WARNING…if you are NOT complete in the Lord before you come into marriage you will be like an insatiable, carnivorous beast for love in marriage. Seriously. It sounds hideous but that is exactly what we become when we expect our spouse to fulfill all our longings and desires. This was one of the more significant realizations I had during a recent couples retreat I attended.
During the retreat I watched Andy Stanley’s video, I-Marriage, and he talked about how desires turn into expectations in marriage. And that drives away love quicker than we can ever imagine. Romance flies right out the front door, and we find ourselves unhappy, unfulfilled, and disillusioned by the one relationship we thought would surely make us happy.
I have yet to see a sad bride standing at the altar as she makes her vows. I have seen many brides cry out of joy. But a depressed bride on the day of her wedding? Have you ever seen one? (Okay, some women have arranged marriages but that is a different story. I am referring to weddings where the woman chooses to marry the “man of her dreams.”)
If marriage begins with so much happiness then why are there so many unhappy wives?
Here is the truth — there is no person in the world who can perfectly fulfill all your desires. No one. That’s all fantasy.
I too had this googly- eyed idea of love when I got married. And soon after, my eyes went from starry-eyed to blood shot fiery red. (Okay that sounds downright beastly.) I am exaggerating. I was not perpetually angry with Edric but sometimes he would do things that hurt me and I would do things that hurt him. Why? No matter how much we profess to love each other marriage exposes our flaws and tendency toward selfishness.
I know countless others who have experienced this, too. I married an amazing guy. I am married to an amazing guy. And I would, in an instant, say yes to marry him again. But both of us know from the word of God, from experience, from the many others whom we have encountered along the way, that ultimately, completeness and happiness are not found in persons, possessions, or accomplishments, but in Jesus Christ alone.
It’s interesting that the Bible says, “Under three things the earth quakes, and under four, it cannot bear up: under a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is satisfied with food, UNDER AN UNLOVED WOMAN WHEN SHE GETS A HUSBAND…” (Proverbs 30:21-23 NASB)
An unloved woman.
To desire love is natural. That’s no epiphany. We were built for love. But the kind of love we are looking for is the inexhaustible, absolutely secure, dependable, earth-shaking kind. And only Jesus can give it. Jesus wants to give it.
When Jesus came to the Samaritan woman at the well, a woman who had gone through one relationship to another, he said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13, 14 NASB)
Jesus knew that the Samaritan woman was an unloved woman. She had tried to find the answer in relationships, relationships that failed her. What she was really looking for was Jesus.
Jesus. The inexhaustible source. The living water we crave and need. Jesus found the unloved Samaritan woman. He sought her out. The conversation between them is the longest recorded conversation between Jesus and any person. Imagine that! Women are special to Jesus!
Afterwards, she was exuberant with joy and told everyone she knew, “I have found the Messiah!” Instead of looking to fill her own need for love, she began telling others about the best lover of all.
Marriage is so much more about giving versus taking. And unless we are overflowing with the love of Christ, the giving becomes exhausting. Emotional resources get depleted. My encouragement to women is to find wholeness in the Lord. Seek his love and be filled with it. He loves us perfectly. His love transforms us into better wives and mothers.
Yesterday, during the women’s conference led by Ann Chan, I was reminded that women tend to cling to past hurt and it turns into a reservoir of pain or bitterness. We can get so preoccupied with nursing our wounds, withholding forgiveness, or plotting vengeance, we can’t possibly be a blessing. When we do this, we are easily angered, easily offended, negative, and demanding. This translates to totally unpleasant. When we are bitter, we become bitter to the taste of those around us, too! We develop toxic personalities. Is it a wonder then that husbands or children want to avoid or replace the women in their lives who become like this?
I disciple a group of wonderful women. Sadly, more than 50% of them have, what I like to call, CRAZY moms or mothers-in-law. These moms are angry, shouting, controlling, or depressive kinds of moms. It seems to be a growing epidemic. I hear the sad stories of daughters who have endured physical, verbal abuse, or neglect. And it is very hard for them to heal from the experiences of their childhood. They continue to be affected by the on-going stress of interacting with their crazy moms.
I don’t believe moms become this way over night. Based on stories shared by women I know, their moms were damaged by their own relationships — husband, parents, friends — or circumstances…and instead of becoming better, they became bitter.
How do we protect ourselves from becoming “toxified” by relationships and circumstances? Just like the Samaritan woman, we need to realize that relationships, accomplishments, and material things are an INCOMPLETE answer to our deepest longings and desires. We were made for living water. We settle and strive for what makes us thirst again and again. In the pursuit of our idea of satisfaction, we end up disappointed, wounded, or deeply pained.
Whenever I fail to realize that Jesus is everything I long for — my inexhaustible joy, an ever-present companion, the promise of salvation, my daily delight, comforter in my sorrows, the source of peace when my spirit is troubled, forgiver of my iniquities, grace to live another day, and lover of my soul — I look to Edric to be these things. But it is not a fair expectation. It is wrong. Edric can fill a number of those longings but to make the mistake of thinking that he can do this for me every single moment, every single day, is an impossible standard.
Here is the good news, God wants us to hold him to this standard because he can fulfill it. He fulfilled it at the cross. The song, Jesus Son of God, by Cris Tomlin is all about how much God loves us.
“You came down from heaven’s throne,
this earth you formed was not your home,
a love like this the world had never known.
A crown of thorns to mock your name,
forgiveness fell upon your face,
a love like this the world has never known.
You bore our sin,
you took our shame,
you rose to life,
you defeated the grave,
and a love like this the world has never known.
On the altar of our praise,
let there be no higher praise,
Jesus son of God…
be lifter higher than all..
the cross was enough.”
Two people who have experienced God’s love, coming together in marriage can give of that love to one another. Marriage becomes a relationship to enjoy, not because we need our spouse to be happy, but because we are happy in the Lord, we are fully satisfied in his love. We become conduits of blessing instead of vacuums that take-take-take to fill up a void inside. The Bible tells us to abide in God’s love.
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love…These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:9,11 NASB)
Knowing Jesus doesn’t guarantee a pain-free life or a pain-free marriage but our relationship with him gives us the capacity to overcome trials, grow more beautiful through them, and exude the joy of the Lord in our relationships. Why? Because NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.
The book of Romans tells us, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39 NASB)