God’s standard and foundation for love is a commitment to act in another’s best interest regardless of how you feel.
Hundreds of times, I have sat in my office with unhappy couples and heard one or both of them say something like this: “I just don’t love him/her anymore. I guess we must have made a mistake when we got married!” When I hear those words, I can sympathize, because those were the exact sentiments Karen and I expressed to each other before the final crisis that occurred several years into our marriage. Today, it is hard for Karen and me to comprehend
how we ever could have felt that way, because we so deeply respect each other and are so much in love. However, we can both remember what it was like to experience the emotional numbness and disillusionment that led us to say those terrible words to each other. We also know the steps we took to remedy the situation. Those same steps taught us how to achieve and preserve strong and healthy feelings for each other, as well as how to keep the romantic edge on our relationship.
Three Steps to Renewal
In Revelation 2:5, Jesus was speaking to the church at Ephesus concerning the deficient state of their relationship with Him. Once intense and rich, their love for Him now was cooling off. In response to this situation, Jesus instructed them to restore their love for Him. Here is the three-step plan Jesus gave to the Ephesian Christians for the renewal of their fervent love for Him.
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the
deeds you did at first…”
The same three steps will heal and revive the love of any couple. They are:
Remember Therefore from Where You Have Fallen
As new Christians, we are willing to do almost anything to serve Christ. We are the boldest evangelists and cannot wait to seek God at every opportunity. However, as time goes on, other things begin to compete for our attention. If we give in, and most of us do at some point, we find ourselves cooling off toward God.
Most people think this is simply a necessary maturing that every Christian must experience. However, Jesus called it the sin of losing your first love for Him. He knows why we lost it, too! We stopped working at the relationship and protecting it as our first priority.
It is interesting that Jesus does not tell us to try to work up some emotion to restore our love for Him. He knows the essential strength of true love is not emotion. He knows it is a decision of the will. In fact, the word most often used in the New Testament for “love” is the Greek word “agape,” which means “a commitment to love and do what is right for someone else regardless of circumstances or emotions.”2 ( Ibid., Greek #26.)
God’s standard and foundation for love is a commitment to act in another’s best interest regardless of how you feel. Although many times feelings are good and proper, they are unreliable as the foundation of a relationship. Feelings are a harsh taskmaster in your life. If you always do what you feel like doing, your life will become a vicious cycle of pain and confusion. When you make the decision to do what is right, regardless of how you feel, your life will be blessed and secure.
Knowing this truth, Jesus first commanded the Ephesians to “remember” the place from which they had fallen. In other words, He wanted them to recall their actions at the beginning of the commitment to Him when their love was so intense. He did not try to get them to remember their feelings; He wanted them to remember their actions.
As it applies to marriage, this first step means remembering the joyous details of your happy and giving actions at the beginning when the relationship was so exciting and fulfilling. Remember how you honored the other person and were so sensitive in your speech? Remember how you did little things to impress them?
Remember how both of you thought of each other all day and anticipated and prepared for your times together? Once you have remembered the actions your first love was built on, then you are ready for Step Two.
The word translated “repent” in the Bible means “to change your mind.” It also means “to turn around, or to do an aboutface.”3 This implies that we are going the wrong way and must change our direction. When we are losing the first love we once had for our spouses, it should be evident that we must be doing something wrong or going off in a direction other than before. Therefore, we must change directions, or repent, in order to be healed. We must turn around and think like we did at the beginning.
When Jesus tells us to repent, here is what He means: remembering the fervent actions and right attitudes you displayed at the beginning of the relationship, you are to change any actions and attitudes currently being displayed that are different from those at the beginning. True repentance includes three ingredients:
3 (Ibid., Greek #3340.)
(1) acknowledging the truth (revelation), (2) admitting you were wrong (confession), and (3) adjusting your direction (action).
If this situation applies to you, when you have compared your present condition to your original state and have become willing to take responsibility for the failure by repenting, then you can conclude the process of restoration with Step Three.
Do the Deeds You Did at First
Note the fact that Jesus requires no emotion of us. He did not say, “Buster, you had better work up some deep feelings for Me right now, or you are in big trouble!” He simply told the Ephesians to act the way they had when their relationship with Him was young. Once again invest your time and energy into the relationship, regardless of how you feel in the process. Then, the positive emotions and first love will come when the work is done—just as it did when the relationship was new.
When we began the healing process in our marriage, the Holy Spirit led me to this Scripture and told me to begin to pursue Karen with energy and sensitivity just as I had in the beginning. The only problem was I had lost all feeling for her. Although we repented to each other and forgave each other, both of us had serious reservations about becoming emotionally vulnerable again.
At that point in our marriage, we were at a standoff. We needed to do something—we needed to act—yet our feelings were telling us not to act or to do the wrong thing. We simply had to stop listening to our unhealthy, wounded emotions and begin to obey the Word of God. So even though neither of us had any positive emotions or good feelings at the time, we began to do the things we knew were right for each other.
The result? After just a few days, we began to see significant changes in our relationship and in our feelings. After a few months, our marriage was totally different and deeply satisfying. After a few years, we were far beyond any height or depth of love we had ever experienced together before.
I don’t want to give the impression that we have never since experienced any problems or frustrations in our marriage. If you get the impression that we are superhuman or different in some way from you, you may think we only succeeded because of some special ability or a special act of God. We are just like you. If God can do it with us, He can and will do it for anyone else, including you.
I am able to share our story with you right now, not because of who we are or what we did, but because God’s Word is true, and He is faithful. If you will begin today to obey His commandment to cleave to your spouse and work at your relationship,you will still have some problems. However, as you remain steadfast and obedient, your problems will decrease and be easier to overcome, and your blessings will grow larger and more enjoyable.
We still have a few challenges from time to time. But we don’t have many disagreements of any significance; and when we do, we are able to work through them without damaging our love and trust for each other. This is a big change from before. We have so much pleasure together and so many blessings in our lives, all because of the power and truth of God’s Word working daily in our marriage.
Make a commitment today to work at your relationship as you reject any wrong information from the world about its false brand of love. You can live in a marriage where love and satisfaction are the rule and not the exception. It all depends on your willingness to obey God’s commandment to cleave to your spouse.
If you make the decision to pursue your spouse with energy and diligence, you will quickly find it is a labor of love to which you will become addicted, not hard, grueling work. You will experiencethe wonderful truth that marriage gets stronger and more satisfying every day when you do it God’s way.
In all labor, there is a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.Proverbs 14:23 NIV