One thing I've noticed recently is that people are more in a habit of believing the idea of marriage is what causes marriages to fail, not that people are the problem. Ever since Adam and Eve indulged in the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, people are naturally inclined to selfish, flesh-pleasing desires. People want riches, fame, and attractive sexual partners, yet in the pursuit of these desires they wind up more empty. A life not pursuing God's plan and living according to his word is a life wasted.
So how can we refocus on God's plan and not be concerned with the distractions of man? How are we able to live God's plan through us and not want to have the desire to do foolish or harmful things?
Simply put, live a 1 Corinthians 13 life and marriage. You need to die to yourself, love those around you, and do everything out of love without any expectation of returns before you can truly live a happy, fulfilled life. 1 Corinthians 13 (1-3) is profound in saying that you can have the talent, the resources, and do amazing things, but if you DO NOT do it out of love it means nothing:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
This scripture highlights the issue many people face today. People do things for at least partially selfish reasons. For example, people volunteer or give to charity with the expectation they will be praised since many charities tell donors that they have shout-outs or have special receptions for big donors. In reality, people who donate their time and money should be doing so out of love and with no expectation of something in return. I AM NOT saying that everyone who donates time or money and gets recognized is doing it wrong, rather that if they are donating partially because of the recognition then they are wrong.
This principle applies to love in marriage. People have false expectations for what they will get from marriage and are not focused on loving selflessly according to God's plan. From the books that I've read on marriage, many women proclaim that their biggest issue with their husbands is that they want sex all the time and the biggest issues husbands have is that they do not get enough sex. Are men and women biologically different and because of this they want different amounts of sex? Perhaps. A better answer, however, is that men have a false expectation (NOT out of love) that getting married to their wife will equate to sex all the time and women believe that men will always meet their emotions needs and, in turn, deserve sex. Instead of loving their wife or husband and sacrificing to meet their spouses emotional, spiritual, and physical needs first, men and women can get irritated at times when their spouse does not want to have sex or meet their emotional need because of these (apparently very common) misconceptions.
It's only when you put the needs of your spouse and the community before your needs that you can have a truly blessed and fulfilling life. Here's how I think we should apply 1 Corinthians 13 4-7 in our marriages and relationships.
- Verse 4: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud." Take the time to make sure your spouse knows how much they mean to you. Be gentle in times of hardship or disagreement, and be patient in resolving conflicts. Speak to your spouse and genuinely listen. Understand them first and then ask them if they are willing and ready to listen to your opinion. Also, ask your spouse how they are doing and compliment them for everything that's going right in their life while encouraging them during trials. Do not boast beyond your spouse's praise towards you... do not bring attention to yourself around your spouse's friends and family, and be humble if you are praised.
- Verse 5: "It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." It's easy to fail others, but do not seek to intentionally dishonor your spouse. Do not participate in actions that you know are wrong and are going to hurt your spouse. Do not seek to enhance your own pleasure and life before making sure your spouse's needs are met. Do not get angry, especially about trivial offenses. In fact, minimize anger, even about bigger things and transgressions. Do not lose the lessons you have learned from the past, but forget past transgressions or mistakes your spouse has made, as it does not help you in your love to harbor feelings of animosity and hate for the past, and it does not help them by reliving the past through your anger and frustration. Similarly, if you have failed your spouse, do not remain angry at yourself and do not forget the lessons you have learned, but unchain yourself from the power of the guilt from your past by proceeding in love.
- Verse 6: "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." The truth may hurt sometimes, but the beautiful thing about the love God commands us to follow in Corinthians is that love rejoices in the truth and does not delight in evil. If the truth involves evil, love does not admire it but rather is joyed in the wrongdoing being brought to light. Light shines out darkness. Always have a policy of complete honesty and transparency with your spouse and keep your end of the agreement. Your spouse doesn't need to know every tiny detail of your life, but anything you would consider moderate to major details (e.g. family information, the past, where you are going, what you are doing, how much you are spending) are things you need to tell your spouse.
- Verse 7: "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." This is pretty straight forward. Always protect your spouse, even if they have hurt you. Always trust them in everything they do. Always hope and persevere, even in tribulations. This is the hardest verse to live by because when we are hurt, we naturally go on defense and hurt our spouse. Focus on making verse 7 a regular habit in your marital and societal conflicts.
"Love never fails."
--1 Corinthians 13 (Verse 8)--