Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Love for Hopeless Marriages

Leslie Basham: Is there any hope for a marriage like this?

Terry: I looked at my husband and said, “I don’t love you anymore.” I wanted to be CEO, president, and that type of thing. I got all of my recognition from work and what I was doing. In turn, my love for my husband was nothing.

Leslie: Today we’ll hear Terry’s story. This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, February 11. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been challenging us to read 1 Corinthians 13 every day for 30 days and to memorize part of it. A listener named Erin wrote to tell us how this has been working in her life. She and her boyfriend had already been memorizing the whole chapter.

We also both happened to listen to your program at the same time from different locations and it was exciting to hear your challenge for us all this month. We were encouraged. My boyfriend went to this site to email you but found it was all girl stuff, so I’m writing you instead.

We just wanted to let you know that it has already been a great encouragement and helpful to us in our relationship to trust, because love always trusts without getting fearful or insecure in our relationship. Our desire is to save our first kiss for our wedding day. Thanks so much for your encouragement.

That encouragement has come from the series How’s Your Love Life? For details on memorizing part of 1 Corinthians 13 with our listeners, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Today we’ll continue to explore this topic with Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’ve taken a love test from 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. We’ve seen that "love is patient. Love is kind. It is not jealous. It does not brag and it is not arrogant. It does not act unbecomingly. Love does not seek its own. It’s not provoked. It does not take into account a wrong suffered. It does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth. Love, the apostle Paul tells us, bears all things. It believes all things. It hopes all things. It endures all things. Love never fails. Pursue love" (paraphrased from verses 4-8, NASB).

We started talking in the last session about how to pursue love and we said that until the love of God fills our hearts. We have no real source or spring of love. And then we said once we’ve repented of our unloving ways, then we need to go to the source of genuine love and ask God to fill us with His love. That’s not a feeling. That takes place by faith.

You think, "I just can’t love that person." You know what? God would not have commanded you to love that person if God was not intending to enable you to love that person. You can love that person by faith.

Now, as we continue to pursue love, what steps are we to take? I want to suggest two others and that is that we now must choose to love. We choose to love by faith. A good question to ask here is, how would you act toward that person if you really did love that person?

C. S. Lewis wrote,

Don’t waste your time bothering whether you love your neighbor. Act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you’re behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.

I read the story about a minister named George Crane who told of a wife who came into his office. She hated her husband, and she was coming to find out how she could get rid of her husband but also how she could hurt him as deeply as possible before divorcing him. She was so angry, so full of hostility. She said, "I want to get even."

Dr. Crane suggested this plan to the woman. He said,

Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.

Well, this revengeful woman was very excited about this plan. She smiled, and she exclaimed, “Beautiful! Beautiful! Will he ever be surprised.” She went out and followed the pastor’s instructions with enthusiasm, acting as if she loved this husband. For two whole months she showed love and kindness, listening, giving, sharing.

After two months she didn’t come back, so Pastor Crane called her and said, “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?” “Divorce?” she said. “No way! I discovered that I really do love him.” See, her actions had changed her feelings.

So as you think about those that God has put in your life to love, ask yourself, "How would I act if I really did love this person?" Then choose to act as if you loved that person and watch God change your heart as you begin to act in a loving way.

Then finally, let me suggest that we need to let the love of Christ be the measure of our love. I read a story about a great love that one man had toward another woman. The longest and probably the simplest love letter ever written was written by a Parisian painter named Marcel de Leclure in 1875. It was addressed to Magdalene de Villalore. The letter contained one French phrase— jevous aime (I love you)—1,875,000 times. A thousand times the calendar year of the date, 1875.

The lover didn’t write the letter himself. He hired a scribe to write the letter. He could have just said to the secretary, write “I love you” 1,875,000 times. But instead, he dictated the letter word for word—“I love you.” Then each time he would say the phrase, he would ask the scribe to repeat it back orally before writing it down.

So all in all, according to this account, the phrase was uttered orally and in writing 5,625,000 times before it reached it’s destination. Now that’s a lot of expression of love.1

But could I suggest that there’s a love letter that was written to you and to me that tells of Someone’s love for us in an even greater way than the man who wrote 1,875,000 times to tell the girl of his dreams I love you. It’s a letter that was written to us at Calvary when Jesus went to the cross. In fact, all the love that we’ve been talking about is really just a portrait of the love of Christ.

Amy Carmichael, who we’ve quoted a number of times through this series, was really an ordinary woman who had an extraordinary love for people. One of my favorite pieces by Amy Carmichael is a piece called If. It’s a little book that was written when a problem was brought to her about one of her fellow workers. I would just like to quote a portion of what she wrote. It speaks about how Calvary love is really the measure for our love. She said,

If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any;
If I can speak in a casual way even of a child’s misdoings,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another;
If I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word,
Think an unkind thought without grief and shame,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If in dealing with one who does not respond,
I weary of the strain and slip from under the burden,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I’m afraid to speak the truth lest I lose affection,
Or lest the one concerned should say, "You do not understand,"
Or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness;
If I put my own good name before the other’s highest good,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I hold onto choices of any kind, just because they are my choice;
If I give any room to my private likes and dislikes,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not give a friend "the benefit of the doubt,"
But put the worst construction instead of the best
on what is said or done,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily;
If I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness,
though friendship be possible,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If a sudden jar or jolt can cause me to speak an impatient,
unloving word,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel bitterly toward those who condemn me,
as it seems to me, unjustly,
Forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I say, "Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,"
as though the God, who twice a day washes all the sands
on all the shores of all the world,
could not wash such memories from my mind,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If monotony tries me,
If stupid people fret me and little ruffles set me on edge;
If I make much of the trifles of life,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am inconsiderate about the comfort of others, or their feelings, or even of their little weaknesses;
If I’m careless about their little hurts and miss opportunities
to smooth their way;
If I make the sweet running of household wheels more difficult
to accomplish,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If interruptions annoy me, and private cares make me impatient;
If I shadow the souls about me because I myself am shadowed,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If something I’m asked to do for another feels burdensome;
If, yielding to an inward unwillingness, I avoid doing it,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me;
If I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself;
If I love to be loved more than to love,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the burden my Lord asks me to bear be not the burden
of my heart’s choice,
And I fret inwardly and do not welcome His will,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I covet anyplace on earth but the dust at the foot of the cross,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been challenging us to hold a true, biblical standard of love. She’ll be back in the second half of the program.

We hope you’ve been growing in the way of love during our current series called How’s Your Love Life? Now, we’re called to speak primarily to women, but a lot of men listen to. One of those men wrote to us, responding to the program that we heard yesterday. He said,

Your program today kept hitting me over the head with a 4 x 4, especially the part about loving our enemies. We can’t control others’ responses, but we can control how we respond to others. Thank you, Nancy, that was exactly what I needed to be shown.

We’re able to connect with listeners like him because people give. If you can help Revive Our Hearts with a financial contribution, we’ll say thank you by sending you a copy of Nancy’s booklet, How’s Your Love Life? Going through this study in your quiet time will be a perfect follow up to listening to the series. We’ll also include the series on CD. Ask for a copy when you call 1-800-569-5959 with a donation of any amount or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, a group of women have been listening to this series along with us. One member of our audience has learned to apply a lot of the principles we’ve been learning, and she’s going to share her story. Here’s Terry.

Terry: My husband and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We went through a period where I looked at my husband and said, “I don’t love you anymore.” This was probably about 16 years into our marriage. I had been an executive for a company. I wanted to be CEO, president, and that type of thing. I got all of my recognition from work and what I was doing.

My husband was a vice-president of finance, so he was on his successful track. I was a Christian. When I married my husband, I had let my excitement be suppressed by my love for the world and riches and power. I had a $3 million budget I was in charge of. So all of these things put a quietess on my love for God, and in turn, my love for my husband was nothing.

Through this, we separated for a month, and he embraced God. He stood up in church one Sunday. He had never gone with me. He stood up and said, “I want what my wife had. I accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.” This is in front of a lot of people.

Then he started to crusade to save our marriage. Through all of this, our marriage was reconciled. God honored that. People were praying that I didn’t even know were praying. God had me on my knees confessing my own sin. Once I did that, I prayed that He would redeem what had happened.

I’ll have you know that He moved my husband into a position of ministry. I quit my work. I walked away from a $75,000 a year job to stay home with a high school senior who was at that point very, very, very in trouble. Through all that, and I mean it was a terrible storm, but boy God just changed lives. He changed mine. He changed my husband’s. He changed our daughter.

I now have two little precious granddaughters, and one of them turned around to me the other day and she said, “Nana, I love Jesus.” I thought, "Lord, thank You. Thank You that I got to hear that. Thank You that I didn’t stay on the fast track to a professional no win, but that I’ve built into those kids."

Nancy: I want to quote you a hymn stanza. The hymn is "Rescue the Perishing." You don’t usually think of that as a hymn that would relate to marriage, but this third stanza I think has such beautiful application to what we’ve been talking about.

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter;
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore.
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness;
Chords that are broken will vibrate once more.

Grace. God’s grace. Unmerited, unconditional. Grace greater than all our sins.

Those feelings, and love isn’t ultimately about those feelings, but there are feelings that have been crushed there by Satan and by our foolishness and our selfishness and by the wounds of others, by pride. But those feelings that are buried, grace can restore.

“Touched by a loving heart.” God turned Terry’s husband first, but maybe you’re the one God wants to turn first in your marriage. You see in our pride and our selfishness we want to wait for the other person to come back in love. God says, “No, I want you to be the one to love.” You be the one who demonstrates the love of Christ, the willingness to suffer as Christ did, to stand for that marriage, to stand for covenant love, to be faithful to those vows.

“Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness.” There are a lot of damaged emotions in our relationships, our homes, because we’ve damaged people’s hearts with words and spirit and actions that are not kind. And we’ve been damaged by other people’s lack of kindness. So you’ve got wounded people hurting wounded people.

“Wakened by kindness.” His kindness. Love is kind. Chords that are broken and the world would say irreparably broken, irreconcilable differences. That’s garbage. That’s the world’s way of thinking.

Now humanly speaking, there may be no hope for your marriage. There may be no hope for that relationship. But touched by a loving heart—His heart loving through you. Wakened by kindness—the kindness of Christ, the kindness of God living through us. The kind of kindness of God that brings to repentance. Chords that are broken will vibrate once more. Love never fails.

"Does that mean that my husband will become a wise, loving, godly spiritual leader?" Maybe. Maybe not. But when you love him, you’re going to be committed to him no matter what because love is totally giving of myself to meet the needs of another without expecting anything in return. I’ll tell you this. If there’s any hope of him becoming that wise, godly, loving, spiritual leader, there probably is no hope for that apart from the love of Christ flowing through you.

One of the things I’ve seen in years of ministering to women in difficult marriages is that we typically, when you see a marriage that’s in trouble, you look at the circumstances (if you’re the outsider). You think one person has done this or that that seems to have really jeopardized the marriage. You feel like the person who’s the problem is really the key to solving the marriage.

Unfortunately, it’s the person that everybody thinks has the problem, that person is not usually the person who’s coming to ask for help. It’s “the innocent party.” By the way, that’s a phrase we need to get out of our vocabulary. There is no such thing as an innocent person on the face of the earth. We’re all sinners. Depraved sinners.

But from outward appearances, you’ll say, “He had an affair. He’s living this immoral lifestyle. He’s addicted to pornography.” Or a husband can look at his wife and say, “She’s the one who ran off and left the kids,” whatever. It’s the person who was wronged in the world’s eyes who’s usually the one coming and asking for help.

You know what I’ve discovered? More often than not the person who wants help holds the key to that marriage. Not the person who looks like they are the offender—and may have really sinned greatly in the marriage. I’m not minimizing what the other person’s sin was, but the person who’s coming and saying, “We need help,” usually holds the key.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you love in a manipulative way so that you can get your way in your marriage so you can have the kind of husband who meets your expectations because that’s not love then. That’s lust. Self-seeking. Love says, “What can I let God do in me that will meet the needs of and minister to this person that God has called me to love whether I get anything out of it or not? How can I be a giver in that relationship?”

God pours out His grace on the humble. So when a person is willing to do what Terry’s husband did and then what God led Terry to do, to come to a place of brokenness, of humility, accepting personal responsibility, saying, “It’s me, O Lord. I’m not going to point the finger anymore. I’m not going to sit here and wait for that other person to change. I’m going to let You change me, and I’m going to let you love through me. I’m willing to be misunderstood. I’m willing to be wronged.”

Isn’t that what Calvary is all about? Look at 1 Peter 2, the last paragraph. Jesus, the perfect, sinless Son of God, did not sin. Neither was any deceit or guile found in his mouth. When He was wronged, when He was attacked, when He suffered, He threatened not. He didn’t retaliate. He didn’t take vengeance. Instead, He just took our sin. He took the attack. He took the shame. He took the false accusations. The power in that passage is by His wounds, undeserved as they were, you were healed (see verses 21-25).

There are men represented in this room who will never be spiritually healed unless there’s a woman who’s willing to love like Jesus. That means the willingness to absorb, to take, to carry, the sins of others. That’s love. You don’t have to love that way. You can stay selfish. You can stay proud, and you can stay miserable. Or you can let Christ love through you, let Him fill You with the Spirit, let Him give you a supernatural love for that man.

You say, “Will he change?” I can’t tell you that. I can tell you, you will change.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss helping us understand what it means to love as Christ loved. Nancy will be right back with Terry, our guest today. As we heard earlier, Terry’s career was her priority until she got to know God. After that she decided to make her family a priority. She knew she needed to quit her job.

What could give a woman the courage to make a radical change like that? Well, thousands of women will explore that question and others and learn God’s purpose and calling for them as women. They’re making plans for True Woman 2010 in Chatanooga March 25-27.

I hope you’ll be there gaining a biblical understanding of true womanhood from speakers Voddie Baucham, James MacDonald, Kay Arthur, Fern Nichols, and many more. Join Nancy, the team of speakers, and worship leaders Keith and Kristyn Getty along with thousands of women seeking God. Get more details on True Woman 2010 at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now let’s get back to Nancy and our guest.

Nancy: Terry, would you do for someone in this room that you may not even know what someone did for you in praying for you. Let’s just let Terry pray.

Terry: Dear heavenly Father, as we bow before You right now, Lord, we just thank You that You are an awesome God. Father, we know that everything in heaven and earth is Yours, Lord, and that this is Your kingdom, that You’re the ruler of all mankind, Father, and that Your hand controls power and might. Only You can revive our hearts.

We’re like a river in Your hands, and You direct us. Father, that includes the way we love and how we love. I just pray for all of us, that we get to the point of brokenness, that we embrace You as our Lord and Savior and, Father, that You would just allow our marriages to be healed, to be restored, to be made anew in the likeness that You would have. All these things we ask in Jesus’ precious name.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

1 Robert Ripley. Signs of the Times. pp. 755-56.

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