When you’re not feeling love for your spouse any longer, when you just don’t feel you have it within to experience the feelings you once had for him or her again, what can you do about it? What SHOULD you do about it when you’ve lost loving feelings for your spouse?
That’s a tough question. Sooner or later, this very thing happens to most of us who have been married any length of time. Those loving feelings seem to change, or appear to be lost completely. It’s a tough situation, for sure. It happened to us within our marriage, and it may have be happening in your marriage at this point in your lives together.
When Loving Feelings Take Effort
So, what should you do? It’s different for everyone. But mostly, you do what comes totally unnatural. You look to God to work IN you. If you profess faith in Jesus Christ, you profess to follow in His footsteps. You focus on what He can do in and through you, instead of what you can’t do. As a Christ follower, your primary goal is to live out HIS heavenly purpose for your life and your marriage. You recognize that He loves you and has a plan for your life together. But you won’t always understand or see it at all times. None-the-less, you trust His heart, all the same.
What is God’s purpose in marriage? Author Al Janssen, in his book, Your Marriage Masterpiece: God’s Amazing Design for Your Life Together, puts it this way,
“One of the original purposes of marriage as God intended it in Eden, was to reflect His image. That means marriage is about something bigger than the two of us. Marriage is one of God’s primary means of speaking to the world. This is the challenge for marriage. It is to sacrifice my momentary definition of happiness for the long-term good. Thus you are reflecting God’s heart and earning His praise, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Is it your goal to hear your Heavenly Father say that to you someday? If it is, then your focus will be different than those “within the world.” As we’re told in Hebrews 12:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.“
In line with these thoughts, we’d like to share a portion of the book titled, The Healthy Marriage Handbook (from the editors of the former publication, Marriage Partnership Magazine). We hope you’ll find what they write as inspiring as we have:
“There are times I find it nearly impossible to love my spouse. And yet I know I’m commanded, as a Christian, to do so. Should I put up a false front and act as if I have tender feelings toward my spouse, even when my feelings would dictate that I behave otherwise?
“No one before or since has loved more—or sacrificed more for those He loved—than Jesus did. And following His example begins with the ‘good news’ —the gospel.
“I want to love my wife the way Jesus would, so I preach the gospel to myself every day. If I didn’t, it would be easy to forget the impact of God’s mercy on my own life. Knowing, REALLY knowing, God’s love and forgiveness toward me makes it possible for me to love my wife. This is especially true during the times when it doesn’t come naturally.
“But I couldn’t choose that loving alternative without God’s power to fuel my actions. Paul said, ‘I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.’ (Philippians 4:13) That’s the secret weapon we obtain when we understand the gospel. It’s the power of God to live His love through us.
“Paul encouraged us to ‘be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us.’ (Ephesians 5:1-2) A second clue to loving the way Jesus did is to see ourselves as God’s ‘dearly loved children.’ The extent to which you believe you’re dearly loved by God, that’s the extent to which you can love others.
“I can’t ignore the instruction in Ephesians 5 to love my wife with the love of Christ, who ‘loved the church and gave Himself for her.‘ Sacrificial love sounds great—on paper. But every married person knows how tough it is to put into practice. Too bad the Bible doesn’t say: ‘Love your wife as Christ loved the church, and here are 10 easy steps for accomplishing that.’
“Christ set the example for sacrificial love when He left heaven’s glory to live 33 years of grime, dust, humanness, and rejection. He did this all without sinning. And He did this just so He could give Himself up for the people He loved. For Christ, love was a motive, not a duty.
“…Jesus’ sermon to husbands and wives delivers a tall order: ‘Remember my love and sacrifice for you, and do the same for your spouse. Love each other the way I did.’ It would be an impossible task if we didn’t have our secret weapon: God’s power to love, which He has freely given to His dearly loved children.”
Paul Tripp (from his book What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage) challenges us with these thoughts:
“When you are tired and uncomfortable because you have been called to live with someone who is not like you, what you tell yourself about what you are going through is very important. It is in this moment that you must preach to yourself the theology of uncomfortable grace. (See Romans 5; James 1; and 1 Peter 1.) Because when you do, you begin to be less resistant and more appreciative. And you are on your way to forging a marriage of unity, understanding, and true love.”
Keep in mind that over and over again, we’re told in God’s Word to love:
“Be loving to one another. … Love one another. … Love one another as I have love you. … Put on love. … Clothe yourself in love. … Keep loving one another earnestly.“
We’re told to even love our enemies. That certainly means we’re to love our spouse (who ISN’T supposed to be treated as an enemy).
Love is a Noun/Verb
Love is not only a noun, but also a verb. It’s something you do.
“For many of us, the concept of love is difficult because we never learned the right form of love. We focus on the external qualities of love and ignore the internal. We treat love like a noun. It’s an experience that happened. A moment. A thing.
“But in John 13:34, we see a different side of love. John says, simply and honestly, ‘Love one another.‘ It is not a one-time event. Love is not a fireworks feeling or a field of flowers. It’s an action. A verb. It’s not just about choosing the right person. It’s about becoming the right person, the type of person who loves the way Christ loved us.” (Andy Stanley, from Thrivingfamily.com web site article, “Plan to Stay in Love”)
Loving Feelings CAN Grow
As you approach love this way, you may be surprised at the feelings that will grow as you look to the Lord to help you. See 1 Corinthians 13, as a start, for pointers. The Bible is filled with help on this. We have articles posted on the Marriage Missions web site to help you, as well. “Scriptures and Quotes to Help You in Your Married Life” and “Pray Scriptures for Your Marriage” may direct you to some additional Bible verses to also apply to your marriage
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.“ (John 13:34-35)
And isn’t that the real purpose of marriage? It’s not only to love and be loved, but most importantly, to point others to the love of God, so the Lord can use us as His witnesses that God truly IS the embodiment of Love. Through the way we treat each other, hopefully, they will one day say, “I want to know your God better.”
It is our hope that this message delivers a “reality check” when it comes to loving each other the way Jesus modeled it for us. We haven’t found any shortcuts or easy ways yet to doing this. But we have found great rewards in our relationship as we put these Biblical principles into practice.
Steve and Cindy Wright
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