Bitter or Sweet? – Part 6

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I anticipate this to be the final Corner in this series on the subject of improving one’s marriage, whether it is currently bitter or sweet. If you haven’t read the previous Corners in the series, I would encourage you to do that now. Marriage is precious, instituted by God, and a type of Christ and the Church. A good marriage is a beautiful testimony of God’s grace and love. May each of us evaluate what our marriage proclaims to the world about our God. Does our marriage bring God glory or shame?

We have discussed what agape love is in marriage and practical ways to live out the love that Scripture commands a husband to have for his wife. However, the emotional component of love is icing on the cake. It is like the sweet cream on the top of my favorite brand of yogurt. How we can make our emotional love stronger is the topic of this Corner. The question is: Do I desire a greater love for my wife, and if I do, what level of effort am I willing to expend?

I have a concern about writing on emotional love. Emotional love is the less noble love when compared to agape love. Agape love is love based on choice and commitment. Agape love is God’s love for us that sent Jesus to the cross. It is a sacrificial love that affects our actions toward another. Agape love, for the most part, is separate from emotions. It is a choice. However, phileo love is an emotional, pleasurable love. The Bible primarily speaks of agape love, and therefore, we must focus our attention on agape love and minor on phileo.

How do I build phileo love upon my agape love? I have to say that I don’t believe there is any simple one, two, three step approach that guarantees phileo love for someone. I do think there are concepts we can learn from Scripture that give us important general direction. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). The word for our love for the Lord is defined in Strong’s Hebrew Concordance as to “have an affection based on a close relationship.” We are to have a strong emotional love for the Lord God!

The following verses are key for us to affectionately love God. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). We teach our children to emotionally love God by positively talking about Him with them through out the day and by using His Word frequently during those conversations.

When our family is in the Word in the morning during our personal Bible devotions and then in the evening during family Bible time, we see how glorious the Lord is. We see how gracious He is and how merciful He is. We see how great His love is for us all day, every day! As we reflect on these things, we are filled with a sense of emotional pleasure due to the awesomeness of our God! Focusing on the positive aspects of God that relate to us builds our emotional love of God.

David, a man after God’s own heart is a superb example of someone with strong emotional love for the Lord. Many of the Psalms that David wrote are his personal love letters for his God. “Listen” to just a few passages from the first twelve Psalms.

“But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; My glory, and the lifter up of mine head” (Psalm 3:3).

“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: For thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

“O LORD our Lord, How excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1).

“The LORD trieth the righteous: But the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth” (Psalm 11:5).

“The words of the LORD are pure words: As silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6).

In my desire to love Teri more, what can I learn from David’s love for his God? David focused on the qualities of God that were applicable to his relationship with God. For my emotional love to grow toward Teri, I need to focus on her positive qualities that are applicable to our marriage and relationship. I thank the Lord for her heart to love and please the Lord Jesus. I praise God for Teri’s desire to be a good wife and mother. I thank God for her kindness and thoughtfulness. I delight in her love for me and desire to please me. I am eternally grateful for her carrying each child for nine months and giving birth to him. I am so grateful for all the years she has selflessly invested in the children’s education. She is a teammate in our marriage, and we work well together. She is an outstanding home organizer. She manages her time exceptionally well and is a wonderful example of being diligent. She is constantly seeking to grow in knowledge and grace in the Lord Jesus Christ. She is so faithful to her Lord and to me.

When I focus on Teri’s qualities, I’m grateful to the Lord for giving me her, and my emotional love for her grows. Last night I stopped by an auto parts store to pick up a couple of items. Having accomplished my goal, I was about to get into my vehicle when I noticed a good-looking car parked next to me. There was a man about my age waiting for someone in the store. Since I was struck by how nice the car looked, I commented on it to him. You should have seen him “come alive.” He became happy and animated. He just couldn’t stay seated. With an ear-to-ear grin, he jumped out of the car and excitedly started talking about his car. That man LOVED his car, and with each glowing word of praise for it, I observed his emotional delight ratchet-up a notch higher as if winding a spring tighter and tighter. We talked about his car for a while, and then it was time to go.

I know some men have been accused of loving their cars more than their wives. Hopefully if I had asked him about his wife, he would have been even more animated and excited to tell me about her. My brief encounter with that gentleman highlighted to me that when we major on what is good, there is a positive, emotional response to follow. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). However, if I allow myself to entertain critical or negative thoughts, I kill emotional love.

May we decide whether we want to grow our emotional love for our wives or diminish it. Our marriages are all the sweeter the more emotional love we have for our wives. Why not do all we can to enhance our marriages?