The second secret to a lasting love is serving love, which discovers and meets needs and helps spouses feel honored and understood.
Serving love means honoring your spouse to the degree that you purposefully seek to discover and meet his or her needs, even placing those needs before your own. Serving your spouse in this way helps him or her feel honored and understood.
Serving Love: Jesus’ Kind of Love
When you said “I do,” a large part of your marriage dream, whether conscious or subconscious, was probably that your new soul mate would meet your needs. You wanted a spouse who understood your basic human needs—physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual. You wanted someone who was sensitive to your needs as a woman or man and to your needs as an individual with a unique personality.
Have those expectations been realized? Are you experiencing serving, need-meeting love? If your answer is “no” or “not very often,” you may wonder if it is really possible for spouses to serve each other with such deep understanding and willingness. You may even wonder if such serving love really exists.
Yes, it does exist. It is an expression of biblical love that is clearly seen in Jesus.
None of us is greater than our master, Jesus. None of us is above serving. None of us can shirk his example. Furthermore, none of us can afford to miss out on the blessing Jesus promised to those who minister to others through serving love. And couples who desire to build a lasting love must practice serving love.
We realize that serving love is countercultural. It’s not human nature to be other-centered, to purposely take a lower place to honor another.
Let’s be clear: Servanthood doesn’t mean the bondage of slavery. God’s kind of serving love flows from choice not coercion, from strength not weakness, from gladness not guilt. Serving love is positively liberating.
The Myth of the 50/50 Marriage
A common problem we see is couples who measure out their need-meeting service for each other in reciprocal portions. The best that many marriages ever do is operate according to the popular “50/50 plan,” the I’ll-meet-your-needs-if-you-meet-mine philosophy. In this plan, marriage becomes an issue of trade-offs and compromises, with spouses keeping score so one person never gets or gives more than the other. The goal is to meet each other halfway.
In a 50/50 marriage, serving and submitting to one another is often replaced by a strong emphasis on getting what is rightfully yours. However, in this kind of marriage, a key person is missing—the person who desires to live right in the middle of a marriage, the one who makes the rules and mediates between your needs and your spouse’s needs. That person is Jesus Christ, who provides not only the example but also the power of serving love through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
The Joy of a 100/100 Marriage
We all love to have our needs met. We all desire the understanding and honor that result when someone cares enough to serve us without expecting anything in return.
The problems come when we focus on being served—even in a 50/50 arrangement—instead of serving. A me-first attitude can lead to complaining, for example, that our spouses never spend time with us, even though we are constantly busy with the kids, volunteering at church, or spending time with our friends.
There’s a better way. It’s the 100/100 marriage, which is God’s design for a husband and a wife.
Listen to what the apostle Paul said: “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). When a husband loves in this way, he chooses to serve his wife because of his desire to be obedient to God’s design for him. He is stirred not only by pleasing her but also by pleasing God. The same is true of the wife. When you serve each other, trying with 100 percent of yourself to love and serve your spouse, you will find joy and fulfillment beyond what you can imagine.
Deep inside each of us is a longing to understand and be understood, to honor and be honored. When a marriage lacks that kind of need-discovering, need-meeting love, feelings of disappointment give way to frustration and conflict. A lack of serving love leaves needs unmet and keeps you far from the dream God has planned for you.
Serving love is the alternative. Serving love will make a good marriage into a great marriage, a marriage that will last forever.
The Benefits of Serving Love
Serving love allows you both to feel honored and understood. If each of you is committed 100 percent to understanding and meeting the other’s needs, then both of you will enjoy 100 percent honor and 100 percent understanding that result from that mutual commitment.
For us, our individual lives and our source of fulfillment originate in our relationship with Christ. He meets our deepest needs, and we each enjoy the overflow of God’s blessing in our individual lives. We each benefit from the overflow of the other’s relationship with Jesus on a daily basis.
If you serve each other without meeting needs, your serving means little and leaves you both frustrated. But when you genuinely meet each other’s needs out of the abundance of Christ’s love in you, you become fulfilled persons.
Serving love allows you to live out your vows to each other. When you got married, you promised to love and cherish each other, to face good times and bad, hand in hand. Those wedding vows were all about meeting each other’s needs. When you serve each other in love, you meet the needs of your spouse and fulfill your marriage vows.
When you focus on discovering and meeting your spouse’s needs, you are doing what God has called you to do in marriage. The results are a fulfilling, lasting marriage that only gets better with time.
Serving love protects your marriage from deterioration. Failing to meet your spouse’s deepest needs could ultimately cost you your marriage. You would never think of ignoring your husband’s or wife’s need for food and water. Yet your spouse’s emotional, relational, and spiritual needs are just as vital. When you generously minister serving love to your husband or wife, you guard your marriage against temptation and decay.
A Decision to Honor Your Spouse
How important is serving love in our relationships, including our marriages? The Bible calls us to the same serving love Jesus has shown for others:
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.
Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. (Philippians 2:1-7)
After reading these verses, you may feel that you could never manage the level of serving love Jesus demonstrated. If so, you’re right! Serving love starts with the strength of Jesus—in the encouragement, comfort, and fellowship of a personal relationship with him. And if you are growing in these qualities, you are beginning to imitate his servant heart.
*For more about how to unlock the biblical secrets to a marriage that stays vibrant and strong for a lifetime check out our book 6 Secrets to a Lasting Love in our online bookstore!