Anyway Love

Gary Thomas’ article “Anyway Love” tells of a woman whose husband had continually disappointed her with his insensitivity.  Even after she gave him books about “how to love your wife” he didn’t change.

Gary recounts what she said:

“I’ve realized this is never going to change,” she confessed. “But I love him anyway.”

Then Gary’s response:

“That last statement of Meg’s, “but I love him anyway,” is one of the most profound theological statements on marriage I’ve ever heard. Most of us base love on because, not on anyway. I love you because you’re good to me. I love you because you’re kind, because you’re considerate, because you keep the romance alive.”

He pointed to Jesus’ words about what  makes a child of God different from one who is not.  How piercing this thought was to me! I have read this verse numerous times, and I’ve never really thought about it in the context of marriage.  There is no “credit” for loving a spouse because they love us.  We only get credit when we “love anyway” a spouse who doesn’t deserve it!  Yes, unfortunately, there are times when a spouse becomes an “enemy”.  And even then, we are instructed how to live:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that….But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”  Luke 6:32-36

I thought of the marriage of my friend, each blaming the other for failed hopes and unfulfilled responsibilities.  “I can’t love him because he doesn’t _____.” And so they’re walking away, unwilling to “love anyway”.

Christians have been called to many hard things through history. Perhaps even harder than a “one-time choice of martyrdom” is the choice to do hard things day in and day out.

And yet, what difference it would make in our marriages…what difference it would make as a living picture of Christ’s love for us.  And if we should even suffer?  Can we believe that it’s worthy of rejoicing if we suffer for doing what is right?

Full article by Gary Thomas

36 Responses to “Anyway Love”

  1. I think it is hard. Gratefully, I’m not in a marriage like that, but my sister is. Her husband ignores her and the kids. He stays on the sofa sleeping or on the computer playing video games when he is not at work. He is rude and mean and screams at them. I think playing it down to say that it isn’t hard is to do the person a disservice AND if it wasn’t hard, then the Holy Spirit wouldn’t have to make it possible. Honestly, I think it’s one of the hardest things to do: love someone who is difficult/mean/cruel. Second only to forgiving those same kinds of people. BUT because of Christ, it is possible to do both of those. It’s not easy, though. Not at all. It takes walking in the Spirit minute by minute for a wife to love a man who is mean to her, a man who ignores her and their children, a man who treats her terribly.

  2. Word Warrior says:

    GFG,

    You’re right…I worded that entirely wrongly (and will change it.) Even though I don’t know what it is like personally, I have seen it and it must be the hardest thing in the world to do.

  3. What strikes me as interesting is how many women are willing to love “anyway” when they are dating or engaged, but then how bewildered, angry, and hurt they are when the man doesn’t change after the wedding day. I’m not saying that a man has a right to be insensitive to his family, but what are so many women doing that they don’t understand that a bouquet of flowers and a wedding band isn’t going to change a man’s character? Admittedly, there are some men who change and become insensitive AFTER marriage, but the cases I see are primarily those where he is only what he always was.

  4. Kim M says:

    How profound this statement!! It really could apply to any area of life that we consider hard:

    “Christians have been called to many hard things through history. Perhaps even harder than a “one-time choice of martyrdom” is the choice to do hard things day in and day out.”

  5. Word Warrior says:

    Bethany,

    I agree with you…a large part of the problem is our approach to marriage, the brokenness of the dating system that allows a man to more carefully hide these character flaws, as opposed to a whole family actively dedicated to praying about and “investigating” the character of a man. Of course the hypothetical exists, but it’s the exception.

  6. ouch. good stuff. seems like every wife could find SOME reason to not submit to and honor her husband as the church SHOULD submit to Christ.

  7. Mrs. Santos says:

    Kelly~ this is my story exactly (just like GFG’s sister)and I hesitate admitting it. I so much want to be one of those people who say they are married to their best friend…But God is so good and so big. The biggest thing I have learned over the years is that our struggles are “tailor made”.

    God is making me over to be more like him and it is in the “furnace” that all the impurities come forth and can be removed. For me, the furnace has been a difficult marriage. I love the Lord that He would love me enough not to leave me as a big lump of clay, but that He would mold me and make me.

    I pray that every woman struggling would look to the Lord and what He wants to teach her through it all. Once a Christian, our life is hid in Christ. It is no longer us who lives but Christ in us. He is in control and our struggles are not a mystery to Him.

  8. Word Warrior says:

    Mrs. Santos,

    Thank you for a beautiful testimony to truth in a culture screaming that “marriage should make you happy, not holy”. Praying for your continued peace and grace…

  9. kc says:

    3 years ago my husband told me he didn’t love me anymore and had not for a long time. I remember hearing it and my ears ringing, my stomach punched. When he had finished, I told him that even though he didn’t love me…I loved him anyway and I would chose to love him no matter what he felt. It was the hardest thing I have ever said and meant and only through Christ was I able to say it. When we went for counseling he told them that when I said that it shocked him and made him rethink what love was. He had always believed lvoe was just a feeling and not a choice. But Christ showed us what love really is when he CHOSE to lay down on that cross and save us all. I’m grateful that Christ has FULLY restored our marriage….but I would love him anyway even if He had not, because Christ loved me even when I didn’t love Him. Sorry I am rambling…this really struck me today. Thanks for posting…i’m so thankful.

  10. Tarrah says:

    I have a question for you that is really off topic, but something in your post brought it to mind. You referenced the marriage of a friend at the end without naming any names. I recently used an example on my blog from a conversation I had had with a friend. I didn’t mention any names or even any specifics about our conversation. The topic of the post was on confronting sin and dealing with “gray areas.” She was really upset that I had even made reference to it. Based on much of our conversation, I believe she is feeling convicted, and her response was one of defensiveness more than anything, that if she can be mad at me for the post, she doesn’t have to deal with the real issue. My question to you is, do you often use real life examples on your blog, always anonymous of course, to make a point or teach a lesson? Do you think it is an invasion of privacy to make things like that public even if you don’t use names or details? Just curious how you would handle this situation.

  11. Word Warrior says:

    kc,

    I am just in awe reading your comment….what a testimony to the miraculous power of God.

  12. Word Warrior says:

    Tarrah,

    I think it’s a fine line and you do have to be very careful about what you share, even anonymously. I usually change details enough that the onlooker wouldn’t even notice it was them. I can’t give you the example in this case, because then the anonymity would be lost.

  13. EmSue says:

    This makes me realize how much I take my godly husband for granted. I feel that we probably would not have made it if we had not both come to know our Lord.

  14. […] What’s “Anyway Love”? […]

  15. momofmany says:

    “”It takes walking in the Spirit minute by minute for a wife to love a man who is mean to her, a man who ignores her and their children, a man who treats her terribly.””

    I think it also bears careful prayer. The Spirit may not be saying to stay and allow such behavior to go on quietly. Sometimes the most loving thing a woman can do is to put her foot down, refuse to allow the children or herself to be treated cruelly, and inform the sinful husband that she will love him…from afar…until he chooses to do the hard work of making SERIOUS lasting changes occur in his heart.

    Children learn how relationships work by watching the way dad and mom interact. It does our children no good service to cause them to think cruel and harsh behavior is normative. Love, true love, does not allow that to happen—not to the children, and not to the man who needs his help to firmly say, “This is not acceptable, this will not be acceptable, EVER, and BECAUSE I love you, I refuse to quietly sit back and watch you destroy yourself and the family that loves you.”

  16. Kelly- your changes to the post are perfect and beautiful. I now agree fully. 😉

    Mom of Many- I agree and I disagree and I’m not sure. 😉 This issue is tricky. Often, when putting a foot down a woman points to the door and the man leaves for good. This man my sister is married to is one of those kinds of guys, it seems. She has put her foot down in one way: she and the kids leave if he starts tirades. She won’t sit there and be verbally assaulted and won’t let the kids either. Asking him to leave until he works on things is asking for a divorce in his book.

    The thing that makes me the most upset is that they do not have elders who will confront him. She has gone to two ‘pastors’ and they say, “When he is ready to change, he’ll come for help.” instead of going to him as Matthew states. My dh and I have prayed to see if it is time for my dh to do this. I thiknk a woman has to be careful on what she views as putting her foot down. I also think our God is bigger than any bad influence a father might have in a child’s life. Some really amazing people have come from awful homes. (That’s not to say a woman should take physical abuse) I think my sister is doing the right thing right now. I’m praying for her like crazy.

  17. Jennifer says:

    Very true, grateful.

    Of course, there’s nothing wrong with loving a person because of their great qualities; many times that’s what induces love to begin with, whether it’s romantic love or friendship. The trick is to maintain that love after a bond has been in place for years and things start getting tough, as they inevitably will in every relationship.

    I do hope those who abuse love will get a good kick of reality in the rear from the Holy Spirit as well.

  18. Michael says:

    Any relationship that God is not involved in is difficult at best. Even with God they can be trying for us of mere flesh. when I think of my relationship with the one I love brings to mined the proverb to “study” the one that you love. Learn there true ways long before marriage. then there would be no surprise after the vows.And I think we all must change, daily even. What doesn’t change will then die.Birds and animals change there coats and feathers with the seasons. As a christian our spirit, and daily patterns change to conform to God’s will and direction. Our bodies change with age and the way we treat it. the only thing that doesn’t change is Gods undying, unchanging love for us. we on the other hand, MUST change, with Gods direction for us.

  19. Kate says:

    My husband recently sat down to tell me about a John Piper sermon he listened to (I think it was Piper) that challenged him to think about if he was viewing our marriage as a contract or a covenant. It was convicting for both of us. I am so thankful to have a God who has a covenant with me and will always love me, and so in response, I must have a covenantal love for my husband.

  20. Jennifer says:

    Yup, contract is VERY bad.

  21. Laura says:

    Thank you for this. I absolutely needed to read it. I struggle so much in this area.

  22. Mrs. Santos says:

    I would like to add to GFG’s comments and say that…Consistent Godly living IS a confrontation to an unloving husband. It would be nice to have some other man stand up and say something…but that may cause more problems.

    It is so important for the church to lift up these wives in prayer that they can be consistent. (especially when all they may want to do is run away or fight back)

    For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; 2 Cor 10:3-4

  23. Stephanie says:

    Grateful – I hope you don’t mean to suggest a woman should take verbal or emotional abuse.

  24. I don’t want to high jack your post, Kelly, so if you would rather I not respond, please delete this.
    Stephanie- please define verbal and/or emotional abuse based on Scripture and please define “take” based on Scripture.

  25. momofmany says:

    Grateful,

    God does not smile on leaders who use their mouth to cut down and destroy those in their charge.

    We, as Christians, believe that words are very powerful. After all, we believe that God created the heavens and earth by speaking, and it was so. Proverbs has much to say about the power of the tongue. Words can be much more damaging than a fist or a knife.

    It really bothers me when fellow Christians make light of verbal abuse. For us, who believe that the unseen is more powerful than the seen, we should know the power of words.

    When a spiritual leader uses words to rip down, shred, puncture, and destroy those in his care (his wife, his children, or both), this is no different from him using his fists, and many times is so much worse.

    In my opinion, UNLESS and only unless someone has recieved a clear and specific leading from God to stay in such a place, and, more importantly, a clear command to leave their precious children in such a place, ONLY then should they should stay, counting the cost and knowing the full measure of the risk (that if they are wrong, they may be setting up their children for generations of continued destructive family dynamics, deep spiritual and psychological wounds from growing up in an abusive atmosphere, etc).

    Otherwise, the “normal God-fearing mode of operation” for the Christian and for those counseling the Christian should be to remove oneself and ones children from the destructive environment. It can be done in love. It can be done lovingly. It can be done sweetly and kindly. Kindness does not mean lack of boundaries. It can be done with a great deal of grace and gentleness. Firm boundaries can be set in place with a heart full of love. In many ways, firm boundaries are the only way that abusive people can *hear* love.

    Corrie Ten Boom was a woman of great faith, and she made it through the most miserable of circumstances. But her situation should NOT be applied to marraige. Corrie was in a prison camp. She literally couldn’t leave. But a woman in America is not in a prison camp and her marriage is not a prison, nor was it ever intended to be one. We are not under the Taliban, not allowed to leave an abusive man. And our God is not the God of the Taliban, demanding the suffering of women in order to be pleased. The women Peter talked to in 1 Peter 3 could not leave their husbands—the law of the land commanded them to be in obedience, just as a slave was stuck under an unjust master. That was the way the government worked, then. That’s not the way our government works today (praise the Lord).

    Because of what God says, over and over in Scripture (see Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekial, what God has to say about leaders who abuse their flock, for example), the assumption for Christians should be that abusive treatment of a flock is NOT to be tolerated, nor smiled on, nor treated casually.

    So, my take from Scripture is that IF a woman feels clearly called to stay, and recieves counsel to stay from wise elders who are aware of all the details, THEN and only then should she feel free to stay, but taking all pains to make sure that her children are protected as much as is possible. By staying, she may win her husband, but she most certainly risks deep damage to the hearts of her children. So staying in such a destructive environment should be done only with great prayer and caution.

  26. Word Warrior says:

    Grateful for Grace,

    No I don’t mind at all and will say that you ask a brilliant question regarding this touchy subject.

  27. Jennifer says:

    Nowhere does the Bible condone verbal or emotional abuse. This shouldn’t be an issue whatsoever, or a hard thing to define. The Bible doesn’t even need to define it; God gave us common sense and the dictionary for a reason.

  28. Jennifer says:

    GFG-what you described is exactly emotional and verbal abuse.

  29. momofmany says:

    The Bible tells us very very clearly that words are more powerful than things we can feel and taste and touch. God’s word created the things we see. A word can do much more damage than a fist every could. Proverbs said that words can be as a knife, a sword, and a dagger. I’m sure we’ve all experienced words being used against us in that way (and can think of times when we’ve done that to others). A verbal abuser is someone who uses words like knives, not to rip through the body, but to rip through the soul, on a regular basis. It is not a “whoops” type of sin, but a regular pattern, a cycle. They use words to keep themselves feeling like they’re “on top,” using their tongue to break down the other person on the inside—not a one time thing, but in a regular way. (And they are not open to correction or rebuke like a normal healthy person would be, nor do they respond to kindness, like a normal healthy person would).

    And our God has very strong severe things to say to leaders who do not treat their flock with care and kindness, to leaders who use their power to hurt instead of to heal, to step on those “under” them, instead of to build up.

    Ezekiel talks about those evil shepherds who EAT the sheep, instead of tending them for God. Ladies, there are women reading right now who are married to men like that. God has horrible things to say about such leaders, and we should not make light of the situations of these women here.

    The Christian, a believer in the power of the Word, should understand that verbal abuse (someone who regularly uses words with intent to harm) is no small thing, an environment to remove oneself from (when possible—for those not in prison camps, under the Taliban or in a dictatorship) and, above all, an environment to NEVER willingly put children in.

    We love our toddlers when we do not buy them a toy every time they throw a fit. The same is true with a grown man who throws a fit (verbal or otherwise) to get what he wants. To give him what his flesh wants (to tiptoe around him to keep him from throwing the fit, and/or greeting the fit with meekness and obedience) is NOT to love him. It is to feed his flesh.

    Real love, God’s kind of love, doesn’t submit to fits and tirades and power displays. Real love tirelessly works for the best. Walking on eggshells so as not to upset an angry man is not best for anyone, especially the young souls in the home who are watching mom and dad and learning to think of unhealthy relationships as “normal.” It is NOT normal to have to regularly walk on eggshells in your own home. It can eventually feel normal, because you become so used to it, but that is simply a sign that it is a very destructive situation and that HELP is needed.

    There is a way to be loving and kind AND AT THE SAME TIME set down firm boundaries about appropriate behavior. A good help meet does not allow her husband to be consumed by his flesh, to be consumed by selfish abusive behavior, without waving a red flag and warning him that he is destroying himself, and that she cannot stand by and watch it happen quietly.

    Women must do this, for themselves and, more importantly, for their children.

    I agree with the advice in this post, when it is talking about a healthy man and a healthy woman. When it is talking about an abusive situation, however, sometimes the most loving thing to do is to walk away. Set the boundary and be willing to do the hard thing (of risking that he might not choose his family, but instead choose his rage), BECAUSE you love to much to allow someone’s flesh to destroy the hearts of their children and the heart of their home.

    For a strong dose of how God feels about abusive leaders, see Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, where God speaks often about leaders who do not treat those under them with care. It is not pretty. I wish we would take this subject just as seriously as He does.

  30. Stephanie says:

    Exactly, momofmany!

  31. Word Warrior says:

    I’ve thought a lot lately about the issue of abuse in marriage and have these thoughts…

    First, I don’t think anyone here is making light of it. We’re all seeking to understand God’s desire for us in marriage.

    I hope I don’t breach any trust here, but “our kind” have been repeatedly accused of enabling abusive men under our beliefs that women are to submit to their husbands. Our church and community are, right this very minute, taking care of a woman and her children who have moved out of a situation where the husband has been emotionally abusive–nothing physical.

    That’s why I don’t take well the false accusations of “who we are and what we believe”; we do not support marital abuse.

    Note added: this woman is not divorcing her husband, but physically separating in hope of restitution. I believe the Bible is very strict about what justifies divorce and in some cases, a woman may need to be separated indefinitely, but honor her marriage vows by remaining marriage. That’s hard stuff, and is my opinion until I’m persuaded otherwise.

    Having said that, there is a difference in a truly abusive marriage and one with a spouse who is just insensitive, etc.

    In fact, we all probably practice “abuse” in one form or another on occasion. (Haven’t I tried to manipulate my husband with feelings, or been wrongly angry at him, or spoken with harshness?)

    I do think careful attention needs to be given to the definition of abuse.

    And I think that if the Bible calls us to longsuffering, and loving our enemy, and doing good to those who hurt us, that yes, as a believer, I exercise those things to an extent in marriage where my spouse may be an unbeliever or not exactly the guy I wished he was.

    Again, fine line, but I want to temper the topic in the other direction and say I don’t feel like we are to run out at hurt feelings, or a husband with whom we may disagree, or something that just causes us to practice some self-denial.

    I’ve seen women “abuse the definition of abuse” and we must be very careful to not make allowances for that.

  32. Jennifer says:

    Well, running out and tolerating are different things.

    Thank you, momofmany.

  33. Becky says:

    An honest question here:

    I thought the only “justification” the Bible gives for divorce or leaving one’s spouse is infidelity. Am I wrong? Can you back it up with scripture?

  34. Word Warrior says:

    Becky,

    I would first say, that “leaving” a physical situation (such as the one my friend has done) is not the same as divorcing. In fact, I know of another godly woman who could no longer live with her husband (I don’t know why) but has for years been separated and actually continues to assist him if he needs anything. Don’t know a lot of details, but I’m prone to think that in extreme situations, a wife may need to distance herself while honoring her marital vows.

    Divorcing for any other reason than infidelity is not acceptable, as far as I can see, in Scripture. But I stand to be corrected from someone wiser.

  35. Jennifer says:

    I had got this article as an email and had saved it to read again. Was so glad to see it posted here and discussed too!
    My marriage is going through a difficult time right now, find this an encouraging read….

  36. Jennifer says:

    The Bible speaks of what an abandoned wife can do, referring to her marriage as abolished. I think many can see physical abuse as abandonment. Here’s what an older gentleman wrote to me on another site when I asked for help about a disturbed wife, claiming she should have allowed her husband to beat her to death rather than divorce him:

    “1 Cor. 7:10-16 teaches that married persons should strive to maintain the marriage bond even in the face of severe marital hardship. The reason, stated in verses 14 and 16, is that a believing spouse’s testimony may influence an unbelieving spouse to repent and come to Christ. A similar rationale is put forth in 1 Pet. 3:1-2.

    However, this passage does not teach that a wife must stay in an abusive situation. It permits divorce when an unbelieving husband “departs” from his wife, or as alternately translated, “abandons” his wife. This can occur without physical separation if an unbelieving husband (as he almost certainly must be to engage in such behavior) so completely forsakes his biblical duties to his wife, i.e., to love her as Christ loved the church, to nurture and cherish her as he would his own body (Eph. 5:25-33 and 1 Pet. 3:7), as to create a situation even worse than physical abandonment. If God permits divorce in a case of willful neglect, it is a perversion of Scripture to suggest that God would require a woman to remain in an affirmatively harmful situation merely because the husband remains physically present. “A brother or a sister is not in bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace.” (1 Cor. 7:15) It is also entirely appropriate to seek outside intervention from law enforcement or other protective agencies if physical safety is a concern. If the husband professes to be a believer, the church discipline process (Matt. 18:15-17) should be promptly commenced.”

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