Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Living as Mrs. Grace

Leslie: Here’s Jani Ortlund.

Jani Ortlund: When you’re frightened by the call to submit in 1 Peter 3, trust God. He is faithful to you. Ultimately, it’s not that you trust your husband, but that you trust your God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Forgiveness, for Wednesday, September 26, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, for the last couple of days Jani Ortlund has been exploring what it means to look at marriage through gospel eyes. I know this has given those of us who are married a lot of wives some really helpful things to think about. It’s a message that those who are single need to hear as well because ultimately this message is about loving others the way that Christ loves us. And all of us are called to do that in various seasons of life and in our different relationships.

Jani’s been contrasting the two kinds of women that we can be: Mrs. Law or Mrs. Grace. I can tell you that personally, sometimes I see myself displaying the characteristics of Mrs. Law, but I really, really want to be Mrs. Grace—not only in my relationship with Robert, but when I interact with other people the Lord has put in my life. Well, we are about to listen to part three of this message which was recorded at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. 

Now, if you have younger kids at home while you’re listening to this program, you’ll want to know that toward the end of the program you’ll hear some material on intimacy in marriage. So you might just want to make sure that those little ones are in another room or occupied doing something else as we come to the end of that message.

Now, let’s listen to the final part of “Marriage Through Gospel Eyes.” Here’s Jani Ortlund.

Jani: So let me get to my third point by offering five ways that God has helped me in ways I really needed to live more. I’m not there yet, but I’m striving as I press forward, forgetting what has gone on behind. Here are five ways in which I am trying to live as Mrs. Grace.

You see, we all can begin anew. The Bible talks over and over about revival, renewal. You can begin renewal in your marriage, all anew. Wherever you are take the next step in your marriage toward forgiveness and renewal.

Ray and I have been married forty years, and we are having the best time ever. We are looking forward to the next twenty-five years being even better. Our best days are always ahead. Don’t give up. If you are in a bad place, do not give up. This is what I want you to ask God to help you do. Help Him to renew a right spirit within you.

What does God say to sinners who feel caught, who feel trapped, who feel like there’ll never be any change? He understands. Isaiah 64:5 says, the people are complaining to God: “In our sins we have been a long time, shall we ever be saved?”

You see, we have old sins. Some of our sins come from our childhood. We have strong sins that we don’t feel we can overcome. We have sins we feel so justified in that we don’t even think of them as sins anymore. The only hope for us is in the grace of God. For us who know the right thing to do and struggle to do it, the grace of God is the only thing that can tear down walls and heal deep wounds and build up the greatest romances in the universe, which is what our marriages should display.

So first of all, Mrs. Grace is kind. Think of Ephesians 4:31–32. Just think. Have you ever used those verses with your kids? I remember one really bad time when my four kids were just ratting on each other. As a great Christian mom, I got really mad at them and made them sit down and memorize these verses because that was going to make them good, huh? Oh, my.

We tend to think of it toward others and not bring it into our marriage. As I read those verses, will you listen to it, get a mental picture of the man you promised to love in your mind as I read Ephesians 4:31–32:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [and slander] be put away [from you] along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Every sin you see in your spouse, God has already forgiven, therefore you can. I love that word kind. Be kind to one another. We see that. It’s the exact same Greek word, my husband tells me, as Jesus uses in Matthew 11 where He says, “Come to me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you” (vv. 28–30). He talks about, “Learn from me because I’m kind. I’m easy. My yoke is kind. My yoke is easy.” Kind means easy. It’s the same words here.

You’re yoked to your man. Are you making it easy for him? Think to yourself when you’re in a complicated situation, How can I make this easy for Ray? How can I make it easy for him to succeed with me as the woman he’s chosen to love? How can I open the door for him and not slam it shut?

Secondly, Mrs. Grace is hopeful. Let me read Isaiah 41:17–20. Listen to these verses:

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. [Listen to what He’ll do.]

I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, [Do you see the forest He builds in the desert?] that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Where there is discouragement, God can create hope out of nothing. You don’t need to bring anything. God can create hope. God doesn’t need good conditions. Did you hear the desert-like place that He made water and a forest to grow? He doesn’t need good conditions. He can renew your marriage. He doesn’t need good conditions to accomplish something beautiful. Rivers in the bare heights; He makes the wilderness a pool of water. I’m just the kind of person God can create into a new person, and you are, too. The creative mercies of God.

I’ve witnessed that in my own marriage. When I met Ray, he was a sophomore at Wheaton College. I was a freshman. I really liked him from the very first time I saw him come in through the dining hall and from that night on. I tried to figure out when he was coming in from football practice at which table he would first look at the food and have to just catch little Jani Giles eating. It took eight weeks for me to get him to ask me out on a date. But we fell in love, and we dated for three-and-a-half years.

I thought I was marrying the campus jock. He was the football captain. He was a “C” student, just going to go to seminary be a youth pastor. He went to seminary that last semester when I was at Wheaton finishing up. The Lord got a hold of his mind as well as his heart. We didn’t see each other from August 16 to December 16 because we were too broke to fly from Dallas to Wheaton. That was in the dark ages, no cell phone, no email; long distance phone calls were very expensive. So we didn’t see each other.

That semester God really grabbed his heart. I should have known on the honeymoon when he pulled out the Hebrew flashcards. (laughter) And when he said, “Now darling, I need to go study my Hebrew. I’m going to give you these assignments from Howie Hendricks' class on inductive Bible study methods that I took this last semester. These two weeks together I’m just going to let you work through these assignments. Now, your first assignment is to open your Bible to Acts 1:8 and write down twenty-five observations.”

I went and put on my negligee. I tried everything. But that man . . . (laughter) I remember two or three months into our marriage, I didn’t know who I had married, ladies. I’m sorry. He lost twenty-five pounds. I mean, he was not the campus jock anymore. He was the Bible scholar. I hadn’t bargained on marrying a Bible scholar.

I remember one night, oh, I was so bad. I can’t believe he’s still married to me. He’s been so patient. He said, “What wife wouldn’t love a husband to lead her into the Word.” He wasn’t mean or cruel about it. I mean, we had lots of fun together those two weeks. I don’t know why I took offense at that. It was probably was a pre-conceived idea I had in my mind that we women tend to do that.

I remember one night when I was particularly angry with him for one little thing he did. I think it was maybe he didn’t get to the roach in our kitchen quickly enough. He was studying his Hebrew, and I had to kill it. (laughter) But I remember telling him, “You tricked me. You asked me to marry you, and you’ve become a different person.” And he, dear Ray Ortlund, for those of you know him, you know he’s the most wonderful husband for Jani. He just kind of got a smile on his face and he said, “You know, I think probably every wife feels that way.” He held me and we talked it through, and we made it through that bad time.

But we need to be hopeful. Maybe you feel tricked into a marriage. Maybe you don’t have the luxury that I have to tell you forty years down the road, “He didn’t trick me. He loved me, and he cared for me. He has proven it year after month after week after day after hour. He’s praying for me right now.”

God didn’t trick you. Stay hopeful. “May the God of all hope,” Romans 15:13, “fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (NASB). He can create something beautiful out of what you think is a desert. Don’t give up hope.

Fourthly, Mrs. Grace is long-suffering. Marriage has to be an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. That means a commitment to be unhappy at times. Unhappiness is not the worst emotion. It won’t kill you to be unhappy at times. You can bring that happiness to Christ and find your true joy in Him.

First Peter talks about the true grace of God being a pattern of suffering for Christ now and sharing in His glory later. Peter says, “Stand firm in that grace of suffering now and joy later.” And Peter talks to women, you know that famous passage in chapter 3, verses 1–6. We’re not going to walk through it, but I’m just going to pull out a few things when we think about long-suffering.

Peter gives us a way to treat our husbands as Christ has acted. You see, we mistreated Christ, and He never mistreated us back. He absorbed it all at the cross. And wives, we can follow the Lord’s example here. When you want to correct, win his heart without a word by your respectful behavior, 1 Peter 3:1–6. When you want his attention, make yourself beautiful to him and to God with your gentleness and quietness. That doesn’t mean mousiness. I’ll talk about that in a minute. That doesn’t mean silence. But it does mean non-nagging. God prizes a woman like that. He notices that kind of beauty, and I can promise you your husband will, too.

Ray now has to draw me out. The Lord has taught me to bite my tongue and not say those words. It’s so much easier to tell him when he asks me, “I really want to hear what you think about this.”

And finally, when you’re frightened by the call to submit in 1 Peter 3, trust God. He is faithful to you. Ultimately, it’s not that you trust your husband, but that you trust your God. Think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Think of her heart. The angel came to her, not to Joseph, first. He didn’t believe her, and he thought she’d been unfaithful to him. How would you like that?

There’s no indication in Scripture that she pressured Joseph to believe what she knew God had told her. She waited on God and gave Him the opportunity to communicate directly to Joseph, which He did.

Mary was a woman who knew how to keep things in her heart and ponder them. Luke 2:19. She could afford to wait because she knew the power of God entrusted in Him to fulfill His plans for her life and her family. Mrs. Grace is long-suffering.

Mrs. Grace, number five is also gently persuasive. Don’t think of Mrs. Grace as a doormat. Think of Abigail. She was beautiful and discerning and intelligent. She understood best how to approach David with great humility, and with food. I think that helps.

My mother-in-law put me onto this early in our marriage when I asked her help. She gave me twenty dollars. She said, “You take that man out to eat. You wait until his tummy’s full. Then you just speak sweetly to him and let him know what’s on your heart.” It worked. (laughter)

Make sure he’s fed. Be gently persuasive. You don’t need to be totally silent, but let your behavior, as we talked about in 1 Peter 3, let that be the first. Just don’t think, I can never say a word. Do you see the balance? I don’t want to contradict, but I want to give you the balance of all of Scripture.

And then finally, and we’ll have to end on this. Mrs. Grace is sexy. Guard against a hardness of heart. Jesus says that Moses allowed for divorce because of a hard heart. A hardness of heart in a woman will ruin your sex life. Pray for a soft heart. Maybe some of you are feeling this right now, “Lord, I don’t really have any feelings for this man. I know I married him. I know I promised. There are no feelings here. Lord, can You create feelings in this desert of a heart? Would You do that for me? Soften my heart. Increase my love toward him. Help me to accept him.”

I believe a husband’s strongest safeguard against adultery is a fun and satisfying relationship with his wife. We as Christians should have the happiest, the most romantic marriages in all the world. Everyone should run to Christian marriages for counseling. “How do you do it?” That’s what we want.

God's Word is unashamedly pro-romance. Think of all the romances in there. We could take five minutes and name them all. God celebrates love and sex in marriage. He values our sexuality and calls for us to enjoy this beautiful gift within the security of marital commitment.

A happily married woman knows that having a husband does not make a marriage any more than having a piano makes a musician. You have to love your husband to make your marriage secure.

You see, you really marry three men: the man you thought you married, the man he became after he walked down the aisle, and the man he's becoming by asking you to live his life with him. What will your husband become because he married you? Are you helping him to be a one-woman man?

There are many forces out there that would want to divide you and your husband. The Bible talks a lot about sexual intimacy as being a security against them. You are the only legal God-blessed source of sexual fulfillment that your husband will ever have if he follows the Lord carefully. Give him the joy and pleasure that he can only experience with you.

Proverbs 5:19 talks about letting our husbands become intoxicated with our love, captivated by it. Are you doing you can to be a captivating as possible? Let me go down a few suggestions that have worked for me.

Take out your wedding picture and take a good hard look at it. Is there anything you could do to be just a little bit like that woman that walked down the aisle to your husband. If you had to catch him all over again, what would it take? Buy that sexy nightgown. Spend the money. Send the kids off for an hour.

It used to delight Ray when he would come home (I couldn't do it often, maybe once every three or four months) and there were no kids right there and we had an hour together to talk before I picked them up from the neighbor's.

I just offered to by my neighbor McDonald's, pick it up on the way, and they'd feed the kids, and I'd have Ray to myself for an hour. He loved that. Because most of your men, especially if you have young children, are driving home, trying to leave work behind, trying to prepare to be a good husband as they walk through the door.

Schedule yourself into your husband's calendar and don't always tell him when. It's kind of fun. I did it once. I don't have time to tell you the whole story. I just exchanged a lunch that he thought he had with and elder, and it just happened to be at a hotel, and there just happened to be a room key under the lunch plate.

Find something into which you can enter in to help your love to be captivating and intoxicating to your man.

If your sex life doesn’t become all it can be, your marriage can still survive because sex isn’t everything. We get that. But your marriage will have a soft spot. It will be vulnerable in a certain area—a God blessed biblical area—where Satan can crawl in and attack. You don’t want that. Oh, you don’t want that.

To have a great marriage will cost you something because anything of worth is valuable and it costs. If sex is a burden to you, it’s not the real thing. God wants to give you a present. He wants to give you a holiday. He wants to give you a release from the burdens of life. He wants to give you some fun and some good health.

Do you know stats prove that having regular sex is good for you? Ray reminds me of that sometimes. (laughter) It mellows us as women out and it helps us hormonally. It’s a safeguard against adultery. It benefits your kids. They see you are in love together. If you don’t enjoy your sex life right now, there are unimaginable pleasures waiting for you. Get help. There are plenty of good books. One book that we recommend is Ed and Gaye Wheat’s book Intended for Pleasure by a Christian doctor and his wife.

Now, let me close with this. Christians should have the happiest, most fulfilled, exemplary marriages in the world. Your redemption is a love story and your marriage should display this love story within the bounds of your home. Think of the blessings of marriage.

  • You belong somewhere.
  • You belong with someone.
  • Someone chose you.
  • You had the choice to say yes or no.
  • You can build a relationship of trust, comfort, and joy.
  • You write your own shared history together that no one else has but you.

Marriage makes two people what they never could become alone. In ways where you have been living as Mrs. Law, will you ask God to help you? If you’ve been impatient or fearful or defiant or wanting control, will you ask Him to help you? Will you ask God to convince you of His grace so deeply and so sweetly that you feel it and taste it enough that you can offer it to your husband? The best days in the life of a Christian and in the life of a Christian marriage are always ahead especially if your husband is married to Mrs. Grace.

Nancy: Would the people who know you best think of you more as Mrs. Law or Mrs. Grace? As we are sitting in the studio recording this, I just said, "I need to ask my husband that question." It's a really important question. I know that I want to be Mrs. Grace to my husband.

Jani Ortlund has been contrasting those two types of women in a message called, “Marriage Through Gospel Eyes.” Jani recorded this at a Gospel Coalition's Women's Conference.

Now, if you’re like me, sometimes you hear a message like this and you think, “Oh, that’s so good!” But then it kind of just fades from memory and a few days or a week later, you don’t even really remember what you heard. Perhaps you’re a wife, and after listening to Jani Ortlund these past few days you’ve been convicted by what you’ve heard, and you really want to see the Lord make changes in your life.

So before Jani’s message becomes a vague memory, just one more good message you've heard, I want to encourage you to take a practical next step, a step that will encourage you to become that Mrs. Grace.

I want to encourage you to take a challenge that we have offered to wives many times over the years. We call it the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge. And essentially it’s just this: Over the next thirty days, you’re not going to say anything critical or negative about your husband—to him or to anyone else about him. And during that same time, the next thirty days, here’s the important part, you’re going to each day take time to affirm in him, something positive, something encouraging, something that you appreciate about him.

Now, we explain more about this challenge and also give you some practical creative ideas for how to communicate affirmation and encouragement in marriage. We do all that in a booklet our team has developed called, 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband.

We hear from women all the time from around the world who have taken this challenge. They tell us that it’s changed their marriage in huge ways. And not only does it change their marriage, not only does it impact their husband (because, believe me, husbands are really glad when their wives take this challenge), but it changes our hearts as women as we start to see our husbands through eyes of love and grace and encouragement. Through taking a challenge like this we start to realize some of the positive qualities that maybe wev'e been overlooking because we were focusing on more of the negative qualities.

So when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount this week, we want to say “thank you” by sending you a copy of this booklet 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband. Just give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Let us know how much you’d like to contribute to the ministry at this time, and then be sure to ask for the booklet on encouraging your husband.

Let me just thank you for supporting this ministry, for praying for it. As you invest in Revive Our Hearts, you’re investing in women, in wives, in marriages, in families. You're part of the process through which God revives hearts and transforms lives. Thank you so much for your partnership with us. It means more than you could possibly know.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.

When you’ve been the recipient of God’s amazing kindness, it’s natural to want to give back. Nancy tells the story of a group of people living in the desert who were able to generously give all that was needed for a major building project. Hear that story tomorrow. Please back for Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to remember that God can create hope out of nothing. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.