Is God satisfied?
Think about satisfaction, and what it is and what it means. In regards to your marriage... what are your requirements for satisfaction? Surely intimacy comes to mind. And, of course, sex comes to mind—perhaps more for the men than for the women.
So we have the question before us: Are you satisfied with your marriage? Mick Jagger sang, "I can't get no satisfaction," and I am convinced that many, many marriages fail because of lack of satisfaction for the husband or the wife, or both. They each had certain expectations when they got married, and we humans just find it difficult to find satisfaction short of the realization of our expectations. Problem is, most of us have unrealistic expectations, so their realization naturally becomes problematic. Thus, we end up dissatisfied.
So let's consider this question: Is God satisfied? Is he satisfied with you? Is he satisfied with His people? Is He satisfied with the church?
Is Christ satisfied with His bride?
There are two ways of looking at this, and the two views each center around how we treat the definition—the true, deep meaning—of the word satisfaction.
If satisfaction means, "I'm okay with the way things are because, though things aren't perfect, they're good enough for me to be happy..." Then perhaps God is satisfied with us, even though we still sin occasionally, because He is able to overlook our sins. But if God is perfect, which we know He is, then how can He be "satisfied" with imperfection in His creation—especially in man, who is the pinnacle of His creation? This explanation will not do.
But if satisfaction can be derived from somewhere other than the external object—if God's satisfaction can come partly from within Himself, and not be wholly dependent upon us, then perhaps there is hope for God (I say this, tongue-in-cheek)—and, indeed, hope for us as well. And is this not, in fact, what took place at the cross of Calvary? Did not Jesus take upon Himself the sins of the whole world, bearing the punishment thereof? Yes. Hooray, for God is satisfied.
Most Christians understand that the judgement of God was satisfied at the cross, but we don't often think about God's personal sense of satisfaction, and whether He ever feels satisfied, or whether He even has feelings at all. I want to assert my personal conviction that God has feelings. Many will be very uncomfortable with this concept because it logically infers that God has vulnerabilities. And yes, I believe that one of the great mysteries of God is that He has in some way made Himself vulnerable. Arm chair philosophers have asked, "Can God make a rock so big that He cannot lift it?" My answer to this is, "Yes, He can. And He can then provide a way for it to be lifted." In fact, He has done this. God has, in some mysterious fashion, set things up so that the ultimate satisfaction of His plan is in some way dependent upon our willing participation in it. God is sovereign, yet He has given us each free will. Calvinists may forever grapple with this, and those who demand complete understanding will be frustrated.
But for husbands, the answers needn't be so elusive. For what husband has never asked the question, "How can I make my wife love me?" And for some, the answer only comes years later: "You cannot, for the choice is purely hers, and hers alone." The husband only now fully understands his own vulnerability. And he thus begins to understand the "vulnerability" of God. For God has imposed a limitation, as it were, upon Himself. Having given us free will, He "cannot" make us love Him. And yet those who love God somehow know that it is only by His grace that we love Him. This is a mystery too deep for our understanding, yet we acknowledge its reality. And we further understand that God derives satisfaction from our expressions of love for Him.
So, husbands, how will you be satisfied? How will you possibly be satisfied with your wife, since we know that, at some point, she will fail to meet your expectations? How will you be satisfied with your marriage, since at some point, it will not be what you expected it to be? The answer is this: Be the godly man, and summon the satisfaction from within. Stop depending on your wife for your own satisfaction. Instead, love her. Love her the way God loves his people. Love her the way God loves you. This is love.
Love finds satisfaction in itself.
God's love is not dependent upon our response to His love. It simply is. This is what should be the character of a husband's love for his wife. It should simply be.
So your satisfaction therefore must derive more from your love for her than from her response to you. Perhaps she will one day understand the deep, lasting value of your love; perhaps she will not. But that has no bearing on its value or its permanence. God's love is permanent, and so should yours be.
A wise husband makes sure that his wife knows that he is satisfied. This has nothing to do with whether he wishes things were different. Let him express his desires, but he must always be affirmative, communicating love to his wife—because he loves her. Is this not how God loves us?
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.—Romans 8:38-39 NIV
As for myself, I am personally persuaded that there is no force on earth or in heaven that can diminish the love and lifetime dedication that I have in my heart for my wife. And my satisfaction rests in this love that I hold for her and her only. I may wish for different behavior; I might ask for a token of affection. But my love for her is not conditional. It is not based upon her response.
Now, a husband might say, "Yeah, that's easy to say, because you don't have my wife. When I tell her I love her, she says, 'Well, then prove it.' When I reach over to touch her, she pulls away. When I thank her for her contribution, she let's me know I'm not doing enough. She either spurns or ignores my expressions of love. Am I supposed to be satisfied with this?"
Well, is God satisfied with you? And how many times have you given Him these same responses to His love? So now we know how God feels. Yes, God has feelings, and we can easily hurt Him; and we often do. Yet, he still loves us, doesn't He?
See, God finds satisfaction through sacrifice—the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. And he now calls upon husbands to love their wives "as Christ loved the church, laying down His life for her."
So, though a husband may not be "satisfied" with the present state of his marriage, he can—and must, I say—nonetheless find satisfaction in the undying love he holds for his wife, just like God does.
Someone might ask, "What about the wife? Shouldn't she love her husband in the same way?"
Yes, of course she should, but the scriptures are clear in the fact that the woman is the weaker vessel. She is built to be more susceptible to emotional forces and impulses that would challenge her love, or the validity of her husband's love for her. Note that God has not called the wife to lay down her life for her husband. She is called, instead, to respect him, and to submit herself to him. Our modern society simply cannot accept this, so most wives have a real problem with it as well.
So should the husbands all get together and demand respect from their wives; or should a husband individually do this? Pffftt! If you're not spitting your coffee across the room, you should be, because you know how well that would go. And seriously: when, since the death and resurrection of Christ, has God ever done this? When has God issued an ultimatum to us that we must respect him, or He will withhold His love? Never. Blessings, maybe. But blessings and love are two distinctly different things, which is another distinction that we often confuse.
I believe that a common cry of the wife is, "If he loved me, then he would..." —fill in the blank. It usually points to something that would most accurately be called a blessing, or a gift. It is usually not something, the absence of which actually indicates a lack of love.
I have asked God, "Lord, if you love me, then why have you given me a marriage with such difficulties?" And God has answered: "Look, for a moment, at the countless blessings I have given you. And even if those blessings were few, have I not spared you many of the trials which many of your peers are going through—several of which your own actions might have brought on?" And thus, I repent in dust and ashes.
And in the midst of my repentance of self-absorbed, self-centered self pity, I once again hear God's higher call: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, laying down His life for her." And I suddenly find a sense of satisfaction in that I am resolved to love her to the death. I am satisfied, for what more do I need, than to know that I am faithfully executing the love that God, Himself, put into my heart for my wife? God and I are in this together, and since I know that His love will never fail, how can I lack satisfaction?
And so my heart is aligned with God's, and my longing for the love and affection of my wife is His longing as well. Wow. I am overwhelmed in amazement that the eternal God of the universe is right here, right now, with me, feeling what I am feeling.
So, I am satisfied, and I can communicate that to my wife. In fact, since I know that a wife's satisfaction derives, in some part, if not primarily, from that of her husband's, it is therefore crucially important that I communicate my satisfaction to her. She must know that my love for her is not dependent upon her performance, else I would enslave her to tyranny. Too many husbands are unwitting tyrants, and I choose not to be numbered among them; so I will tell her that I am satisfied in our relationship. Whatever is lacking can be made up for by my love, since it's ultimate source is none other than the infinite depths of God's love for us all.