God has placed on my heart a burden for marriages in the church. It comes in waves, but when it hits I can hardly move under the weight of it. At times I feel like it us a selfish burden, but it is there none the less. I pray until the burden breaks, which can be weeks or even months at a time.
I have been married for eighteen years, twenty if you count our first marriage. Much of my early marriage I envied wives in the church. I was envious because I had a disillusion that somehow having a husband beside you on the pew made marriage better. My heart would always sink as the pastor would say “grab your spouse’s hand if they are with you.” Only twice a year would that happen for me; if I was lucky. I wanted nothing more than to have “that marriage” where my husband was the head of our home physically and spiritually.
The more I spent time with Christian women, young and old in marriage, I began to realize I was disillusioned. I realized our battles were much the same. A Christian husband who serves God doesn’t make marriage perfect. A husband who will be the spiritual leader of a household doesn’t make him immune to the pressures of manhood. And sadly when wives get together, more often than not if the topic came to husband’s the struggles come out.
I am thankful, because it helped me move past my Camelot picture of what it would be like if my husband served God wholeheartedly. It didn’t make the desire go away, but it did take away the fairytale image I had. When the pastor gives the call to grab the hand, I take my hand because my husband and I are united as one, and I thank God for the day my husband will be next to me there.
At the same time as my disillusion was broke, I was reminded of a comment that was made to me. There was such similarity between my view of my husband at the time and what I was hearing from Christian wives (with few exceptions). I heard women who were really down on their spouses. Yes, there is power in letting others know they are not alone in their marital struggles, but this was more than that. I would usually sit back and listen for a while and consistently there wouldn’t be a positive thing said about their mate. I get it, I’ve been there, but it’s not a place you can stay if you want your marriage to survive. If you find yourself relating to this description, please stop speaking the negative.
Words have power, whether they are spoken to a person or just about them – they bring life or death. Men need our encouragement and if we are only focused on their faults and shortcomings, that will be harder to give genuinely. One day I had listened to enough of the husband bashing and asked the wives to share something they appreciated about their spouse. As they shared the positive, one would think they were talking about a completely different person than the man they had just been talking about.
As wives, we need to come along side our spouses and encourage them. Yes, they will frustrate us at times. Yes, we see their weaknesses, imperfections, and downright failures in their roles as husband, father, spiritual leader, etc. Yes, there are times we may need to discuss things with love that need to improve. Regardless, we have to encourage and respect them.
We have to be patient with the process on their life. As much as we might want to nag for the process to speed up, we must realize God, not us will bring about needed and lasting change. In my own life and marriage, I have seen that my behavior was as much as a hindrance to God’s process in my husband, as my husband was a hindrance to it. God had to work a lot out in me so I would get out-of-the-way and let Him work on my husband.
The words I speak to and about my husband need to be kind. We have to lift our spouses up with our words, not tear them down. We have to build up their strengths and support them in their weaknesses. When we are sharing with other women, we can be honest about the struggle without husband bashing.
We have to stop talking down to our spouses and about our spouses. We have to stop telling stories that make us look like the innocent bystander. Comments that lead our self or others to believe that our spouse is the sole perpetrator of every problem in our marriage. I know from experience that there are three sides to every story, mine, his and God’s truth. Every time I take a problem with my husband to Gods throne of grace, He shows me my part in the problem. I can only fix me. I have to let God work on my husband.
We have to stop demanding that things be done our way. In one of the marriage trainings I have done, there is a ridiculous video of a wife complaining about the steps her husband takes in washing the clothes. She’s not complaining that he doesn’t help. She not complaining that he doesn’t separate the clothes and the whites turn red, or the colors get bleached. She is complaining about the order that he puts in the soap and the clothes. It is completely absurd. Yet a clear picture of how often we make a molehill into mountains because we think our way is better. It is okay for our spouses to do things differently than us.
We have to forgive our spouse’s failures and help them move past them, not keep holding failures against them. If your still bringing an issue from the past up when conflicts arise, you are the one that needs to seek forgiveness, because you haven’t forgiven.
We have to not rejoice when something negative happens when we followed his lead, thinking “if we had done what I suggested….”. As a marital team some things will work. Some things won’t. We are in it together and shouldn’t be cheering when things fail with an “I told you so” attitude.
Above all, regardless of what we face in marriage, we have to face it together. For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse. Stand behind your spouse and let Him lead. Stand next to him and encourage him. Stand before him and encourage him. When all hell comes against you stand in prayer with him, and your marriage will endure.
I said at the beginning that I sometimes feel like this burden for marriage is a selfish one. It is because I have done all I can, my husband is in God’s hands as I walk out the things I mentioned above. Now I need Christian men who are secure in their faith and marriage to come alongside my husband as an example to him of how to be the man of God he was created to be. He is not likely to seek them out. I know there are many men out there who need your spouse to have the confidence in himself and his marriage to come along side them and lead the way. As wives we have to stand behind our husbands, so they can come along and lead the way for other men in confidence.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT