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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (DivorceCare, When are they men?, Touring unbiblical churches…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


I’m wondering if the DivorceCare support groups are good?

I’ve never been to a DivorceCare group or been a part of a church that hosted a group or used its materials, so I’m strictly drawing on what I’m seeing on their website.

The DC statement of faith is biblical, if minimalistic.

The format of meetings is for the group to watch “a video seminar featuring top experts on divorce and recovery subjects” and then discuss it, support group style. So, I took a look at the list of seminar experts. I don’t recognize half or more of the names, but of the names I do recognize, most are biblical counselors (the biblical counseling world has a reputation for being generally doctrinally sound), and two or three are pastors and Bible teachers I wouldn’t recommend but aren’t heretics either (if they’re teaching strictly on issues of divorce, I’m guessing what you’ll get from their videos is pretty much in line with Scripture).

So, all of that to say, as far as the materials DC provides, I don’t think you’re going to be taught major doctrinal error if you choose to participate. However, I’m guessing these groups vary widely depending on who is leading them and how good or bad that person’s/church’s theology is, so that’s a major component to take into consideration.

Having said all of that, I would not recommend that you participate in a parachurch organization for help getting through a divorce. It’s not their job to do that, it’s your local church’s job. Your pastor should be counseling you and/or your spouse to reconcile if that’s at all possible, and counseling you in other ways if not. Your Sunday School or Bible study class and other church family should be supporting you, helping you, and walking through this difficult time with you. When Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens,” it’s talking to the church, not a parachurch organization or a support group. And you need real live, “Call me any time, day or night,” church family to do that, not a bunch of strangers, not an expert on a screen. I think people who choose a parachurch organization like this are going to miss out on a lot more than they realize.

Furthermore, while counseling people who are going through a divorce is a good and necessary thing, it concerns me that so many churches are putting so much emphasis on post-divorce programs when what they should be throwing most of their energy into is preventing divorce by:

  • preaching and teaching biblically about marriage and divorce
  • extensive pre-marital teaching and counseling
  • encouraging, strengthening, and enabling healthy marriages
  • intervening and helping couples in marital distress
  • treating initiating and pursuing divorce for unbiblical reasons as the sin the Bible says it is
  • commencing with church discipline for church members who are initiating and pursuing divorce for unbiblical reasons.

Churches that proactively support and protect marriage this way will rarely find the need for divorce counseling.


I agree that Scripture is clear about women not teaching men the Scriptures. At what age are males considered to be ‘men’?

It’s an insightful question, and one that there’s no hard and fast “exact age” answer to. I think most of us would probably agree that pre-teens and under are children, not men, and I hope that most of us could agree that males in their mid-20s and upward are men. It’s those pesky teens to early 20s ages that throw a monkey wrench into the question.

Males ages 18 to early 20s may, in some cases seem like boys, but for this question, I think the common grace of American law (if you’re an American) can help us feel confident defining any male over 18 as a man. If American law treats a person as an adult at age 18 with regard to crimes, voting, marriage, property, etc., should the church be treating them as children?

So now we’ve narrowed our window of potential “men” down to age 12 or 13 to 17. And for that narrow window of ages, I’m going to refer you to question 13 of my article Rock Your Role FAQs:

What about teaching the boys in my church’s youth group?

Women should not serve as youth pastors. The Bible restricts pastoral and elder roles to men.

As to teaching the Bible to co-ed groups of minors (in Sunday School, as a youth helper, etc.), there is no hard and fast rule, but my recommendation is that a good time for women to break from teaching boys at church is around the time they start middle school. In the Bible, boys traditionally moved from childhood to adulthood at age thirteen. Jesus exhibited growth toward manhood and engaged the rabbis in the temple at age twelve. Of course, these are both anecdotal and neither means this age is the basis of any sort of law for Christian women about teaching boys, but there seems to be some wisdom there- a good rule of thumb. Once they hit their early teens, boys really need the guidance of godly men who can lead by example and teach them what it means to grow into godly manhood. When it comes to teaching adolescent boys at church, it’s much less about what women are “allowed” to do and much more about the best way to grow godly men. Only men can train boys to be men.


Over the years when we have visited various cities, we have toured old churches, several of which have been Catholic churches. Our main interest has been the architecture of the buildings along with the historical aspect. We have never participated in a church service, only informational tours. I was wondering if you have an opinion of Christians touring Catholic churches.

For someone who is genuinely saved, and in no danger of being wooed toward false doctrine simply by walking through a beautiful building and listening to a tour guide, I don’t think that’s problematic at all. Simply being in a building and learning about its structure and history doesn’t mean you agree with what happened there. I mean, if you toured Auschwitz, that would not mean you agreed with or supported what happened there, right? When I was in Egypt several years ago, I toured (as far as women were allowed to tour) a mosque. If I were in Salt Lake City, I would certainly check out the Mormon Tabernacle. If I were in Rome I would visit the Vatican. There’s nothing sinful for you personally about going to places like these to view the architecture or learn something about the religion or customs any more than it would be wrong to read about those things in a book.

If your conscience doesn’t bother you about taking the tour itself, and you’re not worried about your theology veering off course, there are only two ways I can think of that this could be a problem, biblically. First, if there’s an admission fee to tour the church, what is that money supporting? Speaking for myself, I could not knowingly pay a fee that would, in any way, support a false religion or the spread of it. Second, would entering one of these buildings somehow hurt your witness or be a stumbling block to someone who knows you? That would really depend on the other person, the situation, etc., but that is something you should take into consideration.

I would suggest that you look for opportunities for evangelism during these tours. Leave a tract behind if there’s a way to do that without littering (the ladies’ room is usually a good spot). Before you leave, take a moment to silently pray for the salvation of the people who go to church there (or work there, or are on the tour with you). If there’s an opportunity to ask a simple gospel-centered question or make a biblical comment during the tour, take advantage of that (don’t interrupt or argue, don’t lecture or debate, don’t do “gotcha” questions, and be sweet – you’re scattering seed, not waging war).

Enjoy your trip, and I hope you learn a great deal.


Michelle, are you going to be at the G3 Conference in January 2020?

I wish! I’d love to be there, but I don’t think it’s going to happen this time. It’s a wonderful conference, and I highly recommend it for everyone who’s able to attend. Y’all have fun!

(I will be at the Cruciform Conference next month, though! Find me and say hi!)


Thoughts on the Evangelical Presbyterian Church? Is that a denomination you would “approve of”? I like all of your stuff and we are looking for a new church home.

Thank you for your kind words. I’m sorry, but I’ve never heard of that particular denominational niche. Coleen Sharp over at Theology Gals is my go to resource for all things Presbyterian. I would recommend you join the Theology Gals Facebook group and ask over there. I’m sure you will get much better information than I could give you.


So there are women in my home who enjoy, unaware, the teachings of Rohr/Shirer/Enneagram/journaling/meditation/etc. I’m not sure I really have a voice anymore in their spiritual pursuit outside of prayer. Do you have any strategies or a playbook of sorts on how to navigate through this season of life?

(This question comes from a gentleman.)

I’m so sorry for the difficult situation you’re in. It is always sorrowful and frustrating to watch those we love chase after ungodly things.

You say “there are women in my home,” so I’m not really clear on whether these women are your wife, daughters, sisters, other relatives, female boarders, etc. I’m also unclear on whether or not you are the head of the home (husband/dad).

If you are not the head of the home (i.e. these women are your mother and sisters or other relatives or non-relations over whom you have no biblical authority), continue to pray for them and set up an appointment with your pastor for counsel on how best to handle this situation.

If you are the head of the home, I’m sure you know that God has given you the responsibility of being the spiritual leader of your household. I’m honored that you reached out to me for help, but learning to lead well is going to be a long road of face to face discipleship that must take place in your own local church with your pastor and brothers in Christ there. As a woman, I am neither equipped, nor would it be biblically appropriate for me to walk you through this long term and through a computer screen. There are no magic strategies for a quick fix, but your church family can help you work through the “playbook” – the Bible – as you grow in Christ and in spiritual leadership. I would strongly recommend that you set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling and, definitely continue to pray for these women.


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.

Family, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Stay at Home Dads?

 

What is the Biblical view of men fulfilling women’s roles? I.e. staying home and managing the household, caring for small children, etc. while the woman works outside the home to provide for the family?

Super question! It’s not a cut-and-dried easy answer, though. There are a lot of things to take into consideration.

The first thing we need to consider is, of course, what the Bible says about this issue. And when we look at what the Bible says about human behavior, we need to look at two things: the heart and the actions. The Bible does forbid and command a lot of actions, but God is also clear that He judges the heart. It is possible to do the right thing with the wrong motives and the wrong thing with the right motives. We want to make sure we have right motives that lead us to do the right thing.

And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. 1 Samuel 15:22-23a

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b

The first question we need to ask ourselves is, “Is there an explicit command that the husband must leave the house and go to work every day to financially support the family, a command that he absolutely cannot stay at home and manage the household and raise the children, or a command that a wife may not work outside the home or support her family financially?”

I have not found any specific, in context, “thou shalt/thou shalt not” commands along those lines. And there’s a reason for that. God beautifully designed the Bible to be applicable and relevant to all people, across all cultures, in all time periods. So there are some universal commands in the Bible that apply to everybody, everywhere, in every time. For example: It is a sin to murder whether you’re young or old, male or female, smart or dumb, ugly or pretty, rich or poor, living in the Middle East or Polynesia or Antarctica, in 3271 B.C., A.D. 0, or A.D. 2019. Murder is always a sin, no matter what.

But God has not chosen to make that same pronouncement about the financial support of the family and who should work inside or outside the home. If we examine all of the Scriptures that mention men and women working, we can see a general overall pattern that points to the wisdom, in most cases, of wives doing most of the household management and child-rearing, leaving husbands free to concentrate primarily on bringing home the bacon, but God has not chosen to make this a universal command.

(I’m sure many readers are thinking, “But what about Titus 2:5, saying women are to be ‘workers at home’?” First, this is not a command that women are never to work outside the home (keep reading for more Scripture about women working and contributing to the support of their families). Second, if you’ll examine that verse in context (2:2-10), you’ll notice that this passage deals with people’s character, not careers. This can be easier to see if you compare Titus 2:3-5 with 1 Timothy 5:3-16, especially v.6, 13-14. Women are not to be lazy, idlers, and busybodies, they are to be hard workers, glorifying God in their work. In first century culture, this nearly always meant marrying, raising children, and managing their households, because this was virtually the only culturally appropriate venue available to them in which to work. Titus 2:5 is primarily about working hard to the glory of God, not primarily about where that work is performed. Does this mean all Christian women are free to abandon their children and homes in favor of working outside the home just because they feel like it? Of course not. As we’re about to see, that goes back to having a godly motive, going with the grain of the way God generally created women if at all possible, and discerning what is pleasing to the Lord in the circumstances in which He has placed your family. Which is exactly the type of character Titus 2 and 1 Timothy 5 teach that Christian women are to have.)

Why did God not make this a command? Because in His sovereignty, over time, God has allowed or created different types of cultures to develop at the macro level, and different sorts of circumstances to occur in the lives of various individuals at the micro level.

In our culture, with regard to supporting a family, it is typical for a husband to get up Monday through Friday, leave the house, work for someone else for eight hours, receive a paycheck, and return home.

Although that was true for some families, particularly city-dwellers, during Bible times, it was far less the norm than it is today. Think about the types of work most often mentioned in the Bible. It was a much more agrarian society. Dads usually worked their land and livestock as an extension of their home, and moms and any children who were old enough had their chores around the “farm” as well. The whole family worked together to provide necessary sustenance, and dads had much more direct oversight over their children on a day to day basis than a 21st century dad who leaves home and goes to the office every day.

But even in situations in which there was a family business (such as Joseph being a carpenter) the sons usually grew up learning the business under the direct tutelage of their fathers. And though the daughters were being trained at home to learn how to be good wives, it is reasonable to assume that they and their mothers helped out with the business as needed in a culturally appropriate way.¹ There was much more integration of work and family in that culture, giving fathers more contact with their children during the day.

There are also passages in the Bible that help us to see that bringing in income was not strictly relegated to men and child-rearing was not strictly relegated to women. In Proverbs 31, we see a wife and mother conducting business and contributing to the support of her family. We see Deborah “working outside the home”. We find that Lydia was, in some way, a merchant. And we do not see the Bible condemning these women as ungodly for contributing to the support of their families or performing some kind of work outside the home. Quite the opposite, in fact – the “Proverbs 31 woman” is, to this day, held up as the ideal wife and mother for godly women to emulate.

Furthermore, we often see passages in Scripture that lay the ultimate responsibility for instructing, disciplining, and properly bringing up children at Dad’s feet, not Mom’s. Read the first nine chapters of Proverbs. This is a father, not a mother, training up his son. And take a look at Ephesians 6:4 (Fathers…bring [your children] up) and Colossians 3:21 (Fathers, do not provoke your children…).

So there is no explicit biblical command about only husbands supporting the family financially and only wives managing the household and raising the children. We need to make sure we separate out what is biblical and what is cultural when it comes to the roles of husbands and wives.

As I mentioned, in addition to God sovereignly creating/allowing different cultures on the macro level, He has also created/allowed, on the micro level, varying life situations for various families. Dads who are disabled or have medical conditions that are more conducive to staying home with the children than having a job outside the home. Men who have had very limited educational and job opportunities who fall in love with and marry women already established in lucrative careers. And, especially in these modern times, Dads who are able to work from home while caring for the children. These and other scenarios can be contributing factors when it comes to which spouse works outside the home (If, indeed, working outside the home as someone else’s employee is necessary for either spouse; working from home or starting your own home-based business is an option many families overlook).

So there are a lot of external, and sometimes unavoidable, cultural and personal circumstances at play in each family’s decision-making process. But what about the internal factors at play? This brings us back to the motive of the heart.

What is the husband’s motive for wanting to stay home with the children? Is it because he’s lazy (lemme just take a moment to say this: if you’re lazy, raising children and managing a household isn’t the job for you) and just wants to shirk responsibility? Because he’s so arrogant or headstrong that he refuses to submit to a boss’s authority? Because he wants to live in luxury on his wife’s salary rather than cutting expenses and living more modestly on what he is able to earn so she can stay at home?

What is the wife’s motive for wanting to work outside the home while her husband manages the household and raises the children? Is she a feminist out to make a statement or further an agenda? Does she pridefully feel that the day to day job of wife and mom is beneath her? Is she finding her identity in her position, her income, or the praise of men instead of finding her identity in Christ?

These are wrong reasons for doing what might, financially, actually be the right thing. But as I said, as Christians, we need to make sure we have right motives leading us to do the right thing. And what is the right motive in this, or any other, decision-making process?

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Ephesians 5:8b-9

Husbands and wives each need to repent of any wrong motives they may have harbored in their hearts, walk in Christ as children of light, sit down together, pray for God to give them wisdom, examine all the factors at play in their situation, and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord in the situation He has sovereignly placed them in.

For most families in our culture, what this typically ends up looking like is that the husband is the main breadwinner and the wife is the main manager of the household and children. And part of the reason for this is that God has generally wired men to desire to go out and conquer the world, and He has generally wired women to desire to keep the home fires burning. So if there aren’t any circumstances that force a couple to go against that grain, it’s usually wisest for Dad to be the primary financial supporter of the family and Mom to be the primary manager of the family. But there are going to be godly exceptions to the rule, and we need to be sure we’re not assuming people are in sin just because they don’t fit what’s usually the norm.


¹Certainly there were other types of work/employment in Bible times, I’m just using these primary two to demonstrate my point.

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

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.

golden-rule


*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.