The most common complaint I hear from wives is, “My husband won’t lead spiritually.” Here’s part of a message I received recently that captures the problem:
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. 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?
The commands for wives to submit to and respect their their husbands are criticized by many non-Christians and even some liberal or egalitarian churches; therefore, as a pastor you’d expect me to regularly hear women complain, “My husband wants me to submit and I hate it.” Instead, I more often hear from wives frustrated with their husband’s spiritual leadership.
Watch this sermon I preached about the consequences of a husband’s poor spiritual leadership, and/or read the post below with recommendations for wives who find themselves in this situation.
1. If Your Husband Won’t Lead Spiritually, Try to Make His Spiritual Leadership Easier
When Katie and I got together, I really wanted to impress her. I remember one of our first Bible studies as a couple. I decided to show Katie the relationship between three passages of Scripture: one in Isaiah, one in 2 Kings, and one in 2 Chronicles. It was probably the most confusing Bible study ever taught. Let’s just say that by the time we finished three hours later, I did not look impressive—just weird. Later that day, however, I overheard Katie on the phone telling a friend: “I am so thankful to have met a man who will read the Bible with me.”
You can imagine what an encouragement that was to hear. Sadly, I have met husbands who are reluctant to read the Bible or pray in front of their wives because they are afraid of the wife’s reaction if they do not measure up to a pastor or Bible teacher on the radio. Wives, let me give you some encouragements as well as some discouragements to make your husband’s spiritual leadership easier.
Thank your husband when he takes the family to church.
Sadly, this is more than many men do. There are women who would give just about anything to have a husband worshiping the Lord next to them. Ladies, do not take that for granted!
Encourage your husband when he prays or reads Scripture with you.
He might fumble every word he says, but you should still applaud him for his spiritual leadership. Recognize that you are among a small percentage of wives whose husbands engage in these disciplines with them. Hold his hand when you pray, and thank the Lord for giving you such a godly man.
Support your husband with the children.
Help get the kids together for times of worship. When your husband reads the Bible with the family, set an example to your children by being attentive. Encourage the children to express appreciation for a father willing to do what few men do.
2. If Your Husband Won’t Lead Spiritually, Don’t Make His Spiritual Leadership Harder with Needless Debate
This is a tough issue, because I do not want to discourage wives from asking their husbands questions or even disagreeing if they say something wrong. But if your husband believes he is going to face an argument every time you open the Bible together, you are going to have a husband who does not open the Bible with you.
Katie and I were once counseling a couple whom we finally persuaded to read the Bible together. When I asked the husband later how it was going, he told me they had stopped because whenever they read together, his wife constantly challenged him to the point that he never wanted to read the Bible with her again.
3. If Your Husband Won’t Lead Spiritually, Don’t Make His Spiritual Leadership Harder with Needless Comparisons
Wives, I implore you to never, under any circumstances, compare your husband negatively with some other man. This is your husband. Be thankful for him. If he does not have the gift of teaching, which is a spiritual gift the Holy Spirit gives to some believers and not to others, then he is probably already nervous about reading or praying in front of you or the kids. Those who do not have the gift of teaching are not inferior or less spiritual but simply have different spiritual gifts. Some of the godliest men I have known would struggle terribly if they had to teach in front of others.
The last thing any husband needs is to hear that he does not sound like the pastor on television. Do not expect a sermon or Billy Graham Crusade when your husband opens the Bible with you. The power is in God’s Word and not in your husband’s teaching ability. If your husband is reading Scripture, trust that it is washing over the family and doing its work of bringing spiritual cleansing and sanctification as we discussed in Ephesians 5:26.
Let’s imagine a hypothetical situation…
A husband feels convicted about being a better spiritual leader. He has not been reading the Bible with his family, but he knows he should. Understandably, he is nervous about doing so. He does not know how his family is going to respond. He is asking himself questions such as “What if I don’t know what to say? What if they ask me a question I can’t answer? Where should I start? What if I don’t sound like Pastor Bill?”
All day at work he has been summoning up his courage, and he has decided that today is the day. As soon as dinner is over, he is going to ask his family to get their Bibles. Fast-forward a few hours. Dinner is over and the husband’s heart is racing, but he still manages to say, “Tonight, we’re going to do something different. Why don’t we all grab our Bibles and we’ll read a passage together?”
Imagine his wife says:
- “Do we have to do this right now? I wanted to get the table cleaned up.”
- “Is that the version of the Bible we’re going to use? Can we use this instead?”
- “Is this the passage we’re going to read? Why did you pick this one?”
- “Is that how you pronounce his name?”
- “When I was listening to the pastor on the radio, that’s not what he said about this verse.”
- “I don’t think that’s right.”
- “Can you ask Mike if that’s correct?”
- “Wow, this first Bible study sure is long!”
Will this husband ever read the Bible with his family again? Probably not. Now imagine this. Same husband, same conviction, same nervousness all day. Dinner is over. He tells his family to get their Bibles and his wife says:
Instead, imagine his wife says:
- “I am so excited!”
- “This is such an answer to prayer.”
- “I am very proud of you!”
“I know not many men do this with their families. I feel very blessed to have you as my husband.”
Imagine his wife says to the children:
- “Isn’t this great? What a wonderful daddy you have!”
- “Let’s go get our Bibles. Don’t worry about the dishes.
- We’ll take care of that later.” This statement alone will get the kids excited!
They pray when the study is over and his wife says, “Lord, I am so thankful to have such a godly man. Thank You that he will read the Bible with us. We are so blessed. Help him lead our family. What a huge responsibility he has. You have called me to be his helper, so please help me to help him.” These sorts of actions from a wife will diffuse a husband’s fears and infuse him with the confidence and encouragement he needs.
4. If Your Husband Won’t Lead Spiritually, Keep Reminding Him
I’ll be the first to say that as husbands we can be oblivious and forgetful at times. God has called wives to be their 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!
5. If Your Husband Won’t Lead Spiritually, Keep Inviting Him
Ask him to lead and let him know how much you would appreciate it if he would pray with you, read the Word with you, work on the questions with you, etc. If he accepts your invitation, make sure you let him know how much you appreciate him doing so.
6. If Your Husband Won’t Lead Spiritually, Accountability and/or a Mentor Could Help
I haven’t met any husbands who say they want to be bad spiritual leaders. Although, I have met many men who say they want to be godly spiritual leaders…but they don’t know how. I believe them! Your husband might be in this category. Maybe he could benefit from another man’s example or accountability. Is there a man in your church (perhaps an elder?) or in your lives who is strong in this area and could come alongside your husband to help him grow in this area?
Brief note to any husbands reading this: when husbands tell me, “I don’t know if I can read the Word with my family!” My response is, “If you can read, you can read the Word with your family.”
7. If Your Husband Won’t Lead Spiritually, Keep Praying for Him
I say “keep,” because most wives are already praying for their husbands:
[Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.Luke 18:1
It’s easy to become discouraged while praying. Don’t lose heart! Keep praying! One of the benefits of praying is even if God doesn’t answer your specific prayer and make your husband the spiritual giant you want him to be, He will give you the grace you need to endure the situation you’re in.
When we pray, sometimes God answers our prayers. Other times He simply gives us the strength to handle the situation without Him answering the way we want.
Check out this video with Katie and I giving wives recommendations when their husband won’t lead spiritually…
8. If Your Husband Won’t Lead, Keep 1 Peter 3:1-2 in Mind
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.1 Peter 3:1-2
Peter tells wives how not to win over their husbands (with words), and how to win over their husbands (with godly conduct). Make sure you’re reading the Word, praying, and doing Bible studies with your children. Rare is the man who will not be convicted if he is not doing these things, but he sees his wife doing them!
Jesus said, “[The Holy Spirit] will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”John 16:8b
Let the Holy Spirit rebuke your husband that his wife has to carry much of the load that belongs to him.
The Responsibility for Husbands and Wives:
- Wife, be your husband’s biggest supporter. Encourage him when he prays and reads the Word with his family.
- Husband, do these things that God has called you to do and that will gain your family’s respect.
Final Warning to Single Women
Unfortunately, there’s no answer that guarantees a husband will grow in his spiritual leadership. Although I provide the following recommendations, I can’t assure a wife that her husband will be different in the future. For any single women, this is one thing to keep in mind before saying, “I do.”
- List three specific ways you would like your wife to encourage you in your spiritual leadership.
- List three ways your wife discourages you in your spiritual leadership.
- List three specific ways you will strive to encourage your husband in his spiritual leadership.
- List three ways you will strive not to discourage your husband in his spiritual leadership.