Over the years, I've counseled many couples that were experiencing marital difficulties. Some were fighting to keep their marriages in tact. Others were on the verge of separation. Sometimes, both parties were committed to finding a solution. Other times, only one spouse showed sincere interest. And when counseling didn't work, I witnessed the pain and broken fragments of families torn apart by separation and divorce.
With such weighty and potentially devastating outcomes hanging in the balance, I would send up earnest petitions for heavenly wisdom. My desire was to guide couples safely back to shore. Some couples were reconciled and went on to live happy marriages. But unfortunately, some were not. None-the-less, these experiences taught me much about my own relationship with God.
For instance, in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, there is a very clear comparison made between a marriage between two people and the marriage between Christ and His church. Notice the following:
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it". "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord" (Ephesians 5:25; 5:22).
In these verses, clear instruction is given to both husbands and wives, counsel that if obeyed, would ensure a successful and happy union. But these verses are often taken out of context. However, when understood correctly, they reveal an invaluable spiritual principle that every successful follower of Christ will learn.
The apostle Paul, after further admonishing men to "love their wives as their own bodies" (vs 28), goes on to write, "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:32). In this analogy, the church is compared to a married woman in a healthy, happy relationship with Christ. And because the relationship is healthy and because she is loved unconditionally, she is both willing and happy to submit to Christ's loving commands. In essence, this illustration teaches that the believer's love for Christ motivates him or her to submit to the loving authority of God. But not from obligation. It is His love that compels us to love.
Let me share a story that illustrates this principle better. A husband and wife didn't really love each other. The man was very demanding, so much so that he prepared a list of rules and regulations for his wife to follow. He insisted that she read them over every day and obey them to the letter. Among other things, his "do's and don'ts" indicated such details as what time she had to get up in the morning, when his breakfast should be served, and how the housework should be done. After several long years, the husband died.
As time passed, the woman fell in love with another man, one who dearly loved her. Soon they married. This husband did everything he could to make his new wife happy, continually showering her with tokens of his appreciation. One day when she was cleaning house, she found the list of commands her first husband had drawn up for her tucked away in a drawer.
As she looked it over, it dawned on her that even though her present husband hadn't given her any kind of list, she was doing everything her first husband's list required anyway! She realized she was so devoted to this man that her deepest desire was to please him out of love, not obligation.
Friends, it is love that makes the Christian experience sweet. And we can't produce this type of love. It is His love in us that compels us to serve Him and others with a thankful, appreciative, and happy heart. You might be wondering, "How do I obtain this type of love?" I have good news. Although this type of unselfish love does not originate in the human soul, you'll be happy to know that it is freely given to those who seek it. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us." (Romans 5:5, KJV). Praise God for the gift!
How is it with you? Do you find it grievous to serve others? To serve God? Do you see His commands as a list of do's and don'ts? Is it hard to submit to your own spouse? If so, then don't be discouraged! The solution is found in Jesus. We only need a greater love. And that love is a gift from Jesus. He is ready and willing to fill you with this type of love just now. Will you pray this prayer with me:
"Jesus, I want and need Your unselfish love in my soul. I want to love as You love, feel as You feel, think as You think, and serve and You serve. I want to obey You, not from obligation, but from a heart warmed with a correct view of Your selfless sacrifice on Calvary. Please fill me now. Lord I believe. Help Thou, my unbelief. In Your Name, Amen."
Praying for you,