Please turn in a Bible to the place where it is written, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” While this is a text directed toward all Christians of all times, in our day this truth, in my opinion, directs and encourages husbands in their proper marital role … perhaps more than any other biblical text.
I admit, it is a strange text with which to begin instructing husbands in their relationships with their wives. Surely, you are accustomed to being instructed in the manner of a husband from such texts as: “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. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself.”
With a text such as this last available to me, and many similar, why should I begin in Timothy with a general instruction pertaining more to the Spirit-filled walk?
The ways of God have never been common in the world. God’s plan for the family, that wives fearfully, passionately and voluntarily subject their time and energy to the will of their husbands … and that husbands love their wives in an extravagantly sacrificial manner … has seldom been taught in full at any season in history, even within the visible church.
Until quite recently, in fact, husbands often gave themselves to the selfish exploitation of their wives (and other women) and the church was largely silent about it, emphasizing the duty of wives to submit to their husbands even amidst direct physical abuse, and at times even encouraging husbands in this abuse. (Will Durant, The Age of Faith, NY: Simon and Schuster, p. 505). In recent times however, perhaps in rebound to many centuries of neglect and abuse, the tables have turned and feminism has moved very many women to rebel against their husbands and to hold them in open contempt. (The Surrendered Wife) Again, the church is loudly silent … encouraging men to love their wives in the midst of this … yet seldom making mention of the wives’ proper duty.
It is within this latter context that I address Christian husbands, sincere men who seek to follow the living God, married to women who do not pursue submission with an earnest heart. With little encouragement from the church or the world, many men are faced with a profound dilemma: What should a husband do when his wife is manipulative, disrespectful or defiant as a manner of life? Not knowing what to do, most men either fight back until the home disintegrates or they withdraw into passivity and internalize their anger. Both responses are unhealthy and spring from a single root: Fear.
Until the husband’s calling is rebuilt upon a solid apprehension of the truth, believing husbands in unhealthy marriages will as a whole continue relatively ineffective in their homes … bound by fear. If you are as most, you do walk in fear. This need not be.
Though it may come as a complete surprise, there is no hint anywhere in the word of God that you might be afraid of your wife. This problem is not mentioned, even in passing, anywhere in the Scriptures. It is a problem that is totally foreign to the Word of God … no contexts are formally given to strengthen men in this state … literally, it is unheard of in the ancient texts.
But times have certainly changed and husbandly fear abounds. Wives may dismiss their husbands from their families for any reason that suits them, and force their husbands to support the family from a distance. The culture, and even the church, is for the most part quite supportive of women when they do this, particularly when there are children involved. It is an evil day for the family indeed, and particularly for husbands. General principles in the Word that do not directly relate to marriage must therefore be used to guide and strengthen you here … like 2 Tim 1:7 with which we began.
Do you realize that the Bible contains no explicit command that you love your children? Never in the Word of God … though certainly you do. You are not explicitly instructed to love your parents, though certainly you do. However, you are plainly instructed to love your wife. It is a good thing that the Word of God instructs husbands in this thing. It is not so natural for men to love their wives, especially when a woman is unruly and stubborn. Even so, such love is foundational for the home, and God makes this plain to any who will listen.
But fear is never even mentioned. There is no thought in the Word of God to encourage you to walk in love for your wife while you also walk in fear of her. Jesus Christ would not walk in fear in His home … and He would never be intimidated in the very least. Will you be like Him?
It is certain, you are instructed with the commands of God to love your wife, to give her honor as unto the weaker vessel, and to dwell with her according to an intimate knowledge of her frame and disposition. (1 Pet 3:7) Yet, what is it to encourage you to love your wife when you are indeed walking in open fear of her? It is a worthy question, is it not? … though few would consider it?
I wonder if a fearful man is really capable of loving his wife properly. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
You should never be afraid of anyone, even your wife … for any reason … at any time … at all … ever. Any time you begin to sense that you are the slightest bit afraid of the sharpness of her tongue, of her glare, of her vengeance, of her retaliation over anything — you are experiencing a disconnect in your spiritual frame, a discord in your calling as a Christian, a problem with the love of the Father. It is natural to be afraid, but it is bondage nonetheless. Such fear is not of Jesus Christ. Nothing of your behavior should be related to or prompted by domestic fear, even in such an evil day as this. Nothing.
You are not loving your wife when you are afraid of her, it is a snare to both you and her: “Fear of man bringeth a snare.” (Pr 29:25) You cannot love her as Christ loved the church when you are afraid, and you make it all the more difficult for her to respect you. Do you respect a leader who is afraid of you? Could you? This deadly fear must be overcome, for her sake and for yours.
What must you do? It is simple. You will accept your role as a husband, fully equipped by God to do so, for His kingdom and for His glory, and start to live within it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
What does it mean to be a husband? It means, among other things, being the ruler in your home. You are the ruler in your home: there is only one ruler and it is you. You are to be one that “ruleth well his own house.” (1 Tim 3:4) This position is not something that you need to attain — it is an established fact that this position is already yours by God’s decree. You do not need become the ruler in your home, you need to begin to walk in that role in a godly manner because you ARE its ruler. This is where the kingdom of God begins in your home … the domain God has given you to tend for His name.
It is obvious that you are not to abuse this position for selfish ends. Let us be plain about it: God did not place you in your marriage as its ruler for your own pleasure. That aside, even if you are being unselfish — there are strongholds in both you and your wife that will inevitably bring conflict in your marriage. You lack wisdom at times, and you are selfish and inconsiderate at times. Your wife may not respond well in such cases, or she may be overtly rebellious even when you are walking in sobriety and love.
When rebellion surfaces in your marriage, under any condition, if you passively condone and acquiesce to it, in this your primary sphere of spiritual influence, you leave the door open to the kingdom of darkness … and you may find the dark tide to enter relentlessly … without mercy, pity or concern … to destroy everything temporal you hold dear. However, if you fight against this rebellion in the flesh you will likely sin against all common decency, alienate your wife and bring a reproach to the name of Jesus. Both of these responses are born of fear, the fear of losing what you love in this life. Yet if you love your life you will lose it (Jn 12:25)… this is the dilemma. There is a better way.
First, you must come to understand a vast disconnect we have exposed in the Word of God: husbandly fear abounds today yet the Bible evidently presupposes the contrary. How can this be?
Simply, western culture has recently departed drastically from the moorings of all previous cultures. Essentially, the Bible addresses those of a different culture … yet anticipates our present culture and describes it. Ours is the culture of “perilous times” (2 Tim 3:1), when men are “lovers of their own selves” in a manner that distinguishes it from all before. You are of this present evil world and you need to be delivered. (Gal 1:4)
If you are as most men, you are broken. You do not know what it means to be a man and you are afraid of being one. You are also afraid of women; you do not know how to relate to them. You long for healthy intimacy with a woman, but feel a strange and unhealthy dependency — an unhealthy need — that destroys the intimacy you seek. It is a dreadful impasse … and a fearful one. You have been wounded at your very core, so much so that you do not even know what and who you are.
If I describe you, you need to be healed. You need help. You cannot go forth to the battle to which God calls you … broken. This battle is fierce like none before it. You must indeed find healing. I recommend Healing The Masculine Soul, by Gordon Dalbey. In my opinion, Gordon has defined our wounding and prescribed the path of healing most eloquently.
Once you find your strength as a man and learn to walk in it, I call you to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of God, to die to your selfish ways, to stand in the gap and to begin to fight for your marriage and family … even if it looks utterly impossible to you now. God has not given you the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Being ruler in your home requires you to be willing to take responsibility for all major decisions affecting your home. Your home is not a democracy; it is a monarchy. You are required to be willing to rule your home. That is not unkindness, pride or insensitivity … and it is — again — not a license for you to be unilateral and selfish. This is for the welfare of your wife and family and not for your own pleasure. You are not worthy of this role, or necessarily more capable in it than your wife. Being head of your home does not mean that you are better than your wife in any way: this is simply your responsibility before God. He will hold you accountable for how you lead your home whether you — or your wife — like it or not. This is His order … His call. Accept it.
A healthy woman that senses a deep concern for her welfare in the heart of her husband is likely to be relatively comfortable with such leadership … at least much more so than with a man who is abusing his position. However, women are sinners as well as men, and may indeed rebel against the most selfless and wise authority. Should your wife refuse to follow you in any decision you make, pause and pray. Beg God for direction. There may come a time when He will have you to go on without her … prayerfully asking God to give her repentance to come with you. (2Ti 2:25) Until then, there will be broken fellowship over her rebellion and you are not to hide this or cover it up … it is good at times to expose rebellion rather than disguise and accommodate it. Prefer that witchcraft be hidden in your home, rather than stubbornness and rebellion: they are one and the same. (1 Sam 15:23)
In worst cases, prepare yourself for the unpleasantries following any decision made against your wife’s wishes which turns out inconveniently. The impudent, “I told you so!” pounded relentlessly into your bosom, daring you to continue to lead. Do not buckle; do not crumble. You are willing to be crucified … to die daily. You will make mistakes, but they will not be discerned merely by initial inconvenience, and a carnal woman will generally miss the mark in this regard.
Be undaunted, be a man, be strong. (1Co 16:13) Your Lord’s way will not be an easy one at every step, and think it more likely to be following Him when a carnal woman is upset with you than when she is not. Seek God’s face and trust Him. Learn to wait on Him, learn to fear Him. Do not seek trials, but rejoice in the sovereign pleasure of God when trials are extreme and unusual. Count it all joy. (Jas 1:2) You are growing … but it is not easy, not by any stretch.
When fear comes over you, when the fiery darts of the wicked one come hurling down upon you, stop right where you are and recall the fact that all things, even this present distress, work together for good to you, a lover of God and one called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:28) Ask God for faith to believe this and then thank Him for the present situation. (Eph 5:20)
Remember, it is not your wife who wants you in fear — but your true enemy. The battle may be long and fierce. Great will be your deliverance if you persevere unto the end in His strength. God give you grace to do so.
Your family is no longer to be managed by a committee, you and your wife having to agree on everything before you act together … and you giving in against your better judgment because you cannot out-talk her and are afraid of displeasing her. You are not to follow this way any more; God will not move in her to defy you … ever. Neither will He move in her to rebuke you, or to resist you, unless you are encouraging her to sin. Rebellion in your wife is not of God; it is earthly, sensual and devilish. (Jas 3:15) Do not be intimidated by rebellion in her any more.
That said — and, granted, much is said here that is difficult — one must be careful and balanced in such a thing. Though you are the ruler in your home it is still quite true that in most any remotely healthy marriage the opinion of the wife is very valuable and should be earnestly and humbly sought in every major decision. The wife is given by God as an help to her husband, and that help is not merely in the form of cheap manual labor, convenient population growth and sexual gratification. Her primary means of help to you is in her perspective, her insight and her counsel. It is not the consent of the wife that should be sought, but her heart-felt counsel that must be discerned and weighed very carefully. This resource should not be neglected or abused in any sense; it is in fact a great treasure found (to at least some degree) in most any remotely healthy woman. This is by God’s design: “it is not good that Man should be alone.” (Ge 2:18)
Yet women are certainly not infallible, and may indeed be subject to seasons of foolishness, stubbornness and willfulness in the same way as men. When your wife’s counsel is evidently foolish or ungodly and you are at an impasse with her, discretely seek other counsel among your spiritual community as confirmation and prayerfully do as you think best. When a decision is made by your wife that is plainly different than the way you feel it should have been made, you are to let her know this clearly and gently … unless, of course, your fellowship with her is already broken, she is in open rebellion against you and heedless of it, in which case it is pointless and evil for you to intimidate or harass her.
In short, you are the head of your home and family. You are to be willing to make all of the significant decisions yourself and to follow through with them as God permits. That is your responsibility and you must begin to shoulder it. Regularly and humbly seek counsel in this, especially from your wife. When your wife is uncooperative, continue to bless her unconditionally as you are able but do not agree with her sin, or condone or enable it directly. Lead your home as you think best, humbly and sincerely for its eternal and temporal benefit as God enables you.
In our day, this is certainly a tall order. While you have few earthy weapons to effectively wage this war, yet you have spiritual weapons if you are dead to yourself and walking with your Lord. (2Co 10:4) Your warfare in this is certainly not against your wife, it is in fact for her and for your children. You wage war against principalities and powers (Eph 6:12) who hate God’s order and are intimidated by the strength and health produced by obedience to God.
To succeed in blessing your dear wife in God you must rule your home well; you must be dead to any of her manipulations and/or threatenings for Jesus’ sake and for her sake. Count the cost and follow Jesus Christ even if it seems to mean losing all. You should not hope for success here unless you are seeking to walk in obedience and humility.
Humility, though, is not enough to win this battle. You can, in naked humility, still be damaged so badly in conflict that you are deeply tempted to withdraw, or you may even become paralyzed and rendered helpless for a prolonged season through an emotional trauma delivered through your wife by the enemy. You cannot win in conflict if you disengage voluntarily … or involuntarily: withdrawing into silence and passivity is as much a loss as exploding in anger.
In addition to walking in humility, you must also walk in love. You must know that you are loved and accepted by the Father in a way that sets your heart safely above the fray of the most severe conflict. It must be so that His love is all you really need, such that you are — at the very core of your being — unmoved at the loss of all else beside. This is no small thing … to which few, sadly, ever attain.
Yet, it is only from the safety of the loving heart of God that you are truly free to love your wife. Free to love her … though she be so broken that she is afraid to receive your love for her … even though it anger and distress her for a season for you to love her in the midst of her pain, deceptions and demonic strongholds. To be free to respond to harshness with an embrace, to offer kindness in the face of sarcasm and indifference, even cruelty … yes, this is Jesus.
Such love is what most every woman yearns for in her husband … from deep within her heart … as much as you yearn for her to respect and honor you. God is not unwise in what He has commanded you. Be assured that your wife does not want you to be weak: she is likely just as afraid as you once were, and more. Your strength is what is needed to stabilize her; you must by all means get it from God in order to bless her as you should.
This love, sourced in the firmness of your strength in God as the ruler of your home, is all that you may ever rightly offer your wife in conflict as her husband. This may sound difficult, impossible, or even unbiblical in the context of being an authority in your home, being its ruler, the head of your wife. (Eph 5:23) Civil and parental authorities are permitted to use force (Rom 13, Pr 19:18, etc), as well as masters over servants (Ex 21:20-1). Even the rulers of the church may at times use force (Mt 18:17, 2 Th 3:10). However, you have no indication in the Word of God that you are ever to bring any negative consequence to your wife under any condition as her husband.
True, you are indeed her master and she is your servant (Ex 21), but she is much more than a mere servant to you– she is one flesh with you and you are in covenant with her. Note that in the area of the marriage bed she has a right to your body and you cannot rightly deny her (1 Cor 7:4); this is a far cry from mere servanthood. In fact, it is clear from a careful search of the scripture that you are never directly commanded to use any force with your wife, be it emotional or physical, and there is not one single instance of any husband rightly doing so in the Revelation of God. Even king David did not discipline the open, public disrespect of Michal, though it seems that God did (2 Sam 6:2-23), and as further example to us David generally refrained from using his kingly powers to personally avenge himself in any manner. He used it only for the protection and blessing of his subjects.
You are the authority in your marriage … this is true indeed. But you are also in a decidedly unilateral position as an husband, and from such a position disciplinary and/or retaliatory measures are unhealthy. It is the function of the community, be it the local church or civil government, to provide a more balanced and neutral perspective when judging between adults to discern when discipline and/or punishment is in order. This type of response is not ever the calling of a single individual, as an husband … especially in the context of the vulnerable intimacies of marriage between two peers. God’s command to husbands is to love their wives, not discipline or harass them. Jesus himself disciplines the church as a just governor (Rev 2,3), not at all as an husband. (Jn 5:27) And when dealing with those who are not submitting to Him, He generally exposes their rebellion with a penetrating question rather than a direct rebuke. (Lk 6:46)
A husband’s love is to be unconditional, and loving freely is a choice you must make daily, taking up your cross and following Him. When you are beyond all strength with your wife, totally spent after making every possible effort to continue and simply cannot find the strength to go on any farther, God does provide protection for you both in extenuating circumstances through divorce (De 24:1). However, this must be considered permanent, expecting that she will remarry another, not some temporary measure to intimidate or punish her. Generally, believing men are expected to have grace to never pursue this end with their wives (1 Cor 7:11), though if an unbelieving wife depart the marriage a husband is free to let her go and marry another if he chooses. (1Co 7:15) In any case, an husband is not permitted to directly punish a wife or to discipline her in any way during the marriage relationship. If he simply cannot tolerate her any longer, after trying every possible remedy, he should end the marriage rather than fail in continually choosing to love his wife in this way.
Even so, try as you should, you will certainly fail in this … in loving your wife as Christ loved the church … and you will fail repeatedly. Rest assured, we all do. Regardless of your background, you yourself will experience strongholds in your life, ground inadvertently given to the enemy over time of which you are yet unaware, which will move you to respond without love in conflict, to be neglectful in your husbandly duties, to be selfish. When this occurs, the cure is the same for you as for your wife (or anyone else): find the lie, replace it with the truth and begin to obey immediately.
Every stronghold of the enemy producing sin in our hearts is in the form of a lie received, a lust that has grown from the lie, and disobedience springing from the lust that gives the enemy legal ground in our minds and hearts. (Ja 1:13-16) Perhaps the lie was received at the time of an emotional trauma, or in the face of temptation, through a generational curse or simply through deception. When we find ourselves responding emotionally in conflict, out of control and in disobedience to God (sin)… this is evidence that we have exposed a stronghold of the enemy within and it should trigger a cry for freedom in our hearts.
The path to freedom is to undo the enemy’s stranglehold by cutting him off at the root: expose the lie and the disobedience for what it is, then replace it with the truth and obedience. This may take much prayer and time: some wounds and their lies run deep, being woven into the very fabric of our being. Ask Father to expose both the wound the lie, as well as the truth. He is faithful to reveal these things for He Himself came to destroy the works of the devil. (1Jn 3:8) In every case, His cure is the same: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn 8:31-32)
Freedom is not an option: be as open to letting your wife help you get free of strongholds as you want her to be. It is the same Holy Spirit in her as in you, if you are both saints. Work together as a team in this for your mutual health and to the glory of God.
Perhaps it is obvious now that I am not saying you should go from here and actively molest whatever peace there may be resident in your home, false or true. I am not saying that in any way. A prudent man will guide his affairs with discretion. (Ps 112:5) Ponder the path of your feet, before you go charging off, and let all of your ways be established. (Pr 4:26)
Certainly, do not correct your wife and slam her down every … single … time … she stumbles, any more than God hammers you every single time you do. And don’t pull the submission card out just because she challenges your behavior: listen to her carefully as your helper and, as an initial response, always check to see if there is something amiss in your ways. Only consider confronting her once your own conscience is clear … and only then if what you see is a pattern over time and she is openly wanting to walk in obedience to God. In love, be ready to overlook things that are out of character and forget them. (1Pe 4:8)
If your wife is of such a mind that she purposes to walk in rebellion, you must let her be and trust God to work in her heart rather than trying to control or manipulate her. It is His job to enforce the authority He has given you in your marriage, not your job. Your job is to love. Do so with all your heart, keep your joy in God and avoid the temptation to walk in disappointment. If the conflict becomes severe, involve others in your spiritual community (Mt 18:16-18) or even the law if you must (Ro 13:4), but do not take matters into your own hands. (He 10:30)
Ultimately, what I am saying is this: you cannot settle where you are in your marriage with any health before God unless you are not afraid of your wife and you are effectively ruling in your home in love, mercy and gentleness. You must seek to fulfill your proper role as a husband, as a loving and sensitive leader, as the ruler in your home to the best of your ability before God. This is His call for you as a husband.
This result you seek is not something that will likely happen over night. It is something that you may need to pursue prayerfully and soberly and persistently over much time. It may take many years to get there … in fact, you just might not ever “get there.” Do not be overly idealistic; pick your issues carefully and prayerfully and soberly … one at a time. Do not be petty, don’t be Mr. Spiritual Detective who is constantly looking for flaws in your wife and who is never joyful and thankful for her. Work with major issues that are causing you both the most pain and get the functional brokenness of your relationship repaired, then fine-tune things from there.
Don’t be afraid to request the assistance of others if you find yourselves in a gridlock: godly friends and elders can often see what neither of you can on your own. This is the way of Jesus Christ with you. He begins with the “necessary things,” (Acts 15:28, Rev 2:24) He puts us in a local community of believers for a reason, and He knows what you can handle and when.
Be as sensitive and deliberate with your wife as you can possibly be in your pursuit of health in your marriage, and guard yourself intensely from pride and wantonness. And above all things … always be first in obedience: never expect more of your wife than you do of yourself. You will need great humility, love and patience … you need wisdom, and this you have aplenty as you need: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (Ja 1:5)
And, as you walk in this narrow path of patient, joyful struggle… remember this one thing along the way:
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered. (1Pe 3:7)
You are to dwell with your wife according to an intimate, informed knowledge of her frame and disposition. You should know her past very well and understand with diligence where she is prone to weakness. You should know where she has been wounded, and by whom, and give careful thought to how the enemy might use your own short comings to trigger the pain of these wounds in order to cause further pain and resentment in her toward you. In short, you are to love her as Jesus Christ loves the Church and gave everything to secure her purity and redemption from this evil world, and you are to give your wife honor as unto the weaker vessel, as being heirs together of the grace of life.
In your role as a husband, being an heir of the grace of life is a key perspective in which you must become settled and grounded. It is a foundational attitude which you must nurture; it will enable and balance the godly power that God has given you, and it will also equip you well to deal with your wife’s contentions and strivings should they come, as well as your own quirks, foolishness and indiscretion. As so many others have taken up other aspects of your disposition towards your wife quite well, I will limit further depth to this single salient question: What does it mean to be an heir of the grace of life?
The grace of life … being alive is not a right. Every day is a gracious gift to you from God, a gift to you and to your wife. Neither of you deserve to be alive, nor to have any comfort or pleasure whatsoever in life. Remembering that you are an heir of the grace of life starts by remembering what you deserve.
You deserve to be screaming in the dreadful fires of an eternal Hell. At this very moment you deserve to face the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, to be crushed in His rage, to be mangled in His relentless fury, and to be completely decimated by Him. You deserve this for all eternity, forever. You deserve nothing better, and you cannot deserve much worse. You deserve this deeply and fully. You always have deserved this … and you always will. Anything you receive from God that is better than the vengeance of eternal Hell fire is a gift of His infinite mercy, and to be quickened in eternal life is only found in God’s free grace. Be deeply thankful for it.
“Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” (La 3:39) If you are still alive, you have nothing to complain about … you have not yet received what you truly deserve … it matters not what else has befallen you. If you are a saint you will never, ever get what you truly deserve. Forget complaining … just lose it. Most often, anger, resentment, and discontent result from being treated in a manner less than we think we deserve. Because we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, we think we deserve better treatment than we have received, and so we become vulnerable to attack and prone to pride, foolishness, wantonness and unthankfulness. (Ro12:3)
The next time you are angry about something with your wife, find any trace of bitterness or resentment toward her, or fear somewhat from her defiance, take a moment to peer out over the edge of the eternal abyss – and focus your gaze upon the darkened flames below. Strain to see them clearly, listen to the screams, feel the terror of the Lord. Do you know the terror of the Lord? (1Co 5:11)
All that is between you and this fearful, dreadful end is the fragile soil of the earth. Feel the angry mists of God’s holy vengeance crying out for justice upon you, study the hungry righteous flames, and agree with them soberly. Were it not for the tender mercies and unmerited lovingkindness of a sovereign God, you would be tossing about in the infernal blasts even now. If you rest in eternal safety from them, it is simply in the blood of Jesus Christ shed on your behalf. You stand safely on His merits, not your own. If God dealt with you justly based upon your own intrinsic merit, you would be damned … swiftly and certainly and eternally.
If you are to fear anyone, it is the God Who, after He hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say unto you, fear Him. (Lk 12:5) Do not fear anyone made of … dust.
Given that, I suppose it is clear that in your role as a husband in your home you have no right to molest the dignity and person of your wife. I say again: you are not in a role of power because you deserve it, or because you are better or more valuable than she. No. It is a great responsibility and a great honor. Be honorable, and give your wife honor, respecting her as a fellow servant of Jesus Christ; order your conduct in your home in a selfless and Christ-honoring manner. Do not expect more from her than you do of yourself; acknowledge that she is the weaker vessel and handle her gently and in all goodness.
While you are not to agree to domestic rebellion, as others may encourage you to do, you certainly need to be patient with your wife, considering her frame … especially at first. Transition is never easy, and we shift a core paradigm here. Patience, love and persistence is absolutely essential. Focusing on God’s grace will enable you in this disposition. Remind yourself constantly that you are an heir with her of the grace of life.
The grace of God is, in fact, an enabling thing. It is His grace that gives you strength to love your wife when she is irritable and irrational. It is His grace that gives you a song when she is defrauding you. It is His grace that gives you meekness and sincerity under provocation. It is His grace that gives you a true heart toward her that is neither condescending, patronizing, nor haughty with her … a heart that seeks her welfare in all things, and does not vaunt itself. It is grace that moves you to be present with her in conflict and trouble, to show up and dwell with her … even if it means being speechless and without an answer. This is Christ in you, ever present, ever looking to bless and heal those around you. Look for and lean on Him to live in you and through you as an husband, that by the grace of God you are what you are to her. (1Co 15:10) Let Jesus Christ love your wife through you.
Honor her on special occasions, and randomly surprise her with expressions of your love and appreciation for her. Spend time with her. Listen to her. Be thankful for her. Share your heart with her when it would be edifying and promote your closeness to her. Be earnestly thankful for anything good that God is pleased to bless you with through your wife. Look for His grace in her, and encourage and bless her as her spiritual leader.
Pray for her as she struggles to follow God in your home, and be what encouragement you can be to her. Remember that there is nothing of the darkness of our day that will be helping either of you. Beating her down regularly by finding fault in her and demanding perfection will surely drive her to anger or (worse) despair. She will find little encouragement in the church and less in the world … and her flesh is no friend to her either. If you are not prayerful for her, who do you expect to be? Your mother?!
Be a man! (1Co 16:13) Be a man of prayer, and let your prayers be deeply earnest for Christ to be formed in your wife. (Ga 4:19) Understand that in your role as the pastor of your home (1Ti 3:5) you may sanctify your wife (and children) before God. (Job 1:5)
While you are certainly not Christ to your wife, you are not her savior, you must act much as Christ would act toward her, protecting her and cherishing her in humble, compassionate, loving, sober concern. (Ep 5:25-33) Be watchful for signs of weakness in your wife: unbelief, vulnerability, disillusionment, deception, and any sign of a lapse into spiritual coldness, apathy or lethargy. Be aware, close, intimate, informed. (Php 2:19) Listen to her and observe her … as God does so mercifully with you. Take it upon yourself to continually monitor her spiritual and emotional well-being and see to it that you provide a domestic and marital climate conducive to her spiritual, mental and emotional health; be diligent to maintain a prayerful hedge about her heart. (Col 4:12) It is the same care that a pastor shows for the church, with the same motive and for the same end. (1Ti 3:5)
As much as lies within you, prayerfully see to it that your wife thrives in Christ and for Christ. (Ep 3:14-19) See that she thrives as a woman, as a person in her own right, as a beloved sister, as a mother, as a daughter of God, and as your wife. Husband her, cultivate her, as the wise husbandman cares for his garden and nurtures it that he may enjoy the ripe fruits in its fulfilled season.
Do not be negligent in this husbanding for any reason, especially when things are going well. Satan took Adam himself, sinless though he was, through Eve … it worked very well, to say the least. The dragon has learned what works and what does not … he is waiting to take you down, and he has the upper hand when you are the least bit negligent here. Stand guard in this thing as though it were your very life. In many senses, it is: she will not fall without taking you with her or ripping you apart at the core.
Be patient and longsuffering and compassionate with your wife. Do not be bitter. (Col 3:19) Do not be intimidated. Do not be careless. Do not withdraw from marital conflict. Stay engaged, stay close. Show up; be present. Be good. Be sober. Be humble. Be vigilant. Be holy. Stay close to your God, and constantly promote the oneness He has created between you and your wife.
Lead primarily by example. Be selfless and considerate of her needs. Be humble and open to her opinions, counsel and ideas. Again, kings of old seldom moved in anything without counsel … even though their power was complete and absolute. Remember that God has given you your wife as a helper, and she will most often be a rich source of wisdom for you. Seek her counsel often and consider it carefully … and humbly.
Be of the mind that was in Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might be truly rich. (2Co 8:9) Though He was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet He made Himself of no reputation and took upon Himself the form of a servant. (Php 2:5-6) He did not use His power and authority to serve Himself. He humbled himself, even unto death. When He suffered, He threatened not, but committed himself to Him that judges righteously. (1Pe 2:23) You are His servant. Put your wife’s needs and interests before your own. Only use your power for the glory of God – do not be found oppressing and molesting the dignity of another, especially one so vulnerable to you.
Do not expect her to be perfect – be compassionate, not a perfectionist with someone else’s heart. You know your own self how far short you fall of loving God with all of your heart and soul and mind and strength. (Heb 5:2) You quickly fail in thanksgiving whenever unpleasantness abounds (Ja 1:2) … you seldom do anything in the name of Jesus … as you are commanded. (Col 3:17) How patient and longsuffering and careful is God with you?
How would you fare if God were to walk in constant bitterness toward you for your coldness and self-absorbed unthankfulness? Do not expect your wife to follow you any more carefully than you follow your God. Your love for her is to be a picture of the love of Jesus Christ for His Church, and His love is always toward a significantly imperfect bride. He went so far as to be sin for her, when she was dead to Him. Let it be so with you. Walk with your wife in love, even as Christ also has loved you, and has given Himself for you. (Ep 5:25)
Never give your wife commands merely for the sake of it, and do not flaunt your power as her head. Take the yoke of Jesus Christ upon you and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly in heart. (Mt 11:29) Find a humble rest for your soul in Him. While you should not accommodate open disrespect, be more careful that you do not provoke your wife to wrath. Do admonish her when this is a necessity, but do not forget to nurture her and earn her deep respect as well, as any wise leader would: even as Jesus Christ has in you.
God has not given you the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Walk in the way that He has prepared for you, moving toward that position of tender authority, loving gentle guidance, and humble responsibility as the husband in your home, that place in which it is both your duty and privilege to walk. As you get to health in this area, and God be merciful to you along the way, as your wife begins to rest in the sovereignty of God in leading the family through you, yielding to your decisions and honoring you as she ought … perhaps then you can pick up a couple of those other books about the home … and they will do you both some real good. Then … rejoice with the wife of thy youth, as the man in her life that you ought to be, and be thou ravished always with her love. (Pr 5:19) I will certainly rejoice with you.