For all the guys out there, this one's for you! If your wife sent this to you to read, I'm sure it wasn't a passive aggressive or subtle "hint" at anything, but simply because I asked her to. So ladies, you have permission to send away!
Once a year, we get an opportunity handed to us on a silver platter to show our ladies that we love them. The creator of Valentine's Day was a genius. Men are usually more simple creatures, so they made it simple for guys to succeed. Tell them some things they can do, what to buy, what to say through a card, and create some peer pressure to make sure that they follow through. Even with all of the commercialism, I'd venture to say that if you at least make some sort of effort she will usually appreciate it and feel loved. Which is especially important during challenging times when making consistent efforts to show your love can become more difficult.
I’ve heard it said time and time again that Infertility within a marriage will either bring you closer together or push you apart. Not only have I heard it, I’ve lived it. Twice. The intensity we face during this difficult season can make it hard to want to love anything, including the one God has given us to love intensely.
Men especially can have a hard time with closing themselves off to everything else and basically shutting down. Many times the reason is as simple as us not having a clue what to do or say. How can we break through this wall and begin to fight for our marriage despite the whirlwind swirling around us? How can we make it a normal part of our lives to love well instead of relying on holidays to remind and encourage us to make a special effort?
Considering God as the author of love and Jesus as the greatest example of love, there are two attributes of God that stand out to me as key attributes to a healthy loving marriage: Sacrifice and Humility.
The greatest love story of all time is when the God of the universe chased after those he loved, even when they treated him poorly and rebelled against Him. Through the Sacrificial Love of His Son dying on the cross for us, believers are reconciled to the God they once rejected.
"God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
What exactly is a sacrifice? What does “sacrificial love” mean to you?
Sacrificial love is one of the greatest attributes of God that we should strive to apply to our marriages each and every day. Christ sacrificed everything for his church, which He refers to as His “bride.” We are to do the same for our bride even when we may not “feel like it.”
If you are anything like me, you may occasionally (or not so occasionally) find yourself thinking that you just don’t “feel like” making any more sacrifices for someone else right now, or being selfless towards your spouse and giving up something for them. It could even be something as simple as your time or a compromise on a decision that you just don’t want to give in to, etc...
Men, as the infertility season gets longer and longer, it can become more difficult to continue making the sacrifices needed to selflessly love your wife and support her emotionally. Especially when you may not understand all of the emotions that are going through her head to begin with. Think for a minute about why that is. Human nature and much of our culture tends to guide us in the direction of becoming selfish because everything tends to be about one spouse or the other during this time (usually the wife). We find ourselves wanting to invest emotionally in our wives but we’re not sure what kind of response we’ll get or when is the best time for her. We also don’t want to make it worse by expressing our own feelings or thoughts if they don’t line up with hers.
Very often, we know the path we ought to take - whether in marriage or some other area of life - yet we fail to act because we’re not “feeling it.” You may not “feel” like being Christ-like or feel like you are capable of it, but you have been called to it. Praise God He does not call us to something He is not ABLE TO FULFILL in us.
I don’t know why many of us think that if we are followers of Christ, we are supposed to always “feel” like we should be able to muscle through it and always be enough for other people. You may think that you should be strong enough and should always “feel” like obeying God or making sacrifices for your spouse, but maybe you shouldn’t believe everything you think. Feelings cannot always be trusted. Often times feelings are based on perceptions, self-preservation, fears, and emotion. If it were always easy to make sacrifices, then they wouldn’t really be sacrifices, right? True sacrifices are often made when we don’t “feel like it” and are not strong enough to do it in our own power. Some of you could be thinking right now that you are far too weak. You may think there is no hope in being able to keep up with what is required of you to continue loving your wife sacrificially.
Are any of you in this spot right now or have you been in the past? Where it’s just too much to keep making sacrifices? That you are just too weak and don’t have anything left to pour out? Sometimes our sense of weakness is exactly when God’s grace becomes most sufficient.
God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
The kind of love that brought Christ to the cross was not easy for Him either. Great love came at a great price with great pain. We want our marriages to be filled with love, but maybe we’ve forgotten the best way to accomplish that: display the gospel. Lay down your very life for your wife, but ultimately for Christ. We are called to follow the example of Christ, to be “Christ-like” (Eph 5:1) in our interactions with others, and even more importantly with our spouse.
How should Jesus’ sacrificial example affect the way you relate to your spouse?
Men, if we are to love like Christ, then we must be concerned about our wife’s sanctification. Sanctification is the process of becoming more conformed to the image of Christ. We are to love, lead, and sacrifice in such a way that it results in our wife’s sanctification. The most loving thing we can do for our wives and in our marriage is to lead our wife to be closer to Jesus, to become more like him.
So what does this look like practically? How can WE be doing this?
Here are some ideas:
Encourage her in having time alone with God. Sacrifice to make sure that she has time.
She needs time to focus on herself, and time to connect with other supportive women who can be an encouragement to her during this infertility journey.
Remind her not to compare her story to others. Our plans need to be God’s plans for our story, even in growing our family.
Remind her to not love the world or the things of the world. Keep her focus eternal.
It could mean guiding her toward acts of love, sacrifice and using her story to encourage, help others and be used for God’s greater purpose.
Maybe more than any other attribute of Jesus, His humility is the key to a healthy marriage.
If two people make it their goal to imitate the humility of Christ, most everything should take care of itself. Arguments in marriage often escalate when we want to be right more than we want to be Christ. Soon, all we want is to win, even if victory requires sin. However, the sad truth is that the one who wins the argument is usually the one who acts less like Christ.
Do you ever get blinded in the heat of disagreements? Be honest for a minute - which of you loves winning the most? Is it you? Probably so. Think about the last really dumb argument you had. How did that turn out? Every marriage goes through moments of anger and temporary frustrations. Especially when you throw in the added underlying stress of infertility and the frustration that it causes. But you must determine your goal. What matters most: winning arguments or resembling Christ?
It is a FIGHT to choose HUMILITY, to actually be clothed in humility.
"Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'” (1 Peter 5:5)
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3)
Marriage is one of the most humbling, sanctifying journeys you will ever be a part of. It forces us to wrestle with our selfishness and pride. But it also gives us a platform to display love and commitment. Having a marriage characterized by humility, and focused on the mission, will require commitment and sacrifice. You will reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7-8). The best seed to start with is prayer.
Husbands, think about this: When is the last time you prayed specifically and earnestly for your wife? When is the last time you both prayed together for your marriage? I ask these questions not to be judgmental or to make anyone feel guilty. If we are honest we will admit that most of us don’t pray together enough. Period. Give yourselves grace and make another effort. Very few people are going to be praying faithfully for your marriage and for your spouse. So you need to!
We can have stronger marriages from and within infertility. Fight in prayer when you are stuck and draw near to the God of creation and Savior of the World who can make your marriage a fortress not to be shaken again. Prayer opens up that line of communication with the Holy Spirit. He promises that He will hear and answer us as we humbly cry out to Him.
"In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple He heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears." (Psalm 18:6)
The promise is not that we will always get the answer we desire, but that God will hear and if our desire is to live for Him, He will lead us in the right way. Just as a farmer must be patient as we waits for his crop to be ready for harvest, we need to be patient as we wait to see what God is going to do in our situations.
So tomorrow on Valentine's Day, or sometime this week, for sure try to do something. We all know you'll probably spend twice the normal price on flowers, chocolates and a crowded restaurant. But she might not just see commercialism, she will hopefully see effort, love, sacrifice, humility and romance! May I also encourage you to carve out a little bit of time this week to evaluate your marriage & heart towards your spouse during this frustrating season when many of life’s stressors are intensified. We need to realize that we are each responsible for our marriage and we can’t just blame or rely on our spouse. But if we are willing to have honest communication about where we are at and then take a step forward into earnestly praying for each other individually and also together for your marriage, it will start to become easier to choose to love sacrificially and to show humility. It is through your love towards your spouse that your marriage can express God to the world.
Justin Ramsey, Waiting in Hope Co-Founder & COO - Justin@waitinginhopeinfertility.com