I had just set the speed (not very fast) and the incline (not very high) on the treadmill at the Y and put my earbuds in to watch TV for the next twenty-four minutes (not very long), when the first segment of the news program I turned on to watch was introduced this way: “Sixty-nine percent of all divorces are initiated by women; that’s because women want to be in charge.”
This particular segment introduced the author of a new book that apparently was garnering some attention. I don’t recall the title of the book (my comprehension is severely impaired when I’m trying to keep pace with a moving treadmill!), and I only got a vague sense that the author seemed to be suggesting that it is destructive to a marriage when the wife tries to be in charge of her husband. However, the woman conducting the interview seemed so incensed by the author’s position that she barely let the author answer a question before she would interrupt with her own argumentative opinions. In fact, by the end of the interview, I was more aware of the position of the interviewer than that of the author.
While I never got to hear what the author actually meant by “women want to be in charge” and I don’t know if her divorce statistics are accurate, I do know that women wanting to control their husbands is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the origin of this desire goes all the way back to the beginning of time. One of the consequences of the Fall for women, it says in Genesis 3:16, is that their “desire shall be for [their] husband[s].” The form and context of the word desire actually have a negative connotation—an urge to manipulate, control, or have mastery over. So you see, every wife struggles with the desire to control her husband. I know I certainly do! Only by the transforming grace of God can we battle this sinful desire in our hearts.
All this got me thinking about how little our culture understands about the nobility and dignity of God’s commands to men and women in marriage. While it’s true that he calls wives to submit to their own husbands (not all men!) as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22), he also calls husbands to love their wives sacrificially as Christ loves the church. Tall orders, both! Notice that God never commands a husband to make his wife submit, nor the wife to make her husband love her sacrificially. These are commands each is to obey, as to the Lord.
What God commands, he enables; and what he commands he also blesses. The Bible doesn’t just say submit to your husband, period. Respect your husband, period. Love your husband and children, period.
Submitting to our husband makes us beautiful (1 Pet. 3:5).
Our submission displays the beauty of how the church submits to Christ (Eph. 5:22-24).
Respectful and pure conduct of a wife can win unbelieving husbands to the Lord (1 Pet. 3:1-2).
Loving our husband and children adorns the gospel (Tit. 2:4, 10).
Practicing the virtues of Proverbs 31 wins us praise (Pr. 31:28-31).
And given that marriage and motherhood entail a whole lot of serving, we will become great (Matt. 20:26).
When we strive and strain to control our husband, we will never get what we want. But Scripture promises that by God’s grace we can actually achieve greatness, win praise, and become beautiful through submission and sacrifice. Blessings, indeed!
2015 at 5:28 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
Recently I was watching a cooking show where the celebrity chef and her husband were celebrating a milestone anniversary. The cook shared her “recipe” (ha!) for a long-lasting, happy marriage: “I try to make him happy and he tries to make me happy and it works!”
As far as I know, this woman is not a Christian, but her advice reflects a biblical principle for marriage: husbands and wives are to love one another. They are to put each other’s interests above their own (Phil. 2:4). A husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25). A wife is to love her husband with a tender, affectionate love (Titus 2:4). In the chef’s words, I am to try to make him happy.
So often, in marriage, we get it the wrong way around, don’t we? We think more about all the ways our husbands can make us happy, or we dwell on how unhappy we are with our husbands.
“If only he would be more like ______________ I would be happy.”
“If only he would stop doing ______________I would be happy”
“If only he would notice ______________I would be happy”
“If only he would ask ______________ I would be happy”
“If only he would do ______________ I would be happy”
Our egalitarian culture gives us a sympathetic pat on the back. After all, the modern recipe for a happy marriage calls for self-interest as a main ingredient. But this is not the biblical way. Nor does it turn out very well. The more we try to put our own happiness first in our marriages, the more unhappy we become.
Or, to put it another way: If we really want our own happiness, and if we really want a happy marriage, we will put our husband’s happiness first. John Piper:
“Husbands and wives, recognize that in marriage you have become one flesh. If you live for your private pleasure at the expense of your spouse, you are living against yourself and destroying your joy. But if you devote yourself with all your heart to the holy joy of your spouse, you will also be living for your joy and making a marriage after the image of Christ and His church.”
My husband is a wonderful example of putting my happiness first. He calls it “studying his wife” and he has spent our entire marriage seeking to discover what makes me happy. He often encourages husbands not to assume that their wives will like what every other wife likes, but to study their own wives and learn what makes them happy.
I don’t have to think back far for an example of my husband trying to make me happy. While we were on a getaway two weekends ago, my husband noticed a sign for an afternoon tea. Now, I’m not even sure CJ has ever had a cup of tea in his life, much less attended an afternoon tea. But he knows afternoon tea is a favorite of mine, a long-standing tradition with my daughters, and now my granddaughters.
And so, because he wants to make me happy, he made a reservation. I wish you could have seen my husband, in a room of mostly women, trying to make a tea selection and handle a teacup. We ended up laughing our way through the afternoon. But he was happy because I was happy.
Are you unhappy in your marriage? Are you dissatisfied or disappointed with your husband? Instead of focusing on your unhappiness, or trying to make yourself happy first, try to make your husband happy. A happy husband makes for a happy wife, and a happy marriage brings glory to God. The chef, and more importantly, God’s Word is right: this recipe for a happy marriage works.
2015 at 9:01 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
Purveyors of chocolate, makers of plush teddies and tacky pajamas, and restaurateurs everywhere are enjoying the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, but this yearly celebration of romantic love sometimes produces more disappointments than diamond sales.
The holiday can be a painful reminder of unfulfilled hope for women who are single. For women in difficult marriages Valentine’s Day brings to the surface disappointed hopes. Even in a strong, happy marriage, women can experience deflated hope on Valentine’s Day.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12).
Valentine’s day buckles under the weight of high hopes, just as marriage does. It will never satisfy all our desires and longings, because God created marriage, not as a hope-fulfiller, but as a picture of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32).
Our disappointed hopes reveal that our hope has been misplaced. And God ordains our disappointments—big and small—in order that we may replace our hope on the one person who will never disappoint. Like the “holy women” of the past we are to hope in God (1 Pet. 3:5).
Hopes deferred aren’t a dead end, but a gracious redirect. They are a pointer to the “living hope:” our Savior, Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3). Hope in God enables us to joyfully face the future, whether or not we get married, whether or not we have a happy marriage, whether or not this holiday is all we hoped for.
If Valentine’s Day magnifies our misplaced hopes, we must put our hope in God (1 Pet. 3:5). We do this by focusing on all that God promises to be for us in Jesus Christ.
Our difficulties will be “unbearable” writes Martin Luther, “if you are uncertain that God is for you and with you.”
God is for you. He is working for your good on this Valentine’s Day.
Once he was against you. The full fury of his wrath was set against your sin. But he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the justifiable “against-ness” of God. Through the cross we have not only received forgiveness but all the “for-ness” of God in Christ Jesus.
Our hope in pain:
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
No uncertainty here. This I know. God is for me.
And God is with you.
“[F]or he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5-6)
He is not watching your pain from a distance, just out of sight. He is “near” (Ps. 34;18). He is near to comfort, near to encourage, near to strengthen, near to bless.
John Piper writes: “When you think he is farthest from you, or has even turned against you, the truth is that as you cling to him, he is laying foundation stones of greater happiness in your life.”
What may seem like a difficult holiday is really another “foundation stone of greater happiness,” lovingly laid by the Savior.
God is with us. He is for us. He is our hope this Valentine’s Day.
Underneath the cheap red cellophane of a hope-less Valentine’s Day lies a glorious opportunity: a chance to put our hope in God.
2014 at 8:48 am | by Janelle Bradshaw
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!”
2014 at 9:11 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” ~Timothy Keller
The other night, my girls and I met with a group of women for an informal question and answer time. One of the women asked about marriage: “How do you keep falling in love with your husband through the years?”
We talked about the eighty/twenty rule, and about looking for ways to show love to our husbands that are meaningful to them. Last week here on the blog we considered the importance of not being so busy serving them that we don’t cultivate affectionate love.
But one of the biggest love-killers in a marriage is sinful comparison.
We’ve all done it. You spend an evening with another couple and notice how sensitive or understanding the husband is toward his wife. You then consider how your husband is doing in the communication department and find him wanting.
Or you chat with your girlfriend and hear about ways her husband is leading in the home. My husband isn’t the leader I want him to be, you think.
Maybe you bump into that woman at church whose husband is successful in his career. If only your husband worked that hard and made that much money, then you’d be happier.
It doesn’t take much. A comment or a glance is all we need to decide that, in comparison with her husband, my husband has let me down. Sinful comparison curdles into dissatisfaction. And dissatisfaction sours our love and respect for our husbands. We no longer find joy in our marriage relationship.
Which is why we must resist it at the first. We must absolutely refuse to go down the road of sinful comparison, no matter how tempting it may be. Because one thing is sure: sinful comparison never leads anywhere good.
By avoiding sinful comparison, we aren’t saying that our husbands don’t have room to grow. And it doesn’t mean we don’t ever share concerns. But if our “concerns” sprout from sinful comparison, they are suspect. We cannot see our husbands strengths and weaknesses clearly when our own sinful comparison is in the way.
Instead of comparing our husbands to other men, let’s compare our hearts with God’s Word. Let’s take seriously the command to respect our husbands (Eph. 5:33). Taking the measure of our own hearts instead of comparing our husbands to others will cultivate humility and graciousness in the place of intolerance and discontent.
What’s more, we need to focus on what we appreciate about our husbands. Sure, he may not be as great a leader as that guy, or as good of a communicator as the next, but he is your husband, and he has strengths and qualities none of those other men possess. Focus on evidences of grace, and you will fall in love with your husband over and over again through the years.
2014 at 10:09 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
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.
2014 at 2:27 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
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.
Last week we talked about helping husbands and happy marriages. But what if a husband doesn’t help, even when you ask? What if you try to make your husband happy but your marriage is miserable?
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).
2014 at 10:05 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
“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