What Should a Wife Do When Her Husband Doesn't Lead Spiritually?

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

What should a wife do when her husband doesn't lead spiritually?

Patiently, full of prayer, full of hope, and full of forbearance and occasional efforts to draw him into conversation about her longings for him.

By occasional efforts to draw him into conversation about her longings for him, I mean the opposite of nagging. Nagging is day after day, coming at the guy sideways, top down, underneath, and communicating by body language and sideways comments that he is not measuring up. That destroys the relationship. It paralyzes the partner. It feels hopeless, and it feels like love is vanishing.

Rather, I'm referring to an occasional and intentional, "Can we talk honey? Can we go out to lunch and just talk about something I want to talk about?" Do it when you're not tired or angry. It should be an appointment, and it shouldn't feel undermining or threatening. Then she can lay out her heart for him, say what she needs to say, and asks him if he is willing to do more.

Now that might bring the guy along. And if it doesn't—which it probably won't if there is something deeper going on—then she can do it again in a few weeks or months. Then she can say, "You know, nothing really changed. Is there any way that you'd be willing to talk to Pastor John, Pastor Tom, or somebody in our small group about how they do it, about how they lead devotions?" See if he would be willing. Maybe he will be willing, and then somebody else could be involved.

Another thing would be to look for retreats that help men, like some of the ones we do here at the church. There might be something a wife could spot and say, "Could we go to this?" or "Would you go to this?" That's what I mean by the occasional thing rather than the nagging.

The other piece I mentioned was forbearance. It may be, according to 1 Peter 3:1, that a wife wins her husband over from spiritual indifference to spiritual intensity by forbearing. (Even though this passage is talking about unbelieving husbands, the principle is still the same.) Forbearing means that a wife says, "OK, this may never change in my husband. I hope it does, but it may never change; and I'm not going to lock in on this shortcoming as the only thing I think about with him. Instead, I will try to love him, bless him, enjoy him for the things about him that I delight in, and all the while be praying and modeling what I hope he will become for me."

I also mentioned prayer. She should pray earnestly for him; and if in her conversations with him she gets permission, she could talk to somebody else about this. She could say to couple friend or a pastor friend, "You know, Joe does not lead us in devotions, and he doesn't really seem to talk to the kids much about their spiritual walks. Is there anything I can do?" Then she can get another man's insight, and that man may help intervene.

But over time they need to go to a good church in which her husband is being continually confronted and awakened so that he grows. It may be that he's a baby! It may be that he feels intimidated around her!

Let me give you a concrete illustration. There is a couple in our church where the wife was doing all the devotions and all the spiritual leadership. And he was a believer and was present every Sunday. They came to me together, and he said to me, "You know, Mary"—let's call her Mary—"she is just so much smarter than I am, and she reads way better than I do. Whenever she leads it goes pretty good, and frankly I feel very inferior to her. I'm happy to let her do it."

I said, "Well"—let's call him Joe—"OK Joe, I'll just believe what you said: she's smarter and she reads better. But you know what? That doesn't change anything. You really should be the leader here. Let me give you an illustration of how to do it. Are you able to say at 8 o'clock tonight, 'Hey kids, come on in here. Come into the living room. We're going to have devotions'? Can you say that?

"Yes I can say that."

"Well say that, and then when they're all there you can say, 'OK, we're going to be reading through the Gospel of John. Let's all open our Bibles.' And when they all open their Bibles say, 'Now, Mary, why don't you read the first fourteen verses here for us?' And when she finishes reading the verses, you can say, 'Jimmy, why don't you pray and then I'll pray?' Can you do that?"

He said, "Yeah."

That's leadership. Leadership has nothing to do with competency here. It is the courage of initiative-taking.

The question asked above was what the wife should do if her husband isn't leading spiritually, but I'm telling you what a husband should do. But maybe a wife could get that husband into an office where a guy would just explain something simple like this to her husband.

Leadership doesn't require that you be smarter or more spiritual than your wife. Goodness gracious, I lead hundreds of people in this church who are more godly than I am. If my leadership depended on my being the most everything in this church, that would be hopeless for a pastor.

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