By Daryl Crouch
Routine communication keeps the house running, but purposeful dialogue between spouses builds the kind of deepening friendship every husband and wife desires.
So a healthy marriage requires spouses to give themselves to the discipline of consistent conversations.
Counsel in a person’s heart is deep water; but a person of understanding draws it out. – Proverbs 20:5, CSB
Our driving motivations, deepest insecurities and anxieties, and loftiest dreams and aspirations are often mysterious, even ambiguous.
They lay in the unknown places of a person’s heart. And they stay there until someone comes along and cares enough to dig a little deeper to get to know us.
We may know a person loves us, but until we know they will still love us after they know us more fully, we keep a few things buried.
Drawing these mysteries out, then, means asking good questions—and listening. Good questions are asked to gain greater understanding, which leads us to ask the next question and then the next.
We ask probing questions not just to discover what happened, but to understand how our spouse feels about what happened.
We ask specific questions that drill as deeply as necessary into what is at the heart of the matter.
It’s not just the questions we ask that communicate interest and empathy, but what we do after we ask the question.
“How was your day?” isn’t a bad question, for example, but sometimes we ask questions as a way to greet our spouse rather than as an effort to actually enter into his or her world.
At other times, we use questions to be heard rather than to hear. They become Trojan horses used to promote our agenda instead of discovering our spouse’s heart.
So good questions are more than statements with a questions mark. They require inquisitive silence. A readiness to listen long, feel deeply, and enter into another person’s happiness, hopes, fears, and frustrations.
Asking good questions is an exercise of loving our neighbor as ourselves. So consider these five simple questions that may help you love your spouse as yourself:
1. What has Jesus been showing you about Himself lately?
When the apostle Paul wrote again to the believers in Corinth, he shared his testimony of God’s activity in his life. Things had been difficult. He had despaired of life, but God had seen him through.
He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many. — 2 Corinthians 1:10-11
Paul consistently invited other people into his life through personal testimony. It was his way of making much of Jesus and asking others to join the Gospel mission in through prayer, giving, or partnership.
More than anything in the world, I want to know how Jesus is shaping the heart of my wife. No greater work in her life is more important than that work.
And as her husband, who has been called to love her as Christ loved the church in a way that both sanctifies her and promotes the sufficiency of Jesus, the power of this question cannot be underestimated.
2. What fears or frustrations threaten your intimacy with Jesus?
Not busyness, not financial strain, not health issues, and not my inadequacies, but spiritual attacks from forces of evil are the greatest threat to my wife and to our marriage. The apostle Paul wrote,
For though we live in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. — 2 Corinthians 10:3, CSB
Unfortunately, these fears and frustrations often lay in the deep waters of our soul. Whether we ignore them or cover over them, left unchecked they will only grow. And like the man-eating plant of The Little Shop of Horrors, they will take over our lives.
But exposing them, confessing them, and dealing with them as a couple tears down demonic strongholds and denies the enemy any territory in our lives.
3. What dreams and ambitions are stirring in your heart?
All of us aspire to something. We may fear failure, we may doubt our abilities, or we may be uncertain of God’s will, but we all want to live the life God designed us to live.
When we were young, people asked us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Although we are now full-grown, “What do you want to be?” is still a really good question.
It’s important because whether we say it out loud or keep it to ourselves, the dreams of our heart influence the direction and priorities of our lives.
If I don’t know what my wife wants to be, I will not understand why she does what she does. And that lack of clarity will produce conflict over the daily decisions of life.
But if I care about helping my wife live out God’s will for her life, I will not only discover her heart-ambitions, but I will give myself to champion God’s work in her life.
4. What do I do that encourages you the most?
I enjoy golf, so my wife can show love by buying golf clubs for me. She would not feel loved, however, if I bought golf clubs for her. Golf is not her thing.
Loving others as ourselves does not mean showing love in the same way that we receive it. But that’s what we tend to do, and that tendency produces frustration all around.
The one showing the love works hard, but the other spouse just doesn’t feel it. And that becomes a cycle of misfires that soon undermines intimacy.
Love puts others first by demonstrating that love in a way that the other person prefers the most. That preference will likely be different from our preference.
We may not even completely understand it, but loving well means we give ourselves sacrificially, generously, and joyfully to it.
5. How can I pray for you?
Taking prayer requests may seem elementary, but the most powerfully way we serve our spouse, know our spouse, and join God’s activity in our spouse’s life is through the ministry of prayer.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. — James 5:16, CSB
In good times and bad, James calls us to a lifestyle of prayer and to all the vulnerabilities and desperations that come with it. He even used Elijah as an example of the powerful difference the prayer of a righteous man or woman can have.
How much would change in our marriages if we simply but boldly interceded for our spouses? What would change in the way your spouse walks with God if you cried out to God on behalf your husband or wife?
What would kind of heart change, personal revival, healing, and kingdom impact might emerge if we confessed our sins to one another and prayed for one another like our lives depended on it?
Healthy marriages build intimacy with Christ that radically affects the way we love our spouse. This is how joy deepens during the most difficult seasons of life.
This is how fondness grows as physical health fails. This is how oneness of heart overcomes the enemy’s attempts to divide and conquer.
And a few good questions followed by long pauses help cultivate this wonder of intimacy with Christ in the heart of the one we love the most.
DARYL CROUCH (@darylcrouch) is senior pastor of Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.