8. Understanding love. Another complaint I regularly hear from couples is the lack of understanding in their marriage. A husband gets exasperated at his wife when she is upset because he doesn’t help around the house after he comes home from work. He does not understand that she has also been working all day and needs his help. Another example is a wife who has little compassion for her husband when he loses his job, not understanding that he senses an enormous pressure to be the provider for his family. Do you sense this lack of understanding from your spouse? Is there anything you can do to change this deficiency?
The first thing that is important to note is that the Scriptures teach that spouses can change. Peter told husbands to dwell with their wives with “understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). Scripture also teaches that Abigail was “a woman of good understanding” (1 Sam. 25:3). In both passages God reveals how essential understanding is for a good relationship and how capable both partners are to possess it.
Second, you must realize that understanding is simply thoughtfulness, concern, and a supportiveness that comes from love. It is the fruit of perceiving your mate’s needs and hurts and being willing to show compassion and encouragement. The word understanding literally means to know by investigation. Therefore, if you truly want to love and understand your spouse, you must investigate what he or she thinks, feels, hopes, and fears. Then you must act on this knowledge in a compassionate way that brings assurance to your spouse of your care and support.
God’s understanding and knowledge of the children of Israel’s plight in Egypt motivated Him to act on their behalf and brought assurance and comfort to the Jewish nation. Remember what God said to Moses? “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to … a land flowing with milk and honey… Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them” (Ex. 3:7-9). God revealed by His words that He truly understood the suffering of His people and He was ready to help.
If you truly understand your mate’s needs and struggles, you too will demonstrate this understanding by helpful actions that deliver them from their hardship or suffering. Determine today specific ways that you can show your mate that you are a man or woman with an understanding heart.
9. Laboring love. To demonstrate true love you need to take practical actions that constantly reveal your love. However, marriage partners are usually waiting for the other spouse to do what is required first. Many fail to aggressively take action that will prove their love because they are reserved or shy. Others simply don’t care enough to serve. John encouraged all believers to not wait to be loved, but to take the initiative. This is the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12). If you don’t want your words to be regarded as insincere, then show your love by what you do. Truth is always revealed by your deeds.
When Paul praised the church at Thessalonica he remembered their “work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:3). The apostle knew that true faith would always work, that sincere love would always labor, and that confident hope would always be patient. These are the sure characteristics of a person who loves God and others.
Do you truly love your spouse? If you do, how are you laboring to make his or her life easier? I’m not talking about the words you profess. What are you doing to enhance and develop your companionship with your mate? Are you instigating conversation to show you truly care about your relationship? Do you suggest a weekly date or do you wait for your mate to bring up the subject? Do you initiate recreational activities, revealing that you enjoy your mate’s company? These are just some of the ways you must labor to show your love towards your spouse.
10. Gentle love. When you consider the topic of love do you connect love with gentleness? Many do not understand this attribute of love. However, Paul associated these two qualities together many times. He asked the Corinthians if they wanted him to come to them with “a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness” (1 Cor. 4:21). Paul also encouraged the Ephesian church to walk in “all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). In other words, love is seen in a humble, gentle, and longsuffering attitude. Peter also encouraged wives to display the “beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4). Is gentleness precious in your sight?
Does gentleness characterize the way you speak and behave toward your spouse? Or, are you sarcastic, critical, or abusive? The lack of gentleness is one of the most overlooked causes of marital disharmony. Ask God today for His gentle love to fill your heart!
11. Forgiving love. Another fundamental cause of a deteriorating love in marriage is an unwillingness to forgive. When you have unresolved issues in your marriage there will naturally be unforgiveness in your heart. When you allow one or more of these counterfeit types of love to exist in your relationship, conflicts will result. If you don’t forgive and instead hold onto resentment, your heart will only grow hard and the distance in your relationship will only increase. Sincere love can’t exist in this kind of relationship. Why? Because true love always seeks reconciliation and forgiveness (John 3:16). God loved you so much that He sought to reconcile and forgive you by sending His Son to die in your place. The apostle John added: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
Are you loving your spouse the same way you have been loved by God? Choose to forgive and seek reconciliation with your spouse just as the Father has with you. Remember Christ’s command: “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). Don’t wait! Choose to love by forgiving today. Ask God to open your eyes to your own sin and how much He has forgiven you. Then do the same with your spouse.
If you don’t sense that you have this forgiving heart or any of the other characteristics I’ve discussed in this publication, the place to begin is prayer. If you are a believer, confess your need before God and ask Him for the infilling of His Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23. Remember, it’s God’s good pleasure to give to you whatever you need to live a successful and fruitful life. Jesus promised, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8). If you want real love and not some counterfeit in your marriage, ask the Lord right now for a change of heart and He will give it to you.
If you have never made a commitment of your life to Christ, you must first begin by surrendering to Him. Ask God to forgive you and personally invite Jesus to come into your heart by faith. This is the only way you can have the power to do what I’ve just encouraged in this publication. God will answer your request for forgiveness and He will grant to you the power of His love. Bow before Him in prayer and watch what happens!
If you would like more information on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, visit www.CovenantKeepers.org