The only way marriage works is if you serve each other. That’s how God designed it. There are two reasons this is true. First, we can’t meet our own needs. If we could, we wouldn’t be seeking a partner in the first place. A husband has what his wife needs. A wife has what her husband needs. The best way to receive these things if we serve each other.
Second, we swore allegiance to each other when we got married. We promised faithfulness, saying, “You’re my source. I’m not going to go to someone else to get my needs met. You’re the person who’s going to meet my needs.”
Marriage requires a Christ-like love, which means we should love each other with the character of Jesus. Jesus is humble. Jesus sacrificed for us. Jesus came to serve. He said, “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).
I am convinced that marriage has become broken in America because we are not Christ-like people. We are arrogant and self-absorbed. We don’t like to serve. When you don’t serve one another, your marriage falls apart. But if you’re willing to serve your spouse, your marriage can thrive.
Here are five rules for serving your spouse. You can remember them by the acronym SERVE:
S: Supply what your spouse needs in spite of what you need, want or understand. In counseling couples over the years, unmet needs are one of the major issues I’ve encountered. One spouse tells the other what he or she needs, but the other refuses to acknowledge that need.
Men and women are completely different and have different needs. When we ask our spouse to meet a certain need, we want him or her to listen first, then strive to meet that need—whether it makes sense to them or not. What they are saying is, “I can’t do this myself. I need you to supply it for me.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what you want or understand. It matters what your spouse wants.
E: Enjoy serving your spouse and do it with a joyful attitude. Let’s say you approach your spouse and say, “Honey, I need this from you.” And then they roll their eyes or make fun of you. Or they just ignore you. When any of these things happen, the spouse with a need feels rejected.
The first reason God created us is to serve Him, but the second reason He created us is for marriage. That is our purpose, which means your husband or wife should never feel like a burden to you. You serve them happily and gratefully. That is the vow you made.
R: Reject scorekeeping. Instead, serve with a spirit of grace and faith. In the past, I’ve taught about serving your spouse and heard afterward from people who say, “Well, my spouse is bad. They don’t deserve it. If I serve them, it will just encourage their selfish behavior. They need to repent first.”
I understand that thinking, but if we are following the example of Jesus, we have to remember that He loved us while we were yet sinners. He loves whether we deserve it or not. That’s grace. If your husband or wife is doing the wrong thing, your best approach is still to do the right thing. This is called redemptive love. It means giving even when you don’t want to give, and trusting God to use your sacrificial love to redeem your spouse.
V: Vigilantly protect the priority of your marriage. Marriage is so important that it has to be given priority in your life. In many of today’s marriages, people are just too tired to meet each other’s needs. They serve customers or clients at work. They serve their children when they get home. And then they are too tired to serve each other.
God created marriage so that the marriage comes first. We should tell each other, “You come first. You get the first and best of my energies.” That’s God’s plan and we have to protect it with careful attention.
E: Expect to be blessed. Remember Jesus’ promise? “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” He says that, if we humble ourselves and serve, we will be exalted. We have to trust that He will honor and bless us for following His example of sacrificial, redemptive love.
Marriage can be a challenge, but it always works best when a husband and wife are committed to serving one another. The strongest marriages begin with two servants in love. If you want to change your marriage, make the decision today to start serving your spouse—then trust God for the results.