Sometimes it seems we could fulfill our biblical role as wives a lot easier if our husbands would simply do what they are called to do.
If they would cultivate a stronger prayer life, we would feel better about following their lead. If they were growing through regular study of Scripture, we would be honored to submit. If they loved us as Christ loved the church, we would shower them with respect.
But our calling doesn’t hinge upon how faithfully our husbands are walking out theirs. We stand before the Lord alone, and we do all as unto him. And the reality is that it’s easier to see where someone else is lacking — especially when that someone lives under the same roof, with habits and idiosyncrasies we’ve dissected for years. We can become nit-picky and critical about where they need to be and miss the myriad shortcomings we possess ourselves.
Still, it is a very real issue if our husbands are not cultivating spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study. And if love is lacking, it’s downright heartbreaking. How do we set aside our own hurt and frustration and live out our calling as Christian wives? How do we follow a shepherd who is not adequately shepherding? Here are three ways to love your imperfect husband.
1. Pray for Your Husband
As wives, prayer is our strongest ministry toward our husbands. The mindset is not, “I guess I’ll pray since nothing else is working.” Rather, it is a mind that is fully persuaded that prayer should be first and foremost — and that it’s the most powerful and effective service we can offer our husbands.
We are able to pray for our husbands as no one else can. We see his ups and downs, his moods and attitudes, and his strengths and vulnerabilities. We see what he devotes his time to. By his words and actions, we see his heart toward the things of God. What we do with this insight is key. We can attempt to “fix” things ourselves — with nudges that turn to nagging, or correction that morphs to criticism. Or we can trust the Good Shepherd to do the work in his timing and in his power.
“Wives, you have the ability to intercede for your husband in a way that no one else can. Pray hard and often.”
Prayer invites Jesus to dwell in the midst of the cares and concerns we have for our husbands. It changes the dynamic. We’re no longer focusing on the problem but on the one who can solve it. We are reminded that nothing is too hard for God. Just as the king’s heart is like channels of water in the Lord’s hand, such that he can turn it wherever he will (Proverbs 21:1), our husband’s heart is fully accessible and pliable in the hand of the Lord. He’s able to turn his heart toward him. Through our prayers, we join forces with our husbands to bring about change.
Praying for our husbands does a work in our own hearts as well. Our hearts are softened as we intercede. We gain humility and compassion as we realize that we both, husband and wife, are flawed and in desperate need of grace. This is especially significant if one’s husband does not know Jesus as Lord. Our prayers are a fresh reminder of the saving grace we received, which God is able to pour out on our husbands to bring about redemptive change.
2. Encourage Your Husband
Being called by God as head of the home is not an enviable burden. Our husbands shoulder expectations and responsibilities before God that are immense, including the depth to which they are called to love. Wives are called simply to love their husbands (Titus 2:4), while husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). No matter how strong one’s walk with God, sacrificial love is a daunting standard. Indeed, the breadth of the divine standard for husbands — of love, of providing for the family, of guiding the family spiritually — may cause them more stress than we realize.
Although our eyes naturally fall on areas in which our husbands need to improve, we should instead look for ways to bless them with encouragement. This is not necessarily easy, especially if we’ve seen a pattern of certain behavior over time. We may be skeptical about any positive change. It won’t last might drift through our minds. We may even be tempted to belittle efforts that our husbands make, regarding them as inadequate.
But as we intercede for our husbands, our attitude and actions should line up with the end goal. We should believe that change is possible and encourage even the small movements we see. As we speak words that build up and give grace (Ephesians 4:29), we not only revitalize our husbands, but our marriage as well.
3. Die to Yourself
The only way we can truly walk out our calling as wives despite our own hurts and frustrations is to die to self. This is our ultimate call as believers: to daily crucify our flesh so that Christ may live fully through us. And when Christ is living through us, we experience the surpassing greatness of his power.
“God knows we cannot be the wives he calls us to be in our own strength. Thankfully, he does not expect us to.”
God knows we cannot be the wives he calls us to be in our own strength — and thankfully, he does not expect us to. When self gets out of the way, his Spirit takes over, infusing us with immense grace and strength. We are able to pray when we’re tired of praying and to love when the “feeling” eludes.
Grace highlights ways we can encourage, seasons our speech, and quiets our spirits. And as we wait on Jesus to answer our prayers for our husbands, his grace keeps our eyes fixed on him, our Good Shepherd, the one we are ultimately called to follow. Here lies an eternal treasure. As we walk in obedience to our calling as wives, we find ourselves in blessed fellowship with our Lord.