When Ruth Bell Graham (wife of evangelist Billy Graham) was asked if she’d ever considered divorce, she replied, “Divorce? No. Murder? Yes!”
Marriage is hard. Even if you get to choose who you’re going to be married to! Imagine living in a time where your parents do the choosing, often years before you ever say, “I do!”
Small wonder one of the first things Paul instructs older women to teach younger women is how to love their husbands. The Greek word used here is πιλανδρους which literally means “to have affection for one’s husband.” When Paul was writing this most likely many women got engaged with zero affection for their husband as marriages were arranged. Isn’t it wild to realize that having affection for one’s husband is something you can be taught?!
Having been married for over 27 years Jim and I have seen a lot of ups and downs – and some of those downs have taken us as low as we can go, where feelings totally flatlined. There have been at least three times when I reached the point where all feelings died, where I simply felt no affection for him at all.
The first time happened after we’d been married two years. In fact, I was ready to walk away from him and our marriage. We were actually overseas at the time and I was staying an extra week to spend time with a friend. I’ll never forget saying goodbye to him on the coast in England not caring if I ever saw him again.
But a few days later as I spent time with the Lord, He asked me, “Do you believe I brought you and Jim together?” and I answered, “Yes, Lord.” I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt He had. Then He said, “To walk away from him is to walk away from me.” And I thought, “I can live without him, but I can’t live without you!” So I decided to return to him and press on despite the pain and my feelings being totally dead towards him.
And here’s the crazy thing, as I did, those feelings came back, even more intense than before! Over the course of 27 years, I’ve experienced this happening a number of times!
It is so vital that younger women understand this!
I’ll never forget a friend telling me. “It’s over. I don’t have any feelings for my husband anymore. Our marriage is dead.” What a difference it can make when we remember, God can raise the dead!
And when we remember, “Love is a choice!” Feelings come and feelings go, and every marriage is going to pass through difficult times. Any woman who has been married for any length of time can attest to this. But you sure don’t see this in the movies! And sadly, that’s where so many women learn about “loving” their husbands.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 we are given a description of love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects. Always trusts. Always hopes. Always perseveres. Love never fails.
Do you see any mention of romantic feelings there?!
One thing I’ve found so clearly through the years, when I seek to live out love as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, feelings follow. Feelings are a result, not something you pursue! And certainly not something that’s magically there and when they vanish forever gone!
For example, when I’ve kept a record of wrongs and not been intentional in forgiving my husband (and when you live in close proximity to someone in this broken, fallen world, do you ever have ample opportunity to get hurt and be hurt by them!) has that ever taken a toll on our relationship. When this happens the slightest thing he does can set me off (talk about being easily angered!). But when I take the time to process what’s happened and forgive him, the difference in our relationship is HUGE! (there’s more info on how I do this in the “Heal” section on this website).
Another thing that’s really helped – In my early years of marriage an older woman challenged me to take time each day to write down ten things about my husband I was thankful for! At first, since at the time we were really struggling, it was hard to think of anything. I started out, “He doesn’t beat me.” But you know as I did this simple exercise it made such a difference in my relationship with Jim.
You see, this side of heaven, everyone is a mixed bag – of strengths and weaknesses. The only perfect person who ever walked this earth was Jesus – and he never married! The enemy so loves to get us focused on our husband’s weaknesses (and comparing them to some other man’s strength – forgetting that other man has weaknesses too!). But I found as I prayed with thanks for Jim did it ever help me gain a more balanced view – and remember the blessings of who the Lord has created him to be (and yes, they are many!) Following Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 4:6-7 to pray with thanks is so important!
In fact, praying for my husband has been a key part of loving him well through the years. For nearly 20 years I have sought to pray weekly with a friend for an hour each week for our husbands. I cannot recommend this highly enough. It has helped me persevere in loving Jim through our darkest seasons.
Back around 1995 when we attended a Family Life Marriage Conference (something I highly recommend!!!) the speaker shared how she met weekly with a group of women to pray for their husbands and she handed out a basic outline they followed. Right away I went home, found a prayer partner, and dove in! You wouldn’t believe the answers to prayer we’ve seen! But more than that, as I take time to intentionally lift my husband before the Father’s throne, does it ever impact me. It’s like the Lord uses that time in a powerful way to give me His perspective on my marriage… and on my part in it! (yes, I can be a challenge to live with too!)
One other help has been praying through a bookmark entitled, “Seeing My Husband the Way Jesus Does.” Whenever I’m struggling, when those feelings start to falter, I pull out this bookmark (see below) and go walk and pray – and what a huge help it’s proved to be. As I’m praying for him, I’m reminded how God sees him and what’s true about who he really is.
These are just a couple suggestions for things I seek to pass on to the women I meet with to help them learn how to love their husbands. What’s helped you? What is currently helping you? Draw from that treasure and pass it on! Younger women so need this encouragement and so need you to share your struggles and what’s helping you persevere!
Marriage is hard. Thankfully not all the time! :0) But you’ve got to learn to persevere through the hard times if you want to enjoy the sweet ones over a lifetime. What a difference it can make when older women will step up to the plate and help younger women learn to do this!
Seeing My Husband The Way Jesus Does…
is in Christ
Thank You for immersing my husband in Christ. Thank you for grafting him into the true vine.
Thank you for continually speaking well of him and favoring him in every possible way.
Thank you for picking him for yourself, like a groom marrying the bride he desires.
Thank You for setting him aside for yourself, just like the best silver is set aside for special occasions
is without blemish
Thank you that when you look at him, you do not focus on all his failures. Thank you for focusing on the best part of him, the part You have perfected, his innermost being.
Thank you, Father, that he is wanted. Thank you for coming to him, extending Your hand, pulling him to Your side, and making all the necessary arrangements to make him Your very own.
is God’s child
Thank you for making him Your beloved child, in whom You are well pleased, for allowing him to bear your likeness, for making him your pride and joy.
is free from sin’s power
Thank you for liberating him from his old master. Thank you for saving him from his enemy.
Thank You that You now hold nothing against him. Thank you for not expecting him to make up for the ways he has failed you.
Thank You for making him one of Your favorites. Thank You for hovering over him with a special loving attention, like a parent with a firstborn child.
Thank You that as Your child he has an inheritance that provides all he needs. Thank You that he will always have more than he needs.
Thank You for enveloping him in Your love so that he is sealed, secure and safe. Thank You for shielding and sheltering him by Your Spirit.
Thank You for giving him an exciting, fulfilling direction. Thank You for showing him why he is here and where he is going.
Thank You for filling him with Your glory. Thank You for bragging about him as Your prized inheritance.
Thank You that You love to show Your extraordinary power in him. Thank You that he is therefore qualified & able to do all You want him to do.
is alive with Christ’s life
Thank You that since You came into his heart, he is born again – born from above and bursting with real life.
is seated with Christ in heaven
Thank You for placing him with Christ in a position of extraordinary privilege and authority.
is God’s masterpiece
Thank You for making him Your personal work of art. Thank You that he is the work of a Craftsman, not a mistake.
is close to God
Thank You for not holding him at arm’s length. Thank You for pulling him to Your side in a prolonged embrace.
is an insider
Thank You for making him a true citizen in Your kingdom. Thank You for making him a true member of Your household, no longer an outsider.
is God’s mobile home
Thank You for moving into his heart. Thank You that he is now Your house, Your temple, Your tent.
is promised great things
Thank You for making such priceless commitments to him. Thank You for letting him experience what others strive to obtain.
Thank You for loving him the way he longs to be loved. Thank You that he can’t wear out Your love. Thank you for continuing to win his trust by convincing him of the depth of Your love.
is a new creation
Thank You for completely remodeling his innermost being, his spirit. Thank You that all things in him are truly new.
Thank You for making everything right in his innermost being. Thank You for placing the holy and living Spirit of Your Son in him.
is the light of the world
Thank You for making the light of Your life shine in him. Thank You for making him Your flashlight, shining into the darkness around him.
Thank You for satisfying his thirst and hunger. Thank You for the Bread of Life that fills him. Thank You for the Living Water welling up in his soul.
Thank You for adoring and treasuring him, like a parent marveling over a newborn baby.
is Christ’s body
Thank You that although You once lived among Your people in an elaborate tent, and then You walked among us in a Galilean body, now You truly live in him. Thank You that he is actually a member of Your body.
is united with Christ
Thank You for becoming one with him, as a husband becomes one flesh with his wife.
Thank You that with You living in him, he can face anything. Thank You that every battle, test and victory belong to You.
Note: contents adapted from David Lyons’ booklet Now That I Am Born Again.