Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge

These are just a few of the things that are popping out at me as I read this book.

Page 31

“Your marriage is part of a larger story, too, a story as romantic as any that has ever stirred your heart, and at least as dangerous. The sooner you come to terms with this, the sooner you can understand what is happening in your marriage”

Page 34-35

… “It is a kind of incarnation, a passion play about the love and union between Jesus and his beloved.

Which might help you appreciate why the fury of hell has been unleashed against it. God is telling a love story and the setting is war.

Pause for a moment. God chooses marriage as the image of his love for his people, and our love for him? I am dumbfounded. You’re [God] trusting us with what?”

Then again, he gave the Church the mission of evangelizing the world, insisting that unless we do it the job will not get done. It is a mission of staggering consequence, and God hands the whole thing over to the Church, for heaven’s sake — meaning, your aunt Gladys and her knitting club, the delicate parson and his domineering wife, the boys making a wreck just now of the Sunday school room, Henry the janitor who will not open the building for you because it is after hours and you haven’t got a note from the trustees. These are the people God sends forth in  his bid to save the world.

It helps you to appreciate the stakes he loves to play at. If you look again at the stories God writes, they are nearly always tales of desperate battles against insurmountable odds by the most unlikely heroes in the world. And nearly always, a last-minute rescue: Noah and his little family put out upon an endless sea. David in a do-or-die charge against the brute Philistine; Daniel in the lion’s den. Esther – in a bid to save her people – risks the head upon her shoulders on the chance that the king is in a good mood. The Savior of the world at the breast of a teenage girl. The sheer number and consistency of these stories is unyielding and unnerving.

Your marriage, by the way, is being written by the same Author.

Page 37

Now, name one thing in the entire created world more precious than a human heart

… The heart is God’s most magnificent creation, and the prize over which he fights the kingdom of darkness.

Now consider this — marriage is the sanctuary of the heart.

You have been entrusted with the heart of another human being. Whatever else your life’s great mission will entail, loving and defending this heart next to you is part of your great quest.

Pages 38-39

… There is no greater place for damage, too, because there is no greater place for glory. God uses marriage to bring us the possibility of the deepest joys in life; Satan tries to use it for destruction.

… No one will have a greater impact on your spouse’s soul than you. No one has greater access to your spouse’s heart than you. This is an enormous honor.

… Marriage is hard. It is hard because it is opposed.  The devil hates marriage; he hates the beautiful picture of Jesus and his Bride that it represents. He hates love and life and beauty in all its forms. The world hates marriage. It hates unity and faithfulness and monogamy. Our flesh is not our ally here either – it rebels when we put others before ourselves. Our flesh hates dying.

But God loves marriage!

Page 43

Learning to live with our opposite and all their little quirkinesses is part of learning to love.

Page 47

Our brokenness combines with our sin and produces a style of relating. An approach to life, which to us feels so utterly justified and so perfectly reasonable, but in fact is the very thing that will destroy us and all those around us.

Page 48

… If they refuse their transformation – which is essential to the plot of the story – they’ll never make it. Evil will win, they will lose heart and split up, and there will be no happily ever after.

… happily ever after waits upon a particular turn of events, at the center of which is the character’s transformation.

… Notice that when men fail, they tend to fail in one of two ways – either they become passive and silent, or they become domineering and violent. They either don’t offer their strength or they wield it in harmful ways.

… Notice that when women fail they tend to either become controlling or desperately needy. Either they refuse to offer vulnerability or they ask their man to fill the ache in their soul.

Page 49

{NOTE: I could type out all of page 49, but I won’t which could make this a little choppy. Hopefully you can read between lines or get the book.}

We all have a way that we do life. We might call it our personality, or our natural bent – the way we handle pressure, the way we listen, the way we look for happiness, the way we control our world. ….

… We are, all of us, utterly committed and deeply devoted to our “style,” our “way,” our “approach to life.” We have absolutely no intention of giving it up. Not even for love. So God creates an environment where we have to. It’s called marriage.

… He simply knows that until we deal with our brokenness, our sin, and our style of relating, we aren’t going to be happy. Nobody around us is going to be very happy, either. Most of what you’ve been experiencing in the last twelve months is God’s attempt to get you to face your style of relating and repent of it.

Pages 50-51

We must come to face our style, of course. As men, we look at where we are passive, and where we are domineering, harsh, or violent. As women, we face where we are controlling, and where we are desperately clingy. And as God reveals these things, we make those thousand little choices to turn from our style of relating. We make deliberate choices to love.

Page 52

Making the time to really hear your husband’s story or your wife’s story will be time well spent. We want to encourage you to do this. Give each other a few hours. Ask questions. Listen. Invite God to guide and fill the time. It will bear so much good fruit.

Page 55

There are two kinds of people in this world – the clueless and the repentant. Those who are open to looking at their life and those who are not. Folks who know they need God to change them and folks who expect everyone else to change. We have great hope for the first group. The second bunch are choosing ignorance; the damage they are doing is almost unforgivable.

This is why the “apply some principles” approach to marriage improvement doesn’t work. So long as we choose to turn a blind eye to how we are fallen as men or women, and to the unique style of relating we have forged out of our sin and brokenness, we will continue to do damage to our marriages. We will add to our spouse’s hopelessness that things will never change. You don’t want to add cynicism and resignation to your marriage. You want your spouse to experience: She is really changing! He is really thinking about his impact on me! That inspires so much hope. It awakens so much desire. Something begins to stir in our hearts. Wow, this could get good. I mean, we could really go places here!

Page 66

The human heart has an infinite capacity for happiness and an unending need for love, because it is created for an infinite God who is unending love.

Page 67

Every woman now has an insatiable need for relationship, one that can never be filled. It is an ache in her soul designed to drive her to God. Men instinctively know that the bottomless well is there and pull back. I don’t want to be engulfed by that. Besides, no matter how much I offer, it’ll never be enough. This is Eve’s sorrow. This is the break in her cup. She aches for intimacy, to be known, loved, and chosen. And it also explains her deepest fear – abandonment.

Men face  different sort of emptiness. We are forever frustrated in our ability to conquer life.

A man aches for affirmation, for validation, to know that he has come through. This also explains his deepest fear – failure.

Now, take these fears, brokenness, and this famished craving, throw them together into the same house and lock the door. What ensues is the pain, disappointment, and confusion most people describe as their marriage. But what did you expect? I mean, are you really surprised?

Page 68

The good news is, of course, you aren’t enough. You never, ever will be.

… Your spouse’s unhappiness – and yours – means you both have a famished craving within you that only God can meet. As this begins to come clear to you, it will be an enormous relief that you cannot possibly make your spouse happy. “Of course you are disappointed, dear. I understand completely. This isn’t my fault. Go to God.”

Page 69

Trying to sort your way through marriage without God in your life is like trying to be gracious when you are utterly sleep deprived. At some point, you lose your ability to be kind; you lose all perspective.

And so the greatest give you can give to your marriage is for you to develop a real relationship with Jesus Christ.

… We’re talking about a relationship where you are finding in God the life and love your soul so desperately needs.

Page 70

The secret of happiness is this: God is the love you are longing for.

Updated 1/7/09

Page 76

Life is meant to be shared; we are supposed to feel “in.” We are meant to live in community, in relationship with others. People may drive us crazy sometimes, but still we need each other. One is the loneliest number and all that. Now, some of us are born introverts — we replenish our spirits and souls best in the company of just ourselves and our God. In fact, everyone needs time alone. Regularly. But in the same way, everyone needs to be in the company of others as well, regularly.

Pages 98 – 99

Remember, in the spiritual realm, you are seen as one. When husband and wife stand together, the demons shudder.

Remember also that Adam and Ever were given authority over the earth (“… and let them rule” [Genesis 1:26]). So the two of you exercise authority over your “realm,” your little kingdom — that includes your marriage, your home, and your children among many other things. In fact, God has raised you to a higher position of  authority than Adam and Eve held. After Christ paid for the sins of mankind through his own blood (by which he also disarmed the claims of the enemy against us), he rose from the dead. God the Father then gave to him all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Christ won back what Adam and Eve surrendered.

And then, God included you in the authority of Jesus Christ. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). So when husband and wife stand together, they wield a great deal of power and authority.

Page 104

The Israelites had to fight to get to the Promised Land, and they had to fight to get in. Once there, they had to fight to clear it of enemies, and then fight to keep it so. David had to fight to secure his throne, and he too had to fight to keep it. God has long fought for the romance he desires with us, and he fights on even now. You need not be afraid of the fight. The battle can be won, and it will call forth wonderful things from you, things like courage and sacrifice, steadfastness and love.

Page 105

Why do certain subjects always result in arguments for the two of you? why is it that when you bring up the topic of money or sex, his mother, her mother, your brother, how much time you sped at work, your weight, where you will spend the holidays — it all blows up in your face? It feels booby-trapped. Yes, exactly. It is. You have just stumbled into the enemy’s camp; you have just uncovered where he is working.

… Pray against it. … If you don’t do this, oh, once a week, you are probably being naïve. Satan and his minions don’t take days off; they have no holidays.

Page 111

What we call “Christianity” is an invasion.

The Kingdom of God is advancing into the kingdom of darkness, a campaign to ransom people and the earth God intended us to rule. For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost. All that was lost. If Christianity seems to you to be having rather less than a remarkable impact on the earth, it is because too many Christians have this idea that we are in a waiting game, that we are basically killing time until jesus comes back and we all get to go to heaven. We are sitting around like people waiting to catch a flight. That is not what Jesus told us to do; he didn’t say, “Now hold tight in those pews and twiddle your holy thumbs, I’ll be back soon as I can.” He said, “As the Father has sent me, I send you” (John 20:21).

Let that sink in for a moment. New orders have been given.

Page 130

Learning to hear the voice of God, together.

Yes. It is the simplest, most helpful, least practiced treasure and it will literally rescue the two of you in countless ways.

The secrete of the Christian life – and the Christian marriage – is that you don’t have to figure it out. You don’t have to figure life out, you don’t have to figure each other out, you don’t have to figure parenting out, or money or family. You have a counselor, you have a guide – you have God.

Page 134

But most of us approach prayer like a speech – we say what we have to say, sort of rattle off the list of requests, and then that’s it. We walk away. Done. We don’t even give him a chance to reply. Can you image doing this to your spouse (well, actually, many of you do do this to your spouse – and how does that turn out usually?). Prayer is meant to be a conversation; God wants to speak to us. To live in an intimate, conversational relationship with God is the normal Christian life.

Pages 136-137 – Sooo much here, you have to get the book to read! But here are a few one liners:

The first thing we have to do is stop and ask the Lord … Then, we listen again. About half the time one of us comes around to agreement. …

… Half the time we are not in agreement; and we have to sort out why we’re not. We stop, and pray again. ….

… about half the time one of us ends up “realigning” when we push further into prayer, and we find an agreement. Which means that only 25 percent of all our attempts to walk with God together end up without a clear unity. That’s pretty good. …

Okay, so what about that 25 percent? How do we handle that? The way we sort it through depends on the weight of the matter. If we’re talking small potatoes … we defer to wisdom. Or, if one of us has a strong opinion about it, we try to respect that and go with it. Heck, toss a coin. It is better than making a federal case out of it.

If it’s a matter that is really important to us , we will often say: “Let’s sleep on it. Pray about it some more on our own, and talk about it in a day or two. …

Page 143

Remember God is after your transformation. Before you tell your spouse that they are driving you nuts, you need to ask yourself, Why does this bug me so?” does this get in the way of your way of making life work? does it rub up against your style of relating? Is the issue really about your need to control, or make a good impression, or the fact that you do not like being pinned down? Okay, making you late — -why is that such a big deal? Sure, you have to load the dishwasher — why does that grate on you so?

There is a good chance that there is a log in your own eye that you will want to deal with before you try to help them with their speck.

Then. when you are in a good place, you can bring it up.

Page 145

Often the one who wants to talk about the taboo topic is the one who is not so happy; who may feel the need to curb or enlighten the other regarding behavior. To bring up for dialogue an uncomfortable subject can be an act of immense courage. To stay present to your spouse while you bring up a difficult subject takes courage as well. And faith. Every one of us has little quirks we are entirely unaware of. Do you know what yours are? Want to risk asking your spouse? Or what about asking the question, “Are there things I do that really annoy you?”

Refusing to address issues in our marriage leads to hiding. And resentment. When you close off a section in your house, all the dark little creatures move in. You do not want to give the enemy this kind of playground.

Page 160

Whatever else is going on, you know God is using your marriage to forge your character. You also know by now that the log in your eye makes it hard to see anything clearly. So even if the primary cause for the crises lies beyond you, it is best to start here.

Page 161

Whatever else their reason, whatever their cause, God will use the hard times to expose our sin. Our spouse’s sin as well. It is best to begin by asking him, Lord, what is being exposed here? What are you after? Notice your reaction, your emotion, your inner thought life. Notice what you tend to do. Through other issues might be at play – are almost always at play – this is a good starting point. Accept your own transformation.

… Spiritual attack must be a category you think in, or you will misunderstand more than half of what happens in your marriage. …

Page 164

We live in a broken world; disease, accident, and injury are just part of life east of Eden. This world has foul spirits in it, too; they cause a lot of havoc. The sin of man is enough to sink any ship. Stir all these together and you have got plenty of reason for suffering. So don’t go thinking that every bad thing that happens is God punishing you.

Pages 167-168

For years I think we both thought that to overlook your spouse’s issues was the most loving thing to do. I mean, geez, we are all a royal mess. We have got more than just one log in our own eye; most of the time it feels like a log cabin, like a tub of Lincoln Logs. Who am I to point out John’s shortcomings? But when I read the verse again – we take the log out of our own eye so that we can help our spouse with the speck in theirs. By all means, we overlook their little quirks; we even overlook the ways they wound us, if by overlook we mean we forgive them. But this doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to issues that will eventually harm them, or the marriage, or the children. God doesn’t.

It is not love to ignore your spouse’s sin, or brokenness, or immaturity. It is not love to let something wrong carry on. It is not right. Truth be told, it is a lack of love that lets it all go on for years. When you let your own fears keep you from bringing something up with your spouse, that is self-protection. Or indifference. God loves until what he loves is pure. …

Page 178

Giving sex without love borders on prostitution. Demanding sex without love is abuse. We are talking about intertwining of two hearts as their bodies become one. The more you hae that in mind the better things will go.

Page 179

… God thus builds into the sexual mystery an insistence upon love and trust outside the bed. How true to his character; it does not work to come to God with the “goodies” – answered prayers, blessings of whatever sort – apart from a relationship with him. The treasures are for those who love him, and live like it.

So it is with a woman.

Pages 180-182

A man bears the image of God in many ways, but most essentially in his strength. Not with big muscles, but with courage, engagement, and taking the initiative. … A man wants to feel powerful. it is essential to his design.

… A woman bears the image of God in many ways, too, but most essentially in her beauty. Not the perfect figure, but her tenderness, vulnerability, and allure. … A woman wants to be pursued; she wants to feel desireable, beautiful. It is essential to her design.

… A man offers strength when he simply engages her at the end of his day; he turns of ESPN, turns to his wife, and asks: “How are you? Tell me about your day.” (These things don’t always have to be dramatic.) A man engages when he protects his wife from a controlling mother. “She’s not available right now. She’ll call you in a couple of days.” And when he provides a place for her emotions — without being consumed by them — and offers tender understanding.

A woman offers beauty when she offers kindness. The world does not provide tenderness or mercy on a regular basis and we all need it. Offering your husband a safe harbor for his thoughts, concerns, or doubts, and not giving way to fear yourself is a beautiful expression of your love. Seeing your husband’s strength and telling him what you see feeds his soul. One of the most priceless gifts a woman can give her husband is the message that she believes in him‘ he is the real deal; he is a real man. We offer beauty when we do not fear his masculinity nor our femininity. …

Page 190

A good marriage is a place where we are seen and loved, secure in the knowledge that our heart is being truted as good, thought the best of, and even delighted in. … Marriage is a relationship that provides the most hope for times of rest – a respite from the world of needing to prove ourselves – from having to work so hard to make ourselves understood and known. Instead, marriage is a place where we are meant to be able to “let down” and be our truest selves; to be known, loved, and welcomed. In that place our souls and our bodies can rest into each other’s loving embrace.

… Nine times out of ten, troubles in the bedroom are the flares going up because there are troubles elsewhere in the marriage. You would be a fool to ignore them.

Page 193

… Marriage is a crucible; the gladiatorial arena for love and war. It will eventually expose every broken place in you; it will reveal your every sin, if only before the watching heavens. Your commitment to self-protection will be confronted daily. You will be disappointed and you will be wounded. You will more certainly be tested; there may not be a greater test of character on the planet.

Page 195

Because love is what we are created for; it is the reason for our existence. Love is our destiny. Love God and love one another – these are the two great commands upon the human race. The secrete to life is this — we are here in order to learn how to love.

It is really quite an epiphany when the truth finally strikes home. It might be the most liberating realization we ever come to. We are hear in order to learn how to love. It is our greatest mission of all, our destiny.

Page 196

To be unloving is to fail at the very thing we were created for. It is a rejection of the essence of our existence, a rejection of the Love that made us.

… I think you can fairly easily sort out the people who have come to this epiphany from those who have not. There is something different about their approach to life – what upsets them, what makes them laugh, and especially the way they handle people. … It most often comes through some kind of encounter with God. He lives to love, and if you hang around Jesus long enough it rubs off on you.

Page 198

I think we all look for love to come in dramatic ways. We know love is powerful and beautiful. How come it doesn’t feel like it? Love plays itself out in what seems like such unremarkable ways – you pick up your socks, you ignore her snarky comment, you put the toilet seat down. But this is exactly what makes it epic – the fact that love plays itself out in a thousand little choices, unseen and without supporting soundtrack. That is what makes it so beautiful.

Page 202

… Realizing that I’ve hurt him is painful. But I have to take the next step and apologize to him for it — specifically. I need to go to him in love and tell him that I see that I have hurt him, confess that I am deeply sorry, and ask for his forgiveness. Hurting my husband hardens his heart toward me. I lose his trust. Brick by brick a wall is slowly built up between us. Owning my part, acknowledging the pain I caused, repenting and asking for his forgiveness will hopefully bring that wall down.

Page 203-204 – This is another long one – you just have to read it – get the book. 😎

Eventually the buildup of all those offenses, great and small, shut a marriage down because our hearts shut down; part of us, anyway shuts down, checks out, or catches a bus out of town. … So you can’t just blast past your impact on your spouse and hope for good things ahead.

Just as you can’t in your relationship with God.

You know your intimacy with God is hurt by your sin, your indifference, your unbelief, your habitual addictions. In order to draw near to him, in order to recover the relationship, you have to say: “I’m sorry. Forgive me. I want to be close again, Lord Jesus. Come near to me. Forgive me for the outburst, that indulgence, for ignoring you for weeks. I really do love you.” This is essential to the spiritual life. And you also know this is not a onetime thing. Our love with God is nurtured by forgiveness, healed by forgiveness, recovered through forgiveness over and over and over again.

Your spiritual life can’t go anywhere without forgiveness. Marriage can’t go anywhere without forgiveness.

We need to bring the healing grace of forgiveness into our marriages. What that looks like is sitting down together and putting something on the table: “Honey, I think maybe this [you will need to be specific] has been doing damage and I’m only now realizing it.” Or asking your mater: “What’s it like to live with me? What has the cumulative effect been upon you?” And if you are fortunate enough for your spouse to take the enormous risk of telling you, DO NOT do further damage by explaining it away or defending yourself: “Well, now hang on a second — you’ve got your issues, too,” or “That is not what I meant at all — you took that totally wrong!”

Listen to what they have to say, acknowledge the weight of it, and then you say: “Sweetheart, I hear you. I am terribly sorry. Please forgive me.”

… And what follows is equally important. You don’t want to sabotage the healing by repeating the very thing you did that caused you to ask for mercy in the first place. Your spouse needs to see real change; they need to see some conscious effort on your part of the enemy will be there in a flash with all the old agreements. You see? Things will never change. Forget it. It’s not worth it.

Calm down. Take a deep breath. We know this sounds like a root canal without Novocaine but God is with you. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are secure. You just have a little making up to do.

I think this book is great, even for people who are married. It brings out some spiritual truths just shouldn’t be overlooked.


2 thoughts on “Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge

  1. I have really enjoyed reading several books by John and Stasi Eldredge. “Journey of Desire” helped me on our long journey to adoption:

    “Captivating” is a must read for women and teenage girls:

    “Epic” is one that my teenage sons and husband enjoyed:

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