As wives, we frequently face situations where we are tempted to think harsh and critical thoughts about our husbands. Sometimes we are more inclined to concentrate on what our husbands are doing wrong than what they are doing right. We are more aware of their deficiencies than areas where they excel. But if we submit to these temptations, they will only lead to the demise of warm affections. In her book Love Has a Price Tag, Elisabeth Elliot includes some very good counsel from her husband for wives:
“A wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy.”
The apostle Paul understood the influence of people’s thoughts and feelings on their behavior. He exhorted the Philippians in this way: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worth of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8).
If we make it our aim to think these kinds of thoughts about our husbands, we will experience tender feelings for them. As Shirley Rice writes:
“Are you in love with your husband? Not, Do you love him? I know you do. He has been around a long time, and you’re used to him. He is the father of your children. But are you in love with him? How long has it been since your heart really squeezed when you looked at him?...Why is it you have forgotten the things that attracted you to him at first?...Your husband needs to be told that you love him, that he is attractive to you. By the grace of God, I want you to start changing your thought pattern. Tomorrow morning, get your eyes off the toaster or the baby bottles long enough to LOOK at him. Don’t you see the way his coat fits his shoulders? Look at his hands. Do you remember when just to look at his strong hands made your heart lift? Well, LOOK at him and remember. Then loose your tongue and tell him you love him. Will you ask the Lord to give you a sentimental, romantic, physical, in-love kind of love for your husband? He will do this.”
Let’s heed Shirley’s advice: If we have forgotten the things that first attracted us to our husbands, let’s change our thought pattern and start to remember them.
Now I am not just promoting the helpful counsel of a wise woman here. But isn’t her recommendation to wives in keeping with the counsel of holy Scripture: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”? I dare say it is.
Let’s humbly ask our heavenly Father to help us change our thought patterns and then watch what He will do. As we begin to replace sinful thoughts with biblical thinking, the Lord will help us grow in affectionate, loving feelings for our husbands once again.
Wives are called to love their husbands (Titus 2:3-5). Sad to say, I often become so preoccupied with the duties and responsibilities of marriage, home, and family, that I fail to nurture tenderness and passion in my relationship with my husband. I get so busy serving him that I overlook enjoying him.
I remember one day…
By the time my family stirred from their beds that morning, I had already been awake for several hours. Guests were arriving from out of town for the day, and I was busy cleaning the house. Absorbed in my preparations, I gave C.J. a brief but distracted kiss as he left for work.
When he called several hours later to inquire how I was doing, I kept my answers short. Many tasks still needed my attention, and I certainly didn’t have time to ask how his day was going.
After our guests arrived I took them to lunch. In between driving them around town, I managed to drop C.J.’s pants off at the cleaners, make a deposit at the bank, and fill up the car with gas. I did stop by C.J.’s office, but only to rush in to inform him of my schedule for the remainder of the afternoon. I left so quickly that he barely had time to give me a hug. I finally returned home from taking our guests to the airport around eight o’clock that evening and shortly after I went to bed.
It was some time later before I realized that I had once again failed to love my husband with a tender and passionate love. I had been remiss in expressing physical affection. I had ignored opportunities to communicate care and encouragement. I certainly was not enjoying my husband; I was too busy serving him.
I wish I could say this only happened once or twice. But there have, to my shame, been many other days when I have been more caught up with my to do list than my husband. That’s why I must continually remind myself: Scripture’s mandate to love our husbands involves far more than merely doing household chores. We are required to love them with nothing less than a passionate, tender, affectionate kind of love.
This kind of love commends the gospel. First John 4:19 says that we can love our husbands because God first loved us. As we submit to God’s command, He will show us how to love, and He will make it possible.
“God has wisely kept us in the dark concerning future events and reserved for himself the knowledge of them, that he may train us up in a dependence upon himself and a continued readiness for every event.” ~Matthew Henry
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” ~Proverbs 27:1
“He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.’” ~Acts 1:7
In this insightful conversation between Rachel Jankovic (author of Fit to Burst) and her father, Douglas Wilson, Rachel explains where she wants her children to “grow up as cookie eaters instead of in the house with a cookie maker.”
Good stuff here about how to avoid falling into the ditch of resenting excellence in the home or the other ditch of pursuing excellence in the home for your own glory:
“Making cookies I’m all in favor of, but if you are making them about yourself and then trying to force them down everybody else’s throats “because I’m so good at this,” it doesn’t feed your children. But if you are making them because you want your children to be the kind of people who grew up eating cookies [and because] I want my children to have lived in a home that is ordered and pleasant to be in…if you are doing it that direction, I think it will feed your children.”
In the six minutes it takes for you to bake a batch of cookies you can watch this helpful video. Worth your time.
A difficult marriage is a severe trial for many women, with pain that is ever present and deeply personal. We know that a single blog post cannot reach into the heart of a hurting marriage and untangle all of the unresolved conflicts or hurtful comments.
But there is hope and help for your marriage; and it is closer than you might think. As it says in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Remember that God sees and that he cares. As we wrote in our hopeful Valentine’s posts, God is with you and he is for you. He is near. You can have hope in God, even when your husband has utterly failed you. God is using this trial to draw you close to himself and to lead you to put your hope in him, where it can never be disappointed again. You will be able to say, with Charles Spurgeon: “I thank my God for every storm that has wrecked me on the Rock, Jesus Christ.”
Seek help from your local church. The church is the best hospital for a suffering marriage. It is where God has told us to go when we need spiritual and relational care. If you are in a gospel-preaching church, avail yourself of the biblical counsel of your pastor or godly saints, for yourself and also for your husband if he is willing. Be prepared: the church’s help may be slower than you want or the process messier than you expect. But if the counsel comes from Scripture, you can have hope that the Great Counselor is present and at work.
Read good books on suffering. In the intensity of marriage trials, you need consistent nourishment for your soul. Books by sufferers for sufferers are a vital means of perspective, encouragement, faith, and strength. Three of our favorites on suffering that we’ve read and re-read and handed out by the arm full are Beside Still Waters by Charles Spurgeon, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller (begin reading in section three), and A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper. Read little bits at a time. Read whenever you can.
May God grant you sustaining grace and may you experience joy, even in the midst of pain, as you look to the Savior who daily bears you up (Ps. 68:19).
“We [should not] make the mistake of thinking that marriage will provide the ultimate satisfaction for which we all hunger. To assume so would be to be guilty of blasphemy. Only God satisfies the hungry heart. Marriage is but one of the channels He uses to enable us to taste how deeply satisfying His thirst-quenching grace can be.” ~Sinclair B. Ferguson
My husband, Mike, is a gift that I don’t deserve. My kids have yet to fully grasp what an incredible dad they’ve been given. For one, they would never be clean if it wasn’t for him. True confessions: I really hate giving my kids baths. There, I said it. For some strange reason I prefer a clean bathroom and dirty children. But thankfully, the kids have Mike and whenever Dad is on duty, the kids get clean. This is one of many ways that Mike and I are different. And when it comes to clean children, I appreciate those differences. Other times, not so much: particularly when those differences mean that Mike doesn’t help out in the way that I want him to with the kids. For example, if Mike doesn’t seem to notice that I need help with the kids, or doesn’t help in the way I think he should, I can be tempted to judge his motives and assume he doesn’t care. I expect him to observe and understand the need that I have without my asking for help. But Mike doesn’t always realize that I need his help, or know what kind of help I’m expecting. This is not because he doesn’t want to be helpful, but because we are different. Elisabeth Elliot diagnoses my problem:
“Strange how easy it seems to be for some women to expect their husbands to be women, to act like women, to do what is expected of women. Instead of that they are men, they act like men, they do what is expected of men and thus they do the unexpected….It’s another of those simple facts which are not always so simple to remember.”
When I remember this simple fact, I can resist the temptation to judge Mike, and graciously ask for his help instead. And you know what? Whenever I ask Mike for help, he says “yes!” He actually does care. A lot. He is always so eager to jump in and do whatever I need.
So, instead of expecting Mike to be like me, I can choose to appreciate the fact that he’s not like me (and that our children get regularly bathed!). And the next time he doesn’t help the way I think he should help, I can stop and thank the Lord that he’s different from me. Then I can open my mouth, ask for help, and be grateful for a husband who so willingly says “yes!”