Mailbag, Marriage

The Mailbag: Masks in church- Do I submit to my husband or my pastor?

 

Help! I feel torn between two biblical commands, and I don’t know what to do. Our church has started meeting together in person again. The leadership has strongly requested that everyone wear masks. E-mails have been sent out about it, there are signs all over the church requesting that people wear masks, etc., and though it has been mentioned a few times that they will not ask anyone to leave if he/she isn’t wearing a mask, it’s pretty obvious the powers that be want everybody wearing masks.

My husband is very anti-mask. Although he is OK with wearing them where required by law, it’s not legally required in churches where we live, and he doesn’t want me to wear a mask in church. He has explained his reasons to me for his position. I think they are wise, valid reasons, and I actually agree with him. In addition to his reasons, I struggle against anxiety attacks and claustrophobia, which masks make worse, and mentally fending off these attacks makes it extremely difficult for me to focus on anything else, like worship or the sermon.

I believe the Bible is clear that I’m to submit to my husband. However, the Bible is also clear that we’re to submit to our pastors/leaders. And what about dying to self and putting the wants/needs of others (such as my fellow church members who are fearful of catching COVID) first? I’m so confused. What should I do?

This is a really great question. It’s so encouraging to me that you want to do the godly thing in this situation.

But before I begin answering your excellent question, unfortunately, in the zeitgeist we live in that’s even affecting Christians, I’ve got to fence this discussion for all of my readers with two parameters:

1. There will be no pro-/anti- mask arguing in the comments section of this article nor on any of my social media platforms, nor will I read or answer any e-mails/private messages arguing your position on masks. Any such e-mails, messages, or comments will be deleted. The way I’ve seen many professing Christians – on both sides of the issue, mind you – comporting themselves online about masks, is, frankly, appalling, and I refuse to lend my platforms to that kind of behavior.

2. This article will deal with the biblical topic of submission in marriage. Every time I address this issue somebody brings up the “But what about abuse?” argument as if the sin and exception of abuse negates the biblical rule of submission. (Very much like when the topic of abortion comes up and people automatically bring out the “But what about rape/incest?” argument.) It doesn’t. Abuse is a sin and a separate issue from submission that must be dealt with in a biblical way. Abuse has nothing to do with biblical submission even though some abusers evilly (and abusively) try to connect the two. At any rate, abuse is not today’s topic. Today’s topic is about a woman in a healthy Christian marriage who wants to obey our Lord’s command to all Christian wives in non-abusive marriages that we are to submit to our husbands. If you’d like me to address the topic of abuse in a future edition of The Mailbag, please send in your question. And if you’re being abused, get somewhere safe immediately, and reach out to your pastor, church, or a good Christian friend for help.

 

Any Christian who studies her Bible has, no doubt, surmised that submission to authority – to God, to our husbands, to our pastors, to our governmental officials, to our employers, and children to their parents – is a big deal to God because He discusses it and instructs us on it so often in Scripture. But how do we juggle our obedience to all of those authorities, especially when obedience to one might conflict with obedience to another?

Well, the first thing we have to recognize is that there’s a hierarchy of authority in our lives. The authorities in our lives are not all on an equal plane. Some of them outrank others.

God outranks everybody. We obey Him regardless of what any mere human might say about it, and regardless of what it might cost us. Peter may have stuck his foot in his mouth a lot, but he hit it right on the nose when he told his “pastor” (the high priest), who was ordering the apostles to disobey God’s command: “We must obey God rather than men.

But what about your dilemma? You want to obey God by obeying both His command to submit to your husband and His command to submit to your pastoral leadership. Neither your husband nor your pastor is asking you to disobey God. But submitting to one would mean not submitting to the other. It’s a Catch-22, right?

Not really, because for a married woman, her husband outranks her pastor in the chain of command of authority in her life. I think we probably all get this, intuitively, but, if it helps, consider the following:

• God established the family long before He established the church. It was the very first structure of authority He set up as a unit, and is the foundation of human society and relationships.

• The assemblage of God’s people – both Old Testament (Israel) and New (the church) – is contingent upon the family in several regards: God is our Father – we are His children, Christ is the bridegroom – the church is the bride, the twelve tribes of Israel were literal family lines and their elders were heads of clans and families, only men from certain family lines could serve as priests and Levites, a pastor must be the husband of one wife and rule his home and children well or he is disqualified from the pastorate, wives are to consult their husbands at home rather than disrupt a worship service with questions, and so on. The family isn’t contingent on the church the way the church is contingent on the family.

• The bond and vow of marriage outranks your less binding relationship to your pastor and church. When you married your husband, you made a vow before God and man to be loyally and faithfully bound to him for the rest of your (or his) natural life. When you consummated your marriage, you entered into a one flesh union with your husband. That’s a much more profound commitment to your husband than the commitment you have to your pastor and church.This is why the act of pursuing a divorce is nearly always a sin, while, comparatively, the act of leaving a particular local church (though you might have sinful reasons for doing so) is not.

• And as far as loving your neighbor or putting others’ wants and needs ahead of your own – your husband is your nearest neighbor. What about loving him? What about dying to self for him? It is far more important, both because of the depth of your commitment to him, and for practical reasons of familial peace under your own roof, that his wants and needs outweigh the wants and needs of Miss Tilly in the third pew.

So, what does this mean for your mask situation? It means you need to submit to your husband. Certainly, a godly husband would be willing to talk with you about his reasons for his decision and discuss your convictions about submitting to your church’s leadership. Perhaps your husband would think it’s a good idea for him (or both of you) to discuss the matter with your pastor. One godly husband might then decide to let you decide for yourself what to do regarding masking at church. Another godly husband might, after prayerfully receiving your input, still decide it is wisest for his family not to wear masks. You respectfully give your input and then back off, praying for him as he makes the decision he believes will most honor God and for which he will have to answer to God. And when he makes that decision, you graciously abide by it.

And my guess would be that if you have a godly, doctrinally sound pastor, he would tell you basically the same thing. I can’t imagine a good pastor telling a wife who’s seeking to obey Scripture that she needs to submit to him over submitting to her husband.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Marriage

27 Things I’ve Learned in 27 Years of Marriage

Sunday is my 27th wedding anniversary. My husband and I married on a lovely Tuesday evening between Christmas and New Years in a church bedecked with pink poinsettias. And six kids, several houses, and a few dogs later, here we still are, plugging away at this “‘til death do us part” thing. There have been a lot of “for better” times, and some “for worse” times. Days when we celebrated “for richer” and years when we survived “for poorer.” A few “in sickness” moments, but, praise God, we’ve mostly lived “in health.”

There’s a lot I didn’t know about living with a completely different person when I first said “I do,” but here are some things I’ve learned both in my own marriage, and from friends’ marriages, over the last twenty-seven years.

1. This, too, shall pass.

It’s easy to look at one fight, one difficult time, and think, in the moment, “That’s it. This marriage is over,” but after a while, you realize this is just one tree in the forest of your marriage. At some point, things will calm down and you’ll be on the other side of it. Marriage is a cross country marathon, not a sprint on smooth pavement. Keep going.

2. “Not tonight, Dear…”

Every couple has to come to their own unique mutual agreement and understanding of each spouse’s wants and needs when it comes to sex. Coercion and manipulation are neither appropriate nor biblical, but neither is depriving each other. There are going to be times when you’re not in the mood for sex but your husband is. If lack of “the mood” is the only thing causing you to say no, say yes anyway, and do it joyfully and enthusiastically. Think of it this way- your husband probably isn’t always “in the mood” to go to work or take out the trash or help with the kids, but you want him to do those things anyway, with a happy heart, because he loves you. Marriage is about serving each other in all aspects of life, whether you’re in the mood at the moment or not.

3. Submit

Biblical submission is not, as secular feminists might have you believe, for weak women, but for strong, godly women. It takes much more strength to exercise self control and obey God’s word than to just do and say whatever you feel like doing and saying. Take it from a headstrong, opinionated gal who thinks she’s always right- it’s not easy, but biblical submission will make your marriage better, healthier, and more Christ-centered, and will grow you to be more like Jesus.

4. Some things are better left unsaid.

You don’t have to verbalize every thought that comes into your mind, especially when those thoughts are critical, whiny, argumentative, “I told you so,” constantly corrective, complaining, cutting, or in any way unchristlike. Sometimes your most shining moment will be keeping your mouth shut.

5. Forgive quickly

You won’t find a passage of Scripture that says it’s OK to hold a grudge or dangle your forgiveness over your husband’s head until he has groveled sufficiently. The Bible says we are to be kind and tenderhearted and to forgive the way Christ forgave us. Do you forgive your husband the way Christ forgives you?

6. Put your husband first.

After your relationship with Christ, your first love, loyalty, service, confidentiality, and time belong to your husband. Not your children, and not your mother, sister, or best friend. Your husband comes first.

7. Don’t undermine your husband with the kids.

God gives your husband the ultimate responsibility for and authority over your family. While you and he can and should privately discuss how to handle disciplinary issues with the children and other family situations which arise, he makes the final decision. Do not collude with the children, argue with your husband in front of them about his decisions, keep secrets from your husband, or otherwise attempt to circumvent his directives. Support him, submit to him, and present a united front.

8. Affirm your husband privately and publicly.

Women can practically turn complaining about their husbands into a competitive sport. Don’t go there. Would you like for your husband to sit around with his friends and complain about you? Don’t do it in a braggadocious way, but, as opportunities arise, let others hear you affirming your husband and thanking God for him. And be sure you do so when it’s just the two of you, too.

9. Don’t publicly shame your husband.

As Christians, we should always – privately and publicly – behave in a way that honors God. As married women that godly behavior will also honor our husbands. Don’t ever berate or belittle your husband in front of others (or in private, either), including on social media. Don’t behave in public in ways that would embarrass him. When others think about your relationship with your husband, you want them to think, “Wow, he’s really blessed!” not “Poor guy.”

10. Divorce is not an option.

This is the mindset with which couples should both enter marriage and handle normal¹ fights and difficulties. Do not bring the “D-word” out during an argument. God says marriage is for life. It is not disposable.

11. Pray for your husband and for yourself as his wife.

This is probably the most powerful thing you can do for your husband and your marriage. Pray for your husband’s walk with the Lord, situations he’s facing at work, weaknesses he’s struggling with. Pray that God will help you to be a godly wife, and that He will show you how best to support and encourage your husband. Want your husband to change in some way? Don’t nag, pray for him, and pray that God will help you to respond to your husband in a Christlike way.

12. You were always on my mind…

Don’t those little acts of thoughtfulness from your husband – unexpected flowers, doing the dishes, a love note – brighten your day and deepen your love for him? Your husband feels the same way. Cook his favorite meal, send him an occasional text letting him know you’re thinking about him, wear the lingerie he likes. Make him feel special and loved.

13. Extend grace.

Your husband is going to mess up. Often. So are you. Don’t turn his every mistake and sin into World War III. The Bible tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. Extend the same love and grace to him in his offenses that you want him to extend to you in yours.

14. He’s your husband, not your child.

Don’t speak condescendingly to your husband, order him around, or otherwise treat him like he’s one of your children. He’s not. Show him the respect, support, and love a godly wife is to give her husband.

15. Be on the same page, theologically, before marriage.

The Bible is clear that we are not to partner with unbelievers, and the most painful consequences for disobeying this command are often seen in marriages in which a Christian marries an non-Christian. But even if you both profess faith in Christ, it’s important to be in agreement on things like which denomination or church you’ll join and why, what the Bible says about salvation, men’s and women’s roles in marriage and the church, parenting, giving offerings, regular attendance, and other theological issues.

16. Admit when you’re wrong and ask forgiveness.

If you’ve sinned against your husband, crucify that pride, admit it, and ask him to forgive you. And don’t forget to repent and seek God’s forgiveness as well.

17. You’re not your husband’s Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict your husband of his sin, not yours. Certainly the two of you should talk things out, and it’s OK to kindly and lovingly discuss how his sin affects you, but no amount of preaching at him or castigating him with Scripture will change your husband’s heart, so don’t try. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

18. God made you the helper, not your husband.

Every family operates differently when it comes to careers, childrearing, and household chores. Couples must reach a mutual agreement about who will carry out which tasks, and should help each other whenever the need arises. That being said, biblically speaking, God has placed wives in the role of helping their husbands, not the other way around. Your husband should not have to work all day and then come home, make supper, clean the house, and raise the children while you pursue hobbies or leisure activities. You both have responsibilities to take care of. Make sure you’re helping him take care of his by taking care of yours.

19. Thank God for your husband.

Don’t forget to thank God for blessing you with your husband. Especially when what you really want to do is hit him with the car. Pour your heart out to God about your anger, sure, but then start thanking God for all of your husband’s good qualities. You might be surprised at the way it changes your heart, your frame of mind, and your ability to forgive.

20. Take joy in the simple things.

Marriage is not a Hallmark movie, a jewelry store commercial, or a Carnival Cruise brochure. It’s just not, so don’t expect it to be. Enjoy just spending time talking, working on a project together, or doing chores side by side. Sometimes it’s not “He went to Jared,” but “We went grocery shopping,” that can bring the most joy.

21. Your husband can’t read your mind.

Your husband wants to do things for you and give you gifts that please you. If he asks which restaurant you want to go to, don’t say “I don’t care” if you do. Tell him. Don’t tell him whatever he gets you for your birthday will be fine and then pout because he didn’t get the gift your heart was set on. If he does something that bothers you, discuss it with him. Don’t make reading your mind a test of your husband’s love for you.

22. Don’t go behind your husband’s back.

Unless what you want is a husband who feels betrayed and doesn’t trust you. If he makes a decision, abide by it. If he asks you not to do something, don’t. If you think he’s wrong, discuss it with him privately, kindly, and lovingly. But, unless it conflicts with Scripture in some way, respect, support, and submit to your husband’s leadership and decisions.

23. Another man is not the answer.

You might go through some rocky times in your marriage. Confiding in or seeking comfort from another man will only make things worse or irreparable. Don’t be the foolish woman Proverbs 14:1 speaks of who “tears her house down with her own hands.” Another man is the source of more problems, not the fix for your current problems.

24. Help Him the way He needs to be helped

Your role in marriage is to be your husband’s helper. But sometimes your idea of how to help will be different from his idea of what’s helpful. Maybe you think his socks should be sorted by color while he prefers them organized categorically (dress socks, atheletic socks, etc.) Whenever possible, help your husband in the way he prefers to be helped, not the way you prefer to help him.

25. Your Husband is a valuable resource

God has given you a unique human being with his own background, perspective, education, experiences, and thought processes as a live-in resource. Take advantage of that gift! Trying to figure out how to handle a situation at work or at church? Wondering if you should move the couch across the living room or underneath the window? Attempting to master the art of grilling? Ask your husband for his advice or input. The old saying, “Two heads are better than one,” is true, and he might just wow you with a skill, talent or knowledge you didn’t know he had!

26. Perfection is an Unrealistic expectation

Social media, rom-coms, romance novels, other couples at church – sometimes it seems like everyone has the perfect life, the perfect marriage, the perfect husband. Don’t buy into that lie. Movies and books can afford to idealize – they’re fiction. And the real life husbands and couples you see in your newsfeed and on Sunday morning? Sure they might be doing well in an area you’re struggling with, but they’ve got problems in other areas. There’s no such thing as a perfect husband or marriage, so don’t compare yours to someone else’s. Be thankful for the strengths your husband has and the healthy aspects of your marriage, and pray about or work on those aspects that need godly growth.

27. You Don’t complete me

Sure, it was a great romantic line in Jerry Maguire, but if you’re putting the burden of “You complete me,” on your husband, you’re putting it in the wrong place. The only place we can find our completeness, our identity, our contentment, is in Christ. Your husband will let you down many times during your marriage (just like you will let him down) because he is an imperfect, sinful human being. Christ will never let you down. Don’t saddle your husband with the impossible to carry burden of your contentment.

 

God has been so gracious to my husband and me over the last two decades. I have often failed at many of the things on this list, while God has protected us from the others. I could probably list at least twenty-seven more things, but it all boils down to this: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ, and love your husband the way you want him to love you. That’s the number one thing I’ve learned in all these years, and I’m so grateful to God for sanctifying me through my marriage and blessing me with my dear husband.

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¹We can all think of exceptions and extraordinary circumstances to all of these points. This article pertains to generally healthy Christian marriages.
Marriage, Sanctification, Christian women

Throwback Thursday ~ What Your Godly Wife Wants You to Know About Leading Her Spiritually – An Open Letter to My Brothers

Originally published August 17, 2018

My Brother in Christ –

I received an e-mail from your dear wife today.

She’s struggling, and she’s not quite sure how to communicate that struggle to you. She has tried to explain it to you in the past, but you either haven’t listened or haven’t done anything about it. And now she feels that if she brings it up again she’ll just make things worse. Or you’ve told her to stop nagging you. Or stop preaching at you.

She’s not nagging you or preaching at you. That’s not her heart. She’s trying to tell you she needs something from you that only you can provide and that God says you should be providing. And while she’s praying fervently that God would move upon your heart, there should also be the understanding between husband and wife that if one of you needs something all you have to do is ask your spouse, and your spouse will do everything possible to provide it.

But you’re not doing that. And that’s why, in desperation, your wife wrote to me asking me what to do. And that’s why I’m writing to you to plead with you on her behalf…

Your wife needs you to grow up, spiritually, and lead your family biblically.

She has told me about the multiple, blatant examples of false doctrine in your church and how she wants the family to leave and find a doctrinally sound church. But you refuse because you like it there or you think objecting to false doctrine creates disunity in the church.

…or…

She has told me you refuse to stand up for what is right and godly at church, at work, with your friends, or with family members because it’s easier and you’re afraid of rocking the boat.

…or…

She has told me you won’t lead her and the children in prayer and the study of God’s Word because you don’t see it as important, or you don’t know how, or you’d rather watch TV.

…or…

She has told me how you frequently blow off attending church to play golf, fish, hunt, or pursue other hobbies.

…or…

She has told me that you use worldly standards for making decisions for the family rather than praying, searching the Scriptures, and using biblical wisdom.

…or…

She has told me that you put up a good Christian front at church, but at home, you’re foul-mouthed or lazy or greedy or lustful or dishonest or refuse to discipline the children.

Or…or…or…

I’ve heard so many of these types of scenarios of husbands neglecting or refusing to lead you’d think there was an epidemic of spiritual immaturity among Christian men. Perhaps there is.

Maybe it’s the result of the decades-long cultural attack on masculinity by virulent feminism. Maybe it’s a consequence of feel good, seeker-driven silliness, fun fun fun “church”. Finding the root cause could be an interesting academic exercise, but you don’t begin the arson investigation while your house is still burning. You put out the fire before it spreads. And you don’t ignore or get angry with the person pointing out the flames.

And that’s what’s at issue here. Let me be crystal clear about something: your wife isn’t upset with you for trying, failing, and having to try again. She’s upset with you for not trying. It’s not that you’re using the wrong color hose or that it takes you a minute to remember where the fire extinguisher is, it’s that you’re sitting in a lawn chair in the front yard denying that the house is on fire.

Your wife doesn’t expect you to lead your family perfectly. She wants you to want to and try to. And, though you might be afraid to try because you think you’ll mess up and your wife will see you as a failure, you need to know that a wife who is godly enough to want her husband to be the spiritual leader of her home sees your attempts and desires to lead as success – even if the results aren’t perfect. You’re judging yourself on the outcome. She’s valuing your heart and your trajectory in the process.

Because when you try, it says something to her. It says, “I love God enough to obey Him, even when it’s hard or I don’t feel like it.” and “I love my wife enough to take the burden of leadership off of her and bear it myself.”

And when you don’t try, that communicates something too: “I care more about myself and what I want to do than caring for my wife’s needs and being obedient to what God has called me to do.”

I think a lot of husbands don’t realize what an extremely difficult position they put their godly wives in when they abdicate biblical leadership. It nearly always backs her into a corner of pitting obedience to God against submission to, and peace with, her sinning husband.

❥ My husband refuses to leave this apostate church, but my children and I are being fed poison every week. Do I stay at this church with him or leave against his wishes?

❥ My husband won’t lead us in the study of God’s Word. Our children need to be taught the Scriptures. Do I step in even though it’s his responsibility and my taking over might further enable his sin?

❥ My husband makes decisions for our family based on pragmatism, even if those decisions conflict with Scripture. Should I take over family decision-making using biblical principles?

Brother, when you refuse to lead biblically, you’re sinning twice. First, by disobedience to God. Second, by becoming a stumbling block to your wife. No wife of a Christian husband should ever be put in the position of having to decide, “We must obey God rather than men.” It creates a tremendous amount of stress, anxiety, instability, and uncertainty for her when you create a void of leadership by your disobedience.

I can’t build you into a spiritually mature, godly husband. Neither can your wife. And it’s not my job to instruct you in the Scriptures, either. But if, by seeing things from your wife’s perspective, the Holy Spirit is now convicting you that you haven’t been leading your family in a godly way, may I just throw out a few points you might decide to consider as you pray and study God’s Word in this area?

❥ Listen to your wife. Really listen. Ask her what she needs from you, generally, as the spiritual leader of your home, as well as in specific situations as they arise. Ask if she knows of any particular Scriptures that would be helpful to you as you study and pray over various circumstances. Ask for her input in solving problems and making decisions.

❥ Commit to praying and studying God’s Word as part of your daily schedule. Ask God to grow you in maturity and leadership. He is the only One who can change and strengthen your heart.

❥ If you think you might be spiritually immature, put everything frivolous aside, and make growing up your top priority. Pour yourself into the study of the Word, prayer, and serving and nurturing your wife and children. 

❥ Make sure you’re in a doctrinally sound church (there are lots of tools to help you at the “Searching for a new church?” tab at the top of this page) and get plugged in. Lead your family in faithful attendance at worship and Sunday School. Take every opportunity to sit under solid preaching and teaching. Set a godly example by finding a place of service and committing to it wholeheartedly. 

❥ Surround yourself with godly men in your church who will sharpen you, teach you, and disciple you.

❥ Consider setting up an appointment with your pastor for advice, pointers, and good resources on growing in spiritual maturity and leading your family.

❥ Consume biblical media during the week. Ask those godly men at your church for suggestions of theologically meaty books and blogs to read and sermons and podcasts to listen to. (Until you get a chance to ask them, there are some suggestions of blogs and podcasts – most of them by men – in the left sidebar of this page, and some great pastors and authors here, here, and here.)

I hope pulling back the curtain on the female perspective can serve as a helpful tool in your toolbox that you can use as you pursue Christ and seek to grow in spiritual maturity and biblical leadership. Brother, with God’s help and the empowering grace of the Holy Spirit, you can do this – so be encouraged, and don’t be afraid to try!

I’m rooting for you, and I know your wife is, too.

Marriage

Throwback Thursday ~ 9 Ways NOT to Fight with Your Husband

Originally published October 21, 2016

9-not-fight-husband

My twenty-fourth wedding anniversary is coming up in December. I am so thankful to God for bringing my husband into my life. He has been such a blessing to me. I adore Scott…most of the time. Scott and I are both very passionate people. That’s a polite way of saying we’re both prone to being hot-headed and overly emotional at times. And that’s sort of a secular way of saying we have both given in to sin and selfishness with each other over the years. We’ve had our share of arguments, and if you’re married, you probably have, too.

The Bible says:

Be angry, and do not sin. Psalm 4:4a

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

There is a godly way to iron out our differences in marriage. We pray for each other and about whatever it is we’re disagreeing about. We die to self, put the other person first, and act in humility and love. We exercise self control and refuse to be ruled by our emotions. Husbands love their wives and lead with a self-sacrificing heart, and, wives, we submit to and respect our husbands’ God-given leadership.

And then there are the ungodly ways to handle problems and arguments in our marriages. Younger ladies, as someone who has learned many of these things the hard way, allow me to Titus 2 you for a few moments. Here are nine ways not to fight with your husband*:

1. Failure to leave and cleave
Your utmost loyalty is to your husband. When you and your husband have a disagreement, it is for the two of you to work out together. Do not run back to Mommy and Daddy (or your sister, best friend, etc.) and complain about your husband in hopes that they will take your side against him and fight your battles for you. That is the mark of a child, not a grown woman. (And, older moms, if your adult daughter attempts to do this with you, teach her that this is not the godly way to handle disagreements. Do not get involved. Send her back home to work things out with her husband.)

2. Don’t negatively compare your husband to other men.
“You’re just like your mother/father!” “My father would never treat me like this!” “My ex-husband/former boyfriend/deceased spouse always _______. Why don’t you?” “Pastor Bob/your friend Joe would never treat his wife this way!” The fact of the matter is, your husband was created in the image of God as a unique individual. There is no comparison to others.

3. Don’t use Scripture as a weapon.
Yes, the Bible is a two-edged sword. No, that doesn’t mean to slice your husband to pieces with it. In the same way he doesn’t get to yell “You’re not being submissive!” (even though it may be true) as a way to win an argument, you don’t get to take the verses that tell husbands how to act and use them to belittle him. The best way you can use Scripture in the middle of an argument is to remember what it says to you about obedience to Christ, humility, patience, and extending grace, and obey it.

4. Don’t use sex as a weapon or a bribe.
God created sex as a good gift for husbands and wives to enjoy. He tells us we are to give each other our right to intimacy and that we are not to deprive each other except temporarily, by agreement, and for the purpose of devoting ourselves to prayer. Do not withhold sex as a way to punish your husband or hold it over his head as a way to get him to do what you want him to do.

5. No personal attacks
Would you want your husband to call you ugly, a cow, a bad wife, a lousy mother? Of course not. Don’t call him lazy, weak, stupid, fat, etc.

6. Don’t emasculate him.
Do not attack your husband’s manhood. Berating him for his job performance, belittling him for not being as successful you think he should be (or as someone else is), throwing in his face how little money he makes, mocking his performance in the bedroom, denigrating him as a mama’s boy, making his kowtowing to you a test of his manhood, and saying things like, “A real man wouldn’t ____!”, are all great ways to tear down your house with your own hands. These kinds of remarks are some of the most hurtful things you can say to your husband. They make him feel the way you would feel if he said you were old, fat, and ugly and he was going to find someone else who was younger and beautiful. These are soul crushing things to say, and if you’re in the habit of saying them, your marriage isn’t going to last long. Stop.

7. Don’t be manipulative, passive aggressive, or play other emotional games.
No pouting, no slamming things around, no saying “NOTHING!” or “I’M FINE!” when he asks what’s wrong, no expecting him to read your mind and getting mad if he doesn’t, no making his giving in a test of his love for you, no holding things over his head, no maxing out the credit cards, flirting with other men, or sabotaging his work, hobbies, or relationships as a way to get back at him. None of these are godly ways to relate to anyone, and especially not to your husband. “The heart of her husband trusts in her,” the Bible says, “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” Throughout God’s word, we’re admonished to lovingly speak the truth with one another, not hide, shade, twist, or withhold things. If you’re playing any of these emotional games with your husband you’re being dishonest, unkind, unloving, and malicious. 

8. NEVER threaten divorce.
For Christians, divorce is never a solution to regular marital spats. You have taken a vow before God to stick with your husband through the bad times. Christ has said He will never leave you nor forsake you despite the many times you’ve sinned against him. How, then, could you threaten to leave your husband for sinning against you? The only reason for such a threat is to hurt or scare the man you have pledged to love and honor for the rest of your life. That is not how a woman of God behaves.

9. Leave the past behind.
Don’t throw past sin in your husband’s face. When God forgives us, He puts that sin behind us. The Bible tells us we’re to forgive others the same way, and that we’re not to harbor a record of wrongdoing against others. Love and forgive your husband the way Christ has loved and forgiven you.

But what if he doesn’t do a good job at work or hasn’t cut the apron strings or is being disobedient to Scripture? There’s a time and a place to kindly, lovingly, and rationally discuss those things. The middle of a heated argument isn’t it. Christ does not use our weaknesses as a weapon against us and we do not use our husbands’ weaknesses as a weapon against them. We treat our husbands fairly, kindly, compassionately, respectfully. The same way we want them to treat us.

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*As always, when I write articles like this about marriage, it is in the context of a relatively normal, healthy relationship. If you are being abused, get to safety and seek help. If you know someone who is being abused, do not place on her the burden of trying harder. Get her to safety and help her.
Marriage

26 Things I’ve Learned in 26 Years of Marriage

Tomorrow is my 26th wedding anniversary. My husband and I married on a lovely Tuesday evening between Christmas and New Years in a church bedecked with pink poinsettias. And six kids, several houses, and a few dogs later, here we still are, plugging away at this “‘til death do us part” thing. There have been a lot of “for better” times, and some “for worse” times. Days when we celebrated “for richer” and years when we survived “for poorer.” A few “in sickness” moments, but, praise God, we’ve mostly lived “in health.”

There’s a lot I didn’t know about living with a completely different person when I first said “I do,” but here are some things I’ve learned both in my own marriage, and from friends’ marriages, over the last twenty-six years.

1. This, too, shall pass.

It’s easy to look at one fight, one difficult time, and think, in the moment, “That’s it. This marriage is over,” but after a while, you realize this is just one tree in the forest of your marriage. At some point, things will calm down and you’ll be on the other side of it. Marriage is a cross country marathon, not a sprint on smooth pavement. Keep going.

2. “Not tonight, Dear…”

Every couple has to come to their own unique mutual agreement and understanding of each spouse’s wants and needs when it comes to sex. Coercion and manipulation are neither appropriate nor biblical, but neither is depriving each other. There are going to be times when you’re not in the mood for sex but your husband is. If lack of “the mood” is the only thing causing you to say no, say yes anyway, and do it joyfully and enthusiastically. Think of it this way- your husband probably isn’t always “in the mood” to go to work or take out the trash or help with the kids, but you want him to do those things anyway, with a happy heart, because he loves you. Marriage is about serving each other in all aspects of life, whether you’re in the mood at the moment or not.

3. Submit

Biblical submission is not, as secular feminists might have you believe, for weak women, but for strong, godly women. It takes much more strength to exercise self control and obey God’s word than to just do and say whatever you feel like doing and saying. Take it from a headstrong, opinionated gal who thinks she’s always right- it’s not easy, but biblical submission will make your marriage better, healthier, and more Christ-centered, and will grow you to be more like Jesus.

4. Some things are better left unsaid.

You don’t have to verbalize every thought that comes into your mind, especially when those thoughts are critical, whiny, argumentative, “I told you so,” constantly corrective, complaining, cutting, or in any way unchristlike. Sometimes your most shining moment will be keeping your mouth shut.

5. Forgive quickly

You won’t find a passage of Scripture that says it’s OK to hold a grudge or dangle your forgiveness over your husband’s head until he has groveled sufficiently. The Bible says we are to be kind and tenderhearted and to forgive the way Christ forgave us. Do you forgive your husband the way Christ forgives you?

6. Put your husband first.

After your relationship with Christ, your first love, loyalty, service, confidentiality, and time belong to your husband. Not your children, and not your mother, sister, or best friend. Your husband comes first.

7. Don’t undermine your husband with the kids.

God gives your husband the ultimate responsibility for and authority over your family. While you and he can and should privately discuss how to handle disciplinary issues with the children and other family situations which arise, he makes the final decision. Do not collude with the children, argue with your husband in front of them about his decisions, keep secrets from your husband, or otherwise attempt to circumvent his directives. Support him, submit to him, and present a united front.

8. Affirm your husband privately and publicly.

Women can practically turn complaining about their husbands into a competitive sport. Don’t go there. Would you like for your husband to sit around with his friends and complain about you? Don’t do it in a braggadocious way, but, as opportunities arise, let others hear you affirming your husband and thanking God for him. And be sure you do so when it’s just the two of you, too.

9. Don’t publicly shame your husband.

As Christians, we should always – privately and publicly – behave in a way that honors God. As married women that godly behavior will also honor our husbands. Don’t ever berate or belittle your husband in front of others (or in private, either), including on social media. Don’t behave in public in ways that would embarrass him. When others think about your relationship with your husband, you want them to think, “Wow, he’s really blessed!” not “Poor guy.”

10. Divorce is not an option.

This is the mindset with which couples should both enter marriage and handle normal¹ fights and difficulties. Do not bring the “D-word” out during an argument. God says marriage is for life. It is not disposable.

11. Pray for your husband and for yourself as his wife.

This is probably the most powerful thing you can do for your husband and your marriage. Pray for your husband’s walk with the Lord, situations he’s facing at work, weaknesses he’s struggling with. Pray that God will help you to be a godly wife, and that He will show you how best to support and encourage your husband. Want your husband to change in some way? Don’t nag, pray for him, and pray that God will help you to respond to your husband in a Christlike way.

12. You were always on my mind…

Don’t those little acts of thoughtfulness from your husband – unexpected flowers, doing the dishes, a love note – brighten your day and deepen your love for him? Your husband feels the same way. Cook his favorite meal, send him an occasional text letting him know you’re thinking about him, wear the lingerie he likes. Make him feel special and loved.

13. Extend grace.

Your husband is going to mess up. Often. So are you. Don’t turn his every mistake and sin into World War III. The Bible tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. Extend the same love and grace to him in his offenses that you want him to extend to you in yours.

14. He’s your husband, not your child.

Don’t speak condescendingly to your husband, order him around, or otherwise treat him like he’s one of your children. He’s not. Show him the respect, support, and love a godly wife is to give her husband.

15. Be on the same page, theologically, before marriage.

The Bible is clear that we are not to partner with unbelievers, and the most painful consequences for disobeying this command are often seen in marriages in which a Christian marries an non-Christian. But even if you both profess faith in Christ, it’s important to be in agreement on things like which denomination or church you’ll join and why, what the Bible says about salvation, men’s and women’s roles in marriage and the church, parenting, giving offerings, regular attendance, and other theological issues.

16. Admit when you’re wrong and ask forgiveness.

If you’ve sinned against your husband, crucify that pride, admit it, and ask him to forgive you. And don’t forget to repent and seek God’s forgiveness as well.

17. You’re not your husband’s Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict your husband of his sin, not yours. Certainly the two of you should talk things out, and it’s OK to kindly and lovingly discuss how his sin affects you, but no amount of preaching at him or castigating him with Scripture will change your husband’s heart, so don’t try. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

18. God made you the helper, not your husband.

Every family operates differently when it comes to careers, childrearing, and household chores. Couples must reach a mutual agreement about who will carry out which tasks, and should help each other whenever the need arises. That being said, biblically speaking, God has placed wives in the role of helping their husbands, not the other way around. Your husband should not have to work all day and then come home, make supper, clean the house, and raise the children while you pursue hobbies or leisure activities. You both have responsibilities to take care of. Make sure you’re helping him take care of his by taking care of yours.

19. Thank God for your husband.

Don’t forget to thank God for blessing you with your husband. Especially when what you really want to do is hit him with the car. Pour your heart out to God about your anger, sure, but then start thanking God for all of your husband’s good qualities. You might be surprised at the way it changes your heart, your frame of mind, and your ability to forgive.

20. Take joy in the simple things.

Marriage is not a Hallmark movie, a jewelry store commercial, or a Carnival Cruise brochure. It’s just not, so don’t expect it to be. Enjoy just spending time talking, working on a project together, or doing chores side by side. Sometimes it’s not “He went to Jared,” but “We went grocery shopping,” that can bring the most joy.

21. Your husband can’t read your mind.

Your husband wants to do things for you and give you gifts that please you. If he asks which restaurant you want to go to, don’t say “I don’t care” if you do. Tell him. Don’t tell him whatever he gets you for your birthday will be fine and then pout because he didn’t get the gift your heart was set on. If he does something that bothers you, discuss it with him. Don’t make reading your mind a test of your husband’s love for you.

22. Don’t go behind your husband’s back.

Unless what you want is a husband who feels betrayed and doesn’t trust you. If he makes a decision, abide by it. If he asks you not to do something, don’t. If you think he’s wrong, discuss it with him privately, kindly, and lovingly. But, unless it conflicts with Scripture in some way, respect, support, and submit to your husband’s leadership and decisions.

23. Another man is not the answer.

You might go through some rocky times in your marriage. Confiding in or seeking comfort from another man will only make things worse or irreparable. Don’t be the foolish woman Proverbs 14:1 speaks of who “tears her house down with her own hands.” Another man is the source of more problems, not the fix for your current problems.

24. Help Him the way He needs to be helped

Your role in marriage is to be your husband’s helper. But sometimes your idea of how to help will be different from his idea of what’s helpful. Maybe you think his socks should be sorted by color while he prefers them organized categorically (dress socks, atheletic socks, etc.) Whenever possible, help your husband in the way he prefers to be helped, not the way you prefer to help him.

25. Your Husband is a valuable resource

God has given you a unique human being with his own background, perspective, education, experiences, and thought processes as a live-in resource. Take advantage of that gift! Trying to figure out how to handle a situation at work or at church? Wondering if you should move the couch across the living room or underneath the window? Attempting to master the art of grilling? Ask your husband for his advice or input. The old saying, “Two heads are better than one,” is true, and he might just wow you with a skill, talent or knowledge you didn’t know he had!

26. Perfection is an Unrealistic expectation

Social media, rom-coms, romance novels, other couples at church – sometimes it seems like everyone has the perfect life, the perfect marriage, the perfect husband. Don’t buy into that lie. Movies and books can afford to idealize – they’re fiction. And the real life husbands and couples you see in your newsfeed and on Sunday morning? Sure they might be doing well in an area you’re struggling with, but they’ve got problems in other areas. There’s no such thing as a perfect husband or marriage, so don’t compare yours to someone else’s. Be thankful for the strengths your husband has and the healthy aspects of your marriage, and pray about or work on those aspects that need godly growth.

God has been so gracious to my husband and me over the last two decades. I have often failed at many of the things on this list, while God has protected us from the others. I could probably list at least twenty-six more things, but it all boils down to this: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ, and love your husband the way you want him to love you. That’s the number one thing I’ve learned in the last twenty-six years, and I’m so grateful to God for sanctifying me through my marriage and blessing me with my dear husband.

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¹We can all think of exceptions and extraordinary circumstances to all of these points. This article pertains to generally healthy Christian marriages.