As Christian wives, we are called to be our husbands’ helpers, and we fill this role in a variety of ways. Typically, we have the primary childcare and household responsibilities—cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and other related duties. Some of us manage the budget, pay the bills, and arrange household repairs and maintenance. Some work outside the home to help earn money. All of these are helping roles, and ways that we can come alongside our husbands in life. These are God-honoring duties that we perform out of love for God, our husbands, and our families.
But sometimes, our “helping” can fall outside the realm of our God-ordained role. We can begin to try to change our husbands, or make them better in some way. One area of struggle for some wives I’ve worked with is their husbands’ spiritual lives. Many women believe that they are “ahead” of their husbands spiritually, and that their Bible knowledge and application skills exceed his. They want him to step up and grow faster, so he can lead their family. So they nag, hint, and push him to read, study, and enter more fully into fellowship.
Their complaints fall along these lines:
“If he read his Bible even half as much as he watches TV, he would be much better equipped to lead our family.”
“I wish he loved the Lord as much as he loves golf (or football, or baseball, or basketball, or whatever other sport he’s into.) Then we might have the kind of marriage I hoped we’d have.”
“He is totally obsessed with his job. There are at least ten people he’s more interested in pleasing than God—or me for that matter! He has really made an idol of his work!”
These women sincerely want their husbands to grow and change, but they want it for the wrong reasons. Their complaints reveal a heart problem for sure, but not their husband’s! What I see when a wife comes to me with these kinds of statements is idolatry in her own heart. She wants him to grow, but not for his good or God’s glory, which should be her motives. She desires his growth for her own selfish desires. She wants leadership for her family, a better marriage, and the love and attention of her husband. None of these are evil desires, but the motive behind the desires is sinful, and the method for achieving them is, too.
Now for the hard question: Do you see yourself in any of what I’ve described? If I’m honest, I have to admit that these kinds of thoughts have crossed my mind from time to time over the 31 years of my marriage. It is not wrong to want your husband to lead your family, but that desire must be rightly motivated. It has to be because you know that increasing maturity and leadership skills in your husband would bring glory to God, and would give your husband joy. You desire a deeper and more satisfying relationship with your husband. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that is fruit that must be produced in good soil, that is not tainted with the idolatry of self or envy of what other wives have.
You want his job, sports, or hobbies to be put into their proper place in the priorities of his life, but you want that because you are angry and bitter that those things have bumped you down the line. This sinful motivation will never produce the fruit of righteousness you desire. Dear wife, are you nagging your husband to read more, pray more, or take on a leadership role for which the Holy Spirit does not seem to be grooming him fast enough for you? Has the Spirit of God missed your deadline for how long it should take for your husband to become the great spiritual leader you envision?
Maybe, without even recognizing it, you have taken on the role of the Holy Spirit in his life. Here are a few questions for you, to help you do a heart check.
- Do you find yourself irritated with your husband when you catch him cat napping in his recliner on Sunday afternoon, when he could be reading or studying the Bible?
- Do you look at other couples and imagine how rich and full their marriage must be, because you see that husband as more spiritually mature than yours?
- Do you buy your husband books, email him articles, or otherwise “remind” him that he needs to be investing time and energy toward spiritual growth?
- Do you find yourself, either silently or verbally, critiquing his Bible knowledge or application skills when he does lead family devotionals?
- Do you envy other wives whose husbands are elders or leaders in the church, imagining that their lives must be so much better than yours, their children more likely to be saved, or that God has given them more favor than you?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time for you to change. Yes, dear wife, regardless of your husband’s level of spiritual growth, it is time for you to take a serious look at your own heart. Envy, jealousy, bitterness, and control are not fruits of righteousness, or evidence of spiritual maturity. If anything, these things should reveal to you that you may be somewhat stunted in your own growth.
There are some things you can do to when you are anxious for your husband to grow, but they have more to do with your relationship with God than his.
- Ask the Lord to grant you repentance from assuming the role of the Holy Spirit in your husband’s life. Ask him to give you godly motivations and desires as you pray for your husband’s growth and change. Ask the Lord to make His glory the deepest desire of your heart–and not just in this area, but in all of your life.
- Love your husband. Give him grace, remembering that we all grow and change at different rates in different seasons of life. Recognize and acknowledge evidence of the Spirit working in him, and let him know how grateful you are that God has given him to you.
- Stop judging him. God is God and you are not. If you think you need to examine someone’s heart, look at your own, and ask the Lord to remove any root of bitterness, envy, or discontentment that has grown there. Each time you’re tempted to be critical of him, repeat this step.
- Remember that God has given you the perfect spouse for your sanctification. Often, the things we are most critical of in him reflect the things we struggle with ourselves. Ask the Lord to help you train your heart to use those moments when you’re tempted to critique your husband, as cues to examine your own heart instead.
Remember, ladies, you are indeed created to be your husband’s helper. Just remember, it is the Lord who defines what “help” is, not us. He has called us to come alongside our husbands as He leads them, not to get in front and drag them where we want them to go. God is good and faithful, and His timing for your husband’s growth is perfect. Trust Him. Repent of your desire to control, and begin to examine yourself before God. As your own heart changes, your love and respect for your husband will grow and God will be glorified in your marriage.