Message 11: Need Help Lovin' That Man

Sept. 30, 2017 Dannah Gresh

Session Transcript

Dannah Gresh: If there is one thing I could tell my young, single adult daughters about marriage, it would be this: “Loving your husband is going to be the easiest thing you’ll ever do . . . and . . . loving your husband is going to be the hardest thing you will ever do!” Amen? . . . a double amen, I heard over there!

Learn to love well. Single women, young women—whether God has marriage in your future or not, learn now to love well. Intentionally enter into the training of your heart for relationship.

To do that, we have to understand God’s love, and His language for love is a little difficult in our modern languages because our modern languages don’t have the complexities of the Greek and Hebrew languages.

For instance, I love my husband. I also love a good hot fudge sundae . . . but not in the same way! And, thankfully, the Hebrew and Greek language of the Bible is very specific and descriptive about the types of love we need to learn to be in relationship—especially when it comes to marriage.

Today, we’re going to look at one type of love we need to grow in for our marriage. It’s obviously found in Titus 2. Today we’re going to talk about friendship love. Single sisters, this is the kind of love you actually can practice right now in your friendships, so look at what I’m about to teach through the lens of your existing relationships.

Titus 2 tells us that we are supposed to be training the younger women to love their husbands. And what kind of love is described in the book of Titus in chapter 2? Friendship love! Now how do I know it’s friendship love? Because I read the book! [She is referring to Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together.] (laughter)

How does Nancy know it is friendship love? Because she studied the Greek language. In the pages of Adorned she writes this about the word that Paul uses in Titus 2: “His language conveys the idea of being a friend to our husbands, being fond of them—acting affectionately toward them, treating them with our utmost devotion, enjoying them, finding pleasure in their company, liking them!”

Ladies, do you like your husband? Does your husband know that you like him? That’s what we want to talk about today, and I want to encourage you to grow with me in our friendship love for our husbands in two very specific ways.

The very first way is this: I want you to grow in friendship with your husband practically. We need to show friendship love to our husband practically. Now, girls, we’ve gotta work on this from their perspective—not our perspective.

Playing with someone when it’s how you like to play—that’s not really fair. Think back to elementary school: were you ever the girl who took her ball and went home because you didn’t like the way your girlfriend wanted to play? Don’t be that girl in marriage!

Let’s grow up together, and let’s learn to play in the way that they want to play. This has been no small lesson in my life as of late. I want to share with you how God has been stretching me and growing me, to see how my husband likes to experience friendship.

This summer, Bob and I were on our way to Michigan, where we would be visiting with Nancy and Robert. And on the way we had a “discussion.” (laughter) We were both communicating about some of the unmet needs in our relationship.

And my husband said something like this . . . he was concerned that we didn’t have any common interests. Now, before you’re offended at what my husband said, girls, that is a guy who wants to be friends with his wife.

I sat there and I thought, What do you mean, no common interests? We have three beautiful children, a phenomenal daughter-in-law. We have, not one pet, but thirty-two pets! (Have I mentioned I live on a hobby farm, and I love my turkeys very much!) We have several thriving ministries that God has helped us to build together . . . and we have Jesus! I mean, isn’t that the common interest of all common interests?!

Incidentally, single sisters, this is the common interest that matters the most, because if Jesus is your foundational common interest, not only will you survive the hard times, but you will thrive in the good times. Make Him your first common interest.

But as I sat there in the car trying to think about what was my husband really trying to say to me, I remembered that he used word that I kind of tried to ignore during this discussion. The word was “football.” (laughter)

But I’m a godly woman, and so I said to myself, Well, Lord, if You speak to me, and if You tell me that I need to start to watch football—and enjoy football—with my husband, I will be obedient. I was pretty sure God was going to have nothing to say on the matter.

Then we got to Robert and Nancy’s house, and there was a Chicago Cubs game happening at the time. I don’t understand that, really. I don’t understand why some of you just cheered! (laughter)

See, I’m not that girl. I don’t do the sport team thing very often. But Nancy just kept talking about her Robert’s love for the Chicago Cubs. And here’s the thing: she seemed legitimately interested! (laughter)

What had happened to my Nancy? As far as I know, she didn’t watch baseball before Robert! I felt it was probably the Lord nudging me, but I have to say, I wasn’t very obedient . . . until I picked up the pages of Adorned to study for this speech. And there in the pages of the book, she encouraged (I’m pretty sure this sentence was written just for me!), “Drop your to-do list and your honey-do list long enough to snuggle up and watch some football." (laughter) The Lord speaks!

I’m currently reading Football for Dummies. Incidentally, on the first page it says that football is a game that two teams play, and at the end of sixty minutes, the one with the most points wins. Sixty minutes! Sixty minutes, it had the nerve to tell me!

See, I’m not that dumb, girls. But I have decided that, from now on, I want all my massages to be scheduled in “football minutes!” (laughter) I’m gonna use this! Now, that’s my current assignment from the Lord: I’m learning to love football. I actually watched a game just a week ago . . . and enjoyed it. Those are football fans cheering. Now, here’s the thing girls. That’s my current assignment from the Lord in practical friendship love with my husband. What’s yours? Learn to play with your husband.

Now, I’m sure some of you are sitting there and saying, “She really thinks that learning to play football or watch football with her husband (I’ll probably never play!) is a hard thing. She doesn’t know what it’s like to have to love a husband through a hard thing.”

My husband and I actually crafted this message together, and though that’s my current assignment from the Lord in loving my husband, it’s not been the only one. I want to ask my husband, Bob, to come up here. As he’s helped me with this assignment, I’d like you to hear from his heart.

Bob Gresh: I want you to know that in that discussion, when the word “football” came up, “ice dancing” also came up, as my love for my wife. But here’s the thing: I’ve been thinking about how Dannah loves me well . . . partly because I got repeated texts about her speaking on this topic, and she wanted to know if she loved me well.

So I finally responded to one and sat down and thought about it. What I wrote in my text was,

It’s not when you cook for me, write me notes, or even when you watch football with me (as cool as that is!)—because people who don’t love me will do those things. It’s not when you say nice things about me, because people who hardly know me sometimes can say nice things. And it’s not even when you pray for me, because people who detest me can pray for me.

Dannah loves me well when she does whatever it takes to push me towards the often-lonely frontier of God’s plan for my life. Dannah loves me well when she does whatever it takes to point out my sin, and let me take ownership of it.

In our marriage, loving well means being willing to take the scalpel and open a wound when the disease of sin and selfishness and pride lurks beneath. And loving well also means waiting patiently for the right time to start that cut.

All that to say this: so often leaders leave the platforms letting you think the very best about them—allowing you to fill in the unknown parts of their lives like spaces on the path in Candyland.

I can tell you that we don’t live on Gumdrop Mountain. We tend to live somewhere between the Candy Cane Forest and the Molasses Swamp! (laughter) 

We are both passionate, type-A, intense personalities. We’re also leaders who are called to direct ministries, who aren’t always called in the same direction—so it stretches us to the core!

Just this morning, I couldn’t find my socks in the hotel room. I looked for them and I thought, How can I lose my socks in this hotel room? And there was a tiny moment when I thought to myself, My wife took those socks, and she put those socks somewhere in this hotel room! She’s going to help me look for them, and I’m going to find them later—which never happens. She doesn’t usually takes my socks, and I never found those socks. And that is why I’m wearing my wife’s socks today! (laughter)

You see, I have no doubt that I would die for Dannah, but sometimes it is so hard to live with her! And then there’s this . . . I’ve put Dannah through hell. And I use that phrase because I know no other word to describe the depth of pain that I’ve brought into our marriage.

My struggles with lust, pornography, depression, anxiety—and all the relational disasters produced by it—have brought her to places where she had no good choices. And it is the great sadness in my life. 

You know, there was a time that I had to tell both of my boards that I’d fallen below the standards required of a leader—and we had to do that on our own. I called my publishers and took my name off two books I had written, that were ready to come out.

And I remember the morning I called Nancy and told her that I understood if I had compromised Dannah’s relationship with Revive Our Hearts. I will never forget how nervous I was to call Nancy. I didn’t know how she would respond. But, Nancy, I’ll never forget how much healing you brought to my life! 

Dannah stood by and endured the pain; she embraced the pain—and she loved well. Working through all that together, God has brought a peace to our marriage, through a lot of hard work on both our parts. Our marriage has peace now that passes all understanding. But that requires constant reminders to love each other well, to be one. Dannah loves me well by bringing me closer to holy.

And all of that, again, to say this: If Dannah can love well with such a flawed husband—you can, too—and I’ll let her tell you how. (applause)

Dannah: I love that man! I don’t just agape love that man—I love that man! And it’s because I had girlfriends walk with me through the hard things. Those girlfriends taught me what I want to share with you next: We need to express friendship love to our husbands perspectively.

“Perspectively”—it’s a real word. It refers to a particular attitude toward, or way of regarding, something . . . a point of view. There are times in marriage, girlfriends, where you just will not be able to see straight.

The darkness will come in so thick that you cannot see through it, let alone get out of bed in it! It will hold you down. It is then that we run to our girlfriends. When my husband sat down with me and shared with me that he had hit a hard place and that he didn’t know his way back to God—except to break my heart, bringing all of the sin out into the light for me to see—I called my girlfriends. I called them fast! I did not hesitate. I had been trained in the school of grace, and so I knew I needed a big dose of it—and fast!

Ladies, I don’t know what you’re walking through with your husbands. I don’t know if he’s sick and unwell. I don’t know if he’s driven you into financial debt. I don’t know if he once knew the Lord and loved Him—and now is far from Him. I don’t know if you’ve come to know the Lord since you were married, and you feel so desperately spiritually single. I just know this. When you hit the hard time, that is no time for a woman of faith to back off! That is when a woman of faith finds herself in a place of standing in faith—because faith is believing what we can’t see! (applause)

So, how do you get perspective? You run to your sisters! I called three girlfriends the very first day that I knew I was going to have a long time to walk through some hard things. One of them was my friend Donna Van Lear.

She turned me quickly to the Word of God when I said, “I just can’t see straight. I don’t know what to do!”

She said, “Dannah, God’s Word says that it is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. Get in the Word. And I want to tell you something before you get there. It says it’s a lamp; it’s not a stadium light. It’s going to show you where to plant your foot for the next step. Don’t expect more right now!”

Ugh! I wanted at least a spotlight! I wanted to know at least how today would look. But I got in the Word because I had a Christian sister.

Can I be your Christian sister for a moment? I bet some of you are in hard places with relationships. Maybe it’s not a husband, maybe it’s a child, or a best friend, or a mother. I want to talk to you about friendship love and what we do when we hit the hard times. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” 

Now, some wounds aren’t the faithful kinds, but the kind that can be found faithful are the kinds that are fueled by truth. But this I know: Friends do wound and sometimes kisses do lie.

I had to choose at times, was I going to be the friend to my husband who kept kissing because I did not want to rock the boat, because I feared just how deep the water would be if we turned this thing over!

When it comes to marriage, too, there’s the matter of submission, and you wonder, Can I speak the hard truth in love and still be a wife of respect and submission? I want to tell you that you can be. You know how? Perspective from your Christian sisters.

"I want to say this. How do I say that with respect?” “I want to say this. Should I say that?” You need your Christian sisters right now. Here’s what I’ve learned to be true: Godly men are anxious to have their faults pointed out. Oh, they like it in real time as much as you and I do. But godly men are anxious to have their faults pointed out. They need a wife of character who is willing to say the hard things. When we’re sinful, we need a real friend to watch our soul and correct us when necessary.

So, sisters, which are you? Are you a friend who brings faithful wounds, or will you be a friend who offers kisses of untruth?

And second, I want to give you this treasure—some advice for just those who are married. Ephesians 5:31 and 32: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two become one flesh. This [is a profound] mystery . . . and I am saying . . . it refers to Christ and the church.”

It’s a verse I already quoted to you when I spoke of purity, but it’s so important to look at the words “hold fast” here. There are times in your marriage where you just have to hold fast, sisters! You just have to remember the big picture, that marriage is a picture of the gospel! It is a picture of Christ’s love for the Church.

There is a devil, a roaring lion, walking about seeking whom he may devour. Have you ever seen a lion hunt? They don’t go after the herds; they go after the single, lone antelope. Run to your sisters. You need your sisters. You need them now!

Satan is going to do two things. He’s going to tell your heart that there’s nothing you can do in this hard place, and you should just settle for this as the way it is. Settle for your marriage. Don’t get divorced, but just be roommates; just live together. This is how it’s going to be; there’s nothing left.

Let me tell you what, without faith it is impossible to please God. And giving up is a faithless act. Don’t give up on your marriage! This is a prayer you can pray and know that He is in agreement with you!

He’s also going to use the world to tell you something. The world is going to tell you that you are a fool to stay with your husband when he’s wounded you in the way that he has. But, sisters, I say you are never a fool to stay and be a part of the redemption story that God is writing in a man’s life. Hold fast, hold fast, hold fast!

Would you stand with me, that I might pray over your marriages?

Lord Jesus, some of the women standing right now are married. Some of them are waiting, Lord, for You to bring someone. And some, Lord, may never be married because You give them the gift of singleness, and they’re still called to honor marriage. Would You help each of us—wherever we are on the path of difficult friendship, in the cycle of marriage, to hold fast to truth. Would You help us to be faithful in painting a picture for this lost world of Your love for us, through our marriages? We ask this in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!