By Ashley McIlwain
Recently I got to go home to Pennsylvania to spend some much needed time with my parents. On Sunday we were sitting in the church I spent many Sundays growing up in, and the pastor, Rev. James Stork, was speaking on “Humanity in Community.” He discussed how God intended the church to be a place of community and acceptance while at the same time, a holy place that still holds firm to the truth laid out in the Word of God – a delicate and difficult balance, no doubt. There was one statement he made though that struck a chord with me as well as my mom in his sermon.
“Look for a need to meet.”
Seems simple enough, but as he said it, I knew it was an important point that I didn’t want to nonchalantly go in one ear and out the other. My mom then confirmed my instinct when she mentioned that same exact point to me. She said, “How many broken or hurting marriages could be restored if only they looked for a need to meet for their spouse.” I knew she was right on.
While marriages are meant to be a mutually fulfilling relationship that encourages, inspires, and satisfies both individuals involved, there are times where it doesn’t meet those expectations. In fact, there are times where we feel anything but satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment in marriage. What sets the marital relationship apart though is that the love we convey and express to our spouse shouldn’t be contingent on their performance or our fleeting feelings.
You see, marriage was a God design. He knew that we needed what marriage provides (Genesis 2:18), which is why He blessed us with the gift of marriage. In that, He also set the example and precedent for what it means to love our spouse. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ dies for us” –Romans 5:8. His love for us wasn’t dependent on what we did to earn it but rather, it was freely given simply because He loved us that much. And that is what He desires for us in marriage – selfless, freely given love.
So, as I thought more about God’s design for marriage, and His example of love, it played perfectly into this concept of looking for a need to meet. What if for a moment we put aside our own needs and desires in order to seek to meet the needs and desires of our spouse? Not because he/she earned or even deserves it and not because we are seeking a reward or hidden benefit, but because we choose to do so out of selfless love and commitment. Because we want to bless our spouse and better our marriage. Because we want to embody the love of God for our spouse.
How radically different would your marriage be if this was your mentality? Loving because you choose to. Reversing that, how incredible would it be to know that you are loved by your spouse because he/she chooses to regardless of what you’ve done to warrant it? Loving in spite of our spouse’s perceived “worthiness” is what makes marital love so unique and invaluable. Luke 6:32 says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners’ love those who love them.” This passage is speaking of loving our enemies, so how much more should we be gracious and loving, independent of performance, to our spouse?!
If your marriage is struggling or barely holding on, I would encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and search for a need your spouse has that you can meet. In Philippians 2:3 we are told to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Perhaps there is something your spouse has been asking of you for a long time, or maybe it’s an unspoken need that you have observed over time. Maybe it requires honestly finding out from your spouse what needs he or she has. Regardless of how you determine the need, now is the time to step up and demonstrate true love to him/her.
This isn’t easy. It goes against our selfish nature. Yes, we are all prone to being selfish. If you’re unconvinced, just look at children. They don’t like to share, be told no, or consider how others feel. It’s something parents have to work to instill and teach their children. Our natural instinct is to look out for ourselves and to be selfish, which is in direct contrast with what a marriage needs – selflessness. This ability to love selflessly is something that requires assistance from the Holy Spirit as we see in Ephesians 3:20 that He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.”
As you seek out a need that you can meet for your spouse without selfish ambitions or motivations, call upon the Lord to come alongside you and help the seeds of true love you are planting to flourish. Galatians 6:7 says, “A man reaps what he sows.” Let’s sow true, selfless, God-honoring love into our marriage so that we, our spouse, and marriage reap an abundant harvest.