FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Jesus’ Nourishing Love in Hard Times: Dane Ortlund

with Dane Ortlund | March 15, 2024
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What does hope look like when life is falling apart? Whether it's stress, financial struggles, or heartache from loss, Dave Ortlund offers hope as he continues to unpack Ephesians 5, showing us that as believers, we are taken care of by the love of Jesus. But how does this look in everyday life?

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

What does hope look like when life gets tough? Dave Ortlund, exploring Ephesians 5, reminds believers of the love of Jesus. But how does this help in daily life?

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Jesus’ Nourishing Love in Hard Times: Dane Ortlund

With Dane Ortlund
March 15, 2024
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Dane: God wasn’t wondering how to tell us about His gospel, and He looked down and He thought, “How do I communicate to them what the good news of the gospel is like? I know! They have marriage down there. I’ll use that.”

No, the whole point, guys, is He gave us marriage so that we would know what the gospel is like. That’s the whole point of it. The story of the Bible is the story of God pursuing us and saying, “I want you as mine, and I will never divorce you.”


Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: Today we get to hear a message from FamilyLife’s Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise, which is fantastic.

Ann: Yes, what is that for those who have never heard of it?

Dave: FamilyLife has been doing this marriage cruise for over ten years. We call it the Love Boat. [Laughter] FamilyLife doesn’t call it that. We sort of privately joke that it’s about love and it’s about marriage. There are couples all over the boat who have invested five or six days of their life to say, “We are not only going to take a vacation together; we are going to take a vacation with a purpose.”

It's relaxing, and it is a cruise; but it’s more than a cruise, because you have speakers and entertainers. You have worship bands leading us in worship, and you hear incredible messages.

Ann: You go to as much or as little as you want, but all of it’s based on, “What does a biblical marriage look like?”

Dave: Let me ask you this, before we even jump into this message. What was your best memory of the cruise, best part of the cruise for you?

Ann: Oh, I haven’t even thought about that.

Dave: Well, I thought you’d say me. [Laughter]

Ann: Well, of course.

Dave: You didn’t even think of that.

Ann: That’s just a given.

Dave: Sitting on our balcony—

Ann: —being with you—

Dave: —with our legs on rail looking at the ocean—

Ann: —yes.

Dave: —looking at the sun with your favorite person in all the world. That’s not what came to your mind?

Ann: You are my favorite. Yes, that’s a given.

Dave: Okay, what else?

Ann: That’s always my favorite.

Dave: What’s number two?

Ann: I loved all the messages. At this point—because we’d been really busy; we’d been on the go—there’s something about worship. There is worship before every message. The worship was amazing, as always.

To stand in a room with—how many people were in that theater?

Dave: The theater held 1,600 and we did it twice, so 1,600 would come in while the other 1,600 were eating. Then the after-dinner crowd would come in, and the others would go to later dinner. Yes, almost 3,500 people on the boat.

Ann: That was powerful.

Dave: That was powerful. You know what I was thinking of?

Ann: What?

Dave: The food. [Laughter]

Ann: I was going to say, “We ate so much.”

Dave: Really, I was thinking of worship and singing. That was awesome.

Ann: Wasn’t it?

Dave: The bands—you’ve got artists.

Ann: How about this: you get a gift every day.

Dave: You get a gift—

Ann: —they put a little package on your door every single day.

Dave: —every night that has something to do with the theme of the day and applies to your marriage. But honestly, the food—there are 25 restaurants around the boat. There’s free ice cream, soft serve, by the pool.

Ann: Did you see the line for people waiting to sign up for massages?

Dave: I did, and I did not sign up. [Laughter] But I did sign up for pizza every night at about midnight, which was really good for my body.

But anyway, something that was better for my body, and for our souls, were the messages given on the boat. We got to give a few. Today, we’re going to listen to part two of a message we heard part one of yesterday with Pastor Dane Ortlund from Naperville, Illinois, near Chicago.

Man, oh man! We heard yesterday about God’s love, which is nourishing and cherishing, which is what we are called to do as husbands in our marriage. But Dane took it and said, “This is the God that you may not understand. He nourishes; He loves you; He cherishes you.”

Ann: He said that like this—remember this? He said, “Jesus lives to nourish and cherish those in Him even when we’re at our worst.” Enjoy this.


Dane: Don’t think that you need to improve morally for Jesus to nourish you. It’s what He lives to do. It is at the very top of His job description. “The Lord Jesus Christ. Job-nourish and cherish Christian, stumbling saints”.

By the way, you know you are a saint. You are if you are in Christ. You are objectively 100 percent a saint. That means “a clean one.” You and I go up and down in our saintliness. [Laughter] We’re all over the place. We’re not all over the place in our sainthood.

You are a saint, and if you are a saint, the Lord Jesus Christ nourishes you. The only other instance of this Greek word here in [Ephesians] 5:29 that is translated “nourish” is in Ephesians 6:4, talking about a dad taking care of his kids.

I was with our oldest son, Zach, at a college visit. We were—he was accepted at this school. He went down for a round of scholarship interviews. One of the interviews, we learned, was him being put at a table with seven other applicants at each table, and they were given the question: “You are able to send three items to these underprivileged children in this African nation. What are the three things that you would send?”

The staff at this college were walking around with clipboards and pens, assessing who said what and how they interacted with each other. Can you imagine? Just terrible. After that, I took Zach out for dinner. Now, which of those: the guy with the clipboard walking around, looking over your shoulder taking notes, or a dad, Ephesians 6:4, taking care of his kid, do you envision the Lord Jesus Christ to be?

Answer: “A dad taking care of His kids.” He nourishes.

Secondly, He cherishes. This is even more surprising. Oh my, how we stiff arm this! Jesus, if you are a saint, Jesus cherishes you. [Exhale Sound] Have you ever let that sink in? Do you believe that, honestly?

Some of us bear wounds from our past—something coaches said to us, or something someone did to us in a dark room, something said to us over and over and over so we finally believed it—so that we don’t know how to wake up in the morning and roll out of bed and climb up into that tiny little bathroom we’re all in and look in the mirror [with] bedhead and bad breath; we don’t know how not to think, “You’re disgusting.”

The Lord Jesus—God says in His Word that Jesus—nourishes and cherishes you. That also is a word only used two times in the New Testament. The other one is 1 Thessalonians 2:7, where we read, Paul says, “We were gentle among you like a nursing mother caring for—” There it is; “cherishing,” same word, “—caring for her own children.”

One reason we are all having such a heavenly week is we are all here without our kids. I haven’t seen one kid. [Laughter] You empty nesters may not respond to that. Do not look. Do not engage. You who have kids, has this not been a divine week? [Laughter] We love our kids. It is going to be nice to go back and see them, but boy was it nice to leave them. We love our kids.

How did we—how did my precious wife hold any one of our five kids when they were an infant? That picture, just extremely delicate, strong, tender care, that is the picture that God in His Word is giving you and me of how the Lord Jesus Christ handles you. Those messy kids and us messy saints; that’s how Jesus deals with us.

If you’re in Christ, by faith and faith alone, then He cherishes you; He delights in you; He weeps with you; He laughs with joy over you, wounded you, not better you. [He] nourishes and cherishes.


Ann: We’re listening to Pastor Dane Ortlund and the message he gave on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. I’m just going to say this: I can’t hear this message enough. Why do you think we have such a hard time believing this about God?

Dave: I feel the same way. When Dane was speaking that night, I was sitting there thinking, “I don’t know if I truly believe this most of the time.” Because it’s so easy to think, “God is like us. He treats us the way we treat other people.” We are fickle, and it’s conditional; our love is conditional, even in our own marriages. To try to conceive of a God who doesn’t love us conditionally, but unconditionally, when we don’t deserve it, His love nourishes and cherishes us; it is beyond, almost, belief.

Ann: Yes, because you think when we do well, and we’ve obeyed Him, and we’ve cared for others, maybe He likes us. But most of us think, “He can’t love me when I’m at my worst,” and He does. I could hear this over and over. Every day, I could hear this.

Dave: Yes, in our minds, as we hear this, we have objections. I love what Dane did. He said, “You’ve probably got an objection to this. Let’s deal with that.” You’re going to hear one of those right now from Dane.


Dane: Objection. Some of you may be thinking—I’d probably be thinking [this] if I were sitting there in your seat, “Dane, you’re cheating! You are cherry picking. You are grabbing one verse, just a couple of words out of one verse, and trying to build a whole theology of what Jesus is like on it. That is not right; that is not fair. It comes in a marriage passage so maybe that’s appropriate for our week here.”

I want you to know, no, the whole story of Scripture is a marriage story, starting with a groom and a bride in a garden, ending with a groom and a bride in a garden city; starting with Adam and Eve in the first two chapters of the Bible, and ending the last two chapters of the Bible with a divine Bridegroom with His bride, which is you and me, at the end of history.

And in between, all through the Scripture—you’ve noticed this, haven’t you as you’ve read and studied the Scripture in your life? in between—we see God working to pursue His people, to win His people back.

At every point, it’s like me trying to hug my sixth grader, Jeremiah. Whenever, so far,—we’ve got two kids under fifth grade and three kids over—when they hit fifth grade, and I go in to give them a hug, they go limp. They reciprocated up until then [Laughter], but at this point they go limp. They don’t want it.

That’s what the Israelites were like all those years. That’s what you and I are like, naturally. Yes, God gives rules in the Scripture; He give commands. Those are there to maintain order in the house and to tell His people, “This is how, for your joy, this is how life’s going to work for you, if you obey me in this way.” The same way that we have rules in our homes, not because that’s the whole purpose of what we want our kids to be thinking about. We want them to enjoy life; we want a harmonious home, so we have rules.

That’s there in the Scripture. But mainly, the Bible is a story of God’s pursuing love. It’s what the whole Old Testament was about. Some of you think the Old Testament God was a little or a lot grouchier than the New Testament revelation in Christ. Not true.

No one talked more about hell than Jesus. God talked about what He was really like, the supreme self-revelation of God in the Old Testament is Exodus 34, where He reveals Himself to Moses as “The Lord, the Lord God…merciful and gracious, abounding in compassion.” [Exodus 34:6, Paraphrased]

You know this. He put him in the rock; remember that? He said, “My mercy and compassion and hesed, my steadfast love, rolls down to a thousand generations.” Exodus 34:7, Paraphrased] It's the Hebrew way of saying, “It doesn’t ever end!” Not [that] it’s going to end in generation a thousand and one. “My judgment rolls down three or four generations.” That’s, you could say, the disproportion in God’s heart for us.

Then we can see, as we continue through the Old Testament ,that He is time and again provoked to anger. Forty-two times in the Old Testament we are told that God is provoked to anger in Deuteronomy and in Kings and in Jeremiah. Not one time, never, are we told that He is provoked to mercy or provoked to love. His love, mercy, grace, compassion, nourishing, and cherishing do not require provocation. What requires Him being provoked is you and I wandering and rebelling, and then it takes time; it takes a while to crank up.

We come to passages such as Isaiah 62, verse 5, “As the as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” I’m trying to tell you right now; I’m answering the objection. I am not cherry picking. This is all through Scripture.

Then we come to Hosea. The whole point of the book of Hosea. God said, “Hosea, go marry a prostitute who is going to be unfaithful to you, because I want you to know what it’s like for me when my people who I am, so to speak, married to, I’ve given Myself to in love, give themselves to harlots, idols.” [Hosea 1:2, Paraphrased]

We come to the end of Hosea and we read, “My people are bent on turning away from me,” and how does God respond to that? “Therefore, I will squash them”? No! “How can I give you up, O, Ephraim?” That’s His term of affection for His people: “Ephraim.” “How can I hand you over, O, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim?” If you don’t know about Admah and Zeboiim, they were in cahoots with Sodom and Gomorrah, those four cities. “My heart recoils within me. My compassion grows warm and tender.”

“I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.” [Hosea 11:8-9]

Did anyone ever point out to you that it is God’s holiness that He says here in this passage, that means He will not come in wrath! Do you not tend to think, “God is holy therefore He’s going to come in wrath?”

Answer: “Oh, yes He is if you’re not in Christ.” His holiness flows down. If you’re not in Christ, wrath. If you are, not wrath. That’s what His holiness does according to that passage. It goes on, “I will heal their apostasy”–-“apostasy” means “Screw You, God!”--“I will love them freely,” —leave your wallets at home— “I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.” [Hosea 14:4]

“I will be like the dew to Israel.” He goes on to say, “He shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root…his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive.” [Hosea 14:5-6] This is nourishing language. “They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;” ––perfect safety— “they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine.” [Hosea 14:7] This sounds like nourishing and cherishing to me.

We’re skipping through the Bible at Old Testament. Come to the New Testament. In time and again, we see Jesus referring to Himself as a what? Bridegroom. Fifteen times in all four gospels, “I’m the Bridegroom.” What’s He talking about?

Then we get to John’s gospel, chapter two, when He performs a miracle. For some reason John wants us to know: “This is the first miracle He ever did.” At what event? A wedding! He’s cryptic with His mother. When Mom comes up to Him and says, “Jesus, we’re out of wine,” What does He say? “Woman, my time is not yet. My hour has not yet come.” [John 2:3-4, Paraphrased] What’s He talking about? We’re not at Revelation 19 and 20 yet, and the wedding supper of the Lamb. There’s going to be a wedding, and I’m going to turn this water into wine as my number one miracle as a trailer of what’s coming.

Then we come to Ephesians 5, the whole point of that passage—we’ve just read a bit of it—is that God wasn’t wondering how to tell us about His gospel and He looked down and He thought, “How do I communicate to them what the good news of the gospel is like? I know! They have marriage down there. I’ll use that.”

No, the whole point of Ephesians 5, the passage on husbands and wives— “This is a profound mystery, but I’m talking about Christ and the church.” [Ephesians 5:32] The whole point, guys, is, He gave us marriage—it’s the reverse—He gave us marriage so that we would know what the gospel is like. That’s the whole point of it.

Then we come to Revelation 21, and the New Heaven and the New Earth, and what we read is, “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” [Revelation 21:2] Start to finish, the story of the Bible is a story of God pursuing us and saying, “I want you as mine, and I will never divorce you. I want to go into a covenant relationship of deep, divine love with you with no pre-nup.”

Jesus is the divine Bridegroom who loves you the best when you are at your worst. We are not talking about human marriage tonight. I want you simply to bask in and enjoy what it is to be a saint, to be a recipient, to be in Christ, to be a recipient of this divine love, this One who nourishes and cherishes us. That is not a footnote to the story; that is the whole point of the story.

However your marriage is doing, that is Who Jesus Christ is for you tonight and will never stop being. You are safe.


Ann: We’ve been listening to a message given by Pastor Dane Ortlund on our Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise just a few weeks ago as we were floating around in the Caribbean—

Dave: —floating around, getting [my] bald head sun burned.

Ann: But we were listening about this deep, deep love of our Bridegroom, Jesus, for those who are His.

Dave: That is something that was pretty unique to the cruise. You’re sort of running around the boat all day; you’re in the sun; you’re having great meals, great conversations. Then, you walk into the theater at night and, man, you go deep.

Right away, you go into worship; so, you go from this horizontal existence to vertical, and you’re reminded as you sing and you look around at 1600 other people: there is a God who we serve; there’s a God who has blessed us with the opportunity to even be on a boat, really a little city in the middle of the ocean, of the world that He’s created. There’s something about even that moment that humbles you.

Then you hear somebody like Dane and other speakers. But Dane’s message that we listened to today reminds us that we don’t even know the God that we claim to know. He said several times in the message about Jesus’ interaction with Philip. He said “Philip, I’ve been with you this long and you don’t even know Me?” [John 14:9, Paraphrased]

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I felt like He could say the same thing about us. But Dane helped us understand the amazing love of God that cherishes and nourishes us.

Ann: I think part of the uniqueness about being on the cruise is [that] you pull away. Because life it stressful! We’re so busy, we’re at our wits end; our kids are busy, we have grandkids, so life can feel hectic. But there’s something about slowing down, seeing the beauty of God’s creation, and then, hearing the messages of God’s love for us, His unconditional love for us. It feels like it sinks a little deeper.

Dave: Yes, I looked at my notes that I took that night when Dane spoke. One of the last things Dane said that I wrote down was “How do we apply this?” He said, “Bask in the love of God.”

Ann: How do you do that?

Dave: I think you read it over and over; you listen to it; you pray and talk to God. I think you don’t run. You don’t hurry. You’ve got to take some time.

Ann: Yes. One of the things that I do, that I think has really helped me over the years, is [that] when it’s nice out, I’ll do a lot of walking, and I’m trying to get into this habit of thanking God, that gratefulness piece: “Lord, thank you for our family. Father, thank You for Dave. Thank You for the way You hear me.”

It’s going through all those things. By the time I’m done with thanking Him and being grateful to Him for His hand, His goodness—I know there are hard things, too—but just for His presence, I feel like my heart is different. I remember doing that on the cruise, standing out looking at the sunset, looking at the beautiful horizon, and those aqua-blue waters; you feel it even more: “Wow, Lord! Thank you [that] even in the midst of hard, You are with me.”

Dave: There is no way you can bask fast.

Ann: That’s a good one.

Dave: You can’t bask quickly.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: You have to slow down. We’re asking you to do that in application of Dane’s message. But I’d tell you something else you should consider doing: jump on the cruise with us next year.

Ann: Yes, come with us!

Dave: It’s a slow-down week. You need to unplug. You pull away, you meet new people, you eat good food, you listen to messages like we just heard—

Ann: —and rest—

Dave: —and you get to look at a sunset and an ocean that I bet you haven’t seen in a while. I know it costs some money, and I know it’s time away. I’m telling you, it’s worth every single dollar and every single minute. God meets you.

Ann: Go to and sign up and be with us on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.

Dave: Hope to see you there next year.

Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson on FamilyLife Today. They’ve been talking about the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.

I’ve been on the cruise. I remember standing on the back of the ship on the top deck next to my wife. We were in formal clothes because we were going to a nice dinner that night; and [we were] taking selfies just her and me. She was kissing me on the cheek. I was making surprise faces with the ocean in the background and the clouds over the water. It was absolutely stunning and a perfect evening.

It was near the end of the week for us when we were on the cruise. I just really remember being grateful, standing there with my wife, appreciating the fact that I got to be on this amazing event on this incredible ship out on the water in warm weather during February and spending time with my best friend. Who was I to be able to experience the grace of God like that? Going to conference on the water where God was using His Word to impact my heart and my wife’s heart? It was a special moment for me. I’m so grateful that I got to attend.

I want the same thing for you. It’s next year from February 8th to the 15th, 2025. Right now is the lowest price that will be available for this sailing. I want to encourage you to sign up. We expect it to sell out again.

You can go to the link that will be available in the show notes, or you can to and click on the Love Like You Mean It banner. Or you can give us a call to make your reservation at 800-358-6329. That’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life and then the word, “TODAY.”

Love Like You Mean It cruise, it’s a once in a lifetime experience, and I want you to have that experience for next year’s Valentine’s Day. Again, that’s

Now, coming up next week, it’s our very own Bob Lepine, my mentor for FamilyLife Today. He’s going to be talking with Dave and Ann Wilson about 12 things related to Easter that are important and are maybe surprising for you. He’s going to talk about that along with teaching your children intentionally about Easter. I love it when Bob comes back and visits with us. He will be here next week, so don’t miss that.

On behalf of my friends, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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