It takes work for marriage to work. It’s one thing to be in love; another to love someone for life.
Marriage can be a great relationship of intimacy and companionship, but not when couples stop working at it. When married people start surviving and give up on thriving, they start the path that leads many to divorce. We must fight against complacency and taking each other for granted.
All marriages are tested by the changes that come with life, family and aging. It’s not easy to live well in a fallen world. It takes intentional focus, commitment and discipline. It also requires a tenacious agreement to keep working at it through the ups and downs!
Can we be honest enough to admit that sometimes the obstacle to deep and lasting love is our tendency to want everything to be easy? Remind yourself often that good relationships rarely remain good without effort and sacrifice. And it’s not always 100 % on each side. Sometimes the seasons of life require one mate to step up more than the other.
We simply cannot build deep companionship when we refuse to work through our challenges and difficulties. Let’s not give in to a mindset of defeat by a perspective that sees obstacles and hinderances instead of opportunities and possibilities. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
I don’t say this to encourage anyone to stay in an abusive relationship or for singles to settle for a relationship that is wrongly matched. Never confuse enabling with loving (see: Forgiveness not enabling).
Marriage is not about being in love but an agreement to love. And it’s an agreement that must be renewed often. Doing this involves more than will power. Couples need a shared vision of what love looks like and how it is lived.
The best standard for love is found in I Corinthians 13:4-8. Here we learn how love behaves in relationships. Here we find God’s prescription for great relationships.
Here is a love that protects relationships from destructive conflict and bitter rivalry. Playful rivalry is not bad, but troubled relationships almost always involve nasty and divisive rivalry. This love opposes selfishness at every turn.
Revisit true love
- Love is patient: It is long-suffering. It restrains anger when provoked. Patience is more than passive waiting. It’s active restraint that rests in God.
- Love is kind: It reaches out in good will with acts of care for others. Love patiently forebears and in kindness — actively pursues. Loving people are distinguished by their kindness.
- Love does not envy: It does not resent the blessings of others. Envious people engage in rivalry. The envier gloats over the harm or misfortune of the one envied. She delights in evil.
- Love does not boast: Love corrects the desire to call attention to self. A loving person is not a windbag or braggart. He does not parade himself. Love is willing to work anonymously. It needs no stage, applause or recognition.
- Love is not proud: not puffed up; not arrogant; not full of oneself. A loving person does not think more highly of himself than sober judgment dictates (Romans 12:3).
- Love is does not dishonor others: It is not rude. It is respectful of others.
- Love is not self-seeking: It does not insist on its own way. It is not self-absorbed.
- Love is not easily angered: It is not easily agitated nor easily provoked. Loving people are not hot-tempered, short-fused people.
- Love keeps no record of wrongs: Love seeks forgiveness and reconciliation. When hurt badly, this part of love is hard to practice.
- Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: This rules out gossip, slander, and delight in the downfall of others.
The grand finale of love
Love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. Using a staccato of four verbs with repeated emphasis on how love brings everything under its influence, we learn that, “there is nothing love cannot face” (NEB).
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (NLT).
- Love is tenacious and faithful.
- Love is brave and noble; it never fails.
- Love is “the most excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:31).
- “These three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13).
- “Over all virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14).
- “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10).
God’s love was demonstrated when he loved unworthy people like you and me. For “when we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus gave us a great example of love by coming into our world and humbling himself for our eternal good.
Have the same attitude toward each other as Christ…
The Creator became a creature; the King became a servant; the Shepherd became a lamb; the High Priest became the sacrifice, the sinless One was made sin for us that we might be acceptable before God in Him! (see: II Corinthians 5:17-21; Philippians 2:3-10).
See also: What if you don’t feel love?