If there is anything that stands at the center of Christianity, it is a deep love expressed to humanity by God himself, which is in turn expressed to others by each of us who have chosen to receive that love. And yet, when it comes to many Christian marriages, this necessary expression of love is often replaced by emotional distancing and painful conflict, which leads many of us to ask, "Where's the breakdown?"
Cracks in the Marriage Foundation
The more I work with Christian couples it becomes apparent that this breakdown is tied to cracks in their marital and spiritual foundations. On the marital front, encouragement is replaced by criticism, validation is replaced by defensiveness, and listening is replaced by the need to express one's own frustrations. Spiritually, it is often the case that these couples have neglected a pursuit of God in their daily lives, and have defaulted to simply doing things their own way relationally. Yet, they also recognize how relevant that pursuit is to them being able to love one another in the manner they desire.
A Marital Definition of Love
It is hard to overstate how important love is to a married couple having a strong foundation that lasts a lifetime and facilitates an unbreakable sense of intimacy and connection. Yet, how is the type of love we're discussing defined? Here's a definition I will often apply when counseling married couples:
Love is choosing to be other-centered for the benefit of your spouse, so that what is important to them becomes important to you. It is unselfish and without pride, and aims to offer them the forgiveness and grace which you did not deserve, but were given anyway by God in spite of your sin.
I realize you may be familiar with other definitions of love, however I believe this definition helps bring married couples to the point of being able to see that their Christian faith is more than a simple tradition. It is a lifestyle of discipleship in which commands such as "love your neighbor as yourself" become formative principles calling each of us to rely on the Lord to empower and guide us as we seek to cherish our significant other.
Reclaiming Our Pursuit of the Lord
I'm absolutely confident that couples who pursue the Lord in their daily lives, and consistently educate themselves by studying His Word so that they can faithfully follow its instruction and wisdom, will utterly reap the benefits in their marriage. The reason is that we ultimately live out what we believe and what we focus on. Therefore, let us focus on these things so that we can experience a Christian love that goes beyond words in our marriages.
A Marriage That Stands Firm
Let me end by encouraging you to never neglect the freedom that we have to pursue God will all our hearts, and to actually know him and his great love, so that your marriage will stand as a clear reflection of the powerful work the Lord is doing within you.
Eric Gomez, MS LMFT MHP
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Fulfilled Christian Counseling