My heart is at war – Cheryl’s heart is at war, but the real enemy of our marriage is not the other, but rather. . .
Let’s let James weigh in from God’s Word at this point:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (4:1-2).
Question: What is the answer to this war of unfulfilled desires in my heart?
Answer: Surrender to another warrior! (no, not Cheryl:)
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring [cheap] peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it [there’s the cost of loving Jesus above all else], and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it [that’s the reward of loving Jesus above all else]. (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV).
The short answer is this: Ivan, lose your life for Christ and you will find it. And when you do, you’ll save your marriage to boot!
If I make my life the meaning of life – I’ll lose it. But if I make Christ’s Life the Meaning of Life – I get to keep my life. My Greatest Need and Your Greatest Need is the Life of Christ.
Now look how this James 4 War of unfulfilled desires defeats my marriage:
If you fear suffering then you will fight for comfort. You and I will put our creature comforts first.
If you fear criticism, rejection, and failure then you will fight for approval and admiration from your spouse. You and I will not be able to hear our sin and we’ll hide from our spouse.
If you put too much hope in your spouse – more than God, then you will fight for what your spouse can do for you rather than God. But no spouse can be your Savior – there is only one Messiah and his name is Jesus. It is true that no one can hurt us like our spouse can. But if you fear, trust in, NEED your spouse then you will be unable to truly love and give. You won’t be able to move toward your spouse in love because you live on their approval or fear their disapproval.
But God is more loving and more trustworthy than anything that your spouse can provide. The only way that I can grow in my love for Cheryl is to Love Jesus, reverence him, trust in him, hide in him – above her. Loving Jesus Christ above all is the most loving thing that I can do for my neighbor, my family, my wife, my kids, my friends, and the lost. Not just because they will be the recipients of my sacrificial life – but because they will see that Jesus is the greatest treasure, the greatest value – and they too can keep their lives; they too can learn to love others with the love of Christ.
Jesus does not call me to lose my life or love him more than Cheryl because he wants to rob my life but because he wants to protect my life. In marriage, we both love the other while making war with our own unfulfilled desires. And we do this by turning to Jesus, who strengthens us to fight our sinful desires for control, advantage, and prominence. We do this by surrendering to Jesus, Lord of our lives, who owns our checkbooks, our calendars, our children. We do this by seeing him who Loves Us and Makes War against anything that opposes his Lordship. When Jesus wins, you win.