“I love you with all my heart!” That romantic declaration inevitably ends every Hallmark movie. Why? Because we all long for wholehearted devotion.
God, too, commands our wholehearted devotion. “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (Mark 12:30 NLT). But did you notice that God wants you to love Him with not only your heart, but also your soul, mind, and strength?
Since we can love God with our soul, mind, and strength, it stands to reason that we can also love our spouse with more than just our heart.
We usually associate heart love with feelings. Love floods our hearts with warm, fuzzy emotions that inspire devotion and adoration. We bask in these wonderful sentiments, but they fail to sustain us when the going gets tough in relationships.
You’ve probably heard love is a decision. “Decision” is such a firm, calculating word. It doesn’t sound heartfelt at all. That’s because decisions are made with the mind and should be based on reasoning. We must decide to love our spouse with our minds as well as our hearts.
Loving with your mind is easy when your heart’s feelings and mind are aligned. But when misunderstandings produce hurt or angry feelings, these emotions conflict with the decision of your mind to love your spouse. In those moments (or hours or days) of marital discord, we tend to take our own side as we go over the conflict again and again in our minds.
“He never puts away his clothing. I’m always picking up after him.”
“She spends money like it’s going out of style. She doesn’t seem to get how hard I work for it.”
“He’d rather play video games than talk. He doesn’t care about me at all.”
In these self-defensive conversations, we forget the truth of marriage found in Genesis. “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one” (2:24 NLT, emphasis added). You and your spouse are one. If you defend yourself against your spouse, you’re also tearing down yourself.
Whether your interest amid the heated moments is your own or your spouse’s, the challenge is the same. We need to ride into battle with our minds as a weapon against the thoughts that destroy love for our spouse.
5 Do’s and Don’ts in Our Minds
Don’t: Assume negative motives when they’re not expressly stated.
So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due (1 Corinthians 4:5 NLT).
Too often, we attribute motives to our spouse that are not accurate. We see them through our own biases. For example, if we’re insecure, we may assign malice to a comment that was, in fact, objective and neutral.
Do: Believe the best about your spouse’s intentions.
It [love] keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7 NASB).
Believing the best doesn’t mean lying to yourself or pretending when a motive is obviously stated. Most times, however, motives are not clear-cut. It’s then that our minds fill in the blanks. Instead, we should ask questions that are not accusatory, so our thoughts and reactions are based on facts.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8 NLT).
We can also train our minds to believe the best about our spouse. Regularly remember the true, honorable, and commendable character qualities that drew you to love at the beginning of your relationship. Praise one another through words and notes to reinforce your mind’s commitment to love.
Don’t: Excuse your sinful behavior because your spouse did something wrong.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart (Proverbs 21:2 ESV).
We easily recognize immaturity when we watch children squabble.
First the accusation: “You hit me!”
Then the justification: “Well, you hit me first!”
If we’re honest, we all can admit we’ve played that game in marriage. But does that justification pass muster with God? Are we in the clear if the other person starts the conflict and we simply respond in kind? A marriage based on this philosophy will quickly spiral down to the lowest possible behavior standards where anything goes.
Do: Examine yourself by God’s standards.
Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin (Romans 2:3-4 NLT)?
If we must judge, we should evaluate only ourselves and only by God’s righteous and unchanging standards. When we stay within this boundary, we see we are never justified in returning sin for sin. God lavishes unfathomable kindness and patience toward us so that we can demonstrate the same qualities to our spouses.
Don’t: Dredge up past hurts for a current disagreement.
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil (Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT).
Sometimes we store up the past like a squirrel hiding nuts for the winter, waiting for an opportune time to wield bygone offenses against our spouse. The resentment waits, buried below the surface, like a ticking bomb waiting to explode.
Do: Forgive generously.
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others (Colossians 3:13 NLT).
Forgive and forget is the alliterative mantra we often hear. Forgiveness means we pardon our spouse and release the right to slap them with it in the future. But humans don’t easily forget. With God’s help, though, we can discipline our minds to reject a condemning memory when it resurfaces, tempting us to inflict pain.
Don’t: Commit to giving fifty percent.
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct (Galatians 6:4-5 NLT).
Some of us, myself included, are born competitors. I have easily fallen into the trap of comparing myself to my husband. And guess who usually came out on top? I failed to understand that I was usually comparing apples and oranges—non-equivalents.
More importantly, I bought into the myth that if each spouse gives fifty percent effort, the marriage will be one hundred percent good.
Do: Commit to giving one hundred percent.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ (Colossians 3:23-24 NLT).
A marriage takes work. Each spouse needs to commit to pouring their all into the marriage. We assume this responsibility to God and our spouse when entering a marriage covenant. What we can contribute will vary depending on many factors, including ability and illness. Still, we promised to give all we have to one another and trust God to compensate for our deficits and failures.
Don’t: Think of conflict as a win-lose proposition.
For we do not presume to rank or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they have no understanding (2 Cor 10:12 NASB).
In the heat of emotions, we lose sight of love. Yes, we say we love our spouse, but the need to be right trumps the compassion, respect, and sacrifice that true love requires. Pride demands complete capitulation.
Our feelings clamor to assert, build our own platform, and win. More than that, we need to knock our spouses off their platforms, dumping them into the mud below. But do we really want to turn our spouse, a gift given by God for our good, into a loser and trample their heart in the process?
Do: Work toward win-win solutions.
So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT).
What if we built a bridge instead? The bridge begins with strengthening our spouse in the Lord, even in the middle of a conflict. It starts in our minds. Refute lies that spring up by remembering the truth about your beloved. Just as we would fight to save our spouse from physical harm, we must combat our own sinful thought attacks before they become word weapons.
As you reassert the truth, you elevate them back to their platform or, better yet, their pedestal of proper esteem. Your emotions simmer down and provide space for the give and take of ideas that foster understanding.
Remember the concept of two becoming one in marriage? The truth is, when your spouse wins, you win.
Break Down Strongholds in the Mind
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NLT).
Strongholds of sin in our mind—criticism, denigration, blame, and shame—dilute and corrupt love for our spouse. Our puny strength cannot knock them down and produce true love. But God joins us in our marriage to destroy them.
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT).
Sin will always taint our marriage, but with God strengthening our relationship, we can conquer feelings and thoughts that destroy. Finally, remember to celebrate victory regularly as you love one another with all your heart and mind.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Melissandra
Video Credit: ©Debbie McDaniel
Annie Yorty uses her writing and speaking to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.