Love Is Long-Suffering
About the Guest
- Bob Lepine unpacks ten attributes of genuine love listed in 1 Corinthians 13 in his new book "Love Like You Mean It: The Heart of a Marriage That Honors God". https://shop.familylife.com/p-5890-love-like-you-mean-it.aspx
- Wedding photo of Dave and Ann Wilson. https://bit.ly/2C6oMLD
- Wedding photo of Bob and Mary Ann Lepine. https://bit.ly/2AAmu7b
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Dive deep into 1 Corinthians 13 as Bob Lepine, along with hosts Dave and Ann Wilson, discuss the counter-intuitive principles of love God has given for lifelong relationships.
Love Is Long-Suffering
Bob: The Bible’s definition of love includes a couple of character qualities/a couple of attitudes that are sometimes absent from our marriages: patience and kindness. Here’s Ann Wilson.
Ann: I wish I would’ve applied that more as a young wife because, when you look at “Love is patient and kind,” I think what I did was—here’s Dave—I had expectations of what I thought he should be like or what he should do in our marriage. One of those was, especially when we had little kids, I needed his help; but instead of just going to him, talking to him—being patient and kind in my approach—I would be like: “What are you doing?! I’m doing everything around here, and you’re not doing anything.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 7th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Would you say your marriage is characterized by patience and kindness? Are you kind and patient with one another?—that’s what love looks like, according to the Bible. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re talking about what a loving marriage looks like.
Dave: Actually, we’re talking about—
Ann: —Bob Lepine’s new book! [Laughter]
Dave: —a new book.
Ann: Woo hoo!
Bob: This is release week for the book; it’s just coming out this week.
Dave: Pretty exciting.
Bob: And it is pretty exciting. I wrote a book called The Christian Husband, back 20 years ago.
Dave: That was 20 years ago?
Bob: That was 20 years ago.
Bob: And along the way, people have said to me, “Are you going to write another book?” You guys know I’ve been busy here with work on the Art of Marriage® video series, The Art of Parenting® video series, FamilyLife Today—
Dave: —Like Arrows.
Bob: —all of the things we’ve been doing. I’ve had ideas.
In fact, the idea for this book, which is called Love Like You Mean It—which, by the way, is the name of the cruise we do; I think our listeners know that—
Ann: It’s a perfect title.
Bob: —1 Corinthians 13, which is all about love—I thought, “We really need to dive deep into this and think: ‘What are the implications of these verses for marriage?’”
You mentioned that this gets read at weddings a lot. It’s read because it sounds so poetic.
Dave: As you say that, I can picture myself in the chapel at our church. When it’s read, there’s this “Ahhhh,” in the room. Because I know what it means, I want to go, “Hey, let’s stop a minute.”
Ann: Wait; are you guys saying it’s not poetic? [Laughter]
Bob: We’re just saying, “Are you hearing what you’re saying?!”
Ann: Exactly; it’s hard.
Bob: When you start off by saying, “Love is patient,” what we hear is, “It would be so wonderful if somebody would be patient with me all the time”; right? [Laughter]
Bob: but when the Bible says, “Love is patient,” it’s saying: “This is your job. It’s your job to be patient with somebody else. It’s your job to…”
The word for patience—and this is the first quality that gets talked about on the list; you know?—this is where it starts.
Ann: “Love is patient.”
Bob: Isn’t that a weird place to start? If you’re sitting down with somebody, and they say, “Describe love for me"; “Well, let me describe it for you. Love means that you’re going to have to be committed through suffering for a long, long time.” The word for “patience” here is the word that gets translated “longsuffering.”
Ann: —which is so interesting. I started a Bible study one year with the Detroit Lions wives, and I asked them to define “love” for me—so “Just define it; what do you think it is?” Almost every single person related a feeling with love. Yet, when you look at this—“Love is patient,”—what you just described—longsuffering; it’s this hard, grueling—people aren’t attracted to that.
Bob: When we were first talking about this book, we thought: “Maybe we should call it Rugged Love,” “Maybe we’ll call it Durable Love,”—those were some of the words. Then we thought, “Who’s going to buy a book called Rugged Love?”—right?
Love is—you guys [Dave and Ann] know this—we used to give out an award every year from FamilyLife® called the Robertson McQuilkin award; it was for committed, sacrificial love. At the core of it, when we’re talking about biblical love, I think there are two words that come back to me: one is “commitment”; the other is “self-sacrifice.” Put those two together, you have agape love—commitment and self-sacrifice—“I’m not going anywhere,” and “I’ll die for you.” That’s what agape love is.
We would give this award to people who demonstrated longsuffering in marriage. The first person we gave it to was a woman who lived in northern California. Her name is Lucy Wedemeyer. Lucy’s husband Charlie, at that point, was the longest surviving ALS patient in America. Lucy, who’s a little bitty thing, had taken care of her football player husband with ALS, lifting him in and out of bed as she could—because he was no longer able to function for himself. Her whole life had been caring for Charlie as his body began to shut down. It wasn’t just a case of his body began to shut down and, in two years he was gone; he lived for a couple of decades with ALS in the wheelchair.
I remember interviewing her early on FamilyLife Today. In fact, you can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and you can listen to this interview that was done decades ago with Charlie and Lucy. It’s powerful and profound—the sacrificial, committed love that did involve a level of suffering—but Lucy said: “No, I love him. Of course, I’m going to do this. This is the love of my life. This is what I promised to do. I’m not going to renege on that promise, because he’s my husband.”
That’s longsuffering on a physical level; but Paul starts off by saying love—this is at the foundation of what love is—that we’re committed; and we’re going the distance; and we’re not going anywhere, even when it costs us something/even when it’s hard.
Ann: Talk to the wife/talk to the mom, who’s been working all day; her husband has worked all day. They come home; he sits in front of the TV. This has been years, and she’s doing everything. He is just not engaged; he’s not helping; he’s not doing anything to really add to the relationship or family.
Bob: Yes, it is hard when your job is “Pour out”; and you think, “Well, it would sure help if I’d get a little positive response to this.”
Ann: Well, that’s much nicer than I would say it. [Laughter]
Bob: “It would sure help if you’d pitch in a little bit.
Bob: “It would sure help if this wasn’t all on me.”
So what do you do in those moments? Well, I think, first of all, you have to think biblically. You have to think, “What counsel does Scripture give me?”; because the culture will say:
Here’s what you do: you tell them off; you say, “I’m out of here.”
You tell him, “Until you start pulling your weight, I’m not…”—you punish him; you freeze him out—you say, “There’s no sugar in your coffee anymore until you start acting right around here.”
That’s the way the culture would have us respond; that’s the way our flesh would have us respond.
Jesus says, “Okay, let’s respond differently.” Think about Romans 5:8—God demonstrated His love for us—how?—“While we were still His enemies, He sent His Son to die for us.” Did you catch that? While we were doing nothing to pursue Him/to add to the relationship—in fact, we were on the other side, saying, “I could care less about You,”—and He says, “Okay, I’m sending My Son to die for you.”
That’s hard to hear, because we got married for oneness. If you’re not experiencing oneness—and you hear somebody on the radio saying: “Well, you’ve just got to keep pouring out,” “You’ve got to keep pouring out,”—I understand that. Here’s what I’d say to somebody:
First thing you’ve got to do is—you have to remember there is a God who loves you, who sees you and knows what you’re going through, and who is committed to your good, and who is in control of things. Don’t forget that; don’t abandon that. Don’t give up on that, even though it’s hard; you’ve got to know that, in this hardness, God is with you.
Then secondly, God has put you here for a purpose. Your purpose is to be an ambassador of grace/a dispenser of love to somebody who desperately needs it. This isn’t just wives with deadbeat husbands; this can be a husband, who has a wife, who is not participating the way he’d like for her to participate in the relationship.
So your question is: “How can you be an ambassador of grace, and how can you minister to that person in a way to try to break through the woundedness and hard-heartedness that is keeping them sealed off from you?”
Why would a person be passive? I think there are contexts, and scars, and wounds that all of us bring into marriage that shape how we respond in a relationship. Some of us have never [received] training; some of us don’t know any better. This is where a loving spouse can help call out of you; say, “I’m a safe place to help heal these wounds/to help you be the better person that God intends for you to be.”
I’m not saying that, in being patient, you just put up with behavior that is wrong behavior—that you don’t try to help your spouse get better—I’m just saying you look at it from the standpoint of: “I’m doing this because I want you to flourish, not because I want to feel better”; and that’s a fundamental shift.
If what you’re doing is saying, “You need to act this way and this way; because then, I’ll feel better,”—now we’re not thinking biblically—but if we’re saying: “You need to act better, because God made you to be this better person. God has so much more for you, and I see the potential there is in you; and I’m jealous to see it grow and develop in you,” that’s a whole different perspective.
Ann: I wish I would’ve applied that more as a young wife because, when you look at “Love is patient and kind,” I think what I did was—here’s Dave—I had expectations of what I thought he should be like or what he should do in our marriage. One of those was, especially when we had little kids, I needed his help; but instead of just going to him, talking to him—being patient and kind in my approach—I would be like: “What are you doing?! I’m doing everything around here, and you’re not doing anything.” I wasn’t patient or kind; because I was thinking about, “I’m doing so much more than you are.”
But I think that we do have that power of taking it to God, realizing and looking at that, and then approaching you [spouse]. If I would have approached you in a way better way of saying, “Hey, here’s what would really help us, as a family, if you could do this and that”; but I would hold it in, bottle it up, and then it would all spew out in all kinds of bad ways.
So even taking that—and applying “Love is patient,”—“God, today, help me to be patient,” and so let God’s Word seep into us daily/continually—I think that can change things.
Dave: I think there are some times it gets so hard—you’re so exhausted—you’ve tried; you’ve tried. You’ve said it the right way; you’ve said it the wrong way—he doesn’t change/she doesn’t change in that—and you think, “Well, the Christian thing to do is be patient,” even though I’m looking at other people, thinking, “They’re happy; I can’t seem to find that happiness.”
What would you say, Bob?—because there’s a woman, listening right now/there’s a man listening, saying: “This sounds great; I don’t know if I’ve got enough in me to make it another day, let alone a month. I do want to be patient. I think I have been, to a fault, and nothing’s changing.”
Bob: Well, we’re talking about longsuffering; and I think the question is: “So how long?”
Ann: —“do you suffer?”
Bob: Yes; I mean, it gets thin—the longer we suffer, our patience wears thin. We’ve all been there, where it’s like, “Okay, I’ve put up with this for about as long as I can.” I would say, when you’re at the breaking point—even before you get to the breaking point—cry out to God and do what David said.
In Psalm 13, David says: “Lord, how long are You going to forget me? How long are You going to withhold Your favor from me?” Think about a husband or a wife, who’s in a frustrating marriage: “Lord, how long are You going to forget the situation I’m in? How long are You going to withhold Your favor from me? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”—because you can feel like your spouse is your enemy.
God says: “I can handle this; bring it to me. Cry out; and then—in the fellowship with Me, and in the interaction, and in the lament—I’m going to meet you there with a fresh supply of grace.”
Think about it: patience is grace fueled by love. We said that love is commitment and self-sacrifice: “Your good is my goal.” So patience is—that’s my goal—and it’s fueled by grace. Well, when I’m running low on grace, where do I go? I go to the Dispenser of grace and say, “Lord, pour more grace into me; so I can be a dispenser of grace to my husband.”
Now here’s what I want to make sure our listeners understand: patience does not mean that we become passive enablers of dysfunction in another person.
Dave: That’s good.
Bob: You’re not loving another person if you are enabling them to continue in sinful patterns and habits in their life. You are loving them when you are helping them and calling them away from those habits and patterns—gently, kindly, graciously, humbly—calling them away from those habits and patterns.
What you described: Dave’s not helping out with the kids; he’s ESPN-ing it all night long; you’re taking care of the boys and all of that. Rather than going and saying: “You know, when am I going to get some help around here? You come home every night and you’re doing this and this,”—so that’s not the approach—but when you sit down with him and say: “I need to talk to you, because what you’re doing is not good for you; it’s not good for the boys. It’s not good for our marriage, and I don’t think this is what God wants us to be. I don’t think it’s what God wants you to be. I’m committed to doing whatever I can to help you be the husband and the dad that God wants you to be. I’m here for that.”
Now, all of a sudden, it’s like I have an ally that wants me to get better. I’m not just married to a nag who wants a night out.
Dave: Yes; I find it very interesting. I don’t know if you remember this—I don’t know where I saw it; actually, I do know where I saw it—Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, where he quoted a study of couples that were unhappy, who were considering divorce. These couples decided to fight it out, hang on for five years; and the study said they got to a place of happiness they never thought possible, because they just were patient. In a sense, they decided: “I’m not going to throw in the towel. I’m going to fight for this, even though everything in my soul is saying, ‘Give up!’”
Bob: I remember, because it was so stunning to me. These were people who’d filed—did not go through on it—and five years later, they asked them: “Score your marriage, on a scale of 1 to 5.” And 83 percent of the people gave either a 4 or a 5. These were people, who were going to get divorced 5 years earlier, and now they are giving their marriage a 4 or a 5—83% of them are—and what changed? They were committed; they made the sacrifices; and they were patient with one another.
I mean, I’m not the same person I was, by God’s grace, 20/30 years ago; right? Mary Ann’s been a part of that process in helping me become a more godly man—that’s God’s work in both of our lives—and I’m so grateful for it. If we’d said, “You know, this is just irritating, and I’m out of this,” I’d have never benefited from the sanctifying work that my wife has been in my life. I think she’d say the same thing.
Ann: I watched this play out in my home. My parents were married—it would have been 70 years before my mom passed—and I thought, growing up, my mom was the weakest-willed—she let my dad walk all over her. She did everything around the house. He was the king, and she served him like he was the king. I remember, as a teenager, thinking: “Come on, Mom; have some backbone! You need to stand up to Dad. You need to not do this; you’re basically a slave.”
As they continued in their relationship, and I watched her, I realized, “Whoa, she is strong!” She just used her strength and she served all of us. It wasn’t just my dad; it was all of us in a way that was—it would take your breath away, because she didn’t want or need any praise. She found so much fulfillment in loving us, in loving him, in serving him.
So then, when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s—and she had it for 15 years—I’ll never forget watching my dad step up—start cooking, cleaning, serving her, taking care of her. I remember saying, “Dad, this is amazing.” He said—very much like Robertson McQuilkin—where he said, “Your mom has served me her whole life; how could I not serve her now and do all the same for her?” What I thought was weakness—it was strength; it was beauty; it was perseverance; it was patience; it was longsuffering. I was just looking into a window instead of this beautiful legacy that she was building.
Bob: And let’s be clear, we’re not talking about somebody persevering under physical abuse.
Ann: And my dad was never verbally abusive in any way either.
Bob: If your spouse—husband or wife—is physically abusive/if there is emotional manipulation and cruelty, it is not in his or her best interest for you to simply long suffer. You need to get to safety for yourself. I would say that includes both physical and emotional safety. Then you need to be committed to helping your spouse break what is a sin pattern in his or her life. You need to be committed to helping the abuser break this pattern/this habit of sin in his or her life; because that’s the loving thing to do.
I’ve talked to people, who have gone a long way down that road; and they’ve never seen the pattern shift. They’ve come to a point, where even their church leaders have said to them: “He’s not interested in changing. He’s hardhearted. He wants nothing to do with this or with you,”—and they have said—“For your own protection, financially and physically,” they’ve supported separation or divorce in those situations. But that’s the exception.
Did you hear me say it was the church leaders who were counseling that? It was not the abused person, saying, “This is what I’m going to do.” I think that’s so important; because a lot of times, we just make up our own mind about what we think is the right thing to do; or we find some guy friends or some girl friends, who are going to support us in that; and we head off to do it.
No, you need to go to get godly counsel and wisdom, and say to somebody: “I want this to work; I want to help him. I’ve tried for years; he seems disinterested.” Then, when the church leaders get involved and he’s still disinterested, there may come a point, where you say, for protection for you/for the kids, “This is the right thing to do.” Even then, love would say: “Pray for him; seek his best; seek his redemption; pray that God would break through the sin pattern and bring him to freedom.”
Ann: I would add, too, have some great friends that speak life into you, encourage you, pray for you, and stand alongside you.
Dave: The more we’ve talked about it today, I love this word, “patience,” because—or even longsuffering—because I think, when you see a picture of your wedding day, it’s a beautiful picture. We should put one on the website of you and MaryAnn and—
Ann: That’s a good idea.
Dave: —Ann and I—because you’re at the very best you’ll ever be. [Laughter] I mean, physically—everything; I mean, I had hair. [Laughter] You’re wearing everything; it’s beautiful. But when you see a picture of that same couple, 30/40 years later—yes, we don’t look as good—but it is much more beautiful; because you and I know all the years/days—trials of longsuffering that they went through.
I’m thinking, you know, that moment in the car, when Ann said to me on our ten-year anniversary, “I’ve lost my feelings for you.” What if I would have said, “Me, too; let’s end this thing”? There’s no legacy; it’s broken. Longsuffering/love is patience is a godly thing that only He can do. Hang on!
Bob: Okay, the wedding pictures are up at FamilyLifeToday.com. [Laughter] If you want to see what Dave and Ann looked like/what MaryAnn and I looked like, back on our wedding day, go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
Of course, you can order a copy of the book Love Like You Mean It. It releases today, and you can order it from us at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number. I’m hoping that couples will read this book together. You can each read a chapter, and you can highlight different parts. Then read to each other what you highlighted and talk about why you highlighted it; or the questions that we’ve included—that are the “Talk Together” questions—I’m hoping that will spur some healthy conversation in your marriage.
Maybe this is something you do with a small group of other couples. Again, you can order the book, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
What we have talked about today is really central to what we do in our marriages and, ultimately, in our families. How we love one another is the bottom line of our faith. Jesus says you can sum up all of the Old Testament in two commands: “Love God,” and “Love your neighbor.” Of course, our closest neighbors are the neighbors who live with us in our own homes—our children/our spouse—these are the relationships that matter most. FamilyLife Today is here to continue to point you to God’s Word as your source, so that you can effectively develop a more godly marriage and family.
We’re so grateful for those of you, who partner with us, to make FamilyLife Today possible. You help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this program, making it available—not only on this radio station but on our app/online—all of the different channels through which FamilyLife Today can now be heard. Thank you for your ongoing partnership with this ministry. We’re grateful for your support.
If you’re a long-time listener, you’ve never made a donation, we’d love to hear from you today. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to donate; or you can call 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,” to make a donation over the phone. We look forward to hearing from you. Thanks, in advance, for your partnership with us, here, in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to look at the character qualities that the Bible lists for us when it describes what real love looks like. We’ll continue to compare and see how our marriages are doing when it comes to real love. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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