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Love Like Jesus

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Like Christ Loves the Church (part 2)

We had only been married for two short years the night she first felt it: a sharp stabbing pain that immediately overwhelmed all her other senses. The intensity would wane over the next several hours in waves of aches, grimaces, and tears. As a shy and skinny 20-year-old, I had promised to love this woman for better or worse, but I assumed the worst would come after decades of preparation. That’s not what happened. The pain kept coming back. At night, with a baby just down the hall, we tried to connect in the same way that most married couples enjoy, but instead there was just the pain. That was the first few days of what would become a three-year intimacy drought. It crept into our bedroom and loomed over our marriage like a long evening shadow. The act designed to bring us closer together had been hijacked to now drive us apart. Weeks would pass and we’d try again hoping the situation had changed, but it hadn’t. Soon, we just quit trying at all. Many nights we turned our backs to each other in bed facing opposite walls. I could hear her muffled cries as she tried to hide her pain, and I would silently cry into my pillow.

This was not how I had imagined marriage. The dishes and the diapers, the laundry and the lawn—all of the responsibilities piled up and pushed us further apart. There were no make-up moments after arguments. There were no Saturday mornings. There were no date nights. The battle left us physically and emotionally traumatized. I thought I loved her like Christ loves the Church, but I didn't really know what it meant to give myself up for her. I learned how little I actually knew about loving like Jesus. I thought seriously about quitting. Many nights, I would stay up late after she went to bed and cry out to God in prayer. I saw my repeated attempts to reconnect with her quickly dismissed day after day for reasons I couldn't understand.

That’s when God opened my eyes, and I remember thinking, this is how Jesus feels about me. Every morning He was asking to connect with me, but I was too busy. Every night before bed, instead of spending time with Jesus, I was burning up my emotional currency wallowing around in self-pity. I could imagine Jesus' pain and heartbreak as I repeatedly rejected His most intimate invitations.

All this time, I had been holding onto my rights as a husband while claiming it was all about strengthening our marriage. If I was going to make it through this, I had to change. Even when it felt one-sided, she needed me to lay aside my rights as her husband and love her unconditionally. So, every time I felt the sting of rejection I would remember how God felt when I rejected Him. In Ephesians, it says that a man who loves his wife loves himself. I learned that when I felt the most unloved, that’s when I most needed to love my wife. That kind of maturity didn’t simply come with the passing of time. It had to be cultivated through pain, sacrifice, and submission.

I’m still not great at loving her like Jesus does, but He has graciously fully restored our marriage and given us a tenacious bond. Because of our pain and our choice to love each other through it, we enjoy a level of intimacy some marriages will never experience.

Michael Martin
YouVersion Team

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Love Like Jesus

How can we learn to live like Jesus if we don’t first love like Him? Read along with Life.Church staff and spouses as they retell the experiences and Scriptures that inspire them to fully live and Love Like Jesus.

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