In a timely pursuit, my husband and I are embarking on Andy Stanley’s iMarriage study with a few couples in our community. Stanley shared a concept in Week One of his talk that struck me – the idea of being committed and faithful to my spouse versus my marriage. It struck me as I thought to myself, how many times have I shared over the years, “I will always be committed to this marriage” or “I will remain faithful to our covenant.” That’s good, right? It’s certainly not bad, but as Stanley points out, it’s things to which I say I am committed and faithful. The marriage. Our covenant. Those are things. And important things. But what about my husband? Wouldn’t my husband rather hear I am faithful to him? Would I rather hear he is committed to me? After all, God is committed to me. He is faithful to me. It profoundly struck me. I mean, on a bad day, it’s much easier to be faithful to my marriage but maybe not so much my spouse, right? At least that might be my mindset in a bad moment. So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to unpack that this week, looking at what does it mean to be ‘faithful’ to my spouse (versus just my marriage)—in all circumstances. (Similarly one can look at this as faithful to friends versus friendships, sons and daughters versus role as a mother…) Simply stated, I’m looking to God’s faithfulness as a model for faithfulness in my relationships. And since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m going to hone in on marriage.
I started down a path of diving into the Biblical meaning of ‘faithful’, and found that, according to the Holman Bible Dictionary, “‘Faithful’ is derived from the Hebrew root having the basic meaning, ‘to trust (a person)’, or ‘to believe (a statement)’. This is the same root that gives us the word ‘amen’.” (Who knew?) ‘Faithful’ is used to describe the relation of God and Israel (Deuteronomy 7:9). God repeatedly makes and keeps His promises “…to a thousand generations”. Faithfulness is simply part of who He is. We know it is in the character of God through his actions. We also know it is important to Him because He calls it out as a fruit of the Spirit. It is something He freely gives us if we receive it through the Holy Spirit, as found in Galatians 5:22-23, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Emphasis mine.) With this fruit, our relationships are so much sweeter, are they not?
Our Heavenly Father is steadfast, unchanging, and thoroughly grounded in relation with his sons and daughters (Hebrews 13:8). The faithful person is steadfast, unchanging, and thoroughly grounded in relation to one another. This sort of fidelity, or faithfulness, is used in both the Old Testament and the New Testament to describe God’s relation to the world and to describe the quality of relationship that Israel and Christians are called upon to have with God and with one another.
So how can I produce more of this fruit of faithfulness towards my spouse?
Staying Connected to God
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. – 1 Chronicles 16:11
As our Father, God desires connection to us. As we regularly stay connected to Him (through His Word and prayer), His fruit becomes a part of who we are. We need to stave off the distractions of this world that try to grab our attention away from Him. We need to get His Word into our hearts so deeply that it is untouched by these distractions. I know that in staying connected to God, faithfulness will overflow to my husband. Similarly, we need to stave off the distractions of this world that take our attention off our spouses. That’s just what the enemy wants is for us to take out eyes off of our loved ones. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Him and fixed on our loved ones. (I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. – Psalm 16:8)
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
God gives no exceptions or compromises in His love for us. How might we refuse exceptions or compromises in our own marriage? Andy Stanley addressed that too. He says that when expectations collide, we compromise. And a compromised relationship is not focused on the other person, it’s focused on expectations – what am I doing, or what are you doing to meet an expectation? So how might we take our expectations of one another and shatter them? I know focusing more on God and on what I can do to show love, out of love, will help in that process.
Keeping My Eyes on the Eternal
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:18
In his “Faithfulness in Marriage” blog, Pastor Greg Scott shares that God’s ideal vision for human marriage helps us understand important qualities of His plans for our future. God’s Word speaks of our eternal future metaphorically as marriage to His Son Jesus Christ. In God’s mind that means a permanent relationship. Christ will not suddenly offer us a certificate of divorce one day saying, “I’ve changed my mind, I don’t love you anymore.” “It’s not you it’s me.” He won’t say, “I don’t want you around anymore” or any of the selfish ways we terminate our human relationships.
God wants us to learn to be faithful. It’s who He is, it’s how He wants us to be, and how life for us will be in the Kingdom of God. And we become that way by practicing it in our lives now. We do that by making commitments, holding onto fidelity, and loving unconditionally.
Praying for my Spouse
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6
I could write an entire blog on the importance of this one. Prayer is a powerful tool in connecting to God, changing our hearts, and opening doors for our loved ones. On my first trip to South Africa several years ago, a pastor of the church we attended there shared a simple yet powerful statement that has stuck with me ever since — “We ought to be on our knees, praying for our loved ones each day.” After all, who else will be doing so on their behalf with the detail and urgency we each uniquely hold? It does wonders, friends. Try it!!!
I know I fall short of regularly hitting all of these, but I am also grateful that I have a Heavenly Father who is faithful to me, always there with His guidance and hope. (I am also grateful for a husband who is filled with grace for this girl!)
My husband and I have celebrated over two decades of Valentine’s Days together. As I reflect on what it looks like to be faithful for the next 20 years, I am excited about the opportunity that a news lens on being faithful can bring! I’m no longer just faithful to my marriage; I am faithful to my husband.
Lord, I thank you for surrounding me with an amazing spouse and loved ones. I pray that you can help me to grow in faithfulness to my husband as you are faithful to me. I pray you give me eyes to see opportunities to love him in new ways, ears to be attentive to his needs, and a heart to love him as you love me. I pray this for all of the relationships you’ve placed in my life. In your Son’s Holy Name I pray, Amen.