2006 at 1:40 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
It’s time to take a closer look at how to cultivate the wifely affection that we talked about yesterday. And who better to ask what makes a husband feel cherished than husbands?
Chapter two in Feminine Appeal contains responses from different men about how their wives show them this tender love. I have included some of them here to get you thinking…
“If I’m sick in bed, my wife prepares tea and meals for me without my asking and waits on me hand and foot. It’s as though her world stops so she can take care of me.”
“Each time Karin catches my eye in public with a smile and subtle wink, or greets me with a warm embrace upon my arrival home from work, or hangs on my arm when we go out on a date, the message comes through loud and clear: ‘I enjoy being with you and want you to know that I love you.’”
“With just a handful of exceptions, Lisa has written me a note in my lunch every single workday for over ten years.”
“My wife shows me affection through a constant stream of small surprises—showing up at work with my favorite Starbucks drink, making her famous brownies on no special occasion, arranging to borrow a friend’s convertible sports car for our anniversary. Not all have been extremely costly, but all have been very meaningful.”
“I am cherished by my wife through her fervent and faithful intercessory prayer for me. Her conviction is that no one can care for me like my heavenly Father.”
And here’s one more fun idea I recently came across. My mom was given this t-shirt as a gift and immediately began wearing it. After my husband saw it, he began dropping hints about how he might like me to have the same shirt. This Christmas, one of his gifts under the tree was this t-shirt which I proudly wear! (Although we can’t heartily endorse all the t-shirts on the website, you can purchase your very own “i love my husband” t-shirt here.)
So, we have no more excuses, ladies! There are plenty of ideas here for showing affection to our husband. Let’s get started today!
2006 at 2:09 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
The final topic in our mini-series on marriage is affection. When I asked my husband, Mike, if affection was among his “top three,” I received a resounding “oh definitely!” I suspected as much.
I find it interesting that Scripture highlights an affectionate love as a priority for us as wives. In Titus 2 we are commanded to love our husbands, and the word for love there is the Greek word, phileo.
My mom defines phileo for us in Feminine Appeal: “This word describes the love between very close friends. It is a tender, affectionate, passionate kind of love. It emphasizes enjoyment and respect in a relationship.”
It is also interesting to note (as my mom writes) that phileo is used instead of agape. You see,
“The Greek word agape refers to a self-sacrificing love. It’s a love that gives to others even if nothing is given back. Yet Paul didn’t use agape in describing the love we are to cultivate for our husbands. He chose phileo. In fact, in commands specifically related to wives, agape is never used. Now this does not mean we have been released from needing to extend this kind of love. [However] I believe women are generally weaker in exhibiting an affectionate love—thus the instructions given to us in Titus 2.
In fact, women will often continue to sacrifice and serve their husbands even if all tender feelings for them have subsided. I have met women like that! They obviously do not respect their husbands. They certainly do not have tender feelings for them. Yet that does not hinder these women from continuing to wash their husbands’ clothes, cook their meals, and clean the house for them.
How often I am guilty of this same thing! I frequently get bogged down with serving Mike, all the while neglecting one of the things that mean the most to him. For all you wives who can relate, we’ll try to inspire you tomorrow with some ideas for showering your husband with a tender love.
2006 at 10:53 am | by Nicole Whitacre
The following humble email came in yesterday:
I have appreciated the last few days about encouraging our husbands. I’ve been struggling with this for the entirety of my 10-month marriage, and I have really seen how my critical spirit tears my husband down. I would really love to begin encouraging him, but I’m not sure how. Are there any practical ways to do this?
There are many answers to this question, but I think that Ephesians 4:22-24 lays it out very simply: we are to “put off the old self” and “put on the new self.” By God’s grace we are to “put off” critical thoughts, which lead to unkind words and “put on” loving thoughts that lead to encouraging words. Meaningful encouragement begins with our thought life.
The apostle Paul understood the influence of people’s thoughts on their feelings and 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 worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8).
If we think Philippians 4 thoughts about our husbands, then encouraging words are sure to come out. I love what Shirley Rice has to say along these lines:
“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 that you love him” (emphasis mine).
So how do we begin to encourage our husbands? First, we “change our thought pattern” and then we tell him how much we love him!
Also…we did a little series back in July on speech: corrupting words versus encouraging words. You can read it here.
2006 at 2:44 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
I want to tag this little anecdote onto Mom’s post about encouraging rather than criticizing our husbands:
“On her golden wedding anniversary, my grandmother revealed the secret of her long and happy marriage. ‘On my wedding day, I decided to choose ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,’ she explained. A guest asked her to name some of the faults. ‘To tell the truth,’ she replied, ‘I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself, ‘Lucky for him that’s one of the ten.’” Roderick McFarlane, in Reader’s Digest, December, 1992.
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11
2006 at 11:49 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
As a way of introducing me to the attendees of the College Church women’s retreat last weekend, one of the event coordinators conducted an interview with me on the first evening. A particular question she asked was: If given the opportunity, who is one famous person with whom you’d like to have dinner?
My answer: Actually, I’ve already been blessed to have that experience. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to meet Elisabeth Elliot. A few years ago, she was the guest speaker for my church’s women’s retreat and my husband and I were privileged to have dinner with Elisabeth and her husband.
After my mom, Elisabeth Elliot is the woman who has most affected my life. I still remember as a child my mom reading Through Gates of Splendor to our family. This book left an indelible mark on my young mind. Since that time, I have read most of the other books that Elisabeth has authored, and listened to oodles of taped messages by her, as well as subscribed to her newsletter. As you probably can tell, I deeply admire this godly woman and the uncompromised message of biblical womanhood she has imparted through her writing and speaking.
All this to say, there’s a quote in one of her books—actually, she’s quoting her husband—that would serve us well in keeping with this whole topic of encouragement that we’ve been considering. Lars Gren (Elisabeth’s husband), presented this helpful challenge:
“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.”
Sometimes as wives, we are more inclined to concentrate on what our husbands are doing wrong rather than what they are doing right. We are more prone to criticize the twenty percent rather than encourage the eighty percent. That’s why this little quote has been such a great reminder to me as I endeavor to encourage my husband.
So, let’s apply this eighty/twenty rule in our marriage. Let’s enjoy all the wonderful qualities about our husband. For I daresay that Lars is right: when we enjoy and encourage our husbands, both of us will be happy!
(A little addendum to my College Church Women’s Retreat experience…The girl who wired me with the mic for each message came up to me after my interview and first message on Friday evening and said, “I wanted to introduce myself. My name is Elisabeth. I am Elisabeth Elliot’s granddaughter and namesake.” What a treat to meet this young woman!)
2006 at 11:55 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
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.”
2006 at 4:03 pm | by Kristin Chesemore
When an interviewer once asked Barbara Bush what advice she gave to her daughter-in-law Laura Bush, her answer was simple: “Don’t criticize your husband.” The elder Mrs. Bush recalled a remark she made about one of George Bush Sr.’s speeches: “I think you’re tired, and you mumbled your words.” The effect of this seemingly innocent comment? “When I criticized George, he remembered it for months afterwards.”
“So I really took her advice to heart,” Laura Bush said. “I knew there were plenty of other critics [of my husband] without me being one of them. Until one night we were driving into our driveway and he said, ‘Tell me the truth, how was my speech?’ And I said, ‘Well, it wasn’t that good.’ And with that, he drove into the garage wall!”
Although our president might be the only man to have driven into a garage wall upon hearing his wife’s criticism, the fact remains: our critical words can have a debilitating effect on our husbands! I imagine that many men, like the first President Bush, remember their wife’s critical words for months or even years.
My mom has observed that, of all the criticism our husbands may receive—from their boss or their family or even an enemy—a wife’s disparaging remarks can often do the most damage. To me, this is a sobering thought. I regret many a hasty, critical comment that I’ve made to Brian.
This doesn’t mean there is not a place for gentle correction at times. As wives, it is our responsibility to help our husbands in their pursuit of godliness. However, there is a big difference between gentle correction motivated out of a heart of love and sinful, unkind criticism.
However, as detrimental as our criticism is, our words of encouragement carry a unique, life-giving potential for our husbands. Recently, I sat down with my husband and asked him what he experiences when I encourage him. He said that my encouraging words sustain him, and help him to persevere in life and godliness. He said they help him to be aware of God’s grace at work in his life, changing him to be more like the Savior. And my encouragement makes him feel prized and appreciated. What a stunning effect my words can have!
Now, please don’t assume I’m the world’s most encouraging wife. Far from it! As Brian described the effect of my encouragement I was saddened by how little I do encourage him, but freshly inspired to make this a greater priority.
If your husband, like mine, would list “encouragement” in his “Top Three,” consider making small but specific changes. Seek to refrain from critical remarks, and instead, look for creative ways to express encouragement.
For example, put a sticky note somewhere telling him that you love him. Hide a card and his favorite candy in his bag when he goes on a business trip (this is my husband’s favorite). Or think about one character trait where he really shines, and tell him so!
Our husband may never be President of the United States, but when we refrain from criticism and cultivate encouragement, we can give them confidence in our love, inspire them to persevere, and point them to the Savior.
2006 at 4:03 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
The first topic in our mini-series—“Top Three”—is marital intimacy. By “top three,” we don’t mean a wife’s top three priorities as outlined in Scripture, but rather, the top three ways in which we can best fulfill the scriptural command to love our husbands—which will be different for everyone. But for my husband (and I suspect for many others), intimacy holds an unrivaled position at #1.
This topic of intimacy however, is only appropriate for married women to consider. Single women and young girls are, in the eloquent words of Solomon, not to “stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (S of S 2:7). For this reason, we are providing today’s post in a downloadable document and ask that unmarried women refrain from reading it. Married women, you can continue reading here.
2006 at 2:34 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
In my “study” of my husband (see Nicole’s post), I have found it handy to discover the three things that please him the most. This helps me in two ways. One, it enables me to do a quick evaluation in my mind as to how I’m doing in my marriage or what area I need to shore up. Secondly, it serves me in those “crazy busy” times when I am trying to juggle many different balls – and dropping some. Yet, if I can only keep a few balls in the air, I know which ones to choose.
Now, I know it is intimacy, encouragement and affection that top the “most pleasing to my husband” list. Consequently, if I give priority attention to these 3 areas, my husband’s happy, and often doesn’t even notice areas in which I might be doing poorly.
For instance, I’ve been doing a lousy job with meal preparation lately. My dinner meals have looked something like this: A rotisserie chicken from the grocery store with a couple of side dishes thrown together; hot dogs and coleslaw from KFC (my husband’s favorite coleslaw); peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and popcorn; frozen pizzas…. You get the picture. Pathetic, I know. However, I don’t think my husband has even paid attention (I just need to keep him from reading the blog today!).
What are the top three for your husband? Obviously, only you can figure that out. My guess, however, is that many husbands would list at least one of my husband’s top three in their top three as well. So, we’re going to do a little series on these three topics over the next few days. But in the meantime, why not quiz your husband over Valentine’s Day dinner? Find out what are three ways you can most please him.
2006 at 8:46 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
In previous posts, Mom and Kristin reminded us of the importance of prizing our husbands. How do we do this?
I think we can take a bit of wifely advice from two eighteenth-century women. Sarah Edwards (pictured left) was the wife of the uniquely brilliant theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards, and Eliza Pinckney was wife to Charles Pinckney, a prominent South Carolinian lawyer. Sarah, it has been said, made it her goal to “study to suit” her husband. Eliza echoed these sentiments when she resolved, “To make a good wife to my dear husband…to make it my study to please him.” Cokie Roberts, Founding Mothers (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2004), p. 7.
Study to suit, study to please. This mentality runs contrary to the modern idea of a wife as an independent creature who should be free to pursue her own ambitions. And it goes against my natural, selfish tendency—which is to study to suit none other than myself. However, we should all strive to imitate these women’s godly model.
What are words we can say to our husband that would most bless and encourage him? How can we shape our lives, our priorities, and schedules around serving them? What are little preferences—about our appearance, the home, our life-style—which we can adjust to their liking? What is one way we can change to please them most?
Whether we’ve been married for thirty years or thirty days, let’s not assume we have achieved wifely perfection. Let’s go back to school if you will. Let’s study to please our husbands. Let’s closely observe them, take notes, and even ask them: “how can I suit you better?”
The result: our husbands will feel, and know that they are the most important person on this earth to us. And we will follow in the godly footsteps of wives such as Sarah and Eliza.
2006 at 4:04 pm | by Kristin Chesemore
As a mom of three young, active boys, I could relate to Mom’s post yesterday and the temptation to make my role as a mother a priority over my role as a wife. This story of “Michelle” from Mom’s book, Feminine Appeal is a wonderful reminder to me of the importance, and the blessings of prizing my husband above all others!
Michelle poured her life and energy into her two small children. However, the demands and joys of motherhood crowded out her love for her husband. Friendships and service in the church even took precedence over her relationship with Peter. They didn’t have any major problems, but their marriage certainly wasn’t exciting anymore. Intimate communication and even daily expressions of affection had dwindled. After nine years of marriage, their relationship more closely resembled an amiable business partnership. Michelle was so busy raising her daughters, she didn’t even notice.
Michelle had ceased to “prize” her husband. There was a time when Peter was the most important person in her life, but over time her children and friends had become more significant.
Michelle was unaware that she was putting her children before her husband until several faithful friends from church brought it to her attention. “It was like waking up,” she said. “I was blind to it.” Michelle immediately began to make changes. She started by praying each day that God would give her greater love for Peter. But she didn’t stop there. She began to express affection in creative ways—through cards and letters. She took time to think about things that would bless Peter. She sought his opinion first instead of going to her friends. In short, she made her relationship with her husband her highest priority.
Her actions had a tangible effect. As a couple they began to pursue interests and activities that didn’t involve the children. “Things went so well,” Peter said, “that we began to look for more opportunities to steal away together and have fun and enjoy each other.” For their anniversary they spent a weekend alone. “The most enjoyable part was simply enjoying one another and our newfound romance. We had a blast!”
Let’s be wives like Michelle and do whatever it takes to prize our husbands. Let’s make every day Valentine’s Day!
2005 at 5:16 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Charisa wrote in a while ago to ask “Do you have any encouragement or practical advice for married women with no children who work full-time?”
She goes on to explain: “I have a strong desire to be home caring for my husband and having children. I want to have time to fold my laundry and vacuum my floors, volunteer, make meals for friends in need, babysit my niece, and spend time with other ladies. But I’m often too exhausted to do so. How do I practice biblical womanhood in a season where my husband has requested me to work?”
There is so much that could be said on this topic. I know that working full-time and caring for a home is intense. I’ve been there. For what they are worth, here are a few of my thoughts…
First of all, your desires to work in your home, care for a family, and serve others are wonderful. God gave you those desires. He is the one who appointed women to manage the home (1 Tim. 5:14, Titus 2:5). So it is good and right that you desire to be a home-worker. However, if your husband needs you to work outside the home for a season, then you can be reassured that by serving your husband, you are fulfilling your call to be his helper.
It is important that you both recognize that this decision to work full-time will come with limitations: you won’t be able to serve your husband in all the ways you desire right now. However, you are no less his helper than the woman who is at home full-time. We must all resist the temptation to compare ourselves with others. We must trust that God’s plan (and timing) for each of us is best—even if it isn’t what we had in mind.
Remember that God’s grace is available to you. He has called you to serve this particular man at this particular time in this particular way. That means he has particular grace available to enable you to complete this task. He has promised to equip you with everything you need for doing His will (Heb. 13:20-21).
Faith in God’s sovereignty and His strengthening grace will enable you to help your husband in humility, dependence, and joy. (In fact, we’re in the midst of a little series on these topics, which will continue tomorrow.)
And on a practical note, here are three strategies that served me:
1. Keep things simple. Look for ways to streamline your home responsibilities (shopping on the weekends, freezing meals, etc.). In humility, recognize that you won’t be able to do it all and accept the limitations that come with your season. This doesn’t mean you’re not being a good wife—you’re just serving your husband in a unique way!
2. Consistently re-evaluate. The home is the priority for us as women, and Steve and I always viewed my working full-time outside the home as less than ideal. Therefore, we periodically re-evaluated our financial situation to determine if I could work part-time or come home. And I would encourage you and your husband to consider when you might be able to be home full-time.
3. Seek counsel. Find other women who have worked (or are working) full-time and ask for practical (and spiritual) suggestions. Make sure your husband is informed about the challenges you face juggling both work and home responsibilities. Encourage your husband to get counsel from your pastor regarding this decision to have you work full-time and the implications for your marriage and home-life.
There is so much more that could be said. Most of all, I pray God will give you grace to say with the Psalmist: “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” (Psalm 16:6).
2005 at 12:45 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Yesterday’s Q & A ended with the question: "What does it look like for [a wife] to follow when her husband is not following the Lord?" We thought the best way to answer this part of the question was to illustrate with a story from a woman in our church named Carol.
Carol personified the modern career woman. Divorced and single, she was the only woman among eight men in a high-level sales position for a major American corporation. Her responsibilities included oversight of a ten million dollar annual sales budget. She was competent, aggressive, and in charge. In her words: "The world was right in front of me."
In her late thirties she met and fell in love with Howard, and after living together for a year, they decided to get married. By Carol’s estimation, she and Howard had a great relationship. Their marriage was "based on mutuality." They both worked and made good salaries. They shared equally in household chores. Howard, who helped run his family’s business, was supportive of Carol’s career. He always encouraged her to go after the sale, the bonus, or the raise. "We’re working together," he would cheer her on. "Go get ‘em Carol!"
But when Carol started attending our church with her neighbor Diane, she observed marriages that squarely collided with her worldly understanding. What’s more, she found herself curiously attracted to whatever it was that made these couples so different.
At our church, Carol saw husbands and wives who appeared happy to be there and happy to be there together. She perceived genuine love and affection in their marriages.
From the pulpit she heard biblical teaching on manhood and womanhood. She learned that men and women have equal value in the eyes of God, and she began to admire the divine wisdom of complementary roles in marriage.
As Carol visited one of the small groups and formed friendships with the women, she watched them willingly submit to their husbands’ leadership. She was struck by the peace and joy that this submission produced, and she was amazed by the way these women talked about their husbands—always with honor and respect. This attitude was in stark contrast to that of her other friends, who relished their men-bashing sessions.
Soon Carol found herself longing for a marriage like the ones she was observing. "I am a saleswoman," she explained, "and I appreciated a product that works. When I went to church, I saw hundreds of women whose lives were a testament to the product of submission. I saw that the product worked, and I wanted that for my marriage."
Carol eventually put her trust in Jesus Christ. But Carol’s husband, Howard, although happy for Carol, was more interested in his weekend recreation than in going to church. However, Carol grasped the truth of 1 Peter 3:1. She believed her godly conduct would affect Howard more than any words she might say.
Here’s the rest of Carol’s story in her words:
"When I gave my life to the Lord, it was a huge change. This was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. But I knew I could not force my experience on Howard. I couldn’t coerce him or make him change. This was so different from my sales background of taking control, manipulating, doing things in my own time and in my own way. I had to retrain myself and let the Lord work in Howard’s heart. I had to be very patient. And I knew change needed to start with me.
I saw God’s plan for us as wives. We are to be our husbands’ helpers. So I began to let Howard lead. I had to acquiesce and do things differently. I learned to have faith in God, and as I submitted to the Lord, submitting to my husband became much easier.
I began to say things like, ‘Howard, whatever you decide,’ or ‘You can make that decision.’ I stopped overreacting when we had challenges or putiing pressure on him to come up with the answers. I would just tell him that I would be praying about it, and I was fine with whatever happened.
While we used to share domestic responsibilities, I now took charge of the home. I tried to make it a warm haven for Howard. When he came home, instead of a list of chores waiting for him, he didn’t have anything to do. I found a lot of joy in taking care of the house and not burdening him with additional responsibilities.
There used to be bitterness and tension when Howard would go out fishing, golfing, or skiing. But now I began to freely release him. I knew I couldn’t just grit my teeth and say, ‘Have a good time’ and seethe as he went out the door. I really had to have joy in my heart that he was having a good time. And the more I released him to do the things he wanted to do, the more joy I had.
I also began loving on my husband. I would write him notes and leave them on the bathroom mirror or on the car windshield. I went overboard on loving on him! My non-Christian friends were like, ‘What is up with you, Carol, warming up his car in the morning and letting him go out all day on weekends?’
But I knew that I could turn to God whenever bitterness crept in. I also knew that I could call my friend Diane. ‘Carol,’ she would remind me, ‘trust in the Lord. Remember, be joyful.’ Diane would always refer me to Scripture. The women in my small group were also praying for me and setting an example for me to follow.
And every night I would pray. I wanted my husband to know the Lord. yes, there was anxiety. I was anxious fo the Lord to intervene. But I was learning to trust Him. I prayed and I prayed, and God heard."
Carol’s submissive conduct began to prompt change in Howard’s life:
"Howard didn’t say anything, but he started changing. He saw a peace in me, and he became more relaxed. And because I was releasing him, he became more apt to stay home or come home early from playing golf."
As Carol patiently waited, God softened Howard’s heart. he started visiting church with Carol, and almost four years later, he repented and believed. Carol now marvels at the transformation in Howard’s life:
"Today Howard loves and trusts in God, and he is very involved in the church. He is on the take-down crew, the sound crew, and leads worship for our small group. He is in a Bible study with one of the pastors. At home the change has also been dramatic. Howard has stepped up to the plate. He is the leader of our household. He makes decisions based on what is best for our family, and he is not afraid to do it. We truly serve a faithful God, and I am convinced that he hears our prayers. He will answer in His time."
Adapted from Feminine Appeal, (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2004), 135-146.
Carol’s story is not only a testimony of God’s grace in changing her heart and life, but of the power and influence of her submission on her husband’s life. Through prayer and patience, Carol was a daily demonstration to Howard of the beauty of God’s plan in marriage. And God was faithful to change Howard’s heart so that he is now leading in the home for the glory of God.
I trust Carol’s story is an encouragement to every woman with an unbelieving husband to persevere in obedience to God. May you ultimately trust the faithfulness and goodness of God for your husband and your marriage.
2005 at 5:16 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Q. What counsel would you have for a woman who wants to honor the Lord in the area of submission, but is unsure what it means to submit to a husband who isn’t a believer? How does she seek to cultivate respect and appreciation for him when he is not following the Lord? What does it look like for her to follow, when her husband is not following the Lord?
A. To attempt to answer this question, I want to draw from the chapter entitled “The Beauty of Submission” found in my book Feminine Appeal.
First let me preface my remarks with this important point: The edict for wives to submit (Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1-6) originated in the gracious heart of God. This command is not punishment for our sin. Neither is it optional or devised by man. Rather, it is God who determined that we are to voluntarily place ourselves under our husbands’ authority. He designed submission for His glory. (If you are interested in further study, I recommend Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem and published by Crossway Books. In my opinion this collection of essays is the most biblical and comprehensive resource available on the topic today.)
Not surprisingly, Scripture anticipates the very question our reader asked. The answer is found in 1 Peter 3:1-6:
“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives— (2) when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (3) Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing— (4) but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (5) For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, (6) as Sarah obey Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”
While this passage certainly offers hope to women in difficult marriages, verse one clearly stipulates that wives are to submit to their husbands “even if some do not obey the word.” Unless a moral issue is at stake, we are obliged by Scripture to submit to our husbands. As Elisabeth Elliot bluntly states, God’s Word does not “give any footnotes.”
Of course, we must never follow our husbands’ leadership into sin. For while their authority is genuine, it is by no means absolute. Our preeminent authority is God Himself, and at no time should our submission violate any of His expressed commands (Acts 5:29).
In addition, a wife—whether or not she is married to a believer—is called to respect her husband. In verse six of 1 Peter 3, we see that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, called him “lord.” The implication in this verse is clear: Wives are to show respect to their husbands. Ephesians 5:33 is even more straightforward: “Let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
A wife should vigilantly study her husband and perceive character traits worthy of respect. When she does, amazing results will often follow. Husbands will strive to be worthy of that respect.
So even if we do not feel particularly respectful; or though we may not think our husbands have done anything worthy of respect lately; or even if we reckon ourselves to be more capable, intelligent, or godly than our husbands—none of these are reasons to exempt us. Respect is a decision we make to obey God’s Word. He has set the husband as the head (1 Cor. 11:3), and we must honor that position regardless.
However, submission and respect are not static character qualities. Together, they are a powerful, dynamic force that brilliantly display the gospel. Look again at, 1 Peter 3:1: “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (emphasis mine). How remarkable to think that the virtue of submission can actually prompt change in an unbelieving husband and even be the means God uses to draw him to Himself!
As Elizabeth George eloquently expresses it: “Our submission to our husband—whether or not he is a Christian, whether or not he is obeying God—preaches a lovelier and more powerful sermon than our mouth ever could!”
Tomorrow, in order to answer the question: “What does it look like for [a wife] to follow, when her husband is not following the Lord?” we will illustrate with a story of a woman whose submission to her unbelieving husband was instrumental in his salvation.
2005 at 5:00 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Homemaking Holidays and Seasons Marriage
Attention wives. If you’re like me, you want to bless your husband, but at times you have trouble coming up with ideas. Here’s one that’s sure to be a hit—surprise your husband with a fall picnic. (And do it soon, before the weather gets too cold!)
If possible, check with your husband’s boss to see if he can leave a little early. Or, be ready to go (babysitter already prepped) when he walks in the door. Then whisk him away to a nearby park. Bring a blanket, some candles (in fire-safe containers), and a yummy dinner for two. For dessert, consider the “Caramel Apple Crisp To-Go” from the previous post.
But also make this the beginning of a new tradition. Purchase a book you would both enjoy reading together. Present it to your husband with the suggestion that you read it aloud to each other and try to finish the book by Christmas. Not only will this keep your picnic memory alive, but it may become a new tradition you enjoy for years to come.