Rejoice in the Wife of Your Youth – Letter To A Would-Be Adulterer

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Written by: Ray Ortlund

Dear Husband,

I thank God for this moment with you. I only wish I could be present with you and look into your eyes and speak as earnestly as I can. So much is at stake in your marital integrity.

But you haven’t yet taken the dreadful step of adultery. So I want to remind you of two things that can help you honor Christ by staying true to your wife.

1. She is the wife of your youth.

The Bible says, “Rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18). One powerful safeguard against adultery is pretty obvious: happiness in your wife that lasts a lifetime.

Proverbs 5:18 does not say, “Rejoice in your young wife.” No wife can remain young for long. Proverbs 5 wisely points out that she is “the wife of your youth.” However long you both live as husband and wife, she will always be that girl.

Look at her. She is that girl you married back when you both were young. The passing years have no power to change that tender reality. She is still that girl who gave herself to you on your wedding day. She is still that girl who put herself in your arms. She is still that girl who went with you into that hotel room on your wedding night. You locked the door, and she trusted you. She undressed for you. She gave herself to you. She could not have been more vulnerable. She could not have been more honoring toward you. Remember that. Dwell on that. Marvel at that.

Think back even further to how the two of you started out. Remember what happened when you began dating, and fell in love, and got engaged. The wonderful, crazy romance you experienced together was one of life’s great privileges. It wasn’t just your hormones at work. It was “the very flame of the Lord” (Song of Solomon 8:6), a sacred fire he himself ignited for your joy and his glory.

What you two had going back then — you can have it back, and even better, because you’re more mature now, more focused, more settled. But the way you two used to walk and laugh and talk and dream together, because you just liked each other — go back there again. Your youthful romance was no foolish illusion. It was real. It hinted at the ultimate reality, the eternal love story of Christ and his bride (Ephesians 5:31–32). Your love story is worth fighting for.

Sure, all married couples get dull at times along the way. The humdrum of life and our own inertia take their toll. And yes, you and your wife now realize how ordinary you both really are. Add to that mix the trouble and sorrow you have experienced, maybe more than you ever dreamed you would. All of that is real too, and a good reason to pray daily for the constant refreshing of the Holy Spirit. But far more significant than all the burdens and blahs of this life, you still have her. She counts for far more than this whole disappointing world.

Look at her again, notice how much about her has not changed. Dwell on that. Think about her faithfulness to you, despite your weaknesses and failings. Consider the divine mercy she is to you. Let it hit you that one of God’s primary means of your sanctification is the wife of your youth. Sanctification with sex? Isn’t that a sanctification you can get behind? Your Father is good to you. Your marriage is not about your goodness, but his. Revere his goodness, and let your heart melt again. Then, rejoicing in God, rejoice again in the wife of your youth.

2. She is the wife of your legacy.

Very soon your life in this world will be over. What will you leave behind? Right now is your one, precious, unrepeatable opportunity to leave a legacy for the future generations of your family. How you and your wife live this brief life will matter for a long, long time.

One day in her Bible reading, my wife Jani noticed that God excluded certain people from his blessing, even to the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:3–4). She thought, “How much more does God long to bless a family, to the tenth generation!” This thought has become an important theme in our life together. It gives us a new way to see ourselves now and prepare for the future.

When Jani and I married in 1971, we were just two people. But now we have grandchildren, with more on the way. At present trends, our family alone could grow to 52,488 people in ten generations. That’s a city about the size of Flagstaff, Arizona. And it’s all our fault! We bear some responsibility for these thousands along our lineage.

Jani and I often pray that, to the tenth generation, God will clearly and publicly set our family apart to himself. We pray that our children and grandchildren, and on and on, will be solidly converted, and love Jesus, and believe the Bible, and take a stand for Christ with integrity and courage in their generation. They’re going to need that courage, we are sure. Our part right now is to live with that very integrity and courage, so that we might become an inspiring example for them in the future.

You and your wife can leave your own legacy — not in money, but in vast spiritual resources. Your life together can tell a powerful story of the faithfulness of God in good times and bad. Who wouldn’t be strengthened by looking back and seeing in their own family history that God is real, God is able, God is good? Do not deny future generations the riches they will so urgently need far out in the unforeseeable future. Whatever else you and your wife might or might not accomplish, build this treasury that even the tenth generation can draw upon.

However cute that woman might be that you’re tempted toward, ask yourself if your legacy is worth destroying for a moment of stolen pleasure. Your sin will quickly turn into a bitter aftertaste you’ll be spitting out of your mouth for the rest of your life. But God is positioning you and your wife to bless the generations yet to come. Embrace the vision! Don’t throw your legacy away!


This post was originally published on Desiring God

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