What if Love and Respect Do Not Work with My Spouse? Part 1

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Some people live in fear that as they seek to apply the Love and Respect message their spouse will not respond in like manner. When that happens, their fears are confirmed and they ask, “What do I do now?”

Respectful Yet Unloved / Loving Yet Dissed

Based on Ephesians 5:33 a wife puts on respect in obedience to God’s command with the hope that her husband will act on his part of the verse where God commands him to love her. She works hard at respecting his work efforts, his sense of responsibility to protect and provide, his personal strength and decision-making, his shoulder-to-shoulder friendship without talking, and his sexuality, yet he does not reciprocate with the love she needs.

On the other side, a husband puts on love in obedience to Ephesians 5:33 with the inner longing that his wife will respond with respect. He seeks to love her by being close to her, more open with her, understanding of her concerns, making peace on the heels of conflict, loyally committed to only her, and esteems her as his equal, yet she remains disrespectful.

Job and His Wife

What should a person do who shows love and respect but does not feel love and respect coming back at them?

Do you recall the story of Job and his wife? They faced suffering beyond our wildest imagination with the loss of property, children, and Job’s health.

Yet the contrast between Job and his wife stuns us.

On the heels of his suffering, we read about this husband in Job 1:20–22: "he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.' Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God."

However, his wife did not respond in like manner. In her pain, we hear her say to Job that which reveals her deepest heart. “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).

When you tell someone else to curse God, it proves you have cursed God. If she had worshiped the Lord as Job did, she would never have espoused such a heretical idea.

Job’s wife cursed God and invited her husband to do the same.

Later Job makes a comment about some people that may provide a glimpse into what he saw in her soul. "They say to God, 'Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways. 'Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, and what would we gain if we entreat Him?’ (Job 21:14–15).

Whether or not Job was indirectly referencing his wife, we know it applies to her situation. She did not want God in her life at this point. She did not want any knowledge from God on how to walk through the very suffering she knew He permitted! She had no intention of serving the God who took her children.

The Devil and the Bitter Believer

What also troubles us is that Satan said twice that he could get Job to curse God (Job 1:11; 2:5). So when Job’s wife urged him to curse God, she had become an instrument in the satanic objective.

The apostle Paul says, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26–27). As Job’s wife gave way to prolonged anger, turning bitter, she opened herself as a conduit to the devil. She gave the devil an opportunity. Such resentment toward God and others feeds the demonic world.

Job’s Mouth

Job, then, had to resist his wife’s heretical counsel by speaking the truth lovingly to his wife. As a humble and hurting spiritual leader he replies to her, "'You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).

Note that Job did not call her foolish but said she speaks as one of the foolish. He made a comparative statement, not a qualitative statement. This provided her the opportunity to change course more easily. Thus, he sends the message that he is appealing to her to be the woman he believes her to be, not the one imitating the foolish.

Then Job asks her a question: Will she accept the good but not the adversity? He is not making an accusatory declaration. He does not point a finger and charge, “You only accepted the good, not adversity!” Thus, again, his question appeals to her to make the right choice.

His statement and question were pure. “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” If his wife was offended, it was not because Job was offensive. He did not verbally sin against her or God.

James’s Reminder to You as a Husband

Some of you husbands may be married to a wife like Job’s who on the heels of her suffering has chosen at this season to stop trusting God and bark commands to you about denying God.

Not only is she bitter toward God and you for the horrible circumstances that have left her numb with pain and wide open for satanic attack, but she annoys you day in and day out with ongoing criticisms and complaints. Job said in 19:17, "My breath is offensive to my wife."

Is God calling you to endure as the apostle James references? In James 5:10–11 we read, "As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful."

The key phrase, “have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings.”

The test for you as a husband, given your wife treats you as Job’s wife treated him, is to let God deal with your wife and situation in a compassionate and merciful way.

What other alternative do you have? Do you really believe God intends for you to exit?

Job didn’t.

I am not arguing that a marriage will never end due to another’s unfaithfulness. What I am arguing is that you end their unfaithfulness by refusing to end the marriage.

A Marriage Restored

A significant leader on the Los Angeles S.W.A.T. team, with whom I was acquainted, discovered his wife’s affair with a fellow officer. Though having grounds for divorce, especially since she left him and moved in with the man, this husband believed God called him to patiently endure these sufferings with the hope that God would restore his marriage. He waited on God in the face of a woman who flat out rejected him. After several years (not weeks), she did return and God restored their marriage.

The Reward

Why should a husband do this? Because of what Jesus revealed. "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matthew 5:46). Meaning, we are to show love toward even those who do not show it in return.

God provides incentives to a husband to patiently endure. He rewards with an eternal reward that exceeds our most intelligent attempt to figure out what the prize looks like. What we do know is that when we focus on our Savior, not our spouse, the Lord notices. Paul wrote, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free” (Ephesians 6:7–8).

In the immediate context Paul is referring to slaves, but before that he had been addressing the married and parents. Ultimately the love the S.W.A.T. officer showed for his wife was not toward her but toward the Lord.

In part 2, we will discuss a biblical example of a wife loving her disrespectful husband and how that led to God blessing her and the husband being taken from this world early in his life.

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever felt that you were showing love or respect to your spouse and consistently not getting it in return? How did that make you feel? How did you respond?

  2. Do you believe Job would have been justified if he had divorced his wife or at least spoken unloving to her after she told him to “curse God and die”? How would you have handled that?

  3. What would be the most difficult part for you if you were to “let God deal with your spouse in a compassionate and merciful way,” as Emerson put it above?

  4. What do you need to change or improve upon in your life so that you may be able to, as Paul said, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men?"