Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Made for Intimacy

Leslie Basham: If you’re a busy wife and mom, maybe you can relate to these thoughts about physical intimacy in marriage.

Holly Elliff: There are times when you are just so weary physically that meeting your husband’s needs is kind of the last thing on the list. You try to sneak into bed and pray that he won’t wake up or that he’s not feeling amorous because you just don’t think you can do anything else for anyone.

Leslie: You're listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, February 25. Later in the program Nancy is going to talk candidly about what marriage can teach everybody about developing intimacy with God. But first she’s continuing a conversation on physical intimacy in marriage. You might want to steer your younger children away from the radio. Then come back and listen to this important topic. Here’s Nancy to get us started.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re talking this week about one of the most practical ways that a married woman can express her love to God and her submission to God, and that is in her physical relationship with her husband.

To help us address that issue, we’ve had with us all this week two women: my long-time friend, Holly Elliff, who’s been married 30 years. She is a wife and a mother and has a real heart for the Lord and for women. And then Linda Dillow, who has co-authored with Lorraine Pintus (I wish Lorraine could have been here with us as well.) But Linda is here with us to talk about this issue, which she has addressed in a book called Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex.

Linda, as you and Lorraine wrote this book, you interviewed a thousand women and you asked them: If you could have any question answered about the sexual relationship, what would it be? This book is really a biblical response to the questions that came up in that survey.

One of the chapters in your book is entitled, “What Do I Do When I Don’t Want to Do It?” You say that when a woman feels stretched beyond her limit with trying to balance all her roles in life, lovemaking can become just one more thing to check off her list.

Holly: As a wife and a mother of eight and a very busy woman, which I am, I really identify with that. There are times when you are just so weary physically that meeting your husband’s needs is kind of the last thing on the list. You try to sneak into bed and pray that he won’t wake up or that he’s not feeling amorous because you just don’t think you can do anything else for anyone. So how do we maintain that balance in meeting our husbands’ needs and going before the Lord and saying, “God, give me grace to do this”?

Linda Dillow: As with everything else, for me it is going back to God’s Word and saying, “God, I know what my attitude is. I see what so many other women’s attitudes are, but what is Your attitude?” I find His attitude that gives me the grace and the strength when I’m weary. In 1 Corinthians 7 . . .

Nancy: Linda, as you get into this passage, let’s just ask women, if they’re in a place where they can do this, to open their Bibles and join us. Now if you’re driving, don’t do this. But if you’re in a place where you can, open your Bible to 1 Corinthians 7 because this is one of the most important biblical passages on the area of physical intimacy.

Linda: It’s also a very misunderstood passage because I have women tell me all the time, “I heard when I was growing up that sex was a duty for a wife.”

Nancy: That word actually appears in some translations.

Linda: In most translations. In fact, I’m going to read a translation that uses the word duty and then will address it. First Corinthians 7, verses 3 and 4:

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does (NASB).

Holly, what do you think of when you think of the word duty?

Holly: Well, duty doesn’t sound real fun.

Linda: No!

Holly: I do a lot of laundry and cooking and cleaning dishes and those are duties, but they are not fun.

Linda: No, and putting your intimate relationship with your husband alongside of doing the dishes just doesn’t mesh real well.

Holly: So God obviously is saying something different than that to us.

Linda: He’s saying something different. It’s a very poor usage, but there really isn’t an English word that describes the beautiful message in the Greek, in which the New Testament was written. In the Greek, the word translated duty means "a debt that is owed."

Well now why, Holly, do you and I as wives owe our husbands a debt? It’s because of the next verse. It’s because of verse 4. What was to have transpired on our wedding night is that we were to have participated in a gift exchange. I was to give over authority of my body to my husband. I was to give him my body as a gift, and he was to give over authority of his body to me and give me his body as a gift. We exchanged gifts.

When I give over authority, then I don’t think of something as a duty but I do owe a debt because I’ve given it freely. Often when I explain this to women, they look at me and say, “Well, how does a wife give over authority of her body? What if I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t do that?" I share with them about my precious friend Kathy, who when she understood this said, “Next week is Valentine’s Day, and I’m going to give my husband my body as a gift.”

I want to read you just a couple of words out of the journal she shared with me about what her thoughts were when she determined bravely on Valentine’s Day to give her husband her body as a gift. She said,

February 14: Today’s the day when I will give my body to my husband as a gift. Honestly, I’m so nervous. Why am I nervous, God? This is what You want.

February 15: Last night was a sweet evening. I told John when I gave my body to him that I’d never really fully given over authority of it when we were married and on our honeymoon. It was always my body so I determined if and when I would give it. With a ribbon on and nothing else I stood before him and offered myself. He wept. Do I feel differently? Yes, it is a constant reminder that this body belongs to him.

Kathy and her husband are now missionaries. She keeps in contact with me, and she says that this giving over of her body in this sweet ceremony was the beginning of a totally new relationship for them.

Holly: I do think because this is a battleground area in many marriages, women need God’s perspective. It’s also wonderful to me to realize that just as I ask for God’s grace, as I minister to my children, as I go to Him for physical energy to be able to meet the needs of my home, I can go before the Lord and ask for Him to pour out His grace in this area. Then as I take the first steps in obedience of meeting my husband’s needs, God gives me the desire to be a blessing to my husband.

Linda: I totally agree that God extends grace in every area. But it starts with that commitment that I give over authority of my body, because if it doesn’t belong to me, then I have the desire to say, “God, give me Your grace. Give me Your perspective. Give me the energy to love my husband tonight when I am so tired I just feel like dropping in bed and being left alone." It gives the inner motivation when you make that choice.

Maybe some of the women listening are thinking, “Well, I’ve been married 20 years or 30 years. I’m too old to do something like that.” Let me just say, you don’t have to do it with a ribbon. That’s just the way Kathy chose to do it. It’s the attitude of the heart.

Nancy: So as a woman makes that choice and makes that surrender of her body and herself as a gift to her husband, she’s really making a surrender of herself to the Lord. This is an expression of her love and surrender to the Lord. What is that going to mean for her then on an ongoing basis? The fact that she’s given herself, her body to her husband. He has authority over it. This is her gift to her husband. Practically, what is that going to mean for her in her marriage?

Linda: I think first, Nancy, we know biblically that there is joy in obedience. When we are obedient, when we surrender to what God has asked, there is joy. So I believe a woman will experience joy. Does that mean that she’s never again going to be tired and feel like she just can’t give physically or emotionally to her husband? Absolutely not. But I know for me and the women who have obeyed God and given over authority of their bodies, it gives them that extra push to just reach out and love their husbands as God wants them to.

Nancy: The wonderful thing is that in every area of our lives, including a married woman’s physical relationship with her husband, but in every area as we obey God, it often requires faith. Obedience is often not something I feel like doing, but as I’m willing to surrender myself to God and to the circumstances that He has put into my life and to say, “God, I choose as an expression of faith to obey You,” then we find that God energizes us. He quickens us. He enables us. He gives the desire and the power to obey Him as we humble ourselves. Say, “Lord, I need you in this area of my life.” Then as we step out in faith and obedience.

Linda: I think that what you said, Nancy, is so well-said, that we need to bring the area of our physical intimacy with our husbands as married women before the Lord, just like we do every area of our lives. Many married women fail to do that. But just as I bring the raising of my children, my ministry with women—everything that I do—before Him, I need to also bring this area.

Nancy: We’ve been talking about intimate issues in the lives of married women and particularly focusing on a married woman’s sexual relationship with her husband. I have to tell you that as a single woman, I have made a practice over the years of believing that that’s an area that really best ought to be discussed by married women.

So I don’t read books on women’s sexual relationships, on physical issues. It’s not a conversation I often get into because—and I would just say to those of you who are single women—I think it’s important for us to guard our minds, to guard our thoughts and not to let our minds go places that . . . well, here’s how I can explain it.

In the Song of Solomon, the Scripture says don’t awaken love until it is the right time. For those of us who are single, it’s not the right time to awaken thoughts or discussion about sexual issues. So that’s why I’ve had Holly and Linda as two married women discussing this subject over the past several days.

However, in preparation for these interviews, I found myself needing to read major portions of the book that Linda Dillow has co-authored on women and sexual issues, the book called Intimate Issues. As I read this book, which is very practical, I was asking the Lord to guard my heart, to guard my mind as a single woman.

I want to share with you. The Lord did something for me very precious and very rich in my relationship with Him as my heavenly Bridegroom as I was reading that book. Over the last couple of years I have found that in my relationship with the Lord, particularly since we started Revive Our Hearts, my life has become so busy and so full.

I realized as I was reading this book for married women on the sexual relationship with their husbands that in my relationship with the Lord, I had done what a lot of married women do in their relationship with their husbands. That is that they let busyness, children, other responsibilities crowd out time with the one that they love and the intimacy begins to suffer. The Lord began to convict my heart as I read this book that in many ways I’ve neglected cultivating an intimate love relationship with the Lord Jesus.

I think of the passage in Luke chapter 10, of the two sisters who invited Jesus into their home. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to His Word, loving Him, relating to Him, listening to Him and just being close to Him. Her sister Martha was doing something that we ought to do as women. She was serving. But in the process of serving, she became overwhelmed. As she did, Jesus became very distant and very far from her. She became irritated, agitated, upset, frustrated, and ultimately began barking out orders even to Jesus, saying, “Tell my sister to come in here and help me.”

As I think about that passage and as I was reading this book on intimacy in marriage, I thought back to many times in my childhood, in my years as a younger woman, and even in more recent years when I have enjoyed with the Lord a very personal and warm and intimate and unhindered relationship with Him. I thank the Lord for those times.

I have particularly as a single woman such a conscious sense that the Lord is my bridegroom. And let me say whether you’re married or single your first relationship is with the Lord and God has blessed me over the years with the joy of knowing Christ intimately and walking with Him intimately. But you know as I’ve gotten older and gotten busier in the work of the ministry, I’ve found it so easy to neglect that intimate, personal relationship with the Lord Himself.

So I found God speaking to me about having lost a lot of the passion and the fervency of my first love relationship with the Lord Jesus. The thought entered my mind that if I were married and had dealt with my husband in the way that I have often dealt with the Lord over these last months, I probably would have wrecked my marriage. Now thankfully the Lord’s love is unconditional and He is always there, always involved, always available.

As I read this book about a woman’s physical relationship with her husband, I saw some important parallels in my relationship with the Lord. Let me just share with you what some of those are. First of all, I realized that maintaining intimacy in marriage requires time, attention, and effort. You have to make it a priority. It doesn’t just happen. And that is so true as well in my relationship with the Lord, that it has to be a conscious, intentional priority—the focus of my life.

Then in the physical relationship of a man and wife, what Linda Dillow calls in her book quickies as far as sexual encounters. Those are not wrong, but they can’t sustain an intimate relationship. There have to be times that a husband and wife have more extended times of expressing their love physically to each other. In our relationship with the Lord, times that you set apart where you have more extended, prolonged, intense communication with Him as your lover.

Then physical intimacy in marriage and giving pleasure to a partner often requires that a wife act in faith, not based on feelings. That is so true again in my relationship with the Lord and yours. We need to do the things that we know give God pleasure regardless of whether or not we feel up to it, regardless of how we feel or what our circumstances are. As we do, our love will mature and deepen.

Then the Lord showed me that even as a wife is called to give herself fully to her husband without holding back, without reserve and to enjoy the ecstasy of a marital relationship. The Lord intended for that just to be a picture of what He wants to have in our personal relationship with Him and that there is to be a fullness and an ecstasy and an overflow of expression. Not just giving the outer edge of myself to the Lord, but taking the time to wait in His presence, to be still and to enjoy Him and to give myself fully to Him.

Yet I have to confess that so many times as I’m with the Lord, I’m jumping up to handle email or to answer the phone or to go to the door and letting so many other things take priority over that intimate time with the Lord.

The Lord convicted my heart and just said to me, “You need to remember what it was like when you were enjoying more of an intimate relationship with Me." My heart needed to be repentant and to restore, to return to those kinds of expressions of love for the Lord Jesus that I have experienced in the past.

Sometimes for a couple to have an intimate sexual relationship requires scheduling and putting things on the calendar when they are going to be together. Times when they can be together. So it is important in my relationship with the Lord to schedule and set apart times with Him when I can be unhurried and uninterrupted if at all possible.

Then to make the necessary preparations even as a couple does physically throughout the course of the day, preparing a setting, preparing themselves physically. So I need to prepare myself to enjoy and experience those times of intimacy with the Lord.

Then to be creative in learning to express my love to Him in new ways, in ways that may not be as comfortable for me, in different ways, and not just to fall into the trap of settling for the routine, the predictable, the same old same old.

So as I’ve been before the Lord over these last several days and thinking about how the marriage relationship is intended to be a picture—an earthly picture—of my relationship with my Heavenly Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, I just have to tell you that the Lord has caused to spring up from within the deepest parts of my heart a new sense of desire and longing and fervency and passion.

I’ve found myself talking to the Lord more freely, waking in the middle of the night, early in the morning, late at night singing to Him, speaking to Him. Not just ignoring Him as if He were just omnipresent but we weren’t connecting, but really wanting to connect to Him in a fresh, new way.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss isn’t finished. In a minute hear what she wrote in her journal after being convicted about her need to develop intimacy with God.

We're airing those comments to wrap up the series, Intimate Issues with Linda Dillow and Holly Elliff. If you missed any of the series, I hope you'll listen or order the CD at ReviveOurHearts.com. It's full of practical wisdom for wives.

We wanted to give you an opportunity to deepen in your intimacy with Christ. Revive Our Hearts listeners are going to prepare for Easter this year by reading the book The Incomparable Christ by J. Oswald Sanders. We invite you to read one chapter each day beginning March 9. That's the day Nancy begins a teaching series following the outline in this book. Nancy's here to explain why this book.

Nancy: There's something about the depth and the substance and the way of meditating on Scripture that you find in some of these older writers that's not so easy to come by today. that's why I'm so thankful that Moody Publishers has made it possible for us to release a special edition of Oswald Sanders' classic book, The Incomparable Christ.

We are encouraging our listeners not only to get a hold of the book but also to read it, one chapter each day in the weeks leading up to Easter, and to follow along with us on the broadcast as I take the outline from Sanders' book and expand on each of those themes in a way that I think will be really encouraging, uplifting, and challenging for our listeners.

Leslie: We'll send The Incomparable Christ when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for it when you call 1-800-569-5959, or donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

All this month women have been taking on a challenge. As a result, women have been changed, husbands have been changed, and marriages have been changed. Find out how a simple challenge can have such a big effect, Monday on Revive Our Hearts.

Well, preparing for this week’s programs on intimacy in marriage has convicted Nancy’s heart about her relationship with God. She’s back with one more thought on this.

Nancy: I just want to share with you a little prayer that I wrote out in my journal a few days ago. Here’s the way I expressed that heart to the Lord. I said,

O Lord Jesus,

You have loved me with a passionate, intense, fiery, unquenchable love. You have given Yourself fully to me. You are always expressing Your love in fresh new ways. You are always available—never too tired, never preoccupied. I confess and I repent that I have not loved You in a way that is worthy of You.

Lord, please forgive me for my hurried, distracted, measured expressions of love.

Lord, You are my soul’s Lover and Lord and King. Lord, I just say these words to You now. You are my bread, my water, my highest good, my joy, my fullness. You are my life, my hope, my satisfaction. I was made for You. I want to pour myself out for You, to love You unreservedly, unashamedly, passionately, and supremely. I want to lavish on You all of my body, soul, and spirit. And Lord, I offer that prayer up to You afresh.

Thank You for the work of Your grace in my heart in a fresh way over these days. I pray for my sisters who are listening today that each one would find You rekindling in her heart, whether she’s married or single, a fresh sense of the wonder and the awe of what it means to be loved by You and to love You, to bring pleasure to Your heart, for that is why we were created. So may it be true. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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