My husband and I are hosting a marriage study with our couples’ group this fall. We’ve been talking about what it really takes to hold a marriage together—and what kinds of stumbles (or earthquakes) can cause a relationship to detour. These include anything from “he leaves his dirty socks on the floor” to “we disagree on how to discipline our kids” to “I was attracted to another man at work.”
Dang. What then?
When we really dig down to the root of marriage, we discover this covenant can’t be based on feelings but rather a deliberate choice—to remain committed to this one person through the highs and lows and lots and lots of daily “meh.” Over time, honeymoon love morphs into long-married love. It’s messier and deeper and bruised and complex. After 5 or 10 or 25+ years, most husbands and wives have fought through emotional war zones together—and if that doesn’t bond a couple, what will?
That’s usually the point when somebody pipes up with this worn-out conclusion.
“We thought we got married for love. Now we know love is not enough.”
Is that true?
I admit I’ve said those words. I’ve believed them. And yes, love the emotion is not enough. Because emotions change. They’re unreliable. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
But what is love, really?
It’s not a feeling.
It’s a person.
And He is always enough.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8, emphasis mine)
Not too long ago, I had a heavy conversation with a dear friend who is enduring a rough time in her marriage. I mean really rough—not just a momentary spat but the heart-wrenching, explosive stuff that causes two people to examine the core of who they are and what they’ve known about each other for the past 20 years. My friend is wading through a ton of pain, resentment, remorse and disappointment.
Does she “feel” like loving her husband right now?
No. She “feels” like punching his face off.
But real love does not depend on feelings, nor does it take its direction from them. Love takes its cues from God, who is the very definition and embodiment of love itself.
So my friend is choosing to love and honor God by loving and honoring her husband, sticking with him, taking ownership for her role in the struggle and humbly repenting of her own mistakes.
How can she do that?
Because she is a child of God. And God is love.
His love dwells inside her. It guides her and defines her.
And with God’s strength, wisdom, conviction and resolve planted at the center of a marriage, two faulty people stand a chance.
For sure, love the feeling is not enough. But love the person is. So let’s lean on Him in good times and bad, through sickness and health, ‘til death do we part.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:9–12)
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