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