Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Song of Solomon, Day 21

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says a godly, growing marriage is a picture of the gospel.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: A husband and wife love each other, not because of performance or merit of the other one, but fueled by the spring of God’s grace and His love—then they’re revealing that love of God to a world that has no clue of what God is really like.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Monday, March 21, 2016.

Nancy: A couple of years ago, we aired a teaching series on the Song of Solomon called “How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus.” It was such a meaningful look into the transforming, amazing love Jesus has for us. We are revisiting this important series this year leading up to the Easter season.

And it’s interesting hearing the series again, now as a married woman. It occurs to me that studying the Song of Solomon was so helpful in preparing to be a wife to my husband Robert. Way better than the world’s idea of romantic love as you'll see it in a lot of popular movies, music, and books. As we pick this series back up, we’ll look at some of the practical ways this biblical love story can shape our lives.

Nancy: We’re taking a little time out, a little parenthesis in our study of "How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus," to look at the Song of Solomon in a little different light, and that is, how it speaks to the issue of intimacy in marriage. I’m trying to highlight some of the principles in the Song of Solomon that to me are very obvious ingredients if you want to have intimacy and oneness in your marriage.

Keep in mind that the point of marriage, the point of marriage, in a Christian sense, is to reveal the story of Christ’s love for His Bride, and the Bride’s response to her Bridegroom . . . the Church’s response to Christ.

So wherever your marriage is on a scale of one to ten, matters. Where your marriage is in its trajectory matters. It’s not just about you and your mate and whether you guys can hang on and make it until the kids grow up, whether you’re mildly or wildly happy. Really, that’s all insignificant.

Now, it’s significant in this sense: If your marriage is miserable all the time, that’s saying something to the world that’s not going to make the gospel attractive. When we talk about this grand cosmic wedding story, your marriage can make people thirsty and hungry to know God and to be part of that great wedding story.

Your marriage can make people thirsty and hungry to know God.

I want to jump back in where we left off last time. I’m looking at some of these ingredients of cultivating intimacy in marriage from the Song of Solomon. While I was working on part of this study, I was following on Facebook a young man who is a son of friends of mine. He’s about twenty years old, and he and a girl (I won’t name the boy or the girl, because I don’t want to cause any issues there) just had their first date.

They have been waiting, both liking the other one, but not knowing the other one did. This has been going for a year. He went through all the right channels, went and talked to her dad. Her dad said, “Why don’t you take her out tonight and tell her how you feel about her.” This was the first date of any kind for either of them. It’s really sweet to watch this unfold.

I don’t even know if the date was over before it was posted on Facebook. I’m really wondering if they actually did it from the restaurant. Here’s what he said on Facebook: “Just got into a relationship with (and he named her). I’ve been waiting to tell her for a year, and it feels so good to talk about it.”

This young man is not a particularly expressive, verbal young man, but he was so eager to express to this young woman how he feels about her. It made me think of this whole ingredient in marriage of communication—the importance of communication.

It’s beautifully illustrated in the Song of Solomon, and I just want to make a few observations about the kind of communication in marriage that helps foster intimacy. Again, this is not outlined in an amazing way—just some observations.

You see that this bride and this groom listen to each other. Communication is, or should be, at least half listening. They listen attentively. There are these long speeches where one is saying things to the other; it’s implied that they’re listening. I know that a lot of women get frustrated because they feel that their husband doesn’t communicate. Wives, women in general, let me say that it’s a mistake to expect men to communicate like women. We wouldn’t like them if they did.

But, you will be amazed at what can be drawn out of a man’s heart when he knows his wife wants to hear what he has to say, and that she will listen, and that she will listen without interrupting . . . and without always having to improve on his ideas . . . when he knows that his wife will show genuine interest and respect for his communication. Then he will have more to say.

He may be quieter than you are, and that’s okay. That’s probably what attracted you to him in the first place. I remember one young woman saying (dreamily), “Oh, he’s just so quiet!” when they were dating. Six years later it’s (frustrated), “He won’t open his mouth!” What attracted them has become a wall between them, and maybe that’s because she hasn’t learned how to draw him out.

Proverbs 20:5 says, “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep waters, but a man of understanding [or a woman of understanding] will draw it out.” There are deeper waters, probably, in the heart of your husband than you may realize. How do you draw it out?

Learn to ask questions, and then learn to listen, without talking. It’s hard to do both at once, right? You may be amazed at what wisdom and insight can be drawn out of his heart.

Listening is only one part of communication. We have the whole area of verbal communication. As you study this in the Song of Solomon, one thing that—to me—is conspicuous by its absence. (I have not been able to find throughout this whole book and I’ve read it many, many, many, many times.) I can’t find one word—I can’t recall one word of criticism between this bride and her beloved.

There is no sarcasm, no put-downs, no “slams.” You just don’t see that kind of talk. I’m hoping you don’t hear that kind of talk in your marriage. Now, humans being what they are, there probably is some. You might want to evaluate and say, “Am I having the wrong kind of verbal communication in my marriage?”

In Song of Solomon, the communication is words that build each other up. It’s positive, creative (very creative, at points), it’s specific, it’s honest, it’s communication that sees each other through eyes of love and acceptance. As a result, this bride and groom are generous. They’re lavish with their words of admiration and affirmation and encouragement.

The problem, as I see it, is that a lot of people express those kinds of things—affirmation, encouragement—while they’re dating. They do what Song of Solomon says not to do—they “awaken love before its time.” They’re telling each other on their second date—and everybody else on Facebook—all this incredible stuff about this amazing woman or man, and then after they get married, they stop saying those things. It should be the other way around.

I remember a husband saying to me years ago, “I tried to pray with my wife when we first got married, but she criticized the way I prayed, and I’ve never prayed with her since.” I’m not suggesting that’s a right reaction on his part, but watch what happens to men when women use their tongues to wound, to dissect, to criticize, to pick apart, to control, to instruct—just watch—it shuts the men down.

When women use their tongues to wound, criticize, pick apart, control, or instruct men, it shuts them down.

And, by the way, it’s not just in marriage. I can do this in the workplace, and I’m sad to say that sometimes I do. I watch the effect, as it just emasculates the men in the room. But no one can do that more powerfully than you can do with your mate—in a negative way or in a positive way.

The bride in the Song of Solomon and the beloved know each other intimately. This suggests if you want to communicate verbally effectively, you need to become a student of your mate. Find out what’s meaningful to them, what blesses them.

Then, as you think about your verbal communication with your mate, ask yourself some questions like this: “Do I speak more respectfully to the men I work with than I do to my husband?” “Am I quicker to compliment or encourage my pastor or another man than I am my husband?”

I know some of you are thinking, as you read this stuff in Song of Solomon, Yeah, wouldn’t I give anything if I had a husband who would talk that way to me? You wish he’d give you that kind of praise. Don’t wait—you just give it to him. I would even encourage you, as I have over the years in teaching, in doing Song of Solomon women’s conferences with church retreats years ago—I used to challenge women to write a letter to their husbands.

Take time, sit down, write down—if you haven’t done this in a while—what the things are you admire, appreciate, you’re grateful for . . . what the qualities are that you see . . . what the physical characteristics  are . . . what the spiritual, mental, and emotional characteristics are that he has a provider. Make a list of the things you admire, appreciate, love, and reverence about him.

You may think, I can’t make a very long list. Everything that I could write would fit on a 3 x 5 card. Then sit and think a while longer. Think about what attracted you to him in the first place, and see if maybe the seed of some of those traits is not still there. Maybe it’s been beaten down by who-knows-what he’s experienced outside the home, or maybe even, sadly, how you’ve perhaps trampled him inside the home with your words or spirit.

God can give you grace to move past that cycle, give you a new dance step, and let you start a new way of thinking and relating as you communicate words that build up your mate. It’s important not to just speak those words of affirmation and encouragement and admiration to your mate, but also to speak well of each other to others. You see that in the Song of Solomon.

You see them talking to each other, but then you see them telling others how wonderful their mate is. We saw that a few sessions ago in chapter 5. The bride has lost the sense of her groom’s presence, and the daughters of Jerusalem say, “What is your beloved more than any other beloved?”

She starts to think about it, and she says, “Oh, let me tell you . . . My beloved is dazzling; he’s ruddy; he’s the chief among ten thousand." She describes his head and his hair, his eyes, his lips, his hands, his arms, his body, his legs, with graphic detail about what drew her to him, what she admires, what she sees in him that she finds so attractive.

As she verbalizes those things to others, she finds that her love for her mate is rekindled. If you’ve listened to Revive Our Hearts for any length of time, you’ve probably heard us give what we call a 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge. There are two sides to this. Here’s the negative side: For the next thirty days, don’t say anything negative about your husband—to your husband, or to anyone else, about him.

For some women, that’s going to require a personality transplant to pull that off, because it’s easy to fall into bad habits. We have some widows in this room who’d love to have thirty days to not speak negative things about their husband. They’d love to have a chance to do that again. Some of you who are married do have that chance. You can do that for the next thirty days.

Here’s the positive part: Every day for the next thirty days, those of you who are married, find something that you appreciate and admire about your mate, and say it to him. Then, if you really want to get bold, tell somebody else what you appreciate about your mate, as well. And you’ll find—your mate may or may not change, but I feel pretty certain that you will change as you start to see him through eyes of encouragement and love.

Let me read to you an email a woman wrote to us after she took that challenge. She said,

I just want to let you know how much the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge has radically changed my marriage. I just had my second child four months ago. The transition to two kids really put my marriage under strain.

It wasn’t until I started this challenge that our marriage really began to come to life again. Through this challenge I not only learned how important it is to see all the things my husband is already doing for me and our children (rather than pointing out all the things he isn’t doing or hasn’t done yet), but also how important it is to use a tone of voice that invites communication, not confrontation.

I didn’t realize how horribly I often talked to my hubby. The person I love the most is the one I was treating the worst. I’m starting to learn how to communicate without nagging, whining or yelling, but with sincerity, meaning and honesty. And almost as if by some miracle, through encouraging my husband, we are now working more as a team.

I feel more inclined to help him and serve him, and he is also doing more to help me and serve me. And of course, our family and our kids are benefitting in ways we never imagined. Life with two kids doesn’t seem so crazy when we’re working together.

All those things I was nagging him for—the source of so many arguments in the last four months—are now things he does without me asking him to, or things we can talk through without fighting. It makes me wonder how much of our marital strain and stress has been me. I’m so grateful that God provided this challenge.

So, just some thoughts about communication in your marriage, that I hope at least maybe give you some ideas to jump start some more positive communication. Let me mention one or two other ingredients to cultivate intimacy in your marriage.

We see this in the Song of Solomon—having a shared mission or mutual ministry. Intimacy is not solely for the couple’s personal enjoyment. It’s supposed to result in them serving others together. I wonder, do you have a mission statement for your marriage? Is there anything God has put on your heart as a couple to do in serving Him?

God didn’t just create you to enjoy each other and stay in the bedchamber all your lives—He wants to use your lives. He wants to use you as a couple, in ways that are perhaps different than how He might have used the two of you individually. My parents were such a great model of this.

I know when I talk my parents, some people feel they must not have had any faults or flaws. That’s not true. But one thing they did really exceptionally well was, they served the Lord together as a couple. My dad was a businessman, a very busy businessman, but God used my parents together to bring thousands of people to faith in Christ.

I won’t go into all the details of how they did this—they were both using their gifts. They discipled young believers, they invested in others’ marriages—they just realized that the intimacy of their marriage was ultimately for the purpose of serving others together.

That includes the seven children and the ten grandchildren who are the fruit of their union. That was a shared mission, having children, and now grandchildren who’ve come out of that. Ask the Lord, how might He want to use my husband and me together?

That doesn’t mean that you have to quit your jobs, move to Zimbabwe—it might mean that. But just asking, “How can God use us together?”—particularly as you get into your empty nest years. Ask, “How can we serve the Lord and others together?”

And then, let me just mention one other ingredient of intimacy, and we’ll hit a couple of others in the next session. It’s the importance of permanence. We see this in the Song of Solomon, and we’ll see it more in the section that is coming up at the end of chapter 8.

We realize that no force on earth can destroy genuine love, even if that love is not returned. Sometimes you’ll hear a woman say, “I just don’t love him anymore,” or “The love in our marriage is dead.” I think what that woman really may be saying is, “I just don’t feel the emotions that I had for him at one time.”

The fact is, if you ever did truly love your mate with God’s love, then you will always love your mate. We’re going to see in the last chapter of Song of Solomon that true love is permanent. It’s unquenchable. “Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it.” (Song 8:7)

If the love you had in your marriage was a taking sort of love, then yes, you can lose that, but if it was a giving love, nothing can ever take that away. By God’s grace and because of the love of Christ flowing through you, you can keep loving even if your mate does not.

You see, God intended that marriage between two believers should be one of the most powerful tools we have of showing a lost world what God is like and what His plan of redemption is all about. As we’ve said throughout this series, a godly and growing marriage should reveal (and I didn’t say a perfect marriage, because there isn’t one of those this side of heaven) to the world the gospel, the undeserved love that God pours out on His people. He loves us, not because or merit or performance or because we deserve it, but because of His grace.

So as a husband and wife love each other—not because of performance or merit of the other one, but fueled by the spring of God’s grace and His love—then they’re revealing that love of God to a world that has no clue what God is really like.

Some years ago I received a letter from a woman who attended a weekend retreat where I had taught through the Song of Solomon a year earlier. Fast-forward a year from that retreat, and here is the letter she sent me.

I want to thank you for last year’s seminar. It really helped me fall in love with Jesus and my husband.

Last year I went to the retreat for one basic reason, and that was to get away from my husband and kids. Well, the Lord really knocked me for a loop. Friday night after the retreat, when everyone was in bed, I went up and called my husband just to tell him I loved him, and I was looking forward to coming home.

Then I took your advice and wrote him a love letter and gave it to him along with the marriage vows that you gave us. Well, he still has them both, to this day. Our relationship has grown closer. The Lord has worked in his life. He has stopped drinking and is going to church with me and the kids. His whole attitude has changed. He went for counseling with our pastor for six weeks.

[And then, this last line, I just think is so interesting.] The Lord had to change me first.

PS: Please pray for my husband, because he isn’t saved yet.

So here’s a Christian woman who is married to an unbelieving husband—and I know some in this room are perhaps in that situation, and many listening are in that situation—and God used insights about intimacy from Song of Solomon, first to change and revive her heart, to revive her love for God and her mate, and then to bring about a change in her husband.

If you are currently a married woman—and if you aren’t—I hope you pray for and care about the marriages of those around you. I would ask, what kind of a picture is your marriage giving the world of God? You can’t write your husband’s part of that story, but by God’s grace, your life can tell that story, regardless of whether your husband does or doesn’t.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been describing marriages that represent Christ and the Church. She’s shown us some important ways to live that picture out. She’ll be right back to pray.

Today’s message is part of a series called, "How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus." It’s a study of the Song of Solomon. We’re taking a few days to look at how the Song of Solomon applies to marriage, but most of the series has focused on growing in your relationship with Christ.

We’d like to help you get to know Jesus in a more real way. Nancy’s back to tell you how.

Nancy: A few years ago, I embarked on a study on the names given to Jesus. You’d be surprised at how many names Jesus has. But as I explored these names, such as “Messiah” and “Prince of Peace.” I was amazed by how much these names reveal about Him. Exploring Jesus through His names will make you want to get to know Him in deeper and deeper ways.

We’d like to help you in that process by sending you a book I wrote called The Wonder of His Name. It includes devotionals on some of these names of Jesus, along with beautiful calligraphy and watercolor from artist Timothy Botts. We’ll send you The Wonder of His Name when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size this week. It’s gifts from our listeners that allow us to continue bringing you the podcast each weekday. You’re not just someone buying a book—you truly are an important partner in this ministry. So would you ask the Lord how He would want you to support this ministry, and then call with your gift? Thanks so much for supporting what God is doing through Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie: The number is 1–800–569–5959. Ask for The Wonder of His Name when you call, or you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll send one book per household for your donation this week.

In a world that doesn’t value purity, how can you make pure choices? Tomorrow Nancy will give you some very practical ways to avoid sexual temptation. Now she’s back, praying that our marriages will accurately reflect Christ and the Church.

Nancy: So, Lord, I just want to pray for marriages represented here, in varying stages of growth—some of them doing really well and some of them really struggling. You know all things, and I don’t mean in any sense to suggest that this is all easy, or there’s some formula here that will just fix things, but I know that you’re writing a redemptive story. I pray that you would write it in greater and sweeter and richer ways in every marriage.

I pray that You’d encourage wives, encourage husbands, who may be listening to this program, to press in and be intentional, to press into You and to seek You to revive their heart and the heart of their mate so that these marriages may reflect to the world the incredible amazing love that You, Lord Jesus, have for Your bride. We pray it in Your Name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV. Song of Songs references are from the NKJV.

Making It Personal 

Day 21 – Cultivating Intimacy in Marriage 2: The Importance of Permanence

  1. In this session, Nancy highlighted the importance of communication in marriage; she showed how the Song of Solomon illustrates the kind of communication that promotes intimacy. Do you listen attentively when your mate—or others—speak? How can you draw out the deepest thoughts of your mate’s heart?
  2. Is your communication to and about your mate building up or tearing down your relationship with your mate? What changes in your communication would cultivate greater intimacy in your marriage?
  3. How could these same communication principles help cultivate greater intimacy in your relationship with the Lord?
  4. Do you and your mate have a mission statement for your marriage? How could the two of you serve the Lord together in this season? (Those who are single can have a mission statement too! Ask God how He wants to use your life to serve Him and others in this season.)
  5. If you are married, what kind of picture do you think your marriage is giving the world of God? How could your marriage (regardless of the spiritual condition of your mate) better reflect the grace and covenant-keeping love of God?
  6. If you are unmarried, how can your life put Christ and the gospel on display?

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