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What If My Spouse Doesn't Respond To My Efforts?

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In Ephesians 5:33, the husband is commanded to love his wife and the wife is commanded to respect her husband. But what if your husband doesn't show you love when you show him respect? And what if your wife doesn't show you respect as you show her love?

If you get no results from practicing the principles of Love and Respect, why bother?

The Rewarded Cycle gives you the answers to these questions.

When you love or respect unconditionally, you are following God.

Ultimately, your spouse has nothing to do with it. You are demonstrating your obedience toward the Lord and your unconditional love will be rewarded.

Jesus said, "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?" (Matthew 5:46).

Paul had love and respect in mind when he penned Ephesians 6:7-8, saying, "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free" (NIV).

In the larger context, Paul is referring back to marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33). He is saying that everything you do counts, even when your spouse ignores you.

The Rewarded Cycle says,

His love blesses (is rewarded) regardless of her respect;

Her respect blesses (is rewarded) regardless of his love.

When I first began teaching this biblical truth as it pertains to marriage, I was unsure how people would receive it.

Amazingly, many welcomed it with open arms. Those who felt hopeless suddenly caught the truth that everything they did mattered to God; nothing was wasted.

This thought not only rejuvenated poor marriages, it was helpful to good marriages. And the same is true today.

Am I suggesting in any way that we are supposed to earn our salvation? Obviously not.

Paul clearly says we are saved by grace through faith; "it is the gift of God; not as a result of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

But look at Ephesians 2:10. We are to do the good works that God has already planned for us. Why? Not to appease the Lord or somehow pay "just a little bit" for our salvation, but simply to please Him. And when we please Him, He rewards us.

In 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Paul clearly distinguishes salvation from rewards. He describes an individual who is saved, but unrewarded throughout eternity.

When it comes to your marriage, our loving Lord intends to reward you when you are loving or respectful toward your spouse, especially when your spouse is unresponsive.  

I receive hundreds of emails from people telling me how they are practicing love or respect because of God. One wife has written,

"It is easier for me to respect my husband out of obedience to God than necessarily because he is behaving respectfully."  

And another woman emailed saying,

"It helps me so much to want to show respect to him when I realize that, in doing that, I am really showing respect and love to God most of all."

Or read the testimony of this gal who understood what Jesus meant when He said "to the extent that you did it to...even the least of them, you did it to Me" (Matthew 25:40).

"But if I am disrespectful to him, the Holy Spirit convicts ME to apologize! Yuck! But I feel so much better afterwards it's worth it. I know it's not my husband I am apologizing to, but Jesus."

In the midst of his suffering, a husband caught the vision of unconditionally loving his disrespectful wife.  He wrote,

"You put your finger, or God's finger, right on it. I began to write down each time my wife said something that cut to the core of my being. I did not tell her that I was writing down these incidents, and I don't intend to use them against her. I was amazed at how I felt my honor being attacked on a daily basis. I don't want to judge my wife, but respect is certainly the issue.. the male "withdraw and be quiet" response is very real… Please be praying for me as I try to love my wife unconditionally, regardless of her words or actions."

Finally, I love what this husband said:

"God is definitely doing a changing work in me, and when I keep my eyes on Him, I do okay. But when I look at my circumstances, the bitterness wells up, and I get on the wrong path. The key for me is to read the Bible for what it says about me, not my wife. My love of God's Word has grown so much, and there are many Scriptures that speak to me, but one I carry around on an old battered index card is 2 Chronicles 15:7-8. Verse 7 says, ‘But as for you, be strong, and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded" (NIV). Then I personalize verse 8 by saying, "When Cedric heard these words...he took courage.’”

-Dr. E

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

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