My four-year-old son loves to help. And I love involving him in helping me, even though it will usually require more work and patience on my part. When he helps me clean, I still need to clean up after him, and when he helps me bake, he needs more help than I do.
The word helper can conjure up these sorts of images of a small, weak child. No wonder we squirm when we hear a wife is to be her husband’s helper. It might make us think of a second-rate position hardly worth valuing. Cultural stereotypes of the “happy housewife” passed down from the 1950s have infiltrated the church and given us a reductionist view of a helper’s role. No wonder we see a helper as someone subservient because her position looks similar to the hired help of a cook and maid. Domesticity is one avenue for support and service in our homes, but often it is the only focus given to wives from the church.
The role of helper should take on a more holistic approach than just domesticity. We’re not just providing for physical needs, but emotional and spiritual needs as well. Our help is not limited to the kitchen and laundry room. God has designed us in such a way to help our husbands in multi-faceted ways.
God saw that Adam needed something else besides him. Adam was not fully equipped on his own. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Genesis 2:18). God is distinctly calling women here to share in his work. We have a unique way to showcase a part of God’s character — the way God helps his people.
Spirit-filled help in marriage looks like God, not like a four-year-old.
God is calling us to be a helper like he is a helper. If God himself is a helper, then we know what he has called us to is something founded in power and strength. A helper who follows God’s pattern of helping pursues her husband, fights spiritual battles in her home, and loves with a strange, but real, formula of boldness and meekness.
1. A Helper Pursues Her Husband
In the complementarian world, husbands are typically the ones encouraged, as leaders, to pursue their wives and bear the primary responsibility to initiate. A wife can (and should) encourage her husband to do these things, but miss out on ways she can pursue him in her helper role.
Over the years in my marriage, I would expect my husband to pursue me and initiate more, but then realize I was also neglecting my role of helper by not pursuing him well. The role of helper can, at times, look like loving pursuit and initiation.
I am better positioned than anyone in the world to draw my husband out, engaging his heart and asking good questions to spark healthy communication. I can also proactively encourage him in his role of leadership by asking him to pursue me more in various ways.
I help my husband by pursuing him. And isn’t this how God helps us? He pursues us in love to help us. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). We can fulfill our role of helper in marriage by pursuing our husbands with that kind of compassionate tenacity.
2. A Helper Fights Spiritual Battles
If a helper helps like God, then she will also be a fighter. In Deuteronomy 33:7, Moses blessed the people of Israel before his death and prayed this for the tribe of Judah:
“Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him in to his people. With your hands contend for him, and be a help against his adversaries.”
God’s help here is in fighting against his people’s enemies. Our husband’s greatest enemies (as well as our own) are sin and Satan. Our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). We fight these enemies everywhere, but especially in our marriages. With God’s help, we can help our husbands fight against their spiritual adversaries, like God helped Israel fight, kill, and destroy their physical enemies.
Fighting spiritual battles in our homes looks like praying prayers of protection, deliverance, and repentance for our husbands (and for ourselves). It also looks like soaking up the words of Scripture so that we can speak the truth in love at appropriate times.
We must not underestimate how God can use us — wives empowered by the Holy Spirit — as his eyes, ears, and mouthpiece to rescue or deliver our husbands. God wants to use us to show our husbands things about themselves they have never seen before.
3. A Helper Loves and Submits Boldly
A true helper lives for something bigger than her husband; she lives for Christ. The result of this should be great boldness and great submission.
Esther lived for something bigger than her husband; that’s why she could put her trust in God as she considered and embraced the cost of death (Esther 4:16). She was not a man-pleaser, but feared her Lord alone, so she could boldly put herself at risk. She was bold amidst fearful circumstances and therefore approached her husband with grace and truth. She pleaded for change (Esther 7:3–4).
Abigail put herself at risk to protect her unbelieving husband and their household (1 Samuel 25:24–31). She not only helped save her husband, but saved David from the sin of bloodshed. She pleaded with David to hold his hand back in innocence and not strike it forward in vengeance. Abigail’s help saved lives.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also bold. She risked her reputation and the disapproval of her betrothed when she submitted to the Father’s will. It was her submission to God that made her bold to step forward in faith and receive her calling when she said to the angel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary helped God’s chosen people through her submission.
These three women submitted their lives to God first, which gave them a source of strength to be courageous as helpers. And let’s not forget whom these women point us to. God’s greatest help to us was given through his Son, Jesus Christ. Because of his submissive spirit and bold obedience (Philippians 2:6–8), Christ became the embodiment of God’s saving help to us.
When we stop reducing the role of helper to domesticity, we see a fuller picture through God’s pattern of help — a pattern full of strength, power, rescue, pursuit, submission, and boldness. Helpers are not weak. Our helping draws on and displays God-centered courage filled with grace.