Rise Up, My Love (153): Trying to Cope with Marital Frustrations

bleeding-hearts copySong of Solomon 5:4 “My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.” Since calling had not stirred his wife into action, the husband may have attempted to open the door for himself. According to Harry Ironside, ancient eastern locks were on the inside of the door, and there was an opening by the door where the owner might reach in and unlock the door from the inside. If this was true, it is unclear why he didn’t simply unlock the door and come in. Another eastern custom included the suitor leaving ointment on the door and flowers as a token of his affection if the loved one was not at home.* This might possibly account for the bride’s description of the myrrh on the handle of the lock in the next verse.

Whether the bridegroom reached his hand inside the door in an attempt to open it or merely to leave a gift of sweet-smelling ointment is uncertain, but what is central in the Scripture is the fact that the husband’s putting in his hand where she could see it was the final event that stirred her to action. First, he called to her, and then he reached out to her in a tangible way.

This is a good pattern for husbands. Is your wife’s heart asleep? Do you call to her and she does not answer? Have you tenderly appealed to her on the basis of your relationships? I think of how often through the course of my marriage I responded to my husband incorrectly: In the flesh. How often I’ve been guilty of appealing to him—not on the positive basis of our relationships, speaking gently to him in terms of highest affection and praise such as the bridegroom used with his wife—but negatively, criticizing him for all the ways in which he failed to live up to my expectations.

There is no hint of criticism in the husband’s language. Think of his plea: my kinsman, my spouse, my spiritual helpmate. In these we see him appeal to her body, her soul, and her spirit. His last appeal is almost shocking in light of her response. He calls her his “undefiled.” He sees her as pure and perfect.

Had she never failed him? Was she truly “undefiled?” Was she honestly that blameless? Did she deserve such praise? Her response to his tender pleadings must have broken his heart! If I were that husband, and held my wife in such high esteem, I would have been totally devastated and disillusioned to have reached out with great expectations, only to find her unmoved.

In Christ, we are complete. Robed in his righteousness, we are clean. Hidden in Christ, we are pure. Only in Christ can such marvelous things be said of us…and did not Christ himself say them, we would not dare to claim such praises for each other. But, if we can only learn to see through his eyes and think his thoughts…to view the present with his eternal perspective and understand the future as he knows it…on that basis, we can approach our mates with such tender praises. But, what if husbands do, and they are rejected, like the matchless bridegroom in the song?

Husband, does your wife disappoint you? Does she fail to meet your expectations? Do you find yourself constantly criticizing her…or biting your tongue because you feel critical? Nothing kills the desire to please like censure and displeasure, and even if it isn’t always verbalized, it’s almost always felt. Criticism is to the tender heart like killing frost to roses.

If you find yourself feeling critical and disgruntled, take it to the Lord. Here is the best way I know to deal with marital frustrations: #1. Make a list of all your expectations for your mate, and how she/he fails. #2. Take this list to the Lord in prayer—with all your heart—just once. Before you begin listing criticisms, be sure to ask the Lord to search your own heart for sin (Psalm 139:23) and spend some time being truly thankful for all the reasons you have to rejoice in Christ and your mate (Philippians 4:4,6). #3. Tenderly approach your mate with—not demands to change, but an explanation of how you feel and how these negative behaviors impact/trouble you, all the while reassuring your mate of your love for her/him and absolute commitment to continuing on in the marriage and learning to grow in love. #4. Ask your mate to prayerfully consider what the areas are in your own life that are causing her/him anxiety and frustration, and to bring them to you. #5. Tear your own list up and throw it away, laying the whole burden of your heartache on God’s altar and trusting him to either change your mate in his time and his way or else give you grace to accept your partner’s lacks as part of your cross. #6. Take seriously your mate’s response, trying to concentrate on changing yourself in the areas where she/he has expressed concern…focusing on getting the “beam” out of your own eye rather than looking at the “mote” in hers/his. #6 Take up your cross and follow Jesus. Don’t look back. Keep looking ahead.

(*Ironside, Harry A. Addresses on The Song of Solomon. Neptune: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1973, pp.92-92)