” grace through His word, spouses, teachers and friends – don’t we still need Him and not just reminders?

    Your Steeler buddy.

    • Everything! “Positive thinking,” apart from a relationship with God, is by definition self-centered. Affirming the Gospel is all about divine acceptance and affirmation. It’s totally different.

      Regarding the second point, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. We need experience–of course!–but we also need the reminders, the “renewed mind” of Romans 12:1-2. There’s no need to turn this into an either/or. Also, one of the ways we experience God is through community–and that includes being reminded of His goodness and grace through His word and the reminders of those He has redeemed (spouses, teachers, friends).

      • Thanks Gary. You continue to be a long distance mentor of mine and a teacher to my 25 year old small group.

  3. Gary you’ve given such great insight into this complex thing of marriage. I love how you emphasize the important things and the most important things needed. Encouraging one another with the Word is the one of the most important thing we can do for one another. It tightens the bond and strengthens the 3 strand cord. Love all your insights and a great fan of your work.

  4. Great article. So glad Focus on Family posted something of yours….now I follow!!

  5. Such an excellent post, Gary. Thank you for writing truth into words.

  6. I pray each day that I will love the Lord, my God, with my whole soul, heart, mind and strength and that I will love my ‘neighbor’ as myself; and isn’t my closest neighbor my husband? I also pray this for my 3 married children. My trust can only be placed in Jesus, the true lover of my soul….anyone else, including my wonderful husband of 37 years who was my high school sweetheart will ALWAYS leave me wanting. Thank you for this truth that needs to resonate from pulpits everywhere.

  7. Incredible encouragement and can be applied to those suffering from a mental health issue
    The truth will set you free! Thanks, Gary!

  8. Excellent. It seems you were on our drive home from NC, as we were talking of this very thing! God’s grace is greater than all our sin, and to live in the good of this glorifies God and makes the best marriages. Thank you, Gary!

  9. This is one of the most liberating articles I have ever read about offering our spouse life, hope and grace. You are gifted with your words and beyond words, Gary Thomas. Thank you.

  10. Thanks for this life giving word, Gary. I have a husband who frequently cuts off my self condemnation with the truth of God’s grace. This is a great reminder for me to do the same for him and others.

  11. Gary, thank you for writing this. My wife and I needed these words today, more than you’ll know. Your article was a rather fast answer to prayer!

  12. Gary, of all the blogs you’ve written and I’ve read, THIS ONE is of the utmost importance! In my marriage, my husband is imprisoned by his own mind, and struggles greatly with depression, rejection and self-loathing. The only weapon I have to combat that on a daily basis is the Truth in Scripture since he is showered with the lies of the enemy from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed. He may sleep during the day to escape the lies filling his mind. When I let him know that God loves him and I love him, he is nourished for a short time but the lies overwhelm him so I have to continually remind him of God’s love for him, every day and many times a day. I’ll see a smile every now and then or tears fill his eyes as it is very difficult for him to feel worthy of love. I know this is not the norm for many but I have no doubt that this practice would be very helpful in all marriages. Thank you for reminding us of this way in which we can love our spouses and thank you for adding fuel to my fire! (This practice can be key in any relationship, not just marriage.)

    • Jeanne, you’ve shared enough of your story over the years for most of us to know how much you sacrifice on your husband’s behalf. You are a true gift not just to your husband, but to the church. I pray younger wives could learn from you, as Paul talks about in Titus 2:4. Bless you, and thank you for sharing.