Before Caly’s birth happily distracted us, we were mid-way through a series we were calling “Top Three.” Our goal was to encourage wives to consider what were the “top three” ways they could please their husband. Although these are different for every man, we chose to focus on our husbands’ top three, one or more of which probably make many other husbands’ lists as well.
Nicole considered the importance of intimacy and Kristin the enriching effect of encouragement. We want to camp out at the encouragement site a little longer. And single women, we want you to hang with us, because whether it’s in your interactions with others or preparing for marriage, this topic is extremely relevant for you.
If you’re like me, you can be inspired by reading something on encouragement or watching another woman who exemplifies encouragement, but when we daily face the sins of others—our husbands, co-workers, family, roommates—that desire to encourage evaporates, leaving only resentment, anger, and then eventually discouragement. So how do we cultivate a genuine attitude of encouragement that withstands the rigors of everyday relationships?
I believe the foundation of encouragement is a growing awareness of our own sinfulness. As I wrote in Feminine Appeal:
“Like a pebble tossed into a pool of water, awareness of our sinfulness generates a marvelous ripple effect in our marriage. Here’s how it works: The more we understand the sin in our hearts, the more we appreciate the patience and mercy of God; and this, in turn, produces an attitude of humility and mercy toward our husbands.
My husband’s historical hero Charles Spurgeon once said:
‘He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.’
When we see our husbands as sinner like ourselves—sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy—it strips away any intolerant, critical, or demanding attitude we may be tempted to have. Every husband has areas where he needs to change and grow, but so do we!
Although we both are sinners, God is using our marriage to help us grow in godliness. In fact, our husbands’ particular sins, unique weaknesses, and even their idiosyncrasies are tailor-made for us. Likewise, our sins and weaknesses are custom-designed for them. Both husbands and wives will become more Christlike by having to deal with each other’s sins and deficiencies.”
Do you see how this works? If we are more critical than encouraging, more dissatisfied than grateful toward our husband, that is a sure sign of self-righteousness. And encouragement doesn’t grow in this proud environment. If we want to become an encourager, the first step is to ‘remember we are but dust.’ When we are overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s mercy toward us, it will be easy to encourage our husbands.
Finally, a word to single women, also from Feminine Appeal:
“If you are single, I would encourage you to study these truths now. They will serve you as you interact with single men, encourage your married friends, and prepare for our future—should God call you to marriage. Humility born of the awareness of our sinful tendencies is an essential character quality in mature Christians. As single women you should cultivate this humility and look for it in any man who might pursue you for marriage.”