Tag Archives: Bitter or Sweet

Bitter or Sweet? – Part 6

To listen to this Corner as a podcast, please see this link.

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?

Bitter or Sweet? – Part 5

To listen to this Corner as a podcast, please see this link.

Our area is in the midst of a severe drought. There are several wooded hillsides in the area, and as you look at them, you can see trees that are slowly dying. Even in the neighborhoods where Teri and I walk every day, we are observing trees that first turn brown, then lose their leaves, and appear to be dying. What is sad is that the trees in people’s yards don’t have to die. If only the homeowner would turn on a hose under the tree and let it run, he could save the tree with that small amount of preventative effort. How much greater value is a marriage and therefore worthy of effort to sweeten it, making it a testimony of God’s grace?

No matter what the condition of our marriages, how committed are we to improving them? We can become lazy or complacent, not treasuring the precious gift a wife is from the Lord. If you haven’t read the previous four parts of the series, I would encourage you to do that now. This month we look specifically at the topic of ways we are able to make it easier for our wives to respect us. As we discussed last month, a wife is called to follow her husband. The husband is never to demand or command that she follow, but instead her following is an offering to the Lord. However we can make it harder or easier for her to follow us. In a similar way, the wife is to respect or reverence her husband. “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). Certainly, one small way I can love my wife is to make it easier for her to respect me. So the obvious question is: husbands, how respectable are you?

Have you ever heard about a scandal involving a person in a religious organization or a government position? It becomes the “talk of the town” because all are shocked that someone in such a position would do something like that. I remember when a police officer shared with me how he had arrested a judge for drunk driving. Here was a judge, who would routinely sentence someone convicted of drunk driving, committing the same crime. Those who respected the man and his position would then struggle to show the judge respect. When people in authority make bad decisions, those under them will have difficulty respecting in the future. Dads, are we making it easy for our wives to respect us?

Being able to follow a leader is all about the decisions that leader makes while respecting him with who he is in terms of character and virtue. I want to list a number of character qualities along with a brief description of how each one makes it easier for a wife to respect her husband. There are additional qualities that were defined in the previous Corner on agape love, so I won’t include them here.

Attentive: When my wife is speaking to me do I give her complete or partial attention? Even though I might be able to listen to her and skim an e-mail at the same time, if I give her my complete attention, I demonstrate in a tangible way that she is first in my life next to my Lord Jesus.

Available: I make it easier for my wife to respect me when I’m available to her whether it be to listen to her concerns, help her with something, or simply to be together. If other things take priority over her or the needs of the family, it makes it difficult for her to respect me.

Content: Am I at peace with what the Lord has provided, or am I covetous of something “better”? Often we hear stories of dads who borrow money from the bank to purchase things they really don’t need. Then the family is under huge financial stress, making it very difficult for Mom to respect Dad.

Dependable: When my alarm clock doesn’t alarm, it causes no little disappointment. When Dad has made a commitment, such as the family will have Bible time every night and then that doesn’t happen, Mom can be discouraged. She will likely struggle to respect him as well.

Diligent: For a stay-at-home mom, her children and home are her life. It starts when she gets up and ends when she goes to bed. When Dad is hardworking to fulfill his responsibilities, Mom is encouraged to be diligent with hers as well. In addition, when Dad will come alongside Mom in the evenings to pitch in with work that still needs to be accomplished, she sees that he isn’t lazy or self-focused. That makes it easier for her to respect him.

Enthusiastic: Job said, “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). We can expect difficulties in this life. However, if we have a cheerful attitude toward them, taking whatever comes with the strength the Lord Jesus gives us, we are easier to respect.

Faithful: A dad who is faithful to his Lord and his family is easier to respect.

Flexible: One thing we can be sure about life is that something is always going to change. When Dad is willing to adjust his schedule, even when calling for self-sacrifice, to meet an unexpected need in the family, it is easier for Mom to respect him.

Generous: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Whether it be giving of our money or time, it is easier for Mom to respect Dad when Dad is following the Lord’s direction and leading his family in these areas.

Gentle: When Mom observes Dad being gentle with the children or herself, it is easier for her to respect him. However, if Dad is harsh or angry with the children or with her, it crushes her heart and makes it ever so difficult to respect him.

Honest: When Dad’s word is as sure as granite, it is easier for Mom to respect him.

Humble: When Mom can share with Dad her concerns and hurts knowing that Dad will not react but be sympathetic and loving, it makes it easier for her to respect Dad.

Just: Dad is the “Supreme Court” of the home because the children will bring Dad concerns over the fairness of Mom’s decisions at times. How well Dad can rightly (according to God’s Word) support Mom when settling authority challenges will make it easier for Mom to respect him.

Loyal: There will always be someone prettier, more charming, or more compatible than Mom. The more loyal Dad is to Mom, the easier it is for her to respect him.

Obedient: A dad who openly delights to obey his Lord Jesus, makes it much easier for Mom to respect and follow Dad.

Patient: When Dad patiently waits for Mom or listens attentively when she needs to share her heart, it makes it easier for her to respect him.

Punctual: A dad who understands that punctuality is a matter of honor and respect for those to whom the time commitment was made makes it easier for Mom to respect him.

Responsible: When Dad understands and follows through with his obligations, whether he committed to them or they are perceived by others, it is easier for Mom to respect him.

Temperate/self-control: A dad who uses his authority for his own indulgences will have little respect from those in the home. “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27). In a day when self-control means stopping after eating twelve donuts, it is easier for Mom to respect Dad when he is a man of true self-control.

Yes, a wife is instructed to respect her husband and the husband is commanded to love his wife, yet both can make it easier for the other by right words, actions, and attitudes. May we be men of our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and we will be easy for our wives to respect.

Bitter or Sweet? – Part 4

To listen to this Corner as a podcast, please see this link.

We are continuing with the topic of improving one’s marriage, whether it is currently bitter or sweet. If you haven’t read the previous three Corners, I would encourage you to do that now. Marriage is precious, instituted by God, a type of Christ and the Church, and not to be trifled with. As with anything of significant value, great care must be expended to protect and enhance it.

In Scripture, we discovered that husbands are commanded to love their wives with “agape” love. What is most amazing to me is that I haven’t found anywhere in Scripture where a wife is called to “agape” love her husband. I understand that we are commanded to love our enemies, and in some rocky marriages a wife may feel like an enemy. We are also to love our neighbors as ourselves, but I’m referring to a mention where the wife is specifically told to “agape” love her husband.

One thing a wife is instructed in Scripture is that she should submit to her husband. “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Peter 3:1). Let’s be clear about submission in a marriage. It is a voluntary offering by a wife as unto the Lord. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). It is not to be commanded or demanded by a husband.

We discussed previously how humanly impossible it is for a husband to love his wife with “agape” love at all times, but equally so would it be for a wife to submit to her husband all the time. Yet, God would not command it if He didn’t expect us to make that “the standard.”

“Since God has directed, and He will give grace to both parties, are there things that husbands can do to make it easier for their wives in those times when submission would be her appropriate response? Absolutely! First, let’s define the term “subjection” as found in 1 Peter 3:1 and “submit” in Colossians 3:18 and Ephesians 5:22. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines that word in the Greek as a military term “to rank under.” In essence, it means to obey. It presents a beautiful picture of how a wife’s submission strengthens the marriage, just as a soldier’s willingness to obey his commander’s orders strengthens an army. In the same way that God placed the husband in the home as the leader and final decision maker, He has put the wife in the home to be the follower. It is not difficult to see why God called the wife to obey and respect (we will talk about that next month) the husband because those are necessary qualities of a follower. The husband is to love his wife since that should cause him to be a careful, gentle, and compassionate leader. Neither husband or wife is going to be one hundred percent successful in their God-given roles and will therefore at times disappoint the other. In spite of his bad choices, she is still to obey her husband in the Lord. He is to love his wife even though sometimes she might not follow him and other times remind him of his failures.

The most obvious way Dad can sweeten the marriage and make it easier for Mom to follow him is for Dad to be a man of God, a follower of  the Lord Jesus, and a wise decision maker. There was a two-part series of Dad’s Corners about making wise decisions and here are the links: Part 1 and Part 2. One aspect  the articles highlight is how our pride can cause us at times to make stupid decisions and then that pride also prevents us from acknowledging our error. That is certainly a recipe for making it difficult for a wife to cheerfully follow. On the other hand, humble leadership can be a soothing balm to her soul since his humble acknowledgement of failure eases any potential reaction she might have.

The more we are in the Word, the more we understand God’s will for our lives. There are many decisions we will immediately know the answer to if we are daily in the Word. One man years ago told me he was praying about whether to leave his wife. I told him that was unnecessary. If he was reading his Bible, he would see that God had already told him, “No! Don’t do it.”

We are to see everything in life through the “grid” of Scripture. Christian wives desire husbands that know the Word and lead their family accordingly. If she is to submit to her head, shouldn’t her husband cheerfully submit to his Head, the Lord Jesus Christ? My wife’s head can be seen, but my Head, the Lord Jesus, must be followed with eyes of faith and a close walk. My Head is infallible; her head makes mistakes. We are to follow our Lord and Shepherd. “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (John 10:4). Are we doing all we can to listen to Him and hear His voice? If we do, it makes it much easier for her to follow, and it sweetens the marriage.

One way that makes it especially easy for a wife to follow is when she is prized as a helpmeet with valuable abilities and insights. A wise husband will recognize that God often works through his wife and gives her insights that he might not have. Most Christian women have a keen spiritual sensitivity, and God may give your wife cautions and insight at times that He doesn’t give you.

This weekend, God gave us an example of this. I had plans to attend a graduation event with three of the children. It would involve a four-hour drive, and we would be driving home very late Saturday night to avoid the cost of a motel room. Teri came to me and shared a concern about being on that particular road late at night with potential drunk drivers. She asked that we consider staying in a hotel and coming home on Sunday. Because of my respect for Teri, I opted for the motel room. The only way to prove it was of the Lord would be to drive home and see if something bad happened. However, I want to be someone with a sensitivity to the Lord and how He might direct: therefore, I accepted her counsel. Men, your wife is a God-given jewel of greater value than rubies. Be easy to follow, and you will have a sweeter marriage.

Let’s consider an example as to how difficult it can be for wives when their husbands are making bad decisions. I have heard many Christian dads exclaim their displeasure in governmental authorities’ decisions these days. Those decisions are serious with far-reaching consequences impacting the lives of unborn babies, family welfare, educational policies, national sovereignty, and national financial stability to name a few. Just as we dislike following governmental leaders who are making poor decisions for our country, consider how a wife feels about following a husband she believes to be making bad spiritual choices for their family.

We are going to be much easier to follow when our hearts are brought low in humility with the reality of how serious our decisions are. Similar to the difficulty in turning this nation around, poor decisions will affect the lives of our children and likely their children after them.

God has given a wife the job of being a helpmeet and follower. Do we appreciate how difficult her job is? She is called to follow her husband as unto the Lord even if he makes bad decisions. However, it makes for a happier wife and sweeter marriage if we will make it easier for her. Are we men of God following our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ?

Bitter or Sweet? – Part 3

To listen to this Corner as a podcast, please see this link.

We are continuing with the topic of improving one’s marriage, whether it is currently bitter or sweet. If you haven’t read the previous two Corners, I would encourage you to do that now. Marriage is precious, not to be squandered or taken for granted. If we will invest in our marriages, the dividends will be rich and ongoing. Therefore, may we invest whatever is necessary to improve our marriages.

Think about when you were getting to know your wife and then during your engagement. Did you buy her gifts and write her notes telling of your love for her? Did you delight in being with her and spend large amounts of time talking to her? What other acts of love and kindness did you show her? Are you doing those same kinds of things now? If not, why not?

As we continue looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, we see that love is known by the actions that are prompted. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Agape love is not passive but active. At the end of the last Dad’s Corner, we had studied 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 up through charity envieth not.

Love doesn’t vaunt itself, and it is not puffed up. We could restate these two points by saying that love is not proud. Pride is the utmost in self-love which would be the opposite of agape love. Perhaps that is why it is listed first in the “love killers.” There is no need to ask ourselves if we are proud, but rather we can simply assume that we are. Pride is such a “funny” thing. The more we resist the idea that we are proud, the more likely it is that we are proud. It would be far better to confess our pride before the Lord and seek His humbling grace. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Pride will be the root of contention in the home. It takes two proud people to quarrel. “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10). If even one will choose humility, there will not be a quarrel. Pride will justify unkind thoughts, words, and finally actions. The place we must begin to conquer pride is to hate it just like God hates it. “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:16-17). Look for opportunities to humble yourself, and God will lift you up. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). One simple way to humble yourself would be to admit when you are wrong. In that process, though, be careful not to justify yourself.

Love does seek his own way. Last year there was a “Dictator or Servant Leader?” series of Dad’s Corner articles Part 1, and Part 2 that would nicely cover this negative aspect of love. Suffice it to say, it isn’t Dad’s way or Mom’s way. It is to be the Lord’s way. Dad just happens to be the one responsible for making the final decision.

Love is not easily provoked. Face it. There are going to be times when your wife does not say the right thing to you or doesn’t respond well. When that happens, do you react? Are you offended? “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalms 119:165). Have you ever been around anyone who is touchy and easily reacts? At best, they make life most unpleasant. May we be “thick skinned” and choose not to let things “bug” or offend us.

Love thinketh no evil, therefore, it doesn’t keep a record of the wrongs committed. There will always be offenses in a marriage, and you can be sure it will not draw me closer to my wife if I keep score. The Lord Jesus set the example for us to follow when He took all of our offenses on Him and forgave us. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Forgetting offenses is just the beginning of denying ourselves. It’s a good place to start.

Love does not rejoice in iniquity but in truth. I wonder if a key application of not rejoicing in iniquity would be not to tease my wife. I’ve noticed that many, well okay, maybe most, wives do not appreciate their husband’s teasing. Teasing appears to be like a dagger in a wife’s heart. I believe what makes it so painful is that generally there is at least a seed of truth in the tease. From a wife’s point of view, that means her husband, the one she trusts and who is her defender, has now turned on her and is making fun of her. In essence, teasing one’s wife is not the way to show agape love. I’ve been married to Teri for thirty-seven years, and I’m hopeful (she is probably too) that I will someday learn not to tease. I’m sure I’m much better at avoiding teasing than when we were first married, but there is still significant room for improvement.

One way to rejoice in truth is for Dad to delight in leading his family in Bible time every night. Family Bible time isn’t a “have to” but it is a “joy to”! I love Teri (and my family) by my love for the Word of God.

Agape love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. This last verse presents the never-ending strength and perpetual power of agape love. It is not weak and frail. Agape love never says “the end.” It never quits no matter how difficult things become.

We just received very sad news about a wife who has cancer. Several years ago, that family also had a crisis with one of their children which has required great care and investment by the parents in both time and finances. Now on top of that, they face the heavy blow of the wife’s illness. This couple has demonstrated the reality of agape love through the years. They have been a beautiful picture of bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring. How that testifies to the reality of Jesus Christ in their marriage. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). They have glorified the Father through their love and devotion to each other. The Lord desires that depth of love in each of our marriages for our own personal edification and for a testimony to those around us.

Is your marriage bitter or sweet? Would you like it to improve? Agape love is a choice, and it is defined by the actions that it prompts. Make agape love decisions in your relationship with your wife and see what the results are. We will continue to look at this next month.

Bitter of Sweet? – Part 2

To listen to this Corner as a podcast, please see this link.

We are continuing a series on marriage. We receive a fair number of e-mails where the main issue has to do with marriage difficulties, and that greatly saddens Teri and me. Surely all marriages begin with great anticipation of the union being joyful and if Christians are marrying, they desire it to be Christ-honoring. Yet, everyone encounters bumps in the road. When the road becomes rough, what happens? Will the couple hunker down, determined to do whatever it takes to smooth things out? Whether your marriage is smooth, bumpy, or severely pothole-ridden, Jesus Christ brings hope that every marriage can improve. He has given us His Spirit and His Word to encourage and equip us so that we might walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Are there some practical ways to walk in the Spirit toward one’s wife?

Let’s look at a foundational passage directed to a husband regarding his relationship with his wife. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). As husbands, we think we know the importance of love for our wives, but do we really understand love from God’s perspective? Men are most easily drawn to emotional and physical love, but God’s command to us through Paul in verse twenty-five can be most enlightening and maybe even a little scary. The more we study this verse, the more we might be tempted to say like the disciples said, “. . . If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry” (Matthew 19:10).

The love a husband is commanded to have for his wife is agape love. Vine’s Expository Dictionary describes agape love as the type of love God has for His Son and for those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is also the love for believers to have for one another and for all mankind. Agape love is the essential nature of God. In our society, we are used to everything being dumbed-down and disposable, but God is calling us to the highest standard possible in how we are to love our wives. In the same way God loves me, He commands me to love my wife.

The more we understand agape love, the more impossible it sounds for us to love that way. We need to realize that in the flesh we can never love our wives that way. As we prayerfully declare our weakness to the Lord, He will enable. When we are weak, He is our strength. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). When God commands, He empowers. If we have any hope of loving our wives with agape love, we must be saved. Then the Holy Spirit can work through us to love as God has commanded us to love.

Why would God call you to love your wife with agape love? One reason is that it requires us to depend on Him. No one can love another with agape love in their own strength. The greater our dependence on the Lord Jesus, the better. Agape love will weather any storm or trial; it is not only divorce-proof but joy-filled. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Here we see how the Lord ties in our emotions. When we love with agape love, we will be highly investing in our wives, and as we invest our time, effort, and choices, we will have great treasure invested in them. Hence, our heart will follow our efforts. If that is true, and it is, then we ought to look more closely at agape love.

Maybe the primary passage on agape love is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It would be great to memorize and meditate on these four simple, but powerful verses that summarize how God calls us to love. If we live out these verses, they will have significant impact on a marriage. As we read them, notice that agape love is a choice and can only be known by the actions that it prompts. Warm thoughts and a good attitude just aren’t enough!

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

We don’t generally use the word charity when talking about love in our modern English, but it is the King James word for love. Charity suffers long means love is patient, not just when everything is going well, but also when we are tired, hungry, or have had a bad day. I believe patience is one of the greatest measures of our Christian maturity. Is it any wonder it came first in the characteristics of agape love? If the love of our life is late again, and it is time to leave, are we patient or angry? It really is a choice that we can make that she is more important than being on time, and it doesn’t matter what others think of us when we are late. Even better would be for us to take the initiative and help get the children ready early so she isn’t struggling to get it all done before it is time to leave. We are to be a team, pulling together to get the job done. What actions do our love prompt, or is love just an empty word that sounds good when we say it?

Are we kind? Would our families describe us as being kind? Our family’s view of us is objective when in reality our evaluation of ourselves would be quite subjective. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9)? Our hearts are deceitful and can’t be counted on to give us right information about ourselves. We are prone to make excuses and justify, but our families are unbiased as they experience the fruit of our words, attitudes, and actions. Are our words pleasant and gentle without a motive of manipulation? Kindness carries with it actions of benevolence. It is one thing to have a kind attitude but entirely something else to act kindly. Are we likely to do things for others in the home? If your wife is in bed before you at night, do you ask her if she needs anything before turning out the light? Perhaps, it’s Bible time; do you get the Bibles out for everyone if they are already sitting down? If someone needs something from the other room, do you pop up and get it for them? Do you ever clear your wife’s dishes from the table and then work together with the family during cleanup? Family time is filled with opportunities to show kindness.

The next characteristic of love from 1 Corinthians 13 is that we aren’t to be envious. In a study of “envieth not,” I discovered it means to be content. Maybe a key application of this, in the context of loving a wife, is being content with her. Just as we each have our weaknesses, our wives will have their personal weaknesses as well. I show agape love toward my wife when I am content with her in the face of her weaknesses. Rather than wishing she were different, I love her, weaknesses and all, just as I want her to love me despite my failures.

We didn’t even finish verse four in this Corner, but there is so much to think about in this portion alone. We are commanded to be patient. If your wife is late and you end up waiting on her, practice patience. If she has excuses as to why she is late, practice patience. If she is having trouble explaining herself, practice patience.

She deserves to be treated with kindness. Are you doing so? There is no place for envy when I agape love my wife. Rather I am to be fully content with her. She is a treasure from the Lord of great, great value. Am I loving my wife with agape love? Are you loving your wife with agape love? We will continue this topic next month.

By the way, Mother’s Day is a great opportunity to show agape love to your wife.

Bitter or Sweet? – Part 1

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We receive a fair amount of e-mails. While most are greatly encouraging, a few trouble our hearts. The ones that usually sadden Teri and me the most have to do with marriage difficulties. I’m convinced that no one wants a rocky marriage, or one where each is pulling in different directions. Yet that is quite common. If we have the honor and pleasure of a spouse with which to share a life together, why not make it a wonderful experience? Why not be committed to making our marriages joyous examples to the world of how good a Christ-centered marriage really can be? Living each day with your best friend by your side as you seek to follow the Lord’s direction together, step-by-step, is a beautiful thing.

I’m convinced that any man and woman can live happily together in marriage if they want to, and I believe Scripture teaches that as well. How does one begin to improve a suffering marriage? You start in the same way you would if the marriage is okay currently, but the couple desired to make it better. Every thing good starts with the Lord Jesus Christ. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). First, do we have a relationship with Jesus? Sadly, many will count a childhood profession as salvation, but they have never had a real saving relationship with the God of creation. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23). Do you have the confidence of a real relationship with Jesus?

A human relationship with limited or little communication will suffer, and so will ours with the Lord if we aren’t reading His Word every morning and then communing with Him in prayer. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6). We would do better in life to neglect the habit of breakfast than to miss our morning fellowship with the Lord Jesus. He encourages, convicts, and even admonishes us through His Word and prayer, and it is needful to keep our lives on track. Jesus Christ, the Living Bread, is the spiritual nutrition that our hearts need daily. We can’t change a spouse, but there is much that we can do in our lives that will help matters.

Every marriage will suffer when our spirits are not receiving His grace and strength. The Lord has the insight into a marriage of what is needed. Without Him we really don’t even know what to pray for. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). There is such power available to us if we will appropriate it.

In addition to developing our relationship with the Lord Jesus to strengthen a marriage, are you spending quality and quantity time with your wife? Time together is critical to the health of the marriage. I would encourage you not to count time in front of the TV or watching a movie as time together. Go for walks early in the morning if you have an older child who could be awake while the others slept. Take your wife out to eat (not a movie), and listen to her. Communicate with each other. Sandwiches at the park or in the car are great if finances prohibit eating at a restaurant, and they don’t cost any more than eating at home.

Years ago when the children were young, I made it a financial and time priority to take Teri on a weekly date. She tells me how important those couple of hours were to her each week when we were able to talk to each other without the interruptions of children. In more recent years, we have been able to walk together early each morning. Not only are we exercising, but we have over an hour of time to communicate. We also attempt to get away briefly once or twice a year. For Mother’s and Father’s Day, we have the tradition of giving a night away together, which we take when we are able to fit it into the schedule. We love our time away, although we have found that our enjoyment of the children is so great, it makes it difficult to be away from them. However, we have found it good for our relationship to have that time for just the two of us, even though it isn’t very long.

An attitude check is great for the marriage. We have a family friend who is such a delight to be around. She is positive and always complimentary. She constantly says nice things when we are with her. She doesn’t flatter, but the things she says come from her heart. She is quite a marvel to us, and I’m sure to many others. It is just nice to be around her. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

People enjoy being around someone who is kind and positive, which would include a husband. What is it like for your wife to be around you? Do you praise or criticize her? Do you thank her for the countless ways she blesses you? I am so grateful for Teri’s respect, love, and deep desire to be an encouragement to me. Then there are the “things” she does for me. She takes the initiative for clean clothes showing up in my drawers every week. If you have folded many clothes, you realize how much time that takes. I wonder if men did the laundry, if they wouldn’t just dump them in the drawer without folding them with the justification that they would soon be pulled out and worn. What about making the bed? Timing is such that Teri makes it while I’m busy, and I have never heard her complain. Does your wife make your meals, clean your house, run errands, and raise and homeschool your children? Do you have a grateful heart for your wife, and do your words communicate that to her?

Equally important to what you say to your wife are the edifying thoughts you think about her. It is easy to begin thinking negative or critical thoughts about a wife. Soon you will find, as I have, how those negative thoughts grow and color your interactions. It is far better to focus on your wife’s good qualities and be grateful for them. We all have faults, and if either husband or wife dwells on the other’s negatives, it will poison the marriage. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mout out of thine eye; and beoThou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:2-5). Think about what your wife does well and what a blessing she is. Hopefully, by God’s grace, she will do the same.

We can’t change a spouse, but we certainly can appropriate God’s grace in changing ourselves. Then as we change, often that will be a stimulus in changing those around us. Marriage can be one of the most wonderful experiences this side of Heaven. We’ve found that a great marriage doesn’t just happen, but it takes desire and effort. Why not be committed to doing everything in your power to make your marriage a testimony to God’s grace? We will continue this discussion next month.