Revive Our Hearts Podcast

What True Love Looks Like

Leslie Basham: When women are learning to love their husbands, they need examples to follow and the ultimate example is Jesus Himself. That’s what one young woman has discovered.

Janelle: So even just beginning by encouraging a wife to look at the gospel and the hope given to her there. There is an example of love, yet love of someone that was unlovely, and to encourage her to show that same love to her husband. In showing that love, her feelings will follow obedience. God will bless that obedience.

There’s real hope for her in applying that kind of love. The unhappiness she may be experiencing in her marriage, as she focuses on, encourages, and loves her husband, that unhappiness will be replaced with a real joy and peace in her Lord that she probably doesn’t have at this time.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, July 11. Young women are growing up in a culture that’s pretty unfriendly to a biblical view of womanhood. How do you teach young women to truly love their husbands when they’re not getting much support in the world? Here’s Nancy to introduce some guests that will give you hope and show you how to pass on biblical ideas to your children.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Did you know that one of the very most important ways that you can make the Lord Jesus and His Gospel believable to others is by loving your husband? We’ve been talking this week about seven feminine virtues found in Titus chapter 2, things that older women are supposed to teach the younger women.

My friend Carolyn Mahaney has written a book to help us understand these qualities and why they’re so important and how they reflect on the gospel if we have these qualities in our lives as women. The book is called Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother.

Carolyn, thank you for being willing to mentor us here on Revive Our Hearts as we’ve been talking of these things.

Carolyn Mahaney: Thank you so much for your encouragement, Nancy. It’s a treat to be here.

Nancy: Well, you’ve been an encouragement to me, and it’s especially an encouragement to me to get to meet your three daughters: Nicole, daughter number one; Kristin, daughter number two; and Janelle, daughter number three. All of you were married within the last few years. Now to see you just loving the Lord and your husbands and your children the way your mother did is such a beautiful reflection of how it’s supposed to be done.

This is God’s way and I’m just so thankful. Our prayer through Revive Our Hearts is that there will be many, many, many more families like yours where one generation is teaching the next, which is teaching the next.

Now did you girls just always love having your mother teach you the Scripture and the ways of God? Did you from the time you were three say, “Teach me how to be a godly woman, oh Mother”? Why are they looking at you, Nicole?

Nicole: Well, I think there was a time when I would have been in my teenage years (I’m ashamed even when I think about this now) when I would not have respected my mom for her love for the home. I was resistant to and did not desire to learn from her in that area.

This was very apparent to my mom. She graciously confronted me that my attitude was unbiblical and ungodly and that I was influenced by worldly thinking. That was one of the most pivotal points in my life, when I saw my sin and was able to repent of that.

Nancy: Did you repent right away of that or did you . . . ?

Nicole: No, that was a process. That was a series of conversations, a work that God did over a period of time.

Nancy: No doubt your mother was praying much during this time.

Nicole: I’m certain. By God’s grace and her faithful confrontation, I can say there’s nothing I love doing more now than caring for my home and loving my son. My mom is the woman I respect most on this earth.

Janelle: You asked did we grow up always loving this or always wanting to be taught. We did grow up watching it every day. Every day she got up and cared for my dad and my sisters and my brother with such joyful sacrifice. She really did make it attractive.

It’s funny when I think of her book title, Feminine Appeal. My mom made it appealing for me. I grew up watching her love it and enjoy it and invest into us. So although Kristin and I probably had to deal with similar things that Nicole did, there was always so much joy in my mom’s countenance and in her heart that ultimately that’s what we all wanted to do.

Nancy: Carolyn, as you talk about women loving their husbands, enjoying their husbands, having tender affection, you use words like cherish and prize. Cherishing your husband, prizing your husband. What are some of the ways that you have learned that you cherish and prize CJ and what communicates to him that you really cherish and prize him?

Carolyn: Well, I trust he feels prized just by my making him the priority in my life, putting his needs before my children. Cherishing oftentimes is just those little, small acts. It’s studying your husband. What are the things that communicate love to him? For every wife that’s going to be different. It’s going to look different.

There are just things that are meaningful to my husband. It’s discovering and discerning what blesses him, what’s meaningful to him and enjoying him and taking an interest in what he enjoys. Sometimes that takes an effort.

My husband enjoys sports. I really didn’t grow up caring anything about sports. All of a sudden I’m married and I’m married to someone who really enjoys sports. So just trying to take an interest. He’s an avid reader. When I was first married that attitude irritated me. I wanted the light off. I wanted to go to bed.

I realized I was the one that needed to change and I needed to adapt to him. So I began to just prop myself up and get my book out. Now it really has become one of our favorite activities to do together before we fall asleep, is to read together.

Nancy: Not too long ago I heard Joni Eareckson Tada tell a story about when she was first married. She told this publicly. She realized it early when they were married that first Monday night. She said, “I realized our honeymoon was over when that first Monday night he started to sit down and watch the football game.”

She had her Bible and Precept pens and notes and markers all out and she thought Ken was going to help her study the Bible. She said, “I thought, ‘What have I married? This man who loves football more than he loves God’s Word.’” She said, “I went to a room and rather than nagging him, I began to pray for our marriage and to pray for my husband and for how God wanted to use our lives together.”

She said, “Within [I think it was] two seasons a miracle happened.” Everybody was ready for her to say, “Ken started loving marking these Bible with me.” She said, “I began to love football.” God gave her an interest in the things that her husband was interested in. She said, “His love for the Word began to grow.” Of course, God is using them as a couple today in such an extraordinary way.

What a powerful testimony to hear a wife saying, “I’m willing to adapt to my husband’s interests and to make those things a priority in my own life.”

Carolyn: Right, and we need to see that as God-honoring. If God calls us to love our husbands in that way, then we’re honoring God by loving our husbands in those simple acts of cherishing and enjoying and prizing them.

Nancy: I think we all know that those things don’t come naturally. I want to talk just a little bit today about what does come naturally. What are some of the things that are damaging in a marriage? Proverbs 14 talks about a wise woman who builds up her home, but a fool who tears it down with her hands.

As we think about marriage—some of you, the three girls newly married. Carolyn, you’ve been married 28 years. Think about your own marriage or other marriages that you’ve seen. What are some of the things that can really tear down, be dangerous and damaging in a marriage as far as a wife and her role is concerned?

Nicole: I think one of the things that is the most damaging is when as wives we have a critical, disrespectful attitude towards our husbands. It’s so easy when you are living with the person day in and day out to be so aware of their deficiencies, things you don’t like about them, their weaknesses, of their sins.

I know the temptation for me is to often point those out to my husband and make sure he knows. Are you working on this area? How are you doing here? I have just seen that when I do that, the effect is not only a weariness and a discouragement in his own soul, but it causes, it erodes my own affection and my love for my husband.

As my mom has just so consistently reminded me and helped me to grow in this area of just thinking tender thoughts, noticing the things that he is doing well, because I have an amazing husband. In my opinion the best ever. But as I am focusing on those things, it’s amazing how my own heart changes.

As I focus on the wonderful qualities, how he’s leading in our home, how he’s caring for me, my heart just overflows with love for him. As a result, that affects his life and I can see just the joy and the encouragement that gives him to spur him on to love God more and to lead our family.

Nancy: Now when you talk about focusing on the deficiencies or the negative qualities, which is so easy to do, chances are you didn’t do that when you were courting. You were more focused on the positive qualities weren’t you?

Kristin: That’s true.

Nancy: In fact, did you even notice any negative qualities when you were courting? [Laughter]

Nicole: I think when we were courting, I was just enjoying all of this wonderful attention that this young man was giving me and flattered by that and it was easy to see. Wow, I was just so honored that this godly man, who everybody talked about his humility and his servanthood, would want to court me and eventually marry me was just amazing.

So it really has all to do with our hearts. Obviously, since we’ve been married, my husband is the same wonderful, godly man. The deficiencies have been there all along. It’s just a matter of where do I choose to focus. It causes my heart to well up with the same kind of love that I had then. Actually, it only grows deeper as I continue to do that.

Nancy: It’s just interesting to me how many women who can’t see anything wrong with their fiancé or the person they’re courting or dating, after they’ve been married a few years the things that they thought were so attractive sometimes those qualities become the very source of annoyance and irritation. They start to hammer on those points and to keep reminding and trying to get him to change.

What an effect that has on their man. I just watch some of these men kind of shrivel up and really lose the sense of confidence and desire in the marriage. I wonder sometimes if it’s not really true that as women we tear down our homes with our words, with our spirit, with our attitudes that can be so destructive.

Carolyn: It’s very true, and I’m guilty of doing that. I’m just aware of the own sinfulness of my heart. I can often be too inclined to see what needs to change rather than appreciating all the things he’s doing right.

Even as a family a little phrase that we’ve used in our family is something that we’ve tried to cultivate and it’s something as a wife I know I regularly need to work on and that is just looking for evidences of grace in my husband’s life and then communicating those evidences of grace.

I’m just amazed when I’m in that posture of looking at negative things in his life and focusing on things I think he is doing wrong, then I become aware of my own sin pattern and I seek to repent. One of the things I realize I need to do right from the outset is just begin to list the evidences of grace in my husband’s life.

Then I just am amazed as I begin to do that just how many things that there are that I have been overlooking, all the evidences of grace. Pretty soon the things that possibly he was deficient just don’t even matter anymore.

Nancy: Now you women all have the blessing of being married to men who have a heart for the Lord and are growing spiritually and are committed to being godly husbands and biblical principles of marriage.

A lot of our listeners are married in very different situations than that. They’re thinking, “Okay, it’s easy for you to show respect to your husband, CJ Mahaney. He’s a godly man. He’s a spiritual leader. These young girls have godly men, but my husband—there’s nothing to respect in him. It’s really hard for me to not be critical of him. There’s so many things wrong with him.”

How do you counsel and mentor a woman who’s dealing with that kind of situation? Even you girls, you probably have friends who have not been married long and are dealing with some of these tough marriage situations. How do you encourage them to love their husbands?

Janelle: The first thing that comes to mind is something mom mentioned the other day: just the example of Christ’s love for us and starting there. There wasn’t a thing to love in me. There was nothing good in me. Yet Christ loved me enough to die for me and save me.

So even just beginning by encouraging a wife to look at the gospel and the hope given to her there. There is an example of love, yet love of someone that was unlovely, and to encourage her to show that same love to her husband. In showing that love, her feelings will follow obedience. God will bless that obedience.

There’s real hope for her in applying that kind of love. The unhappiness she may be experiencing in her marriage, as she focuses on, encourages, and loves her husband, that unhappiness will be replaced with a real joy and peace in her Lord that she probably doesn’t have at this time.

Nancy: So you’re really saying that the kind of love we’re talking about here is more than feelings of being in love.

Janelle: Right. Really, I’ve seen in my own life my feelings follow my obedience and I don’t obey because I feel one way. I obey because of God’s Word, and my loving, tender feelings toward my husband will follow that obedience.

Nancy: So what are some steps of obedience that this wife can take who’s in a difficult marriage? She doesn’t feel in love with this man anymore. She really wants to leave the marriage or she’d be happy if he would leave. What are some steps of obedience that she can take practically to start loving her husband in a Christ-like way?

Nicole: Well, I think first it is just humbling ourselves and just acknowledging our need for God. We can’t love apart from God enabling us to love, but God’s Word communicates to us that we can love because He first loved us.

I think that’s the starting point in recognizing that really it’s not about how my husband responds. This call to love my husband is for the sake of the gospel. It is to put the gospel on display. In recognizing that that’s the motivation, that is why I’m to love this man. It’s just humbling yourself and acknowledging apart from You, Lord, I can’t love this man. But if You’ve called me to love him, You will enable me to love.

So I believe that’s the starting point and I believe the Holy Spirit will just flood her heart as she humbles herself. He will give her grace to love in those situations where it’s very difficult. I think a very practical thing she can do is just start by writing down again, using that little phrase again, evidences of grace she sees in her husband’s life.

I think every man at least has a few things that a woman could, if she stopped and just considered and thought about her husband, these are things that I appreciate about this man. Write those things down and begin to think about those things. Focus on those things. Begin to encourage him in those things. Watch the Lord begin to act as she begins to walk in obedience to God in loving her husband in that way.

Nancy: So regardless of where your marriage is, what kind of husband you have, how godly he is or maybe he’s not a believer at all, as you realize your own need for Christ, your own need for His mercy and His grace. Then as you ask God to give you His love for your husband, God will do that in your heart. Love is supernatural. Love is of God, and that’s why we need to be filled with His Spirit. God will give you the grace to love a man no matter how lovable or unlovable he may be.

Remembering what we’ve heard from Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters that it’s not really ultimately about you or your happiness or how good this marriage or fulfilling this marriage can be, but ultimately our supreme goal in life has got to be how can we reflect to the world the grace and the gospel and the love and the kindness of Jesus Christ.

The most difficult marriage provides perhaps the greatest opportunity for you to reflect to the world Calvary kind of love, the kind of love that’s willing to lay down it’s life for another. That’s what God calls us to as women.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters about the power of a life lived for God’s glory. Carolyn will be back to pray. If you want to learn more about reflecting biblical femininity in your life, you can get a copy of the book our guests have been referring to. It’s called Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney. It will help you learn more about the topics you’ve been hearing about and apply them to your life. You can order it by visiting our website: ReviveOurHearts.com, or by calling toll-free 800-569-5959.

Another way to gain a biblical understanding of femininity is to join Revive Our Hearts in the Chicago area for True Woman ’08. It’s a national women’s conference that will show you why it’s so important to be the woman God created you to be. You’ll hear biblically grounded, practical messages from pastor John Piper, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Joni Eareckson Tada, and Karen Loritts. The list of speakers and workshop leaders goes on and on. See for yourself by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com and clicking on the link to True Woman ’08.

We would not go into a big event like this without much prayer. Nancy’s here to explain how we make decisions like this. Nancy.

Nancy: Well, for sure these kinds of decisions are not easy ones. I can remember back a year or so ago when the idea for hosting a national women’s conference first surfaced. I thought this seems impossible. I just don’t think we’re at a place yet where we can pull that off. But our board was encouraging us to consider this, and we prayed about it together. I wanted to follow God’s leading and wondered if perhaps this was God’s time. So our board and our team began to seek the Lord and to pray and to ask for His direction.

Our heart is for women to understand biblical femininity and to call women to this counter-cultural revolution. So as we prayed and sought the Lord, He began to confirm in our hearts and to provide in some ways that were very encouraging in terms of speakers and venue and financial resources. Little by little, I began to believe, yes, God does want us to step out in faith and to do this.

That’s just one example of many that I could give of how much we count on the prayers of God’s people here at Revive Our Hearts. I thank the Lord for friends who not only listen to this program, but who pray for me, who pray for this ministry. If you go to ReviveOurHearts.com, our website, you can find a list of prayer requests there. In fact, you can sign up to receive a twice-a-month prayer update on this ministry—our prayer and praise update. If you have a heart for joining us in that way, I would encourage you to do that.

Then let me say also that we are listener supported, so we count not only on the prayers of God’s people, but also on the financial support of our listeners. I want to encourage you if this ministry has been a blessing in your life and you want to see it continue to air in your area and on stations all across this country and around the world by means of the Internet, would you consider making a contribution to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts?

It will underwrite the radio ministry, events like the True Woman conference, various publications and resources that we put into the hands of people as inexpensively as we can. In many cases we’re offering these resources at no expense to those who are not able to pay for them.

If the Lord prompts you to send a financial gift, you can call us at 800-569-5959, or you can give online at ReviveOurHearts.com. When you contact us, be sure to let us know the call letters of the station where you listen to Revive Our Hearts, or if you listen through means of the Internet, then let us know that as well. Thank you so much for being a part of this ministry by means of your prayers and your financial support.

When a woman is serving financially the way we’ve been discussing on today’s program, there’s a temptation for her to feel sorry for herself. It’s easy for bitterness to creep in. Next week we’ll hear about a wife and a mom who allowed bitterness to affect her life. We’ll find out why bitterness was so destructive for her and how she found freedom. I hope you can join us next week.

I asked Carolyn Mahaney close today’s program in prayer, focusing particularly on some woman who’s listening who’s in a difficult marriage that requires Calvary-type love. So let’s join our hearts and pray that God would minister grace to that woman’s heart and give her supernatural love for her husband who may not be lovable.

Carolyn: Father, in Jesus’ name, we just thank You for Your amazing love for us. We recognize apart from Your love, we are unable to love. Lord, I do pray for that woman or those women in particular that may be listening to this program right now who may be in a situation in a marriage where it is a very painful situation where her husband is in some way not treating her in a loving manner and she’s finding it very difficult to love him.

Lord, I just ask that You would pour out Your grace upon her life right now and that she would be so aware of Your love for her that she in turn would be able to love her husband and love him in the way that You’ve called her to love, in a tender and a passionate way. And Lord that You would use this love to win this man, to woo him. I ask that You would do that and that You would just pour out grace upon her life. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Little Girl: Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries, and my mom is a true woman.

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