Twice the apostle Paul stated the headship of a husband:
1 Corinthians 11:3—But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
Ephesians 5:23—For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Although these verses are found in the New Testament, a husband’s headship didn’t have its beginning under the New Covenant. Neither does male headship have its beginning in the Old Testament under the Old Covenant. It doesn’t even have its beginning at the fall.
Have you ever considered that tension in your relationship can be a good thing? Often God is introducing areas that need to be improved. He wants you to embrace these marriage struggles. The best way to do this is by asking each other tough questions:
A husband might say, “Outside of the Lord Himself, do you feel like you are taking second place to anything in my life?”
A wife might ask, “Do you feel like I respect you?”
Then there are right and wrong ways to respond to these questions:
Imagine a wife answers that she does not feel that she is the supreme relationship in her husband’s life. He should not try to talk her out of the way she feels or persuade her to see things differently. This will make her feel even more misunderstood.
Imagine a husband answers that his wife makes him feel disrespected. She should not argue with him and try to convince him he is wrong. This will make him feel even more disrespected.
Instead, each spouse should listen to the other, apologize the right way, and try to make the appropriate changes. When couples ask each other these difficult questions, they should expect some painful discussions. That’s great.
If we’re going to have healthy, joyful relationships, we have to learn to handle frustrations in marriage that inevitably arise. These frustrations can actually increase as we become more familiar with the Bible! Since the standard set by God’s Word is so high:
A husband could easily become frustrated that his wife is not more respectful or submissive as God’s Word commands.
This is illustrated by a situation that took place years ago when I was teaching on marriage. While talking about husbands loving their wives, a woman stood up in front of everyone and criticized her husband for the way he mistreated her. I could have interrupted and said, “Can we pray for you two?” or “Why don’t we talk about this after the study?”Instead, I was caught so off guard that I did the worst thing possible—nothing! I simply stood there with my jaw dropped while the angry wife finished berating her husband. After that I decided it was important to give people encouragement for handling frustrations in marriage…
First, handle frustrations in marriage by remembering your own weaknesses.
Instead of keeping a mental account of all that your spouse does wrong, remind yourself of your own struggles. Instead of focusing on your spouse’s failures, focus on your own. We all have plenty of weaknesses to work on without obsessing over the weaknesses of our spouses. When we start to feel frustrated toward our spouse, we should think back about the ways we’ve failed. This will humble us and diffuse the frustration we’re feeling. Continue reading Handle frustrations in marriage with these three encouragements
Our marriage “problems” are only symptoms of the actual problem in our relationships with Christ. In my own marriage, for instance, the “problem” looked like I did not have enough time for my wife and children, but that was only a symptom. The problem was that I would not obey the Holy Spirit’s conviction to put my family ahead of the church, make my wife a priority, spend more time with my children, etc. Plus, I was being consumed with anxiety, versus trusting Christ like I should have. In other words, the marriage problems I was experiencing were directly connected to my relationship with Christ.
A couple’s marriage problems can only be fixed by focusing on their relationships with the Lord
This is why any biblical marriage counseling must address the husband and wife’s relationship with Christ. Couples I counsel are often confused when they share marriage problems they are experiencing and I respond by asking:
“What does your time in God’s Word look like?”
“How is your prayer life?”
“Tell me about your involvement in the church?”
A wife will say, “I just told you my husband yells at me. Why are you talking about his time in the Word?” Because the hope is that as a husband reads God’s Word he will become convicted of his sin and repent. He will become a more patient and loving leader. I do not have the power to change a husband’s heart (and apparently neither does a wife or there would be no need for counseling). A husband can only become a new man through a relationship with Christ.Continue reading Marriage problems are really only symptoms
I’m really struggling trying to get my husband to lead. I have tried to encourage him to do so, but I’m at a loss! Taking the initiative is what I want him to do, but he won’t. I have your workbook, but he won’t go over the questions with me. Short of reminding him again and again and feeling like I’m nagging him – which I hate doing and have tried really hard not to do – how do I get him to step up?
Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing the answer and/or read the transcript below…
Unfortunately, there’s no answer that guarantees a husband will grow in this area. Although I provide the following recommendations, I can’t assure a wife that her husband will be different in the future. For any single ladies, this is one thing to keep in mind before saying, “I do.”
Here are the recommendations I’d give a wife whose husband won’t lead…
1. If your husband won’t lead, keep reminding him.
I’ll be the first to say that as husbands we can be oblivious and forgetful at times. God has called you to be your husband’s helper, and this is one of the best ways for you to fulfill that role. The obvious danger is that your reminders turn in to nagging. The woman who sent me the above question said she makes an effort to prevent that from happening. That’s wonderful!
Last post discussed the Holy Spirit helping us in our marriages, but let’s introduce some balance. “I will help you” is very different from “I will do everything.” The Holy Spirit helps us, but we still have responsibilities. The Holy Spirit is not going to supernaturally take control of a marriage when the individuals involved are not committed to putting forth the necessary effort. So help the Holy Spirit while he helps you!
The apostle Paul reveals the relationship in Ephesians 2:10: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God prepared good works for us, but we have to “walk in them.” We do not want to miss out on what God wants to do in our marriage because we are being lazy or selfish. Consider the responsibilities placed on our shoulders elsewhere in the New Testament:
Romans 13:13–14—Let us walk properly . . . Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Colossians 3:12–14—Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; [bear] with one another, and [forgive] one another . . . Put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
Note the calling we are given to walk, put on, make no provision for, bear with, and forgive.
Unfortunately, when it comes to our marriages we often feel alone. God’s standard for husbands and wives is so high that we ask, “Who is going to help me obey these commands?” The answer is the Holy Spirit will help you! Two words that summarize what it is like thinking about being the husbands and wives God commands us to be are “intimidating” and “overwhelming.”
As a husband, it is intimidating to think of being to your wife what Christ is to the church. If you are not intimidated by it, you do not understand what is expected of you.
As a wife, it is overwhelming to think of submitting to your husband as you should to the Lord. If we had to obey God’s commands on our own, we should feel not only overwhelmed or intimidated but completely hopeless. Because of a promise Jesus made us, though, we can feel hopeful.
Jesus told His disciples, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). If you have embraced the gospel, then the Holy Spirit lives in you. You are not alone! The Holy Spirit will help you do what God has commanded you to do. Continue reading Trust the Holy Spirit will help you in marriage!
A few years ago I learned the important lesson that marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ. Katie and I faced the biggest crisis of our marriage. I started pastoring Woodland Christian Church when it was fairly small. Within three years the congregation had tripled in size. I admit that before I became a pastor, I was completely unaware of how much work is actually involved in shepherding a church of even a few hundred people. I had been an Army officer, a supervisor at a distribution center for Target, and an elementary school teacher. But none of those occupations approached the amount of mental and emotional energy and sheer hard work pastoring entails!
We had no secretary or associate pastor at the time. Almost all of my waking hours were packed with studying, teaching, counseling, making phone calls, sending e-mails, meeting with people, addressing administrative responsibilities, and tending to benevolence issues. When I was home, I should have been an engaged father and husband. Unfortunately, I did not have much left for my family emotionally, mentally, or physically.
Although I was failing as a husband and father, I was able to convince myself I was still pleasing the Lord. I compartmentalized my life by saying, “I am a Christian first, a spouse second, a parent third, and an employee fourth.” Instead, I should have said, “I am a Christian spouse, a Christian parent, a Christian employee.” The danger of seeing ourselves as a Christian first and a spouse second is we can find ourselves believing the lie I bought into at the time: “If I can be a good pastor, I can please God even though I am not the best husband.” The truth is that I was a poor husband, and I should have recognized that meant I was not pleasing the Lord.Continue reading Marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ
A common way husbands mistreat their wives is by responding insensitively when they’re hurting. Elkanah’s response to Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 is a good example showing three common mistakes husbands make.
Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing this or read the transcript below…
Elkanah had two wives—Hannah and Peninnah. This was part of the problem! Polygamy in the Old Testament is descriptive, not prescriptive, portraying the reality of the era but it’s not allowed for Christians today. This is why God never condoned polygamy, and whenever it took place in the Old Testament, it always caused problems. No biblical examples of polygamy are characterized by peace and harmony. Instead polygamy is always filled with turmoil and strife. Peninnah and Hannah’s marriage is a perfect example.
Peninnah could have children, but Hannah could not. Making Hannah’s situation even worse was Peninnah’s cruelty toward her. First Samuel 1:6–7 records:
[Hannah’s] rival (Peninnah) provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that [Peninnah] provoked her; therefore [Hannah] wept and did not eat.
Consider Elkanah’s response in 1 Samuel 1:8:
Then Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?’”
Husbands get the wives they prepare for themselves based on Ephesians 5:26–27:
That [Christ] might sanctify and cleanse [the church] with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
This is discussing what Christ does with His, Bride, the Church. Since the context is marriage, it’s also explaining what husbands should do with their wives. Christ “sanctifies and cleanses” His bride, so husbands should sanctify and cleanse their brides. This makes a husband at least partially responsible for his wife’s sanctification.
Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing the answer and/or read the transcript below…
Just as Christ gets the church He prepares for Himself, so husbands get the wives they prepare for themselves
There is a tremendous truth contained in these words. Christ does what He does in verse 26—sanctifying and cleansing the church—so that He can obtain for Himself the glorious church, or bride, described in verse 27 that “has no spot or wrinkle but is holy and without blemish.” The simplest way to say it is: Christ gets the church He prepares for Himself.Continue reading Husbands get the wives they prepare for themselves