What Does It Look Like to Cherish Your Bride?

Cherishing Your Bride

The Lord has been challenging me lately to become more intentional in cherishing my wife. It is easy for our wives to feel undervalued because we can so easily take them for granted.

Our wives are like beautiful orchids that demand tender care and wise attention. Therefore, we must proactively work to ensure that they flourish and blossom spiritually, emotionally and physically. Here are a few thoughts I have worked on over the past several weeks on what it looks like to cherish your bride. You may not have time right now to read all of this, but please print it off and put it in your Bible and commit yourself to read and think through this article some time over the next week. Don’t be overwhelmed by this pastoral letter. Ask the Lord to show you one way that you can cherish your wife better.

Ephesians 5:29 calls us who are husbands to cherish our brides. In Greek, the word ‘cherish’ literally means “to keep warm, to cherish with tender love, to foster with tender care, to give your wife reason to hope.” This notion of the tenderest care is a metaphor the Apostle Paul uses for pastoral ministry in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8: “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”

Your wives will be cherished when:

1. You actively seek to cultivate her spiritual well-being and health by…

a. Praying with and for her. Prayer is the most intimate bond of your spiritual union. Do you daily and specifically pray for your wife? What about using the Lord’s Prayer as a grid for your prayers for her? When you do, you cherish her as the Lord does His bride, the church. Hebrews 7:25 says that he ever lives to make intercession for us. You are to bring her to the throne of grace. Do you regularly pray with and for her?

b. Setting an example by consistently walking with God. Whatever virtue that you want to see in your wife and in your children must first be seen in your own life. Do you, with some regularity, talk with her about what you are learning from your own study and reading of God’s Word? Do you ever read the Scriptures together? Are you growing in your ability to converse with her of the deepest, most intimate concerns and anxieties of your soul?

c. Encouraging her to discover and use her spiritual gifts and unique strengths. Do you know what she enjoys and does well? Are you encouraging her to develop and use the strengths she possesses to serve Christ and his church? Or do you honestly feel threatened by her abilities and successes?

2. You actively cultivate her emotional well-being and health by…

a. Taking the initiative to know, understand and communicate with your bride (1 Peter 3:7). We must take the initiative to ask thoughtful questions and listen. Honestly, I have been convicted lately that I live more by monologue than dialogue (Proverbs 18:13). This work of communication is messy and takes time and effort, but we will be wonderfully rewarded. Can you answer the following questions: What is your wife’s greatest concern right now? What is her greatest need? What is her greatest dream for the future? What causes her pain?

b. Guarding and protecting her from your passions and from her emotions. Do you exercise the greatest of care in guarding the purity of your relationship by making her to sole object of your stimulation and sexual excitement? Do you seek to shield your wife from unnecessary emotional pressure? Do you seek to guard her from those things to which she is especially vulnerable? The Apostle Peter reminds us husbands that we are to live with our wives in a understanding/considerate way and grant her honor…so that our prayers will not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

c. Resolving conflict and discord biblically. Do you take the initiative to resolve conflict and heal discord in your marriage relationship and in your family? Or do you sulk off into a corner with your self-pity?

d. Making decisions. You make sound and timely decisions after hearing her point of view and only after coming to a mutual agreement. Only on rare occasions should husbands use the trump card in the decision-making process. Some of us men need to pray that God will instill in us a greater boldness in making decisions and not be immobilized by our fear of making a mistake. Others of us need to slow down and not be so impulsive and quick in our decision-making.

3. You actively cultivate her physical well-being and health by…

a. Non-sexual touching with words of tenderness and affection. If you haven’t already, let me encourage all of you husbands to develop some terms of endearment for your wife. If you read the Song of Solomon, you will note that one of his terms of endearment was: “O most beautiful among women.” The book of Proverbs supplies us with another: “The wife of my youth in whom I delight.” Better yet, come up with your own… words that are strictly between you and her that immediately let her know how much you love her.

b. Working diligently to provide financially for her and your family’s needs (1 Timothy 5:8).

John Piper sums up cherishing under the broad category of servant leadership:

“When a man senses a primary God-given responsibility for…

the spiritual life of the family

gathering the family for devotions,

taking them to church,

calling for prayer at meals,

for the discipline and education of the children,

the stewardship of money,

the provision of food,

the safety of the home,

the healing of discord,

he is not being authoritarian or autocratic or domineering or bossy or oppressive or abusive. It is simply servant leadership. And I have never met a wife who is sorry she is married to a man like that. Because when God designs a thing he designs it for his glory and our good.”

Wives, please make sure that your expectations for your husbands are realistic and grounded in God’s Word. You must continually look to Jesus to meet the deepest needs and longings of your heart. Your husband has feet of clay and will disappoint you. At those moments, look to your perfect bridegroom as ask Him for grace to love well your imperfect husband. Also, pray that the Lord will sensitize and empower your husband to love you well.

Husbands, ask the Lord how He wants you to intentionally cultivate your relationship with your wife. We think about ways to prosper our businesses and careers. Our marriages are not any different. A good marriage takes time and lots of effort.

Chuck Swindoll concludes: “A good marriage takes longer than you planned… costs more than you figured… is messier than you anticipated… and requires greater determination than you expected.”

Husbands, How are you doing as the head of your home?

“If ‘headship’ means ‘power’ in any sense, then it is power to care not to crush,
Power to serve not to dominate, Power to facilitate self-fulfillment not to frustrate or destroy it.
And in all this the standard of the husband’s love for his wife is to be the cross
of Christ, on which he surrendered himself even to death in his selfless love for his bride.”
—John Stott

Loving the Right Woman Well

There are three important questions that the book of Proverbs addresses on our theme: Whom are you to love? How are you to love her? Why are you to love her?

I.       Whom are you to love?

The Temptation of Loving Strange Women. The writer of the Proverbs emphatically call for  men to avoid promiscuity. As the father instructs his son in the first nine chapters of Proverbs, there is really one teaching that prevails: avoid immoral women. In fact, the entirety of Proverbs 5 and 7 is occupied with this theme. Proverbs 2:16-17 – “It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.”

God has so ordered the world in such a way that promiscuity is self-destructive. The metaphor that the wisdom writer uses for infidelity in marriage is that of building a fire in your lap. Proverbs 6:27 – Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?

For some of you, this might mean a change in jobs, a change in your magazine subscriptions, and a change in your set of friends.

Love one woman (your wife) until death parts you. How do we know that God’s Word mandates this?

What does the text say? He who finds a wife (18:22). A prudent wife is from the LORD (19:14). A man’s energy and focus is to be exclusively on one woman and one woman only – his wife. The first line of defense against temptation is a healthy, intimate relationship with your own wife.

Malachi 2:15 – “Guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” What if you are here today and you have broken faith and have become an adulterer? You don’t have to be condemned to walk around with the letter A on your conscience for the rest of your life. Be encouraged. We are all spiritual adulterers here.

1 Corinthians 6:11 – Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

II.     How do you love your wife well?

Rejoice in her and be captivated/intoxicated with her love (Proverbs 5). Rejoice in the wife of your youth. How do you do this? What you rejoice in is the thing that is your central sweetness and comfort in life.  To rejoice in the wife of your youth is to treasure her, to reflect on her beauty and importance until your heart tastes the sweetness of the gift of your bride. Acknowledge that she is a special gift of your heavenly Father’s hand. Cherish her with gentleness and purity. Show her tender affection.

Bear with her infirmities and cover her sins. That is why, love covers a multitude of sins… Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. Whatever interrupts the harmony in your marriage relationship opens the door to imminent temptation. Proverbs 17:9 reiterates that “he who covers over an offense promotes love.”

Actively look for evidences of God’s grace in her life and compliment her frequently (31:28 – Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her). Actively look for ways that God is at work in the lives of other people. Make it a practice to become a student of your wife. How is the Holy Spirit revealing His fruit and His gifts in her life? Have you taken time for prayer and reflection on this crucial method for loving your wife well? What is she more aware of – evidences of grace that you’ve noticed or your persistent pressure on her to change?  Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, one of the protagonists, Mr. Darcy, is described as a man “who never looks at any woman but to see a blemish.” How about your wife? What evidence of God’s grace have you seen lately in your wife?  Tell her.

In our age of infidelity, intentionally pursue marital intimacy and fidelity  (5:18-23). Frankly, this passage is intensely erotic. So much so that preachers have to mark their words very carefully. Fidelity in marriage always leads to God’s blessing (vv.15-17). We live in a low-commitment culture that values intimacy without attachment… relationships without rings…

Husbands, ensure that your wife is the sole object of your stimulation, satisfaction and delight! Confine all acts of physical intimacy to the marriage bed. (Hebrews 13:4 – Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.) Physically delighting in one another is not only a gift from the Lord, he sanctions and blesses it.

III.    Why should you love her well?

Loving her well leads to life. A relationship with strange women leads to death. 5:23 – He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.

18:22 – He who finds a wife finds what is good. The word “good” describes that which is pleasing to God, beneficial to life, and abundantly enjoyable.

Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” was recorded in 1966 at Muscle Shoals, AL. It was listed 54th in the List of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 greatest songs of all time. When a man loves a woman; Can’t keep his mind on nothing else. He’ll trade the world; For the good thing he’s found!

Loving her well ensures that you cherish and value a most precious gift of God. Proverbs 18:22 – He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD. Proverbs 19:14 – Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD. She is a tangible evidence of God’s favor. Finding a prudent wife is a more valuable gift than house and riches. She contributes more to the comfort and credit of a man’s life and the welfare of his family. Thus, you do well to appreciate her as a precious gift from the Lord (18:22; 19:14)

Loving her well serves as a protection against the immoralities and idolatries of this world. 1 Corinthians 7:2 – “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” Thomas Watson – It is not having a wife, but loving a wife, that makes a man live chastely (purely)… He who loves his wife, whom Solomon calls his fountain, will not go elsewhere to drink of muddy, poisoned waters. Pure marital love is a gift of God, and comes from heaven; but like the vestal fire, it must be cherished, that it go not out. He who loves not his wife is the likeliest person to embrace the bosom of a stranger.  (1620-1686 AD)

Loving her well unleashes her to become a source of great blessing and joy to you and the generations coming behind you. Proverbs 31:12 – “She does him good and not harm.” The wife who is blessed by God becomes a source of joy for her husband. Proverbs 12:4 – A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. Do people recognize your husband as eminently honored and blessed because he has you as his wife?

Wives, you have incredible power. You can do your husbands great good or great harm. You can build up your house or tear it down. You can bless your family or curse them. Are you making it easier for your husband to love you well? Are you tearing your family apart by a contentious, quarrelsome, critical spirit and manner? Do you continually find fault with those around you? How many men whose wings have been clipped by a critical, contentious wife! Designed to soar… they are earthbound. Will you be a crown to your husband, or one who brings him shame? Will you serve in the manner in which God designed – as a helpmate? Or will you serve Satan’s purpose as a tempter and thorn in the side of your husband? (Genesis 3:6. 1 Kings 21:25. Job, 2:9.) Ask the Lord to search your heart with these questions.

God’s Gift of Physical Intimacy in Marriage – Proverbs 5:15-21

Desire after forbidden enjoyments naturally springs from dissatisfaction with the blessings in possession. Where contentment is not found at home — drinking out of our own cistern — it will be sought for, however vainly, abroad. Marital love is chief among the earthly goods in mercy granted by God to his fallen and rebellious creatures. Enjoy then with thankfulness your own, and desire not your neighbor’s well.

— Charles Bridges, Anglican Pastor (1794-1869 AD)

Rejoice in the wife of your youth. Regard her as the special gift of your Father’s hand. Cherish her with gentleness and purity. Whatsoever interrupts the strictest harmony in this delicate relationship opens the door to imminent temptation. Tender, well-regulated, domestic affection is the best defense against the vagrant desires of unlawful passion.

—Bridges

It is highly important to see physical intimacy in marriage as God-given…for history confirms that when marriage is viewed chiefly as a business arrangement, not only is God’s bounty misunderstood, but human passion seeks other outlets (cf. Proverbs 5:20).

—Derek Kidner, Cambridge Professor (1913-2008)

Putting on the Kindness of Christ in Marriage

I think the ultimate act of kindness from Christ in the gospel narrative is when he prays for those who are his executioners. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

In marriage, kindness not only involves a willingness to forgive but also an overall readiness to enhance the life of your spouse because of your own deep inner security that comes from the Lord’s favor and approval.

I see so many couples today who are extremely competitive with one another. They are unable to rejoice in the successes of the other. Kindness also enables you to give space for the uniqueness of your spouse and not try to change them to be more like you.

This character quality involves a self-control based on a living faith in God’s over-ruling providence.  It is above petty resentment and revenge.  It has a positive task – doing good – and finds the task allows little time for the coddling of wounded feelings and the self-assertiveness of a sharp temper.

Without kindness in your relationship, your marriage won’t last. Here are some ways to check up on yourself to see how kind you are in your marriage

·       You say “yes” a lot more than “no” when your spouse asks for a favor or for help.

·       You are willing to share that last piece of pie or cookie because being kind is being generous.

·       You don’t interrupt your spouse.

·       You are polite and say “please” and “thank you” when speaking to your spouse.

·       You don’t think it is old fashioned to open a heavy door for your spouse or to share your jacket if your mate is shivering.

·       You show respect for your mate.

·       You let your spouse know how much he/she is appreciated.

·       You don’t roll your eyes when your spouse says something you disagree with or something you think is trivial or boring.

·       You routinely look for the good in your spouse.

·       You are helpful.

·       You don’t allow unkind comments to flow from your lips.

·       You make sure that your teasing is fun and not hurtful.

A Wise Woman: A rare find, the fixed center, and focused commitments,

Most ancient and modern cultures demean and treat women as inferior to men…objects to be used, not people to genuinely love and cherish. Not so with Jesus and not so with the wisdom writer of Proverbs. Jesus treated women with courtesy and honor and allowed women into his most intimate group of followers. In fact, Jesus befriended women who had been used, abused, and treated poorly, and transformed them by His grace into willing workers in His kingdom.

It is eminently fitting, in a book devoted to wisdom, that a woman of noble character should have the last word. Wisdom is personified as a woman. This beautiful acrostic poem elevates womanhood to a position of supreme honor and paints a vivid picture of a wise woman. I focus today on three facets of her life from Proverbs 31:10-31: The rare find, the fixed center, and the focused commitments of a wise woman.

Caveat: Husbands, this passage is not written for you to hound your wives about their shortcomings. This passage like all passages of Scripture serve in three ways: A mirror…a whip… a lamp. A mirror tends to show us our flaws. The swiss cheese effect of God’s Word – it shows us the holes and how we don’t measure up to God’s standard of perfection. This passage demoralizes most women because they use it strictly as a mirror. It is easy to view this passage as a harsh yardstick by which to measure your shortcomings. Many cringe at the mere mention of this woman.  Secondly, this passage serves as a whip that drives us to Jesus who is the wisdom of God. Thirdly, it serves as a lamp and a guide for living. Proverbs 31 serves as a pictorial mentor for womanhood much like 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 serve as a pictorial mentor for manhood.

Becoming this type of woman is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit and is a lifelong pursuit. Let me assure you: This portrait of a wise woman looks at the finished product. It reflects the cumulative effect of a life lived wisely. Here’s my counsel to you: Rather than becoming overwhelmed by this beautiful portrait of a  godly women, why not focus and think about one way that the Lord wants to weave her character into you.

  • The Rare Find of a Wise Woman: (v.10)

Proverbs 31:10 asks the rhetorical question: Who can find this ‘wife of noble character,’ whose value is ‘far more than rubies.’ Proverbs 3:15 and 8:11 describe the value of wisdom as also being “more precious than jewels.” Thus the search for wisdom and for the noble wife are both worth the time and effort.

The word “noble character” or excellenthas several shades of meaning – moral goodness and physical vigor and activity. She’s a woman of virtue… a woman of physical strength and moral excellence…It is the same word that is used of the mighty men of valor.

The description of this wise and virtuous woman serves as a challenge for young women and wives as well as a guide to young men in seeking a wife.

  • The Fixed Center of a Wise Woman: (See v. 30)

Women, what is the fixed center of your life?  Do you have a tendency to look to other things as the fixed center of your life? Physical beauty, your children, your family, financial security…

The fixed center of a wise woman’s life is her relationship with the LORD.

The wise woman anchors her life on the “fear of the LORD” (v. 30). One cannot be wise without entering into a personal relationship with God.

The text says that she fears the Lord.  Meaning what? The fear of the LORD is that God-given affectionate reverence by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s will. The life she lives is one in which worship and the study of God’s will have no small share. Psalm 33:18, “The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his mercy.”

All that she says and does is governed and guided by the Word of God.  Exodus 1:21 – The [Hebrew] midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them.

Exodus 20:20 – Moses said to the people, ” Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”

According to verse 30, why is it important that she fears the LORD?  Physical attractiveness is deceptive and temporary. 

  • The Focused Commitments of a Wise Woman: She orders her priorities.

To liberals who are focused on liberating women from the demeaning straight jacket of domestic slavery, Proverbs 31 shows the dignity and eternal value of domestic focus and excellence.

  • Her Domestic Diligence, Focus and Faithfulness. The good management of a household is a sacred duty by which women please God.

This domestic diligence is seen in her role as a faithful wife.

 “The heart of her husband trusts in her.” (v.11). “Her husband has full confidence in her” (v.11).

Jill Briscoe observes: “We know that this marvelous couple were good friends because it says they could trust each other.  You can only trust one you know” A virtuous wife enhances her husband’s standing and reputation outside the home (31:23).  Question:  Does the way that you conduct yourself outside of the home denigrate or honor your husband?

“She does him good, and not harm” (v.12). She brings him good can be a fuller word; ‘deal bountifully’ (Ps. 13:6) conveys more of the glad goodwill with which the good is done.

She interacts with him by supplying his needs and giving him grounds for trusting her (Prov. 31:11). Have you made it your constant business to do him good (31:12)?

“Her husband is respected in the city gate where he takes his seat among the elders of the land: (v.23) Her husband arises and “praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all” (vv.28-29).

This domestic diligence is seen in her role as a loving mother.

Some of you are already attempting to be super mom and I do not want to add fuel for this fire. Many of us have had the priceless advantage of a mother possessed of Christian virtues and graces. This passage ought to serve as kindling for renewed gratitude to God.

A wise woman diligently manages the affairs of her household (v.13 and 27 – “She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.”) The text says that she “works with eager hands.”

A wise woman faithfully and kindly teaches her children (v.28). The last phrase of v. 26 literally says “law of kindness” (torah hesed). All that she says is governed by the law of kindness. She does not rule by the “constant droppings” of censure, but by the never-failing stream of kindness. The kindness of God has led her to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Therefore, she uses kindness to shape the hearts and lives of her children. The children of the Proverbs 31 woman do not have an unpredictable mother.  They call her “happy.” She cares for and establishes a good relationship with their children.

The most important ministry mothers and fathers have is the spiritual training of their children. See 2 Tim. 1:5 and 3:15. Lemuel’s mother boldly warns him of some of the dangers he will face in life: sinful companions, strong drink, and a temptation to disobey the Word of God.

Application: Do you take pleasure in the position/place that God has assigned to you? Wives and mothers, what would your husband and/or children nickname you? Compare with Titus 2:3-5 – “Workers at home.”

Work to make your home a haven…  a place of peace and quietness (absence of an argumentative spirit). Remember that a happy lived-in home is much more appealing than an unhappy, sterilized one.

Danger: Putting your family above your LORD. Placing your children above your husband in terms of your time and your affections.

(To conservatives who say that a women’s place in strictly in the home, Proverbs 31 serves as a hand grenade going off in their laps. For now we see that a wise woman’s fear of the Lord inspires her towards excellence in her business enterprises.)

  • Her Entrepreneurial Enterprise (Read 31:16-18; 24)

She is involved in the textile industry, planting and cultivating vineyards and purchasing real estate. This passage teaches that woman can exercise their gifts widely – in the home and in the workplace. The wise woman does expand her horizons beyond her home, but all her outside business endeavors do not hinder her fundamental commitment to meet the needs of her family.

KEY:  Her husband is not threatened by her initiative and apparent success even in ventures outside the home. Question: Is your marriage marked by competition or cooperation?

Danger: Thinking that you can have it all.

(Next, we see the end of entrepreneurial enterprise is not to hoard, nor to waste it on self-indulgence, but to invest it in relieving the needs of others.)

  • Her Generous Giving and Philanthropy (v. 20 – “The noble wife also provides for the poor.” The text literally says that she “opens her palm” to the poor; i.e, she gives to the poor with liberality.

A wise woman proactively serves those in need (v.20). Do you willing serve needy people in your sphere of influence and welcome them into your home with all of their mess?

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Conclusion: What is the end result of becoming this type of woman? She, as well as her works, are praised by all whom her life touches: her husband, her children (vv. 28-29), and her community (v. 31).

Husbands, let me challenge you to what Kenneth Blanchard, in his book One Minute Manager, calls “one minute praising”…find her doing something right and praise her today!

Husbands and wives, here’s a prayer to internalize and make your own as you consider the above:

Forgive us, O Lord, for the sin that so quickly spoils our life together in our families and in our church: For the moodiness and irritability that make us difficult to live with, for the insensitivity that makes us careless of the feelings of others, for the selfishness that makes life harder for others. Forgive us for the times that we have made it easier for others to sin. When we honestly assess ourselves, we thank you for Your forgiving grace and cleansing blood. Grant us today repentant hearts that grieve over our sin. At the foot of Your cross and at the entrance to Your empty tomb, may we find our burdens rolled away and resolve to live more fully yielded to You in the days to come. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.