October 24, 2017

My Beloved and My Friend

Marshall and Gretchen Fant

FrontLine • March/April 2007

“What is the problem, as you see it?” I asked the couple sitting across my desk. The answer I got was too predictable. The names and faces were different, but the situation that seemed unique to them was becoming so common to me that it was disturbing.

The tension was thick. Marie and John were married and in their early thirties. They had begun their relationship with much hope. But eight years and three children later, things somehow had changed. Marie’s eyes were red and swollen; John looked defeated. “How could he do this to me?” she demanded.

The weekend before, Marie had awakened in the middle of the night and noticed John was not in bed. Concerned, she crept down the stairs to see what was wrong. As she looked into the den, there he was — gazing at the despicable image on the computer screen that now was embedded in Marie’s mind. At first he claimed it was a mistake — just a fluke. But she knew better, and he finally confessed to his regular habit of Internet pornography.

Some might say John had fallen into sin, but in reality he had jumped into it. Falling is what we do my mistake. Jumping is intentional. For some reason he had justified living in a fantasy world of lust apart from the relationship with his wife he had once vowed to be faithful to. How could this happen? Was there something missing in his relationship with his wife that would compel him to jump into this lifestyle of adultery in his imagination? At this point, to Marie, the thought of a physical relationship with her husband was repulsive. “How can I be sure he’s not thinking of someone else while he’s being intimate with me?” she sobbed. “I’ve had three children. … I’ll never look like those women on the Internet!” There seemed to be no hope.

That there is no hope for the relationship is a lie, because as long as we look in God’s Word for answers, there is hope (Rom. 15:4). That there is something missing in John and Marie’s relationship, though, is true. Since the scenario is so common, could the missing ingredient also be a common one? Could it be that there might be a common kind of “glue” that would hold our Christian marriages together, that would help us to preserve moral purity and marital intimacy?

When we search the Scriptures on the subject of sexual intimacy, an obvious place to start is the Song of Solomon — the book of the Bible that gives us a picture of God’s design for the physical relationship in marriage. In this book God reveals to us conversations between Solomon and his bride. We could dissect it and receive instruction on the mechanics of marital intimacy, but we know that is not the root problem in the case of John and Marie. As we read through this unusual love story, we find something even deeper, something foundational that might help us guard or marriages from moral failure. This “something” is revealed in the way this bride describes her husband. She states, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend” (5:16).

The simple question is, are you a friend to your spouse? Are you willing to work to develop or rekindle your friendship? In calling Solomon her “friend,” his bride reveals an aspect of their relationship that perhaps is missing in many marriages today. Although true friendship can exist without physical intimacy, true physical intimacy cannot exist without genuine friendship. In any marriage, physical intimacy can be interrupted by temporary situations such as pregnancy, illness, or separation. But the friendship we have with our spouse should never be interrupted; it is this friendship that gives us the ability to work together through the trials and difficulties of life. It is this foundation of friendship that enables us to maintain a life of moral purity and physical intimacy with our spouse.

So how can I be a friend to my spouse? Or how can I develop or rekindle that friendship? To answer that question, we need to ask yet another: What does Biblical friendship look like?

Friends Spend Time Together

Getting to know someone takes time. The first challenge I would give Marie and John is called the “fifteen-minute assignment.” It may seem too simple or even trite, but you may be surprised at how difficult it is for some. This is it: every day you must spend at least fifteen minutes with the Lord (in personal Bible reading/devotions and prayer), fifteen minutes with your family, and fifteen minutes talking with your spouse. In the fifteen minutes with your spouse you are to talk only with your spouse (send all children out to a safe place). In the book of 1 Peter, husbands are instructed to “dwell with [their wives] according to knowledge” (3:7). How can a husband and wife develop friendship if they don’t spend any time together? How can the husband dwell “according to knowledge” if he can’t even spend fifteen minutes per day talking with her? It is surprising how many couples claim as impossible the simple task of talking at least fifteen minutes per day to their spouse.

Friends Trust Each Other

Another quality of true friendship is mutual trust. A wife will grow in trust as she sees her husband’s willingness to express sacrificial love to her. The husband’s goal in loving his wife is help her to grow spiritually in order to prepare her for the judgment seat of Christ.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25–27)

A second challenge for John would be to begin leading in family devotions. This could be something as simple as gathering to memorize a passage of Scripture together. It does not have to be anything elaborate or complicated; he just needs to take an active role as the spiritual leader of the home. As the husband resolves to take the spiritual leadership of the home, his wife and children will respond in increased trust. As a wife resolves to follow in obedience to God and her husband, the husband will respond likewise in increased trust to her (Prov. 31:11).

Friends Are Teachable

For a married couple to grow as friends, they both must be learners. A husband and wife who commit to seek God’s truth and be changed by it will grow in friendship as they grow closer to their Lord. God’s ways are not our ways. To even know how to act in certain situations toward your spouse, you must be willing to understand your Biblical role and commit to fulfill it by God’s grace.

One obvious area in which husband and wife must be teachable is that of the sexual relationship. Whether the issue is withholding sexual intimacy or demanding it, both need to understand God’s mind on the issue in order to have a clear understanding of their responsibilities before Him. In 1 Corinthians 7:2–5, the apostle Paul speaks on this subject.

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

God’s Word is clear: The sexual relationship is not about you; it is about satisfying your spouse. Self-satisfaction, masturbation for example, is unbiblical. My challenge for Mary might be to examine her attitude about her sexual relationship with John: has she been too tired, too preoccupied with the children, or has she just had better things to do lately? She may need to repent of her attitudes and actions. As they work to restore their relationship, she must accept her God-given responsibilities, acknowledging that she may have inadvertently contributed to John’s sin by not fulfilling her responsibility to him in this area. John, however, is entirely responsible for his sin. Another challenge I might give him is to make a list of the ways in which he has shown selfishness by turning to pornography to satisfy his own lust.

There must be a reason Solomon’s bride described him as “my beloved and my friend.” Although the focus of the Song of Solomon is physical intimacy, maybe she knew they needed more than just that in their marriage to maintain godly, moral purity.


Marshall Fant pastors Harvest Baptist Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2007. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

Comments

  1. Please call me Kanisha Brust (randomly-generated name) for obvious reasons. Real name available by email to P&D staff. says:

    I would like to point out that the next-to-last paragraph of this article uses about twice as many words to discuss the wife’s potential contributions to the problem as the husband’s. Also, the author first appears to wax eloquent about the wife’s potential contributions, followed by what could come off as an afterthought of mentioning the husband’s responsibility for his problem.

    This one-two punch leaves me with an uncomfortable implication that the author feels the wife’s contribution to her husband’s pornography addiction is more likely than her husband’s personal responsibility. I am a widow of a man who already had a serious pornography addiction by the time we met (so obviously his developing the addiction couldn’t possibly have been my fault), although he successfully kept it hidden for a number of years before it came out in the open. I can say from my own and a few friends’ experiences that it can be a far more difficult issue than this simplistic article might lead one to think.

    I was on an email support group for other Christian ladies in the same circumstance, and a relatively common report was that the ladies’ pastors would try to imply that it was all their fault. In a number of cases, it turned out that those pastors who did that had a weakness in that area as well. (I am not trying to accuse the author of this, but his choice of wording leaves me wondering if he might feel that way to some degree.)

    I am not saying that the wives get off scot-free in these circumstances — for example, I have known a few women who took unfair advantage of a husband’s pornography addiction as a valid excuse to leave their husband and marriage for someone they were attracted to while still married. I am saying that if the husband’s addiction has caused him to abuse their intimate relationship — which does happen — the wife needs time to emotionally heal from that abuse before that intimate relationship can be restored. This is not necessarily an instant, overnight, or short-term process, especially if the wife’s past life experience has made her vulnerable to being victimized in such a way. (There is more I could say, but not in a public forum.)

    Apart from that, I really do agree with the “friendship” focus of the article. My husband was already my best friend when we married, and that friendship never dissolved though the rest of our relationship suffered tremendous strain over the years.

    • Dear KB

      Thank you for your comment. I went back and read the article again after I saw your comment so that I could grasp what you are saying more clearly. On the whole, I thought the article spoke to the husband more often and more directly than to the wife. You are probably right on the word count of the next-to-last paragraph, but is that really a fair way to evaluate the whole article?

      Regardless, I do think care and balance needs to be used in any discussion of this issue. It is a very complicated and difficult issue to deal with in any short article. Articles of this sort are almost doomed to superficiality before they start. Personally, I thought this one did a better job than many I have seen.

      One thing that I think should be considered is that it isn’t really an addiction to pornography as such that is the problem, it is an addiction (or better, obsession?) with sex that is the problem. I think Christian men are prone to involvement with pornography because they believe the lie that it is safer than acting out in actual unfaithfulness. Sort of like the Pharisees Jesus rebuked in the Sermon on the Mount. When we believe the lie that we can sin safely, we ignore the soul-destroying effects of sin. It has ramifications in all our relationships and of course can lead to much greater sins in the same direction since the “safe” sin can never satisfy.

      Thanks again for the comment. It prompts me to think more about the subject in any case.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Editor, P&D


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