Marital Intimacy through Spiritual Growth
4:9-17; 1 Peter 3:1-4
Bob Moeller writes: "I never met my grandmother.
She died on the dusty lonely plains when my father was 17 years old. Yet
my father credits her with pointing him toward God.
"A few summers ago, when I attended a large
family reunion, I heard some unknown history about my grandmother, now
gone for over 50 years. She had been a mail-order bride. My grandfather
was homesteading on the prairie where there were very few women. She had
answered an advertisement he had placed in the paper.
"My sisters filled in the last part of the
story. As my grandfather was dying, he asked everyone to leave the room
except my two oldest sisters. He was then 89, a widower for nearly 30 years.
`Do you know why I never remarried?' he asked in a raspy voice. The two
young girls shook their heads no.
"`Because when your grandmother died, I realized
I could never love another woman as much as I loved her.'
"If my grandfather and grandmother began their
marriage through a mail-order arrangement and yet learned to love each
other that deeply, who's to say that God can't do something just as extraordinary
in your marriage? If, like Jacob and Leah, you started out all wrong, who's
to say God can't use your relationship to bless not only your lives but
future generations as well?" (Christian Reader, Sep/Oct 1994. Page 74.)
God said, "It is not good that man is
alone." This statement speaks to the need of our intimate companionship
with a mate. Although Adam had a perfect, intimate relationship with the
Father, that relationship alone could not fulfill his deepest needs. There
are needs in our lives that only God can meet, but there are other needs
that God alone cannot meet. That was what God saw when He looked at Adam,
and said "it’s not good." Our intimate relationship with God is designed
to be shared with others . . . especially our mates.
We all have the same physical, emotional
and spiritual needs as Adam. We are born into this world needing
attention, affection, approval, and comfort. And these needs don’t go away
with age or maturity. Marriage was created by God to fill these needs at
the deepest level through intimate relationships with our mates.
When we speak of intimacy in marriage, we
may think only of the physical relationship in marriage. True intimacy
in marriage begins with our spiritual relationships rather than the physical.
Today many are failing to discover true physical intimacy because it is
being sought solely as a fleshly experience.
Spiritual intimacy is realized as we share
our thoughts and delight in knowing how each other feels about what is
going on in our lives as we seek to relate our lives to God.
Maintaining romantic intimacy in marriage
is a challenge for most married couples. Yet, it is something that we must
work toward if we are to have a happy marriage. However, true intimacy
in marriage reaches beyond romance into the very heart of God.
Where was Adam when Eve Sinned?
Adam’s and Eve’s failure in Eden is
proof that true intimacy in marriage begins with a healthy spiritual relationship
with God. The first couple failed because they failed to seek a
relationship with God as a couple bound together as one flesh. When they
lost sight of God they lost sight of each other . . . their intimacy was
destroyed . . . they were both naked and ashamed. When their intimate relationship
with God was severed, so was their intimate relationship with each other.
Have you ever wondered where Adam was
when Eve ate the forbidden fruit?
Why didn’t Eve consult Adam about eating the fruit? How much different
would life be if they had discussed together what Eve was thinking about
doing? If Adam was standing beside her why didn’t he speak up before it
was too late? Why didn’t he warn Eve of Satan’s deception? Was he so busy
tilling the garden of paradise that he lost sight of what was truly important?
Eve’s failure to consult Adam was a
spiritual problem. Was Eve afraid that Adam wouldn’t see things
the way she did? Was she afraid of his convictions? Did her pride blind
her to her need to talk the problem over with her husband? Maybe she was
uncomfortable discussing her feeling with her husband? Did she feel that
all of her needs weren’t being met?
Marital intimacy fails when the man
or woman becomes more interested in self than God. Our
self-discovery and self-fulfillment lifestyles have led us to abandon God.
Intimacy can begin to be restored when we become more concerned
with knowing Christ than with finding ourselves.
Many never discover intimacy in marriage because
they are afraid that they will lose their personal identity.
Intimacy in marriage begins with a spiritual
relationship with God. John writes, "Dear
friends, since God so love us, we also ought to love one another. If we
love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."
(1 John 4:11, 12)
discover God’s supernatural love in Christ for one another they will begin
to experience the oneness that God planned for marriage, emotional intimacy
Even our relationship with the physical
is hindered if we fail to have an intimate relationship with God.
1 John 2:15-17
15 Do not love the world or
anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father
is not in him. 16 For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man,
the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not
from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away,
but the man who does the will of God lives forever. NIV
know the one thing that can make the gospel of God’s grace attractive to
a lost world today? Men and women committed to God’s grace in such a way
that it permeates every area of their relationship with one another, and
with the world, to such an extent that it reveals the very image of God
that God seeks to recreate within each of us.
Somehow Christianity in our modern age has
lost the excitement and drama of revealing the unseen God by the way we
behave toward each other. We bear the image of God. As image bearers we
are called upon to relate to each other in a godly way.
We will never fulfill our responsibilities
to each other with strong spiritual motivation, until we first honor our
call to bear God’s image and know him well.
6:1 Children, obey your
parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and
mother"-which is the first commandment with a promise- 3
"that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."
4 Fathers, do not exasperate
your children; instead, bring them up in the training and
instruction of the Lord.
5 Slaves, obey your earthly
masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just
as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when
their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of
God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving
the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone
for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
9 And masters, treat your
slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who
is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism
10 Finally, be strong in the
Lord and in his mighty power. NIV
These verses have to do with building
strong relationships in every area of our lives through the power of God.
Paul says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord
and in his mighty power." Paul is urging us to be strong
in our personal relationships. Strong intimate relationships begin as we
depend upon God’s mighty power to direct our lives through the message
of the gospel.
I would also like to say that real intimacy
can begin in relationships that are less than ideal circumstances.
If Paul could direct this instruction to masters and slaves, then what
does this say to married couples struggling to be compatible?
Almost every nonphysical problem in
marriage is rooted in what is lacking in our spiritual lives. They
have to do with what is missing in our relationship with God. The only
way that we can really find solutions to our relational problems is by
losing ourselves in Christ.
to Spiritual Intimacy
Self-centeredness is a great hindrance
to spiritual intimacy. Self-centeredness can be seen in the person
who is feeling "needy" and begins using every method at their disposal
to have their needs met. They may use manipulation, demands, threats, and
even conditional love. The tragedy is that "taking" will never bring the
satisfaction we crave. Here’s a "reflection of life" scenario that illustrates
the futility of "taking" to have your needs met.
Wife: "You never spend time with me; you’re
always doing your own thing. This Friday night, could we go out for a date
– just the two of us, without the kids?
Husband: "You know I’m busier now than I’ve
Wife: "What about this Friday?"
Husband: "I have an appointment."
Wife: "I knew it!"
Husband: Alright…I’ll rearrange it!"
Wife: "Oh, don’t bother."
Husband: "No, you and me, Friday night, time
Chances are they’ll go out together, but the
wife’s need for attention won’t be met because she had to demand that it
be met. The husband wasn’t giving out of a loving, caring heart; he merely
acquiesced to the pressure he felt from his wife.
We must remember that Satan is hard
at work seeking to prevent fulfillment of our deepest need for intimacy.
He seeks to clothe us with the superficial as he instills the fear of being
transparent. In doing so he deceives us into hiding our deepest needs from
those we love the most. He is against us living transparent lives as married
I worked with a man many years ago. He related
to me that he had never seen his wife without her make-up, or without her
hair combed. He had never seen his wife in a housecoat. He indicated that
his wife always got up long before he did to fix her hair, put on her make-up
and dress. He talked with distain about women who wouldn’t do that for
their husbands. I have always wondered about that man and his wife. Do
you think he had an intimate relationship with his wife, or was he too
interested in the superficial?
1 Peter 3:1-4
3:1 Wives, in the same way
be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the
word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,
2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should
not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of
gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner
self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great
worth in God's sight. NIV
Peter says, "Wives, in the same way" . . .
do you know what Peter is referring to when he says "in the same way?"
To grasp the full force of Peter's statement in chapter three you have
to look back at chapter two:
1 Peter 2:20-25
But if you suffer for doing
good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you
were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that
you should follow in his steps.
22 "He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his
23 When they hurled their insults
at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead,
he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins
in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;
by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray,
but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. NIV
Peter is teaching wives to be as submissive
to their husbands as Christ was to their salvation needs. Christ
is our example for submission. How submissive was Christ? Peter writes,
"When they hurled their insults at him, he
did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted
himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body
on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by
his wounds you have been healed." Peter says, "in the same way" wives are
to be submissive to their husbands. However submissiveness
for husband and wife is to be mutual. In
Ephesians 5:25 Paul teaches the husbands to love their wives as Christ
loved the church and gave himself for her. Therefore what Peter says applies
to both husbands and wives.
Nina was really discouraged. When she first
married Jeff, she had been so young, so eager to please him. That was nine
years ago. Now, two children later, she felt she couldn't bear any longer
his perfectionism, his insults, his defensiveness, his tendency to blame
her for everything that went wrong. She had run out of hope.
She had tried to tell him about her feelings,
but he refused to listen. No matter what she did to try to please him,
his cutting remarks and shaming accusations continued. She felt in spite
of her prayers God had forgotten her. She was convinced that He was never
going to change Jeff, and that she might as well give up.
One night, crying out in agony and pain to
God, she gave it all to Him. She told Him she was going to stop trying
to change Jeff. She just simply turned everything over to God and told
Him she would trust and obey Him in everything. And out of His great mercy
and rich bounty, He gave her to grace she needed.
Jeff did change--but not until long after
Our gnawing fears concerning intimacy
are motivated by agonizing questions such as: Can we be helped? Can we
change? Is there a solution to our problems? We must realize what
is blocking emotions and feelings that need to be expressed before spiritual
intimacy can be restored.
One may desire a deep spiritual relationship
in marriage so bad that the other feels pressured and retreats because
of undue pressure.
Many times the spiritual aspect of our lives
never enters into conversation because we are afraid that we will be rejected.
In such cases our pride covers our fear of inadequacy.
Ask the Lord to help you love your spouse
in a way that demonstrates the complete love of Christ in you. To
develop this supernatural love for one another we must depend upon God’s
Spirit to give us strength in our inner being to become reborn. When you
are baptized into Christ you must accept God power to grow spiritually.
God’s power in your life for change is as real as the resurrection power
of Christ. We diminish this power as we lose sight of what God has done
in Christ through self-centeredness.
God can help us when we decide to communicate
openly and honestly. We must seek God’s help as we seek to communicate
honestly emotionally, mentally and spiritually. God wants
us to discuss our needs and desires so that we can understand one another
better. It is sad that couples live together for a life time, yet fail
to discuss or understand each others deepest feelings, needs and desires.
Paul wrote, "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things
grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ." (Eph. 4:15) Ask the
Lord to help you communicate truth in love at all times to your spouse
for your mutual growth in Christ.
Spiritual and emotional intimacy increases
when we are able to adjust our expectations toward one another.
We must understand that husbands and wives are often at different intellectual
and maturity levels. This may cause one to feel inferior, or the other
to feel superior. It may be difficult to find areas of common interest.
In such cases intimacy can only be had when we adjust our expectations
We all need to learn how to be more
adaptable, flexible, and able to adjust our expectations when situations
change. If you want a relationship with most anyone, you must adjust
your thinking to meet them where they are. If we are condescending, we
will never have a relationship. Ask the Lord for the grace to learn how
to adjust your expectations toward your spouse in a way that exhibits the
Spirit’s gracious enabling power.
Successful marriages are not held together
solely by the iron of commitment. They get their strength from the alloy
of commitment plus caring.
Author Lewis Smedes, in his book Commitment
and Caring, describes a couple about as opposite as two people can be:
"He is spiritual; she is earthly. He is detached; she loves to be intimate
with people. He is dependent; she could manage almost anything by herself.
He is always careful; she likes to take risks. He hates conflict; she dares
take on any."
This husband and wife, however, have developed
a deep and satisfying relationship because they have given each other permission
to be themselves. Smedes sums it up, "These two people have turned commitment
into joy, mostly because they have gradually learned how to set each other
I don’t think that anything deepens
intimacy more than forgiveness. An attitude of forgiveness is the
only thing that will help resolve past conflicts. We took vows to honor
and cherish one another, and resolving past conflicts is a very real part
of the vows we took. We must ask God to give us the spiritual strength
to resolve the painful experiences of our past. Paul encouraged the Ephesians
to be strong in the Lord as they sought godly relationships with each other.
Many are locked up emotionally into
their own little world. They have been hurt by someone’s rejection,
anger or abuse. They lock themselves up emotionally refusing to allow anyone
to enter this part of their world because they are afraid of more abuse.
Only the Spirit of God can help us break down
these walls of defenses as we feel the security of God’s everlasting love.
Paul wrote, "God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love,
and discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7) Trust the Lord to help you remove your
masks of cultural conditioning, traditions, power, pride, position, education,
selfishness, fear, insecurity, children, activities, relatives, education,
etc. Ask the Lord to help you unlock your emotions knowing you are secure
in God’s love, protection and all sufficient grace.
Louis Evans made an amazing statement.
He said that he never knew a couple who went ahead with a divorce after
first praying together, on their knees, every day, for a week.
Praying together is both a solvent and a glue.
It dissolves resentments and bitterness, and binds hearts in new and joyous
harmony. Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Paul Tournier writes, "It is only when
a husband and wife pray together before God that they find the secret of
true harmony: that the difference in their temperaments, their ideas, and
their tastes enriches their home instead of endangering it...
"When each of the marriage partners seeks
quietly before God to see his own faults, recognizes his sin, and asks
the forgiveness of the other, marital problems are no more . . . They learn
to become absolutely honest with each other . . . This is the price to
be paid if partners very different from each other are to combine their
gifts instead of setting them against each other."
Developing solid relationship on earth begins
with a desire to develop a solid relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
God’s love enables spouses to develop
emotional intimacy when they are engaged in fulfilling Christ’s goals.
Jesus said, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these
things will be given to you." (Matt. 6:33) Ask the Lord to help you mutually
work together to help fulfill all of Christ’s goals allowing the Spirit
to draw you together in the process.
A relationship with God is possible for all
(John 3:16). God has manifested his desire to have an intimate relationship
with each of us. It is through this relationship with God that makes it
possible to overcome whatever debilitating relationship we may find ourselves
You can learn of God’s love by taking up your
cross and following Christ.