By Dannah Gresh
Every person on earth has a deep desire to be loved. And as wonderful as love in marriage is, it will never be a fulfilling love unless we first saturate ourselves in the unfailing love of God.
“Lord, fix my husband. Fix us!” As quickly as the prayer was on my lips, I felt God ask, Do you believe I can do what you are asking Me to do?
I did not.
My husband, Bob, and I had reached a place of deep pain. Busyness. Sinfulness. Selfishness. I was angry with Bob. The circumstances don’t really matter. They’re probably a lot like the circumstances in your marriage from time to time. But convinced I could not love him well until he loved me better, I dug myself into a prayer routine that proved futile.
I was, in fact, looking for love in the wrong place. As wonderful as love in marriage is, it will never be a fulfilling love unless we first saturate ourselves in the unfailing love of God.
Before you accuse me of sounding cliché, I’ve learned this on the hot pavement of life, and I’d like to offer four practical tips that have helped me to live it out.
Admit that what you need more than anything else in this world is to be well loved
Because love is a basic need of humanity, every person has a deep desire to be loved. During a difficult season of feeling unloved in my marriage, God led me to Proverbs 19:22 (NIV): “What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.”
The Bible uses the phrase “unfailing love” more than 30 times, and not one of them refers to any source other than God himself. He alone holds the answer to our deep craving for love. This means that your husband or wife will never be able to fulfill this need unless you first find satisfaction in God’s love.
Let your spouse off the hook
The greatest symptom that my need for love was misdirected was that I was praying for God to change my husband — without having the humility to ask God how He wanted to change me. It is never wrong to pray for God to make your husband or wife more like Him. However, when your prayers are void of your own need, that might indicate you’re trying to have your needs met through a person’s love rather than through God’s. When I realised this in my own life, I simply asked God to make me hungry for His love.
It takes a lot of courage to admit that your marriage might not be exactly what you want because you are not exactly what you need to be. Be brave. Put yourself under God’s care to be changed.
Write a list of things your spouse does to express his or her love for you
Do this as an act of thanksgiving to God. My counsellor assigned this task to me and, although I took it on reluctantly, it had a dramatic impact on my heart. I am, in fact, a very loved woman. I have a husband who never fails to ask for forgiveness, prays with me each night at bedtime, willingly enters into counselling when we need it, manages our money well, begs me to sneak away with him from time to time, and tolerates my weaknesses as much as I tolerate his. It’s easy to lose sight of all this when we’re hurting each other, and it is so important to refocus our thinking to be grateful. As I did this, it became an act of loving my husband through God’s love in me.
Invest in the friendship of your spouse
This world’s paradigm of love can often put a lot of emphasis on sex, romance and passion in marriage. If those things aren’t on full boil, we tend to think our relationship lacks love. But God’s Word defines marital love more in terms of friendship and commitment than sex and romance. Take a night to play a board game or enjoy a hike together on a Sunday afternoon. If you can meet your spouse for lunch, consider canceling an appointment with a personal trainer or even a friend.
I’ve long embraced the biblical story of the woman at the well John 4. She tried man after man but never felt that her thirst for love had been quenched. She was desperate and love-sick. Then, when Jesus showed up, He offered her the love she really needed. But she said, “You have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep”
How like us! How like me. You don’t have to be a woman who has had many husbands to be parched with a thirst for love. You just have to be a woman who is trying to get something from her husband that only God can give. I know. I have been there many times, just waiting for God to show up. And when He does, I’m prone to tell him, “But God, I’m in so deep, and you don’t have a bucket!”
It doesn’t matter how deep the problem; the solution is still God’s love. And He has buckets and buckets of love to fix your marriage. And to fix your heart.