Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
The fact that this scripture is read at pretty much every wedding is no small coincidence. It packs a punch for only being four verses long. But I often wonder if the young couples getting married ever stop to really consider what it is saying. If we all lived by these four verses, our marriages would be happy, fulfilling, and lasting.
These verses are crucial to a happy marriage. But Paul was not giving marital advice when he wrote this. He was defining “love”. The love that God has for us, and the love that Christians should have for others. But this fact should not take away from the importance it plays in the union of husband and wife.
“Love suffers long and is kind”. Matthew Henry wrote about this in his commentary: “It is long suffering… It can endure evil, injury, and provocation, without being filled with resentment, indignation, or revenge. It makes the mind firm, gives it power over the angry passions, and furnishes it with a persevering patience, that shall rather wait and wish for the reformation of a brother than fly out in resentment of his conduct.” John MacArthur simplifies it by saying that love is “bearing with a person’s worst behavior, without retaliation, regardless of the circumstances.” The point here isn’t that we bear bad behavior from our spouse- the point is that we do not retaliate- no matter what. Love is the result of OUR behavior.
In this last installment of “The Good Wife” I want to emphasize this long-suffering. Many women (and men) have been known to find themselves in marriages that are less than ideal. Maybe their expectations were different, maybe their situations are far from what they pictured- but God tells us that love “suffers long” and “endures all things”. Please hear me out- this does not apply to women who are in abusive relationships, whose lives and children’s lives are in danger. This charge is for the rest of us.
We live in a world that has taught us that we shouldn’t do anything for anybody unless we get some kind of self-serving action in return. Unfortunately, this attitude will ruin your marriage. If you are unhappy in your relationship, the only way to improve it is to change- you first. “Live such good lives that they will see the good things you do and will give glory to God on the day when Christ comes again.” (1 Peter 2:12). It is our behavior, our expression of love, that will open the door to change. Pray for change, act on change, and be willing to change- and God will create change. If you love according to the scriptures, being long-suffering, and trusting in God to bring conviction and affection to your husband’s heart, then God will make it happen.
What have I learned in my years of marriage? I’ve learned that it takes work. I’ve learned that if I want a happy, successful marriage with mutual affection and respect, then I need to work at being a “good wife”. I need to read the scriptures, trust God, and live according to love. And in the process I have learned that being a “good wife” means being a good woman- living according to the Word of God, loving others, and having faith. The love that “suffers long” is not a love we can create on our own- it is a love that only God can give, a love that only God can unfold in us, and teach us. If you want that kind of love, then we must first know God’s love for us- the first love.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11)
I want to leave you with this request: write a prayer for you and your husband and pray it- asking God to show you both how to have a successful marriage. It will be the start of a wonderful transformation for you both. This is a part of a prayer I wrote down for my marriage and I wanted to share it with you:
“Father, may I have a gentle and quiet spirit, submitting myself to my husband, so that he may understand how to submit to you. May my conduct be evidence of my faith, and may my words be incorruptible, so that he may grow to understand the importance of showing honor and love to me, and to you, Father. May our love become stronger, unable to be torn by the world. May our love be biblical and true to Your Word. Thank you Father, for loving us, and allowing us to grow. Thank you for Your grace, and bring us Your peace. Amen.”
God is always in control, and if you trust Him, He will bring healing and help to your marriage- you just need to be able to suffer-long in love and be patient.