Is your marriage one where God’s covenantal, steadfast love shines through? Do you have, and are you maintaining a steadfast love for each other?
“God’s steadfast love motivates us to enter into covenant with him. We know in our hearts God is committed to our best interest. Therefore, with confidence we can commit our lives to loving and serving him.
“In covenant marriage, it is much the same. We enter our marriage with a sense we are loved and that we love each other. Thus, we can freely commit ourselves to each other for life. We are then responsible for maintaining this attitude of love throughout the marriage.” (Dr. Gary Chapman from the book, Covenant Marriage)
Steadfast Love in Marriage
Steadfast is not a word we use often in our everyday vocabulary (particularly paired up with “love”). Webster’s Dictionary defines steadfast as being:
1. Firm, fixed, settled or established
2. Constant; not changing, fickle or wavering.
Does this define the love you show to your spouse and to those who witness your words and actions?
On March 18 Cindy and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. (We were married in 1972, so we’ve been happily married quite a few years.) YAY God! Steadfast love is what comes to mind when we look back over the years. It’s a love that the Lord has helped us to develop and live out in our own relationship. It’s something we hope to inspire others to live out also. It’s an amazing ride when we join God in this mission in marriage. We can testify to that!
Because Cindy and I openly express our love for each other some might think that steadfast love “comes easy” for us. I would say that it comes easier today. But you should have seen us earlier in our marriage (even after we made Christ our savior). Too many times we struggled, threatening to leave, and picked at each other to the point that it’s now embarrassing to even think about it. What made us think that this was healthy or honoring to God?
Displaying Steadfast Love
Even though we eventually removed the word, “divorce” from our thoughts and vocabulary (which helped a LOT), we still didn’t display the love of Christ in our marriage. But there came a time when we both realized (Cindy much sooner than me) that we needed to change our behavior. We needed to sincerely honor the vows we made to each other and to God on our wedding day. And we needed to learn how to truly show love to each other in steadfast ways.
In his book, Dr. Gary Chapman, gives a picture of what this type of love looks like when it’s lived out in a practical way:
“This is not love as a romantic feeling. This love is something far deeper. Steadfast love does have an emotional element. But it is primarily a way of thinking and behaving toward one’s spouse. Steadfast love is choosing to have a positive regard for your spouse. It’s choosing to focus on his/her positive characteristics, and expressing appreciation to him or her for these characteristics. It is doing things for him or her that will express this positive attitude.”
Dr. Chapman also says:
“Steadfast love refuses to focus on the negative aspects of one’s spouse. All of us discover things about our spouse that we perceive as negative. We don’t deny them. On the contrary, we discuss them, especially if there is potential for change. Yet steadfast love refuses to dwell on these negative aspects. Violation of this principle has destroyed many marriages.
“Few people can survive the constant harassment and condemnation of a spouse. Such condemnation does not encourage one to change, but rather to give up. When we focus on the positive aspects of the spouse and give verbal affirmation, he or she is far more likely to continue to grow.”
As I read Dr. Chapman’s words I reflect on how God has helped both Cindy and me to choose to have a positive regard for each other. He has also helped us develop the ability to refuse to dwell on the negative aspects we each have. Even though this doesn’t comes easy for either one of us it’s worth the struggle because we know it reflects God’s heart.
God gives us, in the Bible, a practical guide to what it means to live out a steadfast love with each other every day. The following is an exercise Cindy and I use to help us keep on track. We take the teachings we receive from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (the Love Chapter) and personally answer some important questions. You may want to do the same.
Steadfast Love in Action:
• Love is patient: Ask yourself: Am I patient with my spouse? Am I bearing with her/his weaknesses, as Christ would have me? (That doesn’t mean that we enable poor behavior, or that we aren’t to discuss important issues. But it’s important to ask yourself: are you giving less grace to your marital partner by being impatient than God has and is giving to you?)
• Love is kind: Am I treating my spouse with kindness in my attitudes, words, and actions? Am I using cutting, sarcastic humor and/or passive-aggressive behavior in how I treat my spouse? And am I being kinder to other people than I am to my wife (husband)?
• Love does not envy: Do I display a spirit of discontentment or resentment in what we/I have or don’t have?
• Love does not boast. It is not proud: Am I being boastful, arrogant, or haughty? Am I displaying an attitude of being more superior, smarter, or more “in tune” than my marital partner?
• Love is not rude: Am I being rude, intolerant, or harsh with my spouse? Am I treating her/ him as less valued and important than others?
• Love is not self-seeking: Do I contribute to the health of our relationship, or do I seek my own way and my own interests over the good of our marriage —taking more than giving?
• Love is not easily angered: Am I overly irritable or hypersensitive with my spouse, so that most everything he or she does angers and sets me off in a negative direction in some way?
• Love keeps no record of wrongs: Do I keep “score” or store up resentful thoughts concerning my spouse, of that which a follower of Christ should not?
• Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: Am I amusing myself and taking delight in that which would grieve the heart of God? Do I speak the “truth in love” —motivated by the love of God, rather than the world’s version of love?
• Love always protects: Am I protecting my spouse’s feelings? Do I rudely embarrass and belittle my spouse in a way that a follower of Christ should not? Can it be interpreted that I am attacking my spouse’s character when I am with others?
• Love always trusts: Am I living a life of trustworthiness (even if your spouse doesn’t –giving yourself permission to do that which you shouldn’t)? Am I putting my trust in Christ?
• Love always hopes: Am I quick to assume the worst in my spouse? Do I have hope because of Christ Jesus?
• Love always perseveres: Do I give up too easily –persevering through problems rather than caving into them?
Committed to Steadfast Love in Word and Deed
If you work through the verses in 1 Corinthians 13, and ask the accompanying questions, you’ll be well on your way to developing the Steadfast Love that God intends for all of our lives and our marriages.
Please keep in mind what we’re told in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore my dear brothers [and sisters], stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord [in your marriage] because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
We hope that whether you’ve been married 40+ years, 4 years, or 4 days you will remain committed to steadfast love in your marriage —to the glory of God! We pray God will help you in the ways you need to get to that place.
Steve and Cindy Wright
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