Question: What is the best thing you can bring to your marriage?

Answer: A healthy you!

Marriage “issues” (otherwise known as problems) basically arise from our lack of emotional and spiritual health. And FYI, no one just gets healthy and stays there. Becoming healthy is an ongoing process called life. The thing about marriage is that it is designed to reveal and resolve the unhealthy parts of our soul. Why is this?

Because God has designed marriage to make two people one—and this leads to the frequent self-discovery moments when we become aware of our “trigger points.”

What is the source of our spiritual health? I believe our soul health can only flow from the revelation of Father’s love for us. I say “revelation” because it takes far more than mental belief. David’s starting point was, “This I know, that God is for me” (Psalm 56:9). Period. Bedrock. Bottom of bucket.

You have to be Fathered into soul health. Knowing and feeling loved by God, we can ask for what we need next, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts. And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23).

To the degree that I don’t love, my soul is not healthy.

In recent months I found the Holy Spirit sneaking 1Corinthians 14:1 into my prayers, “Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” In fact it was some weeks ago that it occurred to me that this verse serves well as my mission statement: Jerry, just love the people God puts you with and move in the spiritual gifts.

Now, we can do the math and see the other side of this: to the degree that I don’t love people, my soul is not healthy. When I look at it this way, it’s no wonder that the Holy Spirit frequently helps me see when I devalue someone.

To love people can seem like an impossible goal…but when I think of love as simply thinking that a person is important and caring about him or her, it feels more doable. Of course, it is Christ in me that provides this ability.

“God is love.” His purpose is to make you and me like Himself. And so we can see why our ability to love others is not only the measure of a man but is also the measure of our wellness.

Love issues are character issues.

A young man I had mentored came to me some months after getting married and said, “I thought I was pretty good with relationships, but now I don’t know!” Actually he was quite good with people, but marriage is the NFL of relationships. It’s the place where God puts two people together (who don’t yet know themselves very well), and declares His intention of them becoming one.

We don’t really know what it means to love another person. We do know what it feels like to expect love and receive something else. And thus we see the potential for hurting one another and not understanding how we managed to get “there.”

Often couples speak in terms of “our marriage issues,” but I wonder how it would work if we were to simply acknowledge marriage issues as Love Issues. And if you would allow me to drill even deeper, to acknowledge marriage issues as Character Issues.

Think about how God defines love: patient, kind, not proud, not seeking its own way, not easily provoked, does not take into account a wrong (1 Corinthians 13). So, if this is what we mean when we say, “I love you,” I think we are going to be happy campers. But if this isn’t what we mean when we said, “I love you,” I think God will be putting us into His school.

In Jesus Christ, you have the resources for daily experiencing His forgiveness, His kindness, His patience, His encouragement, and His partnership in living out love for your spouse.

We must learn to serve like Christ.

God’s pattern for bringing us into the marital happiness we all signed up for is designed the way Jesus Christ loves His bride. I think we tend to just read over that without seriously considering how He does love, serve, give, forgive, guide, protect, and enjoy those so precious to Him. And it is uniquely the men He addresses with this standard (Ephesians 5:24-30).

Jesus came as a Servant, and people found that pretty shocking. Unexpected. They never thought God would come in that role.

So when Paul says we are to be subject to one another in the fear of Christ, I think he means we are to humble ourselves to listen to one another, respect one another, and see how we might out-serve the other.

Then when a woman loves her husband by respecting his role of leadership, she positions him to experience more grace and wisdom from His heavenly Father. And she positions herself to receive more of God’s help in her own life.

Can’t you see God positioning husbands to study Jesus as He loves His bride? From Him we are to learn how to nourish our wives emotionally and cause them to feel uniquely treasured by us.

I cannot imagine a higher call upon any man than to imitate Christ in serving and leading His Wife. Love works.