What I Believe About Your Deepest Heart in Marriage


Despite your noble intentions, why do you react as you do when in conflict with your spouse?

Permit me to ask you a question:

As a husband, in your deepest heart, do you want to come across in an unloving manner toward your wife during conflict?

1. I do not want to be unloving when I disagree with my wife.

2. I want to be unloving when I disagree with my wife.

As a wife, in your deepest heart, do you want to come across in a disrespectful manner toward your husband during conflict?

1. I do not want to be disrespectful when I disagree with my husband.

2. I want to be disrespectful when I disagree with my husband.

I believe most of you chose #1. You instinctively recognize what the Bible reveals about your deepest heart.


We learn from Jesus in Matthew 26:41, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (NIV). Paul reflects this idea in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want to do.”

When I share Ephesians 5:33, which reveals God’s command to husbands to love and wives to respect, people do not tell me “Emerson, every day when I get out of bed, I want to be unloving and disrespectful.”


Yet, during a tiff, a husband reacts in anger and harshness, not love. His spirit wants to be loving but his flesh reacts in unloving ways. During a squabble, a wife sees a propensity within herself to be angry and disgusted far easier than talking respectfully. Her spirit desires to be respectful but her flesh reacts with disrespect.

The words of Jesus aptly describe the plight of all of us. So do the words the Apostle Paul penned in Romans 7.


  •  have the desire to do what is good (7:18)
  • I want to do good (7:21)
  • In my inner being I delight in God’s law (7:22)

Encouragingly, God places these noble longings within us.

Jesus affirmed the noble longings in his disciples. Imagine how encouraged they were after falling asleep in His hour of greatest need in the garden of Gethsemane and then hear Him utter, “The spirit is willing.”

I think I know why He did. He knew they would only face their weak flesh if they saw that as separate from their willing spirit. He knew the destructive power of shame.


Jesus says to you and me, “Yes, you missed the mark but I know your deepest heart. Your failings do not represent your deepest self. I know who you are. I believe in you. Get back up. Start again.”

In order to deal with your unloving and disrespectful reactions, you need this kind of affirmation.

“But Emerson, won’t I use this as an excuse?”


But my hunch is that once we grasp how the Lord feels about our deepest heart, we will not make excuses about our weak flesh. Yes, we have a toxic nature. We are selfish and sinful. However, our Lord’s words about our willing spirit make the unpleasant truth about our carnal flesh easier to swallow and face.

Mary Poppins sang, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” The sugar here is the words of affirmation from our Lord. We must believe what He says about us.

It helps the medicine go down.


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