If Love is God, Love Will Fail

I was never any good at romantic love. I feared falling in love — being vulnerable with my emotions. I knew whoever I married would need to be a worthy man according to Scripture, but also someone I could fall in love with, and that second part scared me. As I dated my husband, two big questions hovered over our relationship:

Was he godly? Yes.
Do I love him? Yes, I do.

But it did not end there, like I had thought it would. Because I had overcome my fear of falling in love and “took the plunge,” I thought I had arrived. I thought we had arrived. Instead, I realized that, though I had fallen in love, I did not know a thing about true love. In fact, God walked me and all my fears about love through the door of romantic love on my wedding day in order to teach me about his true and lasting love in new and deeper ways.

Two Loves

There is a clear distinction between biblical love and romantic love. Biblical love is unnatural to us, so it is always worked in us by the Holy Spirit. No one loves like God without God’s help. Romantic love comes more naturally to us, and therefore happens easily.

Romantic love is a good gift of God’s common grace meant for our enjoyment, and it is good for this type of love to develop into marriage. Biblical love is a different category altogether. At its core, biblical love is selfless, committed to truth, and driven by a divine work inside of us. It never happens unless we draw near to God in Christ. Biblical love can also be expressed and experienced in any relationship, while romantic love is exclusive — designed to be expressed and experienced (at least ultimately) with one person in marriage.

Romantic feelings only scratch the surface of God’s design for us. They give us a glimmer of the ecstatic feelings God has for us, the kind of feelings that lead him to sing over us (Zephaniah 3:17). Biblical love takes us even deeper into that wondrous love. Our love for one another models his covenant love for us — a love so zealous to uphold his covenant with us that he will die for us, even when he had every reason to leave us.

Death is at the center of God’s love for us, and death is at the heart of all biblical love. The covenant vows we make on our wedding day are a death sentence of love. We vow to die to self, in every season of marriage, for the other — to keep the covenant at all costs, doing whatever it takes to serve our spouse’s joy in Jesus.

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Chasing Happily Ever After

There is a story little girls grow up with. The one where a handsome young Prince defeats every obstacle to save the Princess in distress. This is the stuff of fairy tales and a lot of older Disney movies. Now those movies have evolved into something where the Princess is strong, not helpless, and where she is in control as opposed to things just happening to her. She even does some of the saving now. Overall, this is a good shift of the classic narrative structure, because it shows the stronger side of femininity for little girls and lets them know they shouldn’t look for ultimate fulfillment in men. We can’t place our hope in another character in the story, but it must be placed in the creator of the story itself.

The story of the Prince saving the Princess and living happily ever after is reflective of a longing inside of us. We want this to be our story. We want the happily ever after. So we search for it in a man, in a relationship, and in a marriage. But when we bank on finding ultimate happiness in a boyfriend, fiancee, or husband we place them on a pedestal and put burdens on them they were never meant to bear. I didn’t realize I had put my husband on a pedestal until five years of marriage when he came crashing down. I was deeply hurt and he became a broken statue on the floor. I found out the depth of his sin, as well as my own, and reality could not measure up to the fairy tale. I felt like I had lost my happily ever after. I wrongly assumed my husband would fill that longing for my happily ever after, and I also wrongly viewed him, and his role, as more akin to Christ himself. My husband is called to be like Christ, but he is not Christ. I didn’t have this straight when I married him.

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Marriage is Not About Me

All my girlfriends were in a desperate frenzy to find a husband, and I was the fish swimming against the current. I gave a resounding “yes” to Paul when he said, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Corinthians 7:7).

But my upstream swim was due to a dark cloud of fear blocking my vision. I was afraid of marriage. I was afraid of getting hurt.

Though I wanted to remain single (sometimes selfishly), God kept putting marriage on my heart. I sensed he wanted to give me a gift, but in my heart I kept resisting him. To me, marriage looked mostly bleak and dark. I didn’t want to be put in a vulnerable position, because I wanted a life without personal pain and heartache.

Then I met my future husband.

As I confronted my fears in our dating relationship, I kept walking ahead with faith in my Father. God gave me peace to trust him on that path, and the end result was marriage.

But a few years into marriage, I began to question again whether it was truly a gift. Aren’t gifts supposed to make you feel good?

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If He Does Not Love Jesus, He Will Not Love You

Latest article up on Desiring God >>

Growing up in church as a young single woman, I heard a phrase about men I might date, “Make sure he loves Jesus more than you.”

I thought, “Well, of course,” and glossed over the cliché without really thinking about it. Adam, walking in the garden with God, would have been perplexed by that advice. For him, there would have been no competition for his heart and mind, because God gave Eve to him in a perfect and sinless world…

Do Not Fear the Hard Things of Marriage

The picture in my head was clear, the image of a sheep being guided along from the rear by its shepherd. The sheep stayed the course on the straight path by the taps of the staff to its hindquarters. I heard the Lord say: “Do not fear, I will guide you and protect you.”

God was speaking to my heart as I confronted my fears of marriage. I was dating my husband at the time and fear tethered me back from going forward in the relationship. I was afraid of putting myself in a vulnerable position, because it could possibly lead to hurt. I wanted a life devoid of personal pain and heartache. I wanted to take my own hands and shelter my heart, instead of placing it into the hands of my Father…

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Give Your Suitor Some Grace

He wasn’t putting himself out there. His indirect attempts at prompting my admissions were not working. I stood firm and resolute. He kept prying.

It was our third date, he was putting the feelers out, and I wasn’t having it. No way would I be the first one to jump in the water. I expected him to directly broach the topic of our relationship with me. I wanted him to tell me his feelings first and initiate an official relationship. Yet we were at a stalemate. The awkward silence swallowed our fun evening as it came to a close.

When we parted ways, I became angry and began to doubt him. “Maybe he’s not the kind of guy I want?” “This isn’t going to work out.” “He’s not leading and initiating like he should.” My harsh judgments were growing like a hard shell around my heart, and I began rejecting him internally. I thought it would end before it had even begun….

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