Second Place Marriage
By Jennifer Waddle
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39)
I often encourage my teenage son, that one day when he is grown, to look for a wife who will love Jesus first and him second. This may seem like an oversimplified piece of advice, but really, it involves a deep understanding of our relationship with God and the importance of loving Him first.
I remember the imbalance I had, as a young wife and mom. Extremely dependent on my husband, and fiercely protective of my children, I struggled for many years to put the Lord first. In my heart-of-hearts, I would say that God was most important, but I sure didn’t live as if He was. Can you relate?
The balance of becoming one with our spouse, while keeping the Lord first, can be a tough thing to live out. With our affections being pulled in different directions, it’s easy to let our relationship with the Lord get out of balance.
Think of it this way. When a car’s tires are out of alignment, but the owner keeps driving it, the tires wear unevenly, causing thin patches and the risk of a blowout.
This is a pretty accurate word-picture for marriages that are out of balance as well. When our relationships are out of alignment, especially when we put our spouses above God, the marriage starts to wear unevenly. An unhealthy “thinness” develops in our relationship with the Lord, and this imbalance can eventually cause a serious problem.
So, what can we do to fix the alignment in our marriage and put God first? Here is what the Bible says.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
In loving the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and strength, it leaves no room to love our spouses more. Instead, this commandment automatically places our spouses in second place—the healthiest place.
When Jesus said we must hate our loved ones in order to be His disciples, He wasn’t contradicting His perfect, loving nature. Instead, He was reminding us to exalt Him, not people, and keep our relationship with Him in proper order.
Lastly, when we abide in the True Vine, we bear fruit in our marriages. If, instead, we choose to abide in our spouses, our children, or anything else in life, we will fail to bear lasting fruit.
These may be difficult things to hear, especially if your relationships are out of balance. Believe me, I know what that is like. It took a deliberate decision for me to start seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. It took a heart-to-heart discussion with myself and the Lord to make the commitment to follow the greatest commandment in the Bible. And it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Jennifer Waddle considers herself a Kansas girl, married to a Colorado hunk, with a heart to encourage women everywhere. She is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com where you can find her books and sign up for her weekly post, Discouragement Doesn’t Win. She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.
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Originally published Wednesday, 29 November 2023.