Early last year I shared an interview with Christian author, Gary Thomas in which he reminded us that “Every marriage is difficult…There is no such thing as an easy marriage…There will never be a marriage without struggle, on this side of heaven. It is healthy.”.
It is a statement that I have reflected on and see true in my own marriage and interaction with other couples. The nature of marriage is struggle and in that struggle we learn life in a way that might not be grasped outside of our marriage. With those thoughts in mind how do we love the “difficulty” in our spouse – as they likewise love the “difficulty” in us?
- Test the Spirit. In I John 4:1-6, we are encouraged not to believe every spirit that we encounter, but rather to test spirits. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, (I John 4:1). When we get saved we receive the ability to know, understand & communicate with God. However, it is only to the degree that we surrender to Him that this communication is effective. Perhaps, the areas of difficulty in loving and interacting with your spouse are not what you think they are. Maybe they are not what you have labeled them – maybe the real issue is a point of spiritual growth. That then becomes how we love them. By patiently walking and growing with them in Christian love rather than attacking, condemning and labeling them as a “jerk”, or inconsiderate, or…(smile). I think you get the point. It is easy to label our spouse in those areas that they are difficult to deal with. But leave some room for grace as God has done with us. Focus more on helping them to grow in their relationship with Christ through love.
- Love from God. I John 4:7-12. God is love. It really is that simple. We don’t know, possess or own love apart from Him. True love is God and is demonstrated in the fact that Christ came from heaven into this sin-filled world, for Us. It is a real freeing realization that the love we have to give is the love that we have freely received from Him. I consider it freeing because so often I/we are hesitant to love – fully, we love within limits and boundaries, because we have memories of how we got stung the last time. I don’t think God want us to be naive or gullible. But we are to love with short memory of what was done and long memory of what He did . You can, love a difficult spouse (1) because your relationship with Christ has given you strength (I Jn. 4:4) to overcome the world (2) the love you have to give is God sized and God fortified. You may want to sow this verse from I John 4:7 into your heart: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God
- Stay in God’s Love. I John 4:13-16. The hardest thing about loving our spouse is consistency. Every time something happens we tend to want to recoil. I believe that is to a large extent just human nature. None of us sign up for disappointment(s). Even when we know they will come. They still leave a mark, when they do come. But what God keeps reminding us in I John and the really the whole of Scripture is that our faith and thus our salvation through that faith, lifts us out of our human capacity and into spiritual capacity (is that tweet-worthy). If God is love and we know love through Him, then we must rise to the challenge and abide in God’s love. And, we do so by refreshing our relationship with God, daily, so we can love our husband or wife – daily. Stay in God and love from that place. It brings me to a personal question which you may want to ask yourself too: Where am I loving my wife from, my head or God’s heart?
- Love With Confidence. I John 4:17-21. As we discipline ourselves in abiding in God’s love, a confidence to love uninhibited is gained. As we realize that as Christians we will not experience judgement from heaven, we realize that there is nothing to fear in how we love each other. Mature loves looks to heaven more than it does to people. The love we each have from God gives us the confidence to love without fear, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.” (I John 4:18-19)