*Author’s note: Over the last number of years, I have been greatly inspired by the writing of Gary Thomas (Sacred Marriage, Sacred Pathways, Pure Pleasure, etc.) In the following post, I am very confident that I have “borrowed” some phrases, and perhaps even sentences from Gary. I am certainly not interested in plagiarizing anyone. On the contrary, I want to make sure that I gave credit where it is due. You can find Gary’s books here, and I encourage your to buy a few.
Our Pursuing God
God pursues. Pursuit is the act of seeking, for the purpose of capturing. God is a pursuer. God actively pursues us for the purpose of capturing our hearts. This pursuit does not stop once we are saved. He continues to woo us to Himself because He is a zealous, lovesick, seeking God. It’s His nature as a Bridegroom to relentlessly fight for your affections.
(Jn. 4:23), “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father is spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.”
He’s seeking worshipers (lovers). Notice He isn’t seeking worship, but rather worshipers. He’s after you, the person. He wants your heart! He radically and constantly pursues you because of His own perfect desire for you. You are the object of the ardent desire of the King of all kings.
Also notice how God did not stop pursuing you when you got saved. He continues to woo you to Himself because He is a zealous, lovesick, seeking God. It’s his nature as a Bridegroom to relentlessly fight for your affections.
God searches: (Lk. 15:4), “…leave the ninety-nine…and searches for the one…”
God allures: (Hos. 2:14), “Therefore, behold, I will allure her…”
God calls out to: (Jer. 7:13), “…I called you, but you did not answer.”
God chases us: (Ps:23:6), “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow [chase] me…”
God runs toward us: (Lk. 15:20), “…his father saw him and…ran and…kissed him.”
Since Jesus IS a bridegroom (He’s not simply LIKE a bridegroom), he acts as our model of what a husband should be like. He pursues us even after we “become His.” So we, as husbands, should not settle for the fact that our wives just said, “Yes” and “I do.” That’s just the beginning of the journey – a journey into the depths of love’s delights.
His Love, Our Worth
This truth – that God jealously pursues us – is hard for many to grasp because of our lack of understanding of God’s love. He doesn’t love you because you’re worthy of it. God loves you because that’s who He is – LOVE. We cannot earn more of His love. He loves us fully and perfectly right now, even though we are quite unlovable.
It is very important that we understand this truth – that God lovingly pursues me even though I am weak, immature, and wholly undeserving of such a love – if we are going to faithfully pursue and love our spouse.
How can we expect to ever love another imperfect person if we don’t believe that even a perfect God (who IS love) can’t or won’t love us in our imperfection.
(I Jn. 4:19), “We love because He first loved us.
(I Jn. 4:10,11), “10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He love us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
(Rom. 5:8), “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God loved us first, before we loved Him. God’s ultimate expression of love (giving His only Son to die for us) was given while we were sinners. Before we ever prayed a prayer, sang a song, preached a sermon, or studied the Bible, He loved us!
Love Must Be Expressed
Love must be expressed. If it is not expressed it is not real love. A husband would never be okay with having a wife that says, “I love you, but I’m not going to express it or show it.” A husband would never shrug with indifference if his new bride said to him on their wedding day, “I love you, but it’s not my personality to express it. Don’t expect me to do anything that shows you that I love you, but just take my word for it.”
One of the primary ways that we can show our love for our wives is by continuing to pursue her once we’re married. Husbands, battle for her affections! Fight for her spiritual well-being. Contend for her growth in love. Set your hearts to discover the mysteries of her heart all of the days of your life!
In doing so, you will not only woo her into love, but you will become more Christ-like in the process. Pursuing your wife can be a spiritual discipline that connects you with God’s heart and transforms you into the person God intends you to be.
Selfless Pursuit and Promise of Rewards
When it comes to expressed love, we often see two extreme “camps” – the “Sacrificial Martyrs” and the “Hyper-Hedonists.”
The Sacrificial Martyrs say, “We should love and serve and sacrifice simply because we’re suppose to do it. We shouldn’t do it with any thought of compensation, reward, or benefit. Doing it for a reward is selfish motivation, and thus isn’t Christ-like.”
The Hyper-Hedonists say, “I want X, Y, and Z, therefore I will love, serve, and sacrifice in order to get X, Y, and Z. I want to experience the rewards and benefits and I’ll do whatever I need to do to get them.”
Both of these “camps” error in their extremity, but each contain good, healthy, biblical truths. The truth is that we should have elements of both groups when it comes to loving and pursuing our spouses.
But often the most difficult place to stand is in the “extreme center.” It’s easy to be extreme left or right, but to stand in the tension and maintain balance is often the most extreme place to remain.
I’ve read many marriage books that say things like, “Men, if you want your wife to be energetic in the bedroom, then you should go do some dishes every once in a while.”
What a selfish, self-centered approach to intimacy! It has nothing to do with honoring your wife, but instead “buying” your own pleasure with a shallow, self-motivated act of service.
Instead, how about doing some dishes for the purpose of loving, serving, and honoring your wife – regardless of whether you get anything in return (though you may get much in return).
Give for the sake of giving. Serve for the sake of serving. Let God’s delight in a cheerful giver be your motivation.
(II Cor. 9:7), “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Let becoming servant-hearted and Christ-like be your motivation, not your own selfish, fleshly desires.
Promise of Rewards
Now for the balance statement: God motivates us with promises of rewards.
Although we do not want our own selfish pleasures to be our primary motivation for serving, we can have our sights set on the rewards of love.
In fact, the Bible says that Jesus was motivated similarly, and we should look to Him as our example.
(Heb. 12:2), “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right had of the throne of God.”
Jesus endured. Jesus endure how/why – for the “joy set before Him.”
Jesus endured the cross for the joy of seeing His bride stand before Him one day dressed in fine garments of righteousness (Rev. 19:8). He endured for the joy of sitting, as a man, at the right hand of the Father and experiencing the pleasure evermore found there (Acts 2:33; Heb. 1:3; Ps. 16:11).
God also motivates us to stay faithful and steady in love by promising a crown in eternity.
(Jas. 1:12), “Blessed [happy] is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
(I Cor. 9:24), “do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it [the prize].”
God promises that those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly, while those who sow bountifully will likewise reap bountifully.
(II Cor. 9:6), “…He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
So which is it? Serve for the sake of serving, or for rewards and benefits? It’s simply both/and.
Pursue your wife’s heart by lovingly serving and honoring her regardless of whether or not you will get anything in return. And in doing so, you will be serving [worshiping] Jesus and thus can expect rewards from Him. Some of these rewards may come in a natural form here on this side of eternity, while others my come in the form of treasures in heaven.
Pleasures evermore are only found in Jesus who is at the right hand of God. He is the author of delight and pleasure. Pursue Him by pursuing your wife.
What does it mean to pursue your wife? Pursuing means to consistently and actively engage in an effort to capture and win something (your wife’s heart). It involves an active listening, and an intentional doing. After all, isn’t that what all princesses want? They want to feel pursued and fought for by their knight in shining armor.
What does she enjoy? Do it. What stresses her out? Find ways to relieve it. What causes her to rest? Find a way to make it happen. In what ways does she connect with God? Organize and help make time for that. What makes her feel valued? Show her. One of my favorite phrases in relationship to marriage is, “Become a servant of your wife’s joy.” [Thomas]
Don’t do it once. Don’t do it once in a while. Continue to pursue, daily. In doing so you are being like Christ and will be transformed into His likeness, making you a much better husband in the process.
We are to pursue our bride’s heart and initiate loving communication because that what Jesus does with His bride, and He’s our example. Our wives are daughters of the Most High King. They deserved to treated as such.
Learning to honor, serve, and love our wives in every area of life is a pathway to holiness. Marriage can be a spiritual discipline that helps us to grow in Christ-likeness, or “Bridegroom-likeness.” When we become more like Him we will be on the path to becoming a better husband.
But it won’t just happen TO us. We must be intentional and proactive about embarking on a never-ending journey into the pursuing love of Jesus.