“This is it, I can’t take it anymore! This marriage is over!” With these heated words, Jerry announced the end of 10 years of marriage.
His wife was disillusioned, depressed and frustrated. Jerry was not the man she fell in love with. The fragile hearts of their three children were shattered. Their world was falling apart, and they felt so lost.
In desperation, Jerry turned to his best friend for advice. His friend listened, then pointed out an important key in the Bible. As the friend explained the scripture, Jerry was inspired with hope. He returned to his wife, and over the next few months this scripture began to open the door to marital healing. This same understanding can turn your marriage around and save your family from the heartache of divorce.
The apostle Paul revealed the enduring power of this principle when he said, “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). What is godly love, and where can it be found? The word love has been used so loosely that it has lost much of its true meaning.
“THIS AIN’T LOVE”
In her song, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (from the album Private Dancer, Capital Records, 1984), Tina Turner said of love, “What’s love, but a secondhand emotion.” Secondhand emotions masquerading as love have caused many divorces. Secondhand emotions rush people into marriage, and they can drop people out of marriage.
The most common problem among married people is selfishness expressed in feelings. Many marriages fail because feelings fail. In The Case Against Divorce, Diane Medved cautions couples about building a marriage on the shaky foundation of fleeting feelings that masquerade as love. “One of the most critical facts I try to impress on couples who come to me for premarital counseling is that passion fades. . . . The sizzle fades, which to many means that love fizzles, compared to what you first had or to what the media try to tell you love is fireworks, sexual frenzy, heated exploration” (pages 21-22).
Some people marry because they think the other person will satisfy their needs. What happens when they come together? They mutually take and take until they have taken all the life out of each other. The marriage becomes empty. Then they can throw it away, like some emptied soda can.
Dr. Medved has also found that feelings can lead people into divorce. “Over the past several years the one thing we’ve been taught not to doubt is our feelings…. Never mind that marriages crumbled because personal feelings were allowed to dictate behavior rather than courtesy and dignity and commitment to one’s spouse… The problem is that we’ve come to view feelings as solid and immutable, when in reality, we can shape them and choose them moment to moment” (page 172).
THE REAL THING
In many marriages, the relationship is conditional on the performance of the partner: “I’ll give to you if you….” At other times, it’s based on the worthiness of the partner: “I give to you because you are….” Conditional relationships usually fail.
But godly love gives unconditionally. It is like the sun that never fails to shine. The sun does not shine on the water because it shines back, or on the land because it produces fruit. What the water and land do is irrelevant to what the sun does.
How can you recognize feelings for what they are and acquire godly love? Love is clearly a gift of God. He gives love to you so that you can give it to others.
Some have had it backward. They have looked for love in all the wrong places. They have looked to other people, especially to their wives or husbands, to fill them with love. But the truth is, only God can fill us with his love. He fills us through an intimate relationship with him.
It starts by realizing that he loves you unconditionally, even though no one is worthy: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is the model of love that is lived in many successful marriages.
To love or not to love. The decision is yours to make, and not a feeling to follow. Surrender your feelings for self-satisfaction to God. You will be amazed at the love that will spring forth.
LOVE IN ACTION
God’s love is more than words. It is expressed in action. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13 and see a few of the ways love can be expressed in marriage.
Love “is not self-seeking” (verse 5). This is the guiding principle in every situation of marriage. God will inspire you to seek the best for your spouse. If you are seeking a divorce, are you seeking the best for yourself or for others? (In cases of physical and sexual abuse, separation or divorce may be best for all concerned. It is wise to seek counsel on these serious issues.)
Have you considered the emotional, mental and physical effect on your family and community? Is it worth the imagined relief you think you will have after a divorce?
They say the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But a beautiful lawn needs to be fertilized, watered and mowed. So why not give that kind of attention to your own partner? You may be pleasantly surprised as your marriage grows greener and more beautiful.
“Love is patient” (verse 4). You may not see immediate results; love takes time. You may feet the need to have your marriage fixed as soon as yesterday. But think about it, isn’t that a cry for self-satisfaction? Doesn’t your spouse need time to adjust to the new you?
Give your partner time. Give your husband or wife space to change his or her response to you. Most importantly, give God room to work in your partner’s life. You are not God. God does not force anyone to change. But he can work miracles if you give your partner time and space. Patience costs you nothing, but a divorce may cost you everything.
“Love is kind” (verse 4). You may not feel like being kind. Your spouse may not deserve your kindness, but allow God to give kindness through you. Acting on feelings has caused many harsh and hurtful things to be said and done. Ask God to inspire and empower you to decide to give kind words and kind acts. Remember, love is an act of the will, not the reaction of the emotions. You can choose to give kindness even in the face of bitterness.
Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (verse 5). In other words, love forgives, and forgiveness is an important key to reconciliation. Let’s face it, you and your spouse have both made mistakes. You can’t live the past all over again, but you can have the past forgiven.
Decide to exercise love by forgiving your partner the way Christ forgave you. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful medicines for the human spirit. It can heal your broken heart and marriage.
Your spouse will sense in you sweetness instead of bitterness, peace instead of anger. Your partner will experience the love of God from the gentleness in your voice to the sincerity in your eyes. He or she will be drawn to you, and may even be inspired to reconcile with you.
GOD’S LOVE THROUGH YOU
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This blessing does not come from your partner. It comes from Jesus Christ, who loves you completely. He will give you a joy and peace that is indescribable. He will satisfy your deepest longings in a way your husband or wife never can.
Why not sacrifice your feelings for self-fulfillment on the altar of love? Why not allow God to give your spouse the love you never could give? Why not allow God to take care of your emotional needs? Allow him to love your partner through you, and save your marriage!