Marriage Advice from the Bible
Do You Love Your Spouse Well?
By Kathy Collard Miller
CBN.com Do you love your spouse? I'm sure you would answer that "yes", but here's another way to ask: Do you love your spouse well? Does adding the word "well" to the question change the meaning for you--or your answer? Maybe the phrase "loving well" makes no sense to you.
When I first heard those two words, they made no sense. When it was defined for me as wanting the best for the other person, I found three ways to "love well" in Paul's words to Timothy:
"But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (I Timothy 1:5, NASB).
First, Paul challenges us to love well by having a pure heart.
"Heart" refers to motives. A pure heart wants what is best for the other person, more than what will benefit us.
When Larry and I had been married seven years, we were more like married singles. Since my attempts to change him through anger and manipulation weren't working, I planned a surprise birthday party for him. I expected that doing this "loving" thing would awaken his love for me so that he would treat me better. I personally wanted a surprise birthday party thrown for me; therefore I believed he should also.
When Larry walked through the front door of our house greeted by 25 of our closest friends, he graciously smiled. But he didn't change! He didn't stay home more often to help me with the kids or do anything loving for me. What a disappointment.
My disappointment should have told me that my heart wasn't pure because I had manipulative motives. He would have valued a wife who didn't nag, whine, mope and complain!
In time, God's power and grace intervened to heal our marriage and now we've been married 42 years. But that incident reminds me to love "well" with a pure heart.
Paul's second point for loving well is "a good conscience."
This point is hard to connect unless you remember a time when feeling guilty blocked your ability to love in a way that is meaningful for your spouse.
I remember the morning I was irritated with Larry as he walked out the door for work. All day, I felt guilty for treating him unkindly. When he returned home that evening, I noticed he seemed distant. I assumed he was angry with me and tried to avoid him, afraid he would remind me of my actions that morning. When I finally got the courage to ask him, he assured me he wasn't upset, only preoccupied with thoughts of work. My guilty conscience had put a barrier between us and I'd lost an opportunity to love him well by being available for him to talk about his stressful day.
If I'd confessed my sin to God and asked Larry to forgive me, a guilty conscience wouldn't have prevented me from loving him well.
The third way to love well according to Paul is with "a sincere faith."
Faith in God's power will strengthen us to love well by believing God will work in our spouse's life and we don't have to force them to change.
Early in our marriage, Larry was rarely home because he worked two jobs and had a flying hobby. I was angry and bitter. I expected him to meet my needs because I believed he held the key to my happiness.
In time, God convicted me of my selfishness and I looked to God to meet my needs. I released Larry from that responsibility and could love him "well" by being happy and pleasant toward him, no longer nagging, complaining and demanding perfection. I believed God would work according to His plan and even if He didn't do what I desired, I could trust God to meet my true needs.
About that time, Larry finalized his plans to resign from one police department and be hired by another as a police officer. But this required a cut in pay, which meant Larry no longer had the money to rent a plane to fly. Amazing! He was home more! God had provided what I wanted in His own timing and in His own way.
Paul's three guidelines for loving well with a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith have empowered me to love my husband well—for his benefit and ultimately for mine. A good question to ask ourselves is: "Which of those three elements for loving well do I need to grow in?" When we do and act upon the answer, I trust our marriages will be strengthened with a love that honors God.
Kathy Collard Miller is a popular women's conference speaker and the author of 49 books including Women of the Bible: Smart Guide to the Bible (Thomas Nelson). She blogs at www.kathycollardmiller.blogspot.com and lives in Indio, California, with her husband, Larry.
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