Have you ever felt like you don’t know how to show your wife love? More than one study has shown that men have a hard time loving their wives, despite the fact that the Scriptures require it. Five times in typical English translations of the Bible (and six times in the Greek) in Ephesians 5:21-33 Paul exhorts the Christians to love their wives. As Paul often does, he builds upon the teaching of the rest of the Bible to support his case. After all, Jesus teaches that Christians are to love Him and love their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40).
Early on in my marriage I was one of those men who struggled to figure out how to love and care for my wife. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my wife either—I did and still do very much. But we’ve been taught that “love is often fickle”. People often think if they don’t feel like loving their spouse then they don’t have to. That isn’t love, that’s feeling—“warm fuzzies” to be exact. The love that Paul speaks about in Ephesians 5:21-33 is based on something more than feelings; it’s based on the sovereign work of God’s grace. In other words, the “love” being spoken of in Ephesians 5:21-33 is based on covenant. Marriage is a covenant between God, one man, and one woman, seeking to live life together under the authority of the Word of God.
It’s popular in our day to hear others say to married couples, “If you’re not happy in your marriage you can just leave or get a divorce.” The sad thing about that statement is the fact that it’s not only unbiblical, it’s also wrong. When a couple gets married, they sign up for life together—not just when they feel like it, but to stick with it and work at loving each other. After all, the man and woman have both said “I do” in front of family members and friends. They have pledged that they will love, cherish, and take care one another. The sage wisdom of the world in regards to love is nothing more than foolishness before God’s Word.
Men, what our wives need more than anything is for us to understand that they need the “love tank” of their hearts to be filled. You may not have thought about loving your wife as filling her “love tank” before, so let me elaborate on what I mean. As I mentioned earlier, loving our wives is not optional, it’s a command. Jesus empowers His people to do that which He commands; theologians call this the indicative (what Christ has done) fueling the imperative (what we are to do).
Men, if you were to stop reading this article right now and ask your wife what she wants the most, I think what she (or most wives) would say is to know that she is loved and cared for by you (or maybe for you to take out the trash…kidding). Men, as you know, we live in a culture that encourages us to not be proactive in our marriages or relationships with others. Instead we’re encouraged be passive, rather than to actively lead. This idea reinforces our sinful (fleshly) propensity to be apathetic. This is why, if you’ve not tended to your wife’s heart in some time, she may seek comfort and affection—which she needs and desires—from other sources, like friendship with other men, her job, a romantic novel/show/movie, or other “filler” things. Yet, what God calls men to do is to tend to the garden of her heart, thereby filling her “love tank”.
You may ask, “But how do I do that?” The answer is simple: we do that by speaking true and godly words to her, filling her heart with Jesus’ love as you are likewise filled. Since I minister to men on a weekly basis from all across the country via email—both in full-time ministry and secular jobs and at my local church—I know well what men are struggling with. My purpose here is not to shame you, because chances are you already know the weight of guilt and shame in this area of your life. Instead, I want you to look to the One who can take away your guilt and shame—Jesus Christ. Jesus died in our place and for our sins, to remove our guilt and shame before the Father. He stands as our Advocate now and pleads our case before the throne of God. He intercedes on our behalf whenever Satan accuses us. And it is through His shed blood that we are forgiven, and by which Jesus serves as our High Priest.
You may not feel like you have love to give today and that’s okay. Love is more than a feeling, and through Jesus you can love your spouse. I encourage you to pray and ask Jesus to fill you with His love. This is a prayer that He will always answer. Paul tells us this in Ephesians 3:16-19:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
God desires to fill us with His love after all, which He spilled for us when He died on the Cross.
I realize that you may not feel entirely loving all the time, and I want you to know that it’s okay. Real love is sacrificial, but it also recognizes its own limits. By recognizing that you’re a work-in-progress by His grace, you can come to understand your wife’s need, which is the same as your own: more of Jesus. You may think that you have enough of Jesus in your life, but the truth is that we always need more of Him. We need more of His care, more of His grace, and more of His love.
How do you fill your wife’s “love tank”? First, by recognizing your need for Jesus. Secondly, by speaking true and godly words to your wife. Focus on not being sarcastic and poking fun at your wife, but instead on building her up, focusing on what God is doing in her life. This will require you to get into the trenches and build your relationship with your wife, using intentionality and hard work. This brings me to my fourth point—filling our wives’ “love tank(s)” requires us to be the shepherd leaders of their hearts. And lastly, filing your wife’s “love tank” will require you to sometimes speak hard, but truthful, words. As you do this, keep in mind that your wife isn’t “one of the guys”. This means you shouldn’t shoot from the hip. Your wife, while she may appear to be tough on the outside, is soft and tender. She needs your words to be tender, caring, and affectionate, not harsh and cruel.
While you might think that all this “love tank” business is nonsense and that you don’t need to do it, I encourage you to understand the work of God’s grace in your own life. You don’t deserve to be shown mercy when you fail, rather you deserve the full wrath of God. Instead of having blessing after blessing poured into your life, you deserve to feel the full brunt of His wrath. Instead of air in your lungs you deserve to be six feet under. Everything in our lives is truly a gift from God, and if we’re honest, deep down we know we don’t deserve anything in life. Everything that we receive is a gift of God’s grace. If we really think about it in the way I’ve described in this article, we will come to see that not only do our wives “love tank(s)” need to be filled up regularly, but ours do as well. After all, Jesus said in John 13:35 that “the whole world will know us by our love”. So let’s abundantly display the love of God in our lives, in our marriages, and in our ministries—to the glory of God. By doing this, not only will our marriages improve, but so will our relationship with God and others. This is why Paul lists LOVE as the first of all the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Love should be a natural overflow in our lives, since it is the fruit of the love we have is received is from God. Therefore, let us demonstrate to our wives (and others) the great love of God.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021) and The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.