Love Is Hard Work

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Ravi Zacharias writes, “Love is hard work. It is the hardest work I know of, work from which you are never entitled to take a vacation.” You can read the context of that quote in this excellent article here.

The epidemic we are seeing in our society and increasing around the world is the unwillingness to work at love. Life can be hard. Two sinful people in the most intimate of unions can experience a stretch and strain in their relationship as life hits from unexpected directions. Instead of enduring and growing through the challenges, couples choose to leave and start over.

We believe the best, ripest, and most fruitful love is the love that weathers the storms. Love that is hard work shows grace through each other’s failures and chooses to work at love because it is a commitment made to one’s spouse.

Here are three love areas described in the Bible that have direct application to our marriages:

Love like Jesus

Jesus himself said to his followers, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) To love like Jesus means being proactive and choosing to sacrifice to meet the deepest needs of another.

In the context of marriage, what would it look like for you to be proactive in showing love to your spouse? Put another way, what would they really enjoy—that is a sacrifice for you—that only you can provide? A foot rub? A back rub? Prolonged conversation? Going on errands together when you’d rather stay home? You get the idea.

Love deeply

The apostle Peter wrote, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) The idea in the original language for loving “deeply” means to love earnestly, or without ceasing.

Your love for your spouse should be like a heat-seeking missile, locked on target and focused on your mate. There should be no distraction, no wavering, no deterrent.

To love like this means to reject conflicting emotions and thoughts. To take each thought captive and commit one’s self to one’s spouse regardless of conflcting emotions or circumstances.

It is this kind of love that can forgive and not hold your spouse’s sins of the past against them. To love deeply is to choose to show grace and move forward in life together. It is choosing to keep short accounts.

Love actively

The apostle John wrote: “…let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) To put it in today’s vernacular, “talk is cheap.”

Your love for your spouse is to be lived out in the dailiness of life. A powerful key to expressing love to your spouse is to show love based on their “love language.” Author Gary Chapman has written a book about this that you can find here.

The five love languages Chapman uncovers are: Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, Touch, and Words of Affirmation. If you don’t already know how your spouse likes to be loved—ask them which of these five resonates with their heart. Then respond accordingly!

How have you had to work hard on love in your marriage?  Love IS hard work. And love is REWARDING work. So work hard on love—as you build your marriage!

Who’s Cheering For Your Marriage?

group-cheering

Who do you have cheering for your marriage? Are the voices speaking into your marriage offering words of support, encouragement, respect, wisdom, truth and hope? Or do they tend to offer up only what you want to hear?

On a regular basis we are seeing marriages undermined by family, friends, and co-workers who are for the individual but not for the couple. As a result, their conversation doesn’t build the marriage and support commitment. Rather, advice is given to seek happiness and fulfillment even at the expense of the marriage.

In that context, read these words from Proverbs 16:28, “A perverse man (or woman) stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.” In your marriage, anyone who sows seeds of division between you and your spouse is not your friend!

When you choose to build your marriage, life and Satan will throw everything at you to keep you from succeeding. To counter those pressures you need people who are lifting you up, cheering for you, and supporting your commitment to your spouse.

Three things you can do to build a “cheering section”

 

1. Be respectful

Speak well of your spouse in front of others. Let them know that your marriage matters to you. Tell others the positive traits you respect in your spouse. Share good stories about your mate and your marriage. This sets the tone for others’ support for the two of you.

2. Be committed

Make sure everyone knows of your love for your spouse and your commitment to your marriage. Your verbal boundary around your marriage will steer others’ advice and conversation toward your stated desires.

3. Be pure

Build your close friendships with the same gender as you. You may relate better with the opposite sex, but you cannot guarantee what will happen with another person’s affections toward you—or yours toward them if the conditions were right. Your marriage is worth you focusing on same-gender friendships.

Four factors in identifying your “cheering section”

 

1. They commit to pray for your marriage

When a friend commits to be your marital cheering section before God, you can be certain they will do all they can to see those prayers answered in your life!

2. They speak respectfully of your spouse

If someone uses derisive language about your spouse, gently correct them and set the record straight about who your spouse really is! If they continue to degrade your spouse, make the decision to distance yourself because this person is stirring up dissension in your marriage. (Proverbs 16:28) It’s time to find a new friend.

3. They are personally pro-marriage

If you aren’t sure where a person stands in their position about marriage, ask them!

4. They encourage you to spend time with your spouse

This can be subtle but people who are cheering for your marriage will encourage you to be with your spouse, not away from them. It’s great to have and build friendships—we certainly work on that as well. But we’ve watched as husbands and wives get pulled by guy-friends or girl-friends who put undue pressure on spouses to “get away” on a regular basis from their spouse. Your marriage cheering section will respect when you say you need to be with your spouse.

What else would you add to the lists? When you are intentional in developing your marriage cheering section you will have momentum and support as you build your marriage!

You Can Do It!

You Can Do It

As we raised our three children there were numerous times when they needed a boost of confidence from us. They trusted what we said because we knew them the best. Our encouragement often gave them the gumption to press ahead whether it was:

  • Learning to ride a bike
  • Trying out for a team
  • Auditioning for a play or musical
  • Struggling in a class at school
  • Working through a relationship struggle
  • Applying for a job
  • Or simply a word of affirmation

Our children drew strength from our belief in them.

It’s the same in marriage, isn’t it? We have observed far too many couples where one or both have lapsed into beating the other down verbally. It may not be outright abuse, but little demeaning digs which wear down the other’s spirit. Statements like:

  • “You can try it, but I don’ think you can do it.”
  • “Do you really believe you’d even get the opportunity/job/promotion?”
  • “Don’t even try.”
  • “Just give up.”

Will eventually kill the spirit and keep our spouse from achieving their potential. And when our spouse doesn’t reach their potential they lose and we lose.

Compare those comments with these nuggets of wisdom from Proverbs:

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (12:25)

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (16:24)

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (25:11)

Here are three things you can communicate to your spouse that over time will lift you both to a higher level:

1. You have character

What do you see in your spouse’s character that you admire and respect? Character is the heart and soul of who a person is. When you acknowledge their character, you bless them at the deepest level.

Give careful thought and write down the character traits that come to mind. We found a very helpful list here (click the link and scroll down) if you need some creative help.

Make a conscious decision to affirm one of those traits in your spouse every day. You are the closest person to them. You see your spouse and know them intimately. What you say matters to them. God has placed you in their life to be the one to cheer them on!

2. You have strengths

There are all kinds of books out today to help people discover their personal strengths and how they are wired. The tools and ideas in many of these books are helpful, yet the greatest strength-finder your spouse has is YOU.

What do they do well? Where are they gifted and specially suited to excel? Tell them what you see in them. Talk about ways they might lean into and develop those strengths. Brainstorm ways you can support and encourage their next steps in exercising their strengths.

Do you know their dreams? Ask—and listen. Then follow up with, “You can do it!”

3. You have…my heart.

The ongoing confidence of unconditional love and commitment regardless of success or failure is vital for you spouse in knowing you believe they can do whatever they set their mind to do.

Practice saying, “You can do it!” and watch how your spouse responds as you build your marriage!

Six Steps Toward Reconciling A Marriage

Marriage Reconciling

Recently we have had people contacting us for help in reconciling a severed relationship that has ended in either separation or divorce. We thought it might be helpful for you—or for someone you know—to put into practice. Here’s what we’ve been sharing…

First, good for you for wanting to rebuild what was broken. Your heart honors God because He is all about rebuilding what was broken, beginning with what Christ did on the cross to restore us in our relationship with God.

Nothing is impossible with God. That said, he does give free will and the person you love and want to be reconciled to may not respond. It is a privilege for us to join you in prayer for the restoration of your relationship, and that God will be doing a work in the other person’s heart as well.

Each of these points requires the exercise of self-discipline to carry them out.

1. Stay centered

Center in on your relationship with God first and foremost. Spend time every day reading the Bible (15 minutes perhaps) and praying. Let your prayers be focused more on the person God wants you to become than on wooing the other person back.

2. Stay humble.

Get a pad of paper or sit in front of a screen and specifically ask God to reveal to you everything you did (even the small things) that contributed to the breakup of the relationship. Don’t focus on their part—that’s your spouse’s responsibility before God as he directs them.

Write down everything the Holy Spirit reveals to you. This is only between you and God—it can be destroyed after this exercise if you so choose.  Then re-read it to be sure it is complete. Do you agree fully with the list? Do you take full ownership of your part?

Once you are at that place of full ownership, then go through the list, one by one, and out loud before God, simply pray:

“God, please forgive me for ______________. I acknowledge that was sin before you and it contributed to the breakdown of my marriage. I accept your forgiveness for this.”

Do that for each item the Holy Spirit has you write down.

This list you wrote is one for you to fully own. Sadly, the “blame game” is what can stop any reconciliation in its tracks. Your spouse needs to feel safe and know that all the fingers aren’t being pointed in their direction—that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

3. Be accountable

Ask 1-3 godly and wise people of your gender whom you respect to be on your prayer team. Ideally, find people who have a long history of being married to the same person.

Ask them to pray with you and for you about the reconciliation. Use these people as your “personal advisory board.” Let them ask you hard questions (ask for it) to be sure you are ready to step up and approach your spouse for reconciliation.

4. Reach out

NOW you are ready to reach out. When a relationship is severed, there can be huge distrust and hurt. Don’t underestimate that. Sometimes we have seen spouses project anger or put up walls or stiff-arm renewed intimacy to protect themselves and see if the change that is being presented is really humble and true.

5. Go slow

Be patient. Be consistent. Listen and learn more than talk. We like the phrase, “listen to understand before speaking to be understood.”

6. Trust God

You may not know what to do next, but you can trust God to reveal to you the next steps toward reconciling your marriage.

In the end, you will have peace, confidence, and integrity. You will know that before God you have taken the wise steps that honor him to re-build your marriage.