Relationships are not always easy. Marriages are full of conflict and prove to be very challenging at times. Throughout the ages, the look of marriage has changed over time. However, it’s helpful to know Scripture, the foundation of our spiritual lives and God’s expressed desires for our lives, teaches about marriage and is lasting and relevant throughout times—even through changing times. The longest passage in the Bible regarding marriage relationships is in Ephesians 5:22-33. Here, we see three verses directed toward wives, but nine verses are for the husbands. This could give some indication as to how much weight we husbands bear in cultivating our marriages.
Let’s explore this passage for us husbands, verse by verse. Starting in verse 25, we read, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” It’s important to note, Christ gave himself up for the church. Literally, he gave up his life. But also, he died to himself and his own desires daily. He served others—washed feet, fed thousands, and stopped what he was doing to heal. When we love our wives like Christ loves the church, this means we are also dying to our own desires daily. Other than jumping in front of a bullet for her or pushing her out of the way of a runaway train and bearing the impact ourselves, more practically speaking, we carry her burdens, serve her, and make her our main priority. Some simple examples of giving up our lives for her: giving up a sports game to do something we know she’s been wanting to do, grabbing her a coffee when we grab one for ourselves, considering her in our decisions, giving more time to dating her than guys’ night or golfing, talking to her about the details of our day—even when we just want to veg out. The essence of Christianity is to put others above ourselves. This means our wives, too.
For us men, this can be a vulnerable area. What if she doesn’t even notice I’m choosing her above everything else? What if she doesn’t treat me with respect? What if she makes me feel insignificant? What if she only takes, without reciprocating? In 1 John 4:19, we read Christ loved us first before we loved him. God didn’t wait until we were perfect, until we understood, until we even accepted him before he died for us. So, mirroring Christ’s love for us, we are to exemplify the selflessness of Christ and be willing to put ourselves out there on the line.
Taking it a bit deeper, we are commanded to do everything for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). And Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, we should serve others as if we are serving him. This means how we serve our wife is not dependent on her attitude toward us. We are serving our God—putting ourselves out there on the line daily by serving our wife—no matter her response. We do it for God.
Let’s say we want a garden containing vegetables worthy of grilling on a skewer. We would work hard, dominate those weeds, and end up with our best produce to enjoy. Likewise, if we want to enjoy a great marriage, we must be willing to work hard at it and conquer any problems that arise to give the marriage life.
Moving on to the next part. Verses 26-27 say husbands should, “make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” This is a great picture of how God himself views us, his bride. But how do we do this—make her holy, cleanse her, present her blameless before the Lord? Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by renewing our minds and then gives practical advice for how we can accomplish this in verses 9-21. Taking the principles of Romans 12 and applying them to our relationship with our wives, it looks like cultivating a house of peace, sharing our own struggles with her, praying for and with her, reminding her of God’s numerous promises for her in Scripture, guarding her against spiritual attacks, finding joy with her, being there for her when she’s upset or grieving, acting with humility in our relationship with her, letting go of the urge to get back at her when we’ve been wronged. As husbands, we should be striving to cultivate our wife’s spiritual growth and holiness.
Verses 28-30 say, “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.” In addition, Genesis 2:24 talks about us becoming “one flesh.” Thinking of our wives as one unit—an extension of our own body—we will love and care for her as we love and care for our own body.
Admittedly, I tend to get “hangry” when I haven’t eaten for a while. In those moments, I will consume whatever is in sight to feed the mad stomach. I don’t disregard my body’s need, and I don’t get mad at my stomach for having that need. I simply take care of my body’s needs when I recognize the signal.
If we’re loving and taking care of our wife as we love and take care of our own bodies, as husbands, we must train ourselves to look out for our wife’s needs, not disregard the needs, not get mad at her for having that need for love and attention. Afterall, when we’ve planted something that we want to harvest, we must cultivate the soil and tend to the needs of the plant. Showing affection to our wife is like fertilizing our favorite garden.
Women are multipliers. When a woman is given something good, she returns it better. But give her something bad, and it will be returned more bitter. This is not to say it is justified for a woman to return negativity. That’s not God’s way, but the way of our sinful nature. Relationships, made of imperfect people, are not all idyllic. Many times, there has been hurt and damaged trust in the marriage. It may not be your fault if you put in the effort and it’s not reciprocated, but we shouldn’t provoke our wives unfairly or knowingly push her buttons. We should work toward giving the good as our go-to response. In this way, we will be serving God in our part of the marriage, and we will more likely get back the good in surplus.
You may be thinking, I want to love her, serve her, and nourish her emotionally, but I don’t know how to practically apply it in everyday life. That’s where we come in! Our goal is to help you cultivate that. At Marriage In Abundance, we provide you with simple ideas, marriage challenges, once a week to pursue her, reignite the spark, and draw you closer together. Ideas such as: while she’s doing the dishes, kiss her cheek and tell her to go sit down while you finish them, notice the details of her hard work and thank her for it, surprise her by grabbing her favorite snack on your way home from work, or hug her and whisper in her ear one of the reasons you fell for her. If you would like to receive weekly marriage challenges, go to www.marriageinabundance.com to learn how you can participate.
Paul tells us in Romans 12:18 that as much as it depends on us, we should live at peace with one another. So, give your wife your best, whether she deserves it or not, because you are doing it for God. Work for the relationship you want to have that bears good fruit. And remember, people take time to trust, grow, and bloom. Changing your actions and reactions to her won’t fix things in one day. The marriage garden takes a lifetime of cultivation. Using the old gardener’s rule of thumb, new plants will first sleep, creep, then leap. Like a tended garden, patience and persistence will make your marriage leap!