Love Always Endures

Today, I tried out the cycle class at the gym with my mom. The gym we go to offers the cycle class at least once every two hours, so I figured it was important enough to give it a try. It seemed like I was the only newbie, as everyone knew how to work the bike (read: get on the bike) besides me!

Once the music started and they turned the lights off, we started to pedal. The bikes lit up different colors based on how fast we were going and how much resistance we were using. Throughout the class, the instructor helped us to build endurance. It wasn’t necessarily about pedaling the fastest or using more resistance. Rather, it was about doing our best, keeping our eyes focused on our own progress, and pushing through to the end. Endurance in cycle class means not getting off the bike.

It was difficult not to accept defeat and go sit in a freezer somewhere. I knew it would be a 45-minute class, so my stomach churned each time I looked at the clock at only saw two minutes pass. With each panting breath, with each wave of nausea, with each bead of sweat protruding out of my pores, I wanted to stop. However, I knew it was my first time, so discomfort would be part of the process. Instead of killing it in the red zone like my neighbors, I coasted comfortably in the yellow zone, knowing one day I could make it to the red if I don’t give up.

The Greek word for endures is similar to this concept in 1 Corinthians 13:7. It means to remain under the load, to bear up. The Biblical definition of endurance is fighting through the pain until it’s finished. For those of us that work out, we know that fighting through the pain only makes us stronger.

The endurance I maintained on the stationary bike today was a reminder of the personal endurance I’m trying to maintain on a daily basis. I’m trying to eat healthier and grow my muscles. I’ve made a practice of writing down what I eat and what exercises I do each day to track my progress. But the endurance doesn’t come when it’s easy; no, endurance comes when the cravings kick in, when I don’t feel like going to the gym, when I’m too tired, when I’m out with my friends and they all want to get ice cream. With pain comes endurance. Endurance is built in the hard times.

My husband and I both have personal goals. In addition to getting into shape, I am working on my novel and starting up a writing and editing career. My husband has been working extra hours and driving an hour and a half commute each morning! Life is not a walk in the park right now; it’s work! But we trust that these personal struggles are making us stronger.

We also have goals as a married couple. We’re saving money for a house, working on our communication, and growing closer as a couple. It’s a strain to hold off on things we want because we want to stick to our budget. It’s not easy to go against our habits that we formed as singles to make our marriage work. However, the pain that we endure from these experiences only make us stronger.

In the Bible, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. Life is hard, but it is easier together. Work together with your spouse to help you accomplish your goals. Ultimately, God is the one who will give you strength to endure all of the hardships that we will face in this life.

Photo by Andhika Soreng on Unsplash


Love is a Safe Place

Love always protects.

Growing up, I always wanted someone to protect me. Sexual abuse is scattered around our family tree, and although it thankfully has never happened to me, it was something I feared was always right around the corner. I used to have nightmares that someone would climb in through my window and sneak into my room in the middle of the night. I dreamed of the day when I would have a husband to protect me, when I could snuggle him close in the middle of the night, knowing that no bad guy could break through those strong arms.

When I hugged my husband for the first time, listening to his heart beat out of his chest and into my cheek, I knew that I was safe in those arms. His heart was set on protecting me even before we dated. He wanted me for himself, and he wanted me to pursue my greatest dreams. Those dreams began with feeling connected, and feeling protected.

The word used in 1 Corinthians 13:7 paints a beautiful picture of a roof protecting the house from rain. Honestly, tears come to my eyes as I think of how the love in our marriage has protected us from all of life’s storms. Although we’ve only been married for 19 months, we have been through a lot together. From the death of family members to medical issues, from financial strain to work drama, we have covered each other and have built each other up through love. Whatever storms we’ve faced together, the love that we share has kept our faith from wavering, our hearts from breaking, and our souls from wandering.

Love is what covers us when the storms of life threaten to ruin us.

He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.”
-Psalm 91:4-6 (NIV)

My favorite word picture of God is of an eagle, protecting us with His feathers. He loves us so much that He wants us to be secure. That’s doesn’t mean that we will have a problem-free life, but it means that when the storms come, we have an anchor that will keep us steady through those difficult times. Those who know Christ are completely and totally hidden with Him (see Colossians 3:3). We are protected by His care.

Since we live in an apartment complex, we hear noises all the time at night. The noise from our neighbors is so loud that we sometimes think that they are in the next room. Every night before bed, we pray, and then we sleep soundly. I know that my husband protects me with his love that does not want me to get hurt, and I know that God protects us with his infinite love that knows what is best for us.

Love always protects.

Photo by Christiana Rivers on Unsplash


Do You Delight in Evil?

Some may think that delighting in evil is simply taking pleasure when they see their enemies get what they deserve. That would be justice. However, when we walk in the way of love, we are called to take up God’s definition of justice. Did God treat us the way that we deserved? As Romans 5:8 demonstrates, Christ died for us when we did not deserve to be rescued. God’s justice, although it doesn’t make sense to us, is what has saved us. That justice should guide us through our lives as we deal with other people, especially our spouses.

Paul warns us against “delighting in evil.” He uses the Greek word adikia, which properly means “the opposite of justice.” Although injustice runs rampant in our culture, and it’s important to fight against that injustice, Christians should be concerned about the justice of God, doing things His way. Delighting in evil is the opposite of rejoicing with the truth (see Romans 1:18). If unrighteousness (adikia) and righteousness (dikaios) were to have a soccer tournament live on television, we should be rooting for dikaios.

I love words, but what do those words mean in plain English? What does this idea of rooting for righteousness look like in marriage?

My dear friend encouraged me in this season to pick one verse that would bring me through this difficult season of stepping out in faith and trusting God. During this time, my husband and I have treasured Jesus’ promise from the Sermon on the Mount: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Righteousness should be our priority, not just in our marriage, but in every aspect of our lives. The context of this passage is that Jesus encourages His disciples not to worry about any necessity. God will supply everything that we need, if we put our focus on Him first. We rejoice knowing that God is in control, because there is no way we could do what we are doing without His strength and guidance in our lives.

It is easy to delight in evil on a daily basis, from YouTube videos that are insulting but funny (so you have to share it on Facebook), to spending quality time gossiping with your best friend about that co-worker you can’t stand. We have been deceived into believing that connecting with people is more important than godliness. Nobody’s perfect, but if God isn’t first in our lives, we can create a community in the name of godliness that looks nothing like how God intended community to be.

“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me” (Matthew 12:30, NLT). Jesus uses these words to justify why he is not of Satan, because he drives out demons. He makes a clear divide between God and Satan, between good and evil, between righteousness and unrighteousness.

Whose side are you on? Would your answer be reflected in what gives you pleasure?

As Christians, we should rejoice with the truth, the righteousness of God. We know this truth by allowing ourselves to be sanctified by God’s word (John 17:17). We know this truth by walking with Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). When we make a daily habit of reading God’s word and allowing Jesus to guide our steps, we can trust the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13).

In your marriage, take time to pray with each other, read Scripture together, and invite the Holy Spirit to lead you as a couple. As you interact with each other, God will lead you to make wise choices and to stay away from things that are unrighteous.

“Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.”-Micah 7:18

God delights in showing mercy to His people. That is what His justice looks like. In what is your delight?

Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash


Love Unites

Who’s been waiting for this one? Raises hand. I’m so excited to finally delve into this topic of scorekeeping in marriage.

Did anyone keep boyfriend or girlfriend points when they were dating? This habit is behavior modification for your significant other. If your girlfriend does something good, you give her some girlfriend points. If your girlfriend does something bad, she’s able to use the points that she earned from doing something good so that you can’t get mad at her. Same is true for boyfriends.

Not surprisingly, this concept of keeping score in marriage is not biblical. Love does not keep score. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love does not seek to be right, to get even, or to insist on its own way.

My husband and I are both very competitive. Our families love to play games, and for some reason, they think it’s funny to pitch us against each other. People think I’m joking when I say that we will tear each other apart, but I’m pretty serious. In competitions, there is no love. There’s only rising to the top, beating down anyone who tries to get in our way.

For our marriage’s sake, we typically play group games where my husband and I are on a team together. Otherwise, my husband gets his feelings hurt when he loses to me (haha)! But seriously, we dominate when we are put on a team together. With my husband’s ability to think outside the box and quick reflexes, and my book knowledge and uncanny ability to guess when I don’t know the answer, we work so well together as a team. We are both independent and able to plan our own strategies, but we know that we can do better when we work together.

Because of the competitiveness of our world, it’s easy to keep score, to save a spouse’s mistake in your back pocket for when he’s mad at you, to prove that you’re right. However, that is not how God intended for us to live. He created us for community, so that we can work together and get even more accomplished. Scorekeeping divides, but love unites.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14, NIV).

In this passage, Paul uses the imagery of clothing. In the previous part of the chapter, we are told to put off our old ways and to put on these new attributes described above. My previous co-worker and I would make a practice out of pretending to put on new clothes as we listed each one: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love. Love binds all these attributes together. Scorekeeping divides, but love unites.

So, when I am dealing with my spouse, whom I am called to love, I must actively pursue the attributes listed in this verse. It is like getting dressed in the morning, an act that involves taking off my pajamas and putting on my #ootd. When I was in sin, those old habits (anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language) served to keep me in my sinful ways, but now that Christ’s death and resurrection has made me a new creation, it’s time to wake up. I must change out of my lazy pajamas and put on the clothes that show I’m ready to seize the day, confidently walking in the light of the Lord.

We are called by God to deal with others as God has dealt with us. “Forgive as God has forgiven you.” It’s hard to read verses that quote Jesus saying that God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others. He alludes to this idea several times in Scripture. If God has forgiven me from all my sin, why should I not forgive my husband for unintentionally hurting me one time? And if I don’t forgive my husband for ruffling my feathers a little bit, what does that say about my attitude toward God forgiving me for turning my back on Him and messing up so many times? Scorekeeping divides, but love unites.

Do not let bitterness keep you from loving your spouse the way that God calls you to love him/her. Be quick to forgive, talking to each other when necessary. You’ll know when it’s necessary, because you won’t be able to sleep at night. Instead of competing with one another, work together. Trust me when I say that you can accomplish much more together than separately.

Photo by Photos by Lanty on Unsplash


1 Corinthians 13: Living Up to the Vows

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
– 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NIV

Last week, my pastor shared a sermon on love. He referred to the chapter I shared above, the chapter that is recited at weddings but that people don’t think about on a daily basis in their marriage. When I realized that, it broke my heart, especially because my friend recited this passage at our wedding. During that sermon, I did a serious heart check. Do love my husband in the way that Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13? Does our marriage reflect the love that God wants us to display in marriage?

Although it is a cute poetic passage to read at weddings, what does it actually mean to live out the words that are written within 1 Corinthians 13?

The first three verses give us a clue into where our hearts should be. We can do all the right things, but if they are not done in love, we have wasted our time. In marriage, this looks to me like sacrifice of self. I’m giving my spouse everything I own because I want him to have it, not because I want to look good. I’m encouraging my spouse because I want him to succeed, not because I want to show off my word skills. I’m praying for my spouse and putting God first in our marriage because God is worthy, not because I think God is a genie that will grant all my wishes if I just say a few prayers.

Paul was writing this letter to a church that had glorified lust and greed instead of love and sacrifice. This letter was more than just about marriage and lovey-dovey feelings; it was about creating a new culture that elevated God more than the fleshy nature of human beings. In our marriages, we should seek to elevate God above our selfishness, our pride, and our stubbornness. We do that by putting our spouses first (before ourselves), doing a daily heart check, and surrendering those icky parts of us that cause us to put love on the back burner.

During the next few weeks, I will be sharing how the different adjectives given in 1 Corinthians 13 can be practically displayed in marriage. If you would like to contribute to the conversation, comment below (or on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Instagram) about how you, your spouse, or someone else you know has exemplified 1 Corinthians 13 in your/his/her marriage. Then pray this week about how you can best show love to your spouse and to those in your sphere of influence.

Photo by Marcus Lewis on Unsplash

*Update: I’ve been working on my book hardcore lately. They say that once you write your first book, the others just flow out of you. I’m waiting for that! Until then, I’ve been chiseling away at the free writing that I had done a few months ago, in order to create a masterpiece that will glorify God and inspire young adult women to find peace in the midst of their anxiety. So, I will be posting every other Monday and Wednesday, instead of every Monday and Wednesday, in order to make more time for my novel writing. This week I will post on Monday, and next week I will post on Wednesday. If you have an Instagram, feel free to follow me @elisabethmwarner, as I have been sharing how pursuing wellness has helped me control my anxiety.