For those of us who are married, we each pledged our love for our spouses at our wedding — a love that would never waver, endure sickness and poverty, and abide until death parted us.
But oh, how our human love has failed. So many marriages collapse under the strain that life brings, and even those who remain married struggle to love well through those challenges.
Striving to preserve, protect, and prosper our marriages is a worthy endeavor, but this effort can feel impossible to sustain, and thinking back on the promises we once pledged can often fill us more with guilt than joy.
Let’s think back to another day instead. Not a day in which your love was celebrated, but rather a day when your eyes were opened to a love that was extended to you.
Though our experiences are all unique, every believer in Jesus can remember a time in which you recognized God’s love as valuable, beautiful, endearing, and personal. Your heart and life were changed by love that you didn’t deserve; love you could never hope to return in kind.
And this love has endured. Amid all our struggles, failures, and sin, we still experience the love of God, turning us back to him with mercy and compassion.
When the Old Testament writers spoke of God’s love for his people, they most frequently used the word hesed — sometimes translated as steadfast love or lovingkindness. In Psalm 136, the word is present in every verse.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
– Psalm 136:1-2
God’s love can be counted on. He is faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to him. His love for us originated before creation and will last throughout eternity. He has adopted us into his family and will never let us go. He is sovereign over all the universe, and we can trust that nothing will ever overwhelm his love for us.
In the New Testament, the Greek word agape is most commonly used, particularly emphasizing the unconditional sacrifice of our Savior.
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
– Ephesians 5:2
The love of God is expressed over and over as a love that gives. The Father gave his Son for us, the Son gave himself up on the cross for us, the Spirit is given to us. The depths of God’s sacrificial gifts are impossible to fathom and made all the more inexplicably lovely by the depths of our depravity. We deserve none of his love, and yet he never fails to grace us with his gifts. His unconditional sacrifice on our behalf was costly, and the price was paid with joyous love.
In our own strength, we are incapable of loving our spouses with such a faithful, enduring, unconditional, sacrificial love. But God doesn’t stop with simply loving us. He extends that unending, undeserved love into and through us, transforming our hearts first toward him and then to those around us.
When we come to grips with our inability to earn God’s love, how can we continue to hold our spouses’ sins against them? When we understand the lovingkindness given to us, how can we not extend it to others? When we experience God’s patience with our fears and failures, how can we fail to forgive? When we have been given God’s very Son, how can we insist on our own preferences?
Through uncertainty and upheaval, in seasons of suffering or stress, attempting to root our efforts to love our spouse in our own strength will always fail us. Instead, let’s remind ourselves of the gospel love of God.
When we examine how he has loved us despite our weakness, we just might find a taste of his great love to extend to our spouse.
May we reflect his faithful, enduring, unconditional, sacrificial love each day as we work and live and grow side by side, day by day, grace by grace.
In this is love, not that we have 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 4:10-11