After our relationship with God, our relationships with our brides are the most important ones we have. God himself said it was “not good”’ for man to be alone. God designed the marriage relationship to provide the deepest level of intimacy possible. Sadly, one of the top three reasons why marriages in America fail is because of a lack of intimacy, as a result of poor communication. Husbands and wives share facts, exchange opinions, but rarely do they share their hearts. God does not want us to just “talk”, neither does he want us to remain “silent”, he wants us to have fierce conversations with brides where we reveal our heart, and draw out hers.
I’m am committed to moving beyond the charge to “be a spiritual leader” without equipping men to do it. With that in mind, below are the five things I taught at our last men’s retreat to help men open their mouths and to have fierce conversations with their brides…taken from Ephesians 4.25-32
Ephesians 4.25-32 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Marriage & Our Mutual Sanctification
When God created the world, the one thing that he said was “not good” was that man was alone. Though he had created many different creatures, not on was found to be a suitable “helper” for man. So, out o man, God created a woman. Genesis 2.22-24 says: 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man….THEN ADAM SANG A SONG. God then said,
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
God created a woman to help his man do and become all that God intended him to be. He described this unique relationship as “one flesh” because it was a relationship where God intended man to experience the deepest level of intimacy possible in this world. God brought this particular woman, all her personality, giftedness, quirks, irritations, and gave her to man-, to not only be cared and protected by, but to be changed by—TO BECOME MORE THAN YOU COULD ALONE.
The key to experiencing that deep heart-transforming intimacy is words. God created through words. As image bearers of God, our words powerful—when they leave our lips they have the power to create something in someone else.
Proverbs 18.21 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
It is through life-giving words that God intends to restore our marriages to life and to sustain them in the fullness of joy. A fierce conversation is not courage to speak the most powerful words you can think of. It is the courage to use words to engage the heart—to open your heart to change and risk being changed. Sadly, a growing number of men have abdicated the responsibility to cultivate the heart of our bride. While some of us “talk”, we often guard our hearts by exchanging FACTS or arguing over OPINIONS. Most of us destroy our relationship like Adam did his, through silence. The relationship between a husband and a wife was first destroyed because man decided to remain silent—to say nothing, no proclamation, no rebuke, no correction, no defense; all while Satan spoke many words to his bride. And sin entered the world and made what God intended as the most powerful relationship—one of the most difficult.
Life, joy, and genuine contentment in your marriage does not happen naturally. And though the power is in words, which requires men to actually open their mouth, it is quality not quantity that is important–the key is known when to speak, what to speak, and when not to speak. There is not a list of words to say, as much as there are some principles to guide whatever we say (in all relationships).
1. Tell the truth (REVEAL YOUR WHOLE HEART
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Men are called to tell the truth, specifically, their genuine heart-feelings. A marriage is supposed to be the one relationship where you can be most open, transparent, and honest about every topic—NAKED AN UNASHAMED. I see your dirt, you see mine, and we love each other. Sadly, sin causes us to shrink in shame from God AND from one another—don’t dare reveal weaknesses, fears, hopes, or desires. Instead, we endure hoping things will change naturally–they don’t. Speaking truth is not about telling your bride she looks “Fat” in the dress when she asks–though that should be possible IF you have shared your hearts regularly. If you only speak truth WHEN you’re asked…your marriage will fail. Speaking truth is asking the hard questions, the deep questions, and being honest about the answers. Any two people can talk. In fact, many marriages “survive” sharing opinions for 25 years–but they never thrive–they never come to know each other deeply.Ur marriages need to be the one place we can truly be ourselves without fear of rejection emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually. Truly, we cannot control what they other person shares or how they respond to what we share–we can only control what we reveal about ourselves and how we react to what is shared.
2. Be angry and do not sin (REVEAL YOUR BROKEN HEART)
26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
The Bible allows for us to feel anger. You can’t say “don’t feel angry” anymore than you can say, “don’t feel sad.” It is not sinful to be anger—it is what happens in response to anger. Unrestrained anger can lead men to actively abuse their wives emotionally and physically. Unrestrained anger can also lead men to passively punish their wives by withdrawing. Here, the devil has an opportunity. Men are called deal with their anger through revealing your broken hearts to what is supposed to be an ally, a best friend. Sometimes that is anger at your self, sometimes it is with other people–even her. Men are called to lead in “being angry”, whether it is them sharing their own feelings or sifting through the anger of their brides. Not letting the sun go down on your anger means not pretending nothing is wrong and allowing a new day start without harmony, without expression, without some sort of resolution (even if temporary). No one wants a “fight” but no one wants silence. The devil has an opportunity in silence. Silence is the perfect soil for the root of bitterness to reside. Bitterness is sinful and unconfessed sin is devastating (Psalm 32).
3. Be a hard worker (WORK FOR HER HEART)
28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
Thieves steal, laborers give. Men are called to deny themselves, to fight against their juvenile tendencies to use their brides and work hard form them. We work hard to provide, to protect, and to make hard decisions, but men typically fail at digging for their hearts bride. When she says “I’m fine” (and we know she isn’t) we make a selfish choice not to pursue and justify our silence because we believe “we asked.” God has given us this woman to care for a cultivate. Being a husband is hard sin makes our relationship hard work. Though women like to talk, like us, they don’t always reveal their hearts. So if you only HEAR words and do not LISTEN for the heart, neither of your will grow closer together. The hardest work a man will have in working for her heart is becoming a better listener–one who can draw out the feelings of his bride. And because many men have not ever revealed their hearts, women do not feel safe to reveal theirs. Being a hard worker begins with revealing your own.
4. Be a builder (ENCOURAGE/FILL UP HER HEART)
29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
When you begin to see the condition of your bride’s heart, you will know how to build into it—how to fill it up with truth and encouragement. This is hard for me, I am not an natural encourager (meaning, I am really good at thinking about myself most of the time). But being a builder is part of the essence of man. Adam is created first and placed as God’s head of all of creation, bearing the primary responsibility to steward the world God had created. God created men to cultivate the world into a garden after the prototype of Eden. In other words, men are created for WORK. Men are created for: challenge, competition, innovation, exploration, and construction. Men are task-oriented, they need something to do. And the most important thing you can do is BUILD into this woman you’ve been given. Men are cultivators—she is the garden, and we are commanded to tend to her (emotionally, physically, spiritually). Doing this effectively means becoming a STUDENT of her so you know where to build her and how she receives love most effectively. We need to encourage our wives love, her accomplishments, her gifts, her beauty, her motherhood, her home, her service. Doing this will not only give her grace, but it will give grace to all who hear (children, friends, etc.) and have an effect on them.
5. Be forgiving (HELP REDEEM HER HEART)
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
The truth is, no husband has the power to fix, heal, or redeem your wife, your marriage, or some trial you are experiencing. But Jesus does. You must be more than forgiving, you must be an evangelical gospel-centered husband. While there is much you can change in how we communicate or live, there is much that remains a deep-rooted spiritual problem. Most of the time, the best thing you can do for your bride is to point her to Christ. This is accomplished first through prayer. When things are confusing or hard, don’t try to fix, don’t try to answer, just pray together. Men also to lead in confessing sin. Your forgiveness is only as effective as you share your own sin. Regularly confess your sins, admit your failures, and claim the blood of Jesus (creates a place of safety—naked and unashamed). With your bride, always seek forgiveness, peace and reconciliation even if you don’t think you’re wrong. Let the gospel remind both of you that you are more broken than you’ll ever admit, but more loved than you could ever imagine. Lead her back to the cross, as two sinners, who both need Christ.
What grieves God? When you don’t love HER like HE does.
If you have a daughter, as yourself who is good enough for her?. For me, the answer is NO ONE. But I realize one day that a boy will take captivate her heart in the way that I do now. And one day, that boy may ask her hand in marriage and I may walk her down the aisle and GIVE HER TO HIM. How do I expect her to care for her? Do I just want her to be secure materially, or do I want her to be cultivated spiritually?
That is exactly what God does for husbands. He brought you an amazing helper, companion, and love-but ultimately, he gave you one of his daughters. In what condition will you present your bride back to her Father?
Ephesians 5.25-33 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.