In your wedding you made a vow to devotedly “love, honor, and cherish” each other until you are parted by death. Those promises seemed so easy to give at the beginning point of your married life together. Your love was fresh and new. But how do you keep these vows when promised love gets to be difficult and challenging to live out for the rest of your lives?
We know about this difficult challenge first hand. It’s something we faced earlier in our marriage. And it’s something we see many, many couples face at some point in their married lives. It’s also something you (or someone you know) may face too someday. Or perhaps you’re living in this dilemma even now.
So, to address this matter, below are a few things to prayerfully consider.
Living a Life of Promised Love
First, here’s something that C.S. Lewis points out:
“Being ‘in love’ is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also many things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go.
“And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably was never was or ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, and your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love.”
Love Beyond Feelings
“Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’ is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced (in Christian marriages) by the grace, which both parents ask, and receive from God.
“They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” (From the book, Mere Christianity)
So what do you do when the “explosion” of love dissipates, and you no longer feel like you love your spouse? What do you do when promised love seems too difficult to give any longer?
Walk in Love
It’s important to note what Lewis said here: “Ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love.” As a matter of fact, we’re told in Ephesians 5:1-2 to “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We are to ‘walk in love’ in the same way that Jesus Christ loved us—sacrificially.
That is mandated to us much more so within our marriages.
“Our marriage is supposed to be a reflection of Christ and the Church. Christ does not fall out of love with us when we mess up. So why should we fall out of love with each other?” (Joshua Pease)
We most often fall out of love with each other because we can’t see beyond our own feelings. When marriage becomes difficult it takes a toll on how we feel about each other. That’s what happened to us. (You can read more about this in the posted article, The Love Story of Steve and Cindy Wright.) Our circumstances drove our feelings for each other to the point where we thought we had “lost” our love. But in reality, we hadn’t lost our love, we never had it tested to the degree that God knew we needed. It wasn’t proven. Our love was based on feelings that can fade. It wan’t based on the truth of godly promised love.
We thank God He woke us up to this Truth before we made the mistake of divorcing. We, and so many others, would have missed out on the best to come. (And of course, Marriage Missions wouldn’t be here.) That is why it’s important to note that:
Promised Love Requires More of Us
“There’s a difference between God’s love and the love that the world knows. If we aren’t careful, Christians can begin to adopt the world’s way of loving instead of God’s. The world says love is a feeling. When you stop feeling love for someone, it means you no longer love him or her. The world encourages you to love the lovable but gives you permission to hate your enemies. Jesus said loving those who love you is no great feat. It’s loving your enemies that prove you are a loving person (see: Matthew 5:46).
“Jesus commanded those who wanted to be his disciples to follow HIS standard for loving people rather than the world’s standard. Jesus directs us to love others in the same way he loves us. When Jesus saw us hopelessly enslaved to sin, he didn’t say, ‘I don’t feel like dying on a cross for them. I think I’ll wait until the feeling comes.’ He didn’t say, ‘I’ve tried and tried to love them but they always reject me. I give up!’” (Henry and Richard Blackaby from, The Experience: Day by Day with God: A Devotional and Journal)
That’s what we were ready to do—give up. The feelings weren’t there any longer, so we were ready to part ways. It’s a lot like what Dr Gary Chapman wrote:
Promised Love Is Lost
“Couples often come to me in the midst of marriage difficulty, even at the point of separating. When I ask why they are considering such a step, they share their points of contention and conclude with the statement, ‘We just don’t love each other anymore.’ That is supposed to settle it. They say they have simply ‘lost’ their love, and it’s beyond their control. I don’t believe that. I’ll agree that they may have lost their warm romantic feelings, but real love is another matter.
“The Bible makes some strong statements about love within marriage. In Ephesians 5:25, husbands are commanded to love their wives. In Titus 2:4, wives are told that they must learn to love their husbands. Anything that can be commanded, and anything that can be taught and learned, is not beyond our control. 1 Corinthians 13 describes love as ‘being patient and kind, not arrogant or rude. It describes love as refusing to keep a score of wrongs and never holding on to grudges.
“These words are not describing a feeling. Rather, they are talking about the way we think and behave. We can love each other without having the ‘tingles’ for each other. In fact, the fastest way to see our emotions return is to start loving each other by acting in accordance with the above passage from 1 Corinthians 13.” (From The One Year Love Language Minute Devotional)
The Difficulty of Living Out Your Promised Love
We know this is a difficult thing to do. But it’s what God requires of us. Love is both a noun and a verb. It’s a state of being, and it’s something you do. And when you are living in the sanctity of marriage, as a “chord of three strands” with God, promised love is all the more important to keep. But it is important to do so. You made a vow with your spouse to do your part, and you made a vow with God to do your part.
Please pray about this. Ask God to show you what Love is really all about, beyond your understanding of it. When you do, God will partner with you in giving you wisdom, and strength to love beyond the way the world loves. God, whose very name is LOVE will teach you how to love in Truth.
Additionally, here is an article on love (posted in the SAVE MY MARRIAGE topic) that we encourage you to read:
And then, if you find yourself in a place of fighting for your marriage, here is something else we encourage you to read, and pray:
We pray this Insight has given you some important points to prayerfully consider. And beyond that, we hope you will lead in love in ways that you may never have considered otherwise —to the glory of God, working in and through you.
Cindy and Steve Wright
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Marriage Insights