In a recent Ask Pastor John podcast, a baffled father queried Dr. John Piper about what he should say to his adult son who is considering a divorce from his wife of two years. The son claims that he is “no longer in love” with his spouse. I’ve pondered the phrase “no longer in love” in the days since that episode was first posted to the Desiring God website, and I can’t help but wonder, as a fallen, sinful man, if that thought will get lodged in my brain at some point too.
“Staying married is not first about staying in love. It’s about covenant keeping, promise keeping. Be a man and woman of your word, a man and woman who keeps the vows to be committed for better or for worse, a man and a woman of character. That’s what it’s about,” Piper said.
But being a good husband to one wife or a good wife to one husband for a lifetime is hard. Immensely hard. Jesus graciously does not leave us to our own devices to figure out how to do marriage well. In fact, if we follow the teachings of Jesus in our marriages, it should make us good spouses.
Declarations of Blessedness
After sitting down with an eager crowd and his 12 disciples, Jesus delivered eight “declarations of blessedness” to the people: the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). Though these proclamations by Christ are brief, the ramifications are life-altering. Let’s review each one and consider the practical application for men and women who aspire to be godly spouses and cultivate a marriage that will endure the ups and downs of a life together.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
A good spouse recognizes that they are spiritually unworthy before the Almighty and have nothing to offer Him. They cannot be restored through even their best deeds. “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast,” writes Paul. Therefore, being restored to God through the death of Jesus on the cross, they are now liberated and empowered to pursue a richness of spirit, not preoccupied with treasures on Earth but treasures in heaven that last (Matthew 6:19-21).
2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
A good spouse comforts their beloved in times of mourning, be it due to death in the family, anxiety about appearance or self-worth, or even a lousy day at work. “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit,” the psalmist writes.
3. Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth.
A good spouse strives for humility. They do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit at the expense of their beloved, but instead consider the other’s needs as more important (Philippians 2:3-4). When one spouse does stumble, he or she prays, confesses to God and rights the wrong. Good spouses look out for one another’s interests and make it their mission in marriage to out-serve one another. Score isn’t kept. When one wins, both win.
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
A good spouse is not content with his or her current spiritual state. They reject spiritual fatalism (“the belief or feeling that you are stuck with the way you are,” says Piper) and instead crave pure, spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2). Like the deer that pants for the water, their souls long after the holy things of God (Psalm 42:1-2).
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
A good spouse shows mercy when he or she is wronged. While anger is the natural, selfish response, both choose to pause momentarily before speaking as words carry the power of blessing and cursing (James 1:5-12), life and death. Nor does a spouse seek revenge when he or she is wronged. They fight fair and seek a purposeful resolution to conflict (1 Peter 3:9).
6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
A good spouse recognizes that a pure heart is under attack daily. The internet, magazines, movies, television and the like bombard their eyes to draw them away from one another in a slow, deceitful manner. But they have mutually resolved to treat their hearts as a wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23) and thus resist the temptation to look at other women or men lustfully (Matthew 5:28).
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
A good spouse cultivates peace inside the home. Husband and wife are fully aware that marriage tension will be inevitable, but both have resolved not to exacerbate the discord when it does surface. Each spouse is led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14) and therefore desires to bear the fruit of peace (Galatians 5:22).
8. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
A good spouse stands up for his or her beliefs. Both remain steadfast, unwavering in their pursuit of becoming more like Jesus. They are always ready to give a defense to anyone who asks about the hope that is inside (1 Peter 3:15). If he or she is hated for their beliefs, they remember Jesus was hated first (John 15:18). They recognize the world and its desires will pass away, but the one who does the will of the Lord will live forever (1 John 2:17).
Let No One Separate
In summary, a good spouse is a godly spouse. They are both prone to mistakes, selfishness, sin. However, with steadfast prayer and hopeful expectation, they look to the Beatitudes—to the rich and robust words of Jesus—to bring vibrant life to the marriage.