Not My DIY Project

How a Wife Entrusts Her Husband to God

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Guest Contributor

Philippians 1:6 might not be the first verse that comes to mind when we think about marriage, but perhaps we should remember it more often. From his prison cell, Paul wrote to his gospel partners in Philippi, reminding them of God’s ongoing work in their lives: “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Perhaps you’ve seen this verse plastered on coffee mugs or heard it frequently quoted. It’s one of the Bible’s most beloved verses, and rightly so. We’re encouraged by the promise that God is not finished with us yet and won’t leave his work unfinished. But our familiarity with this verse might cause us to skim past it, feeling unaffected by the light it shines on our everyday lives, especially marriage.

Philippians 1:6 guarantees us that God saves, transforms, and completes genuine believers. While this verse is not explicitly about marriage, we can draw parallels between God’s work in us as individuals and his work in our believing spouses.

When conflict arises in marriage, or we’re dissatisfied with our husband’s spiritual growth, our default setting is not to trust that God will use even this to fulfill the good work he began in his life. Instead, we might offer not-so-subtle suggestions for ways our husband could improve his spiritual practices. For starters, he could wake up earlier to be in the word, lead the family in more regular devotions, or get involved in a men’s Bible study. Secretly, we might compare him to other, more godly husbands, wallow in discontent, and let it deepen.

But this is where Philippians 1:6 can give us renewed hope and confidence, assuring us that God is indeed at work in our spouse’s life.

Sure Confidence

Paul asserts in verse 6 that he is “sure of this.” Some translations say he is “confident of this very thing.” Paul rooted his confidence in God, resulting in a fixed expectation that God would finish what he had begun in the Philippians’ lives. Sure of this.

“A gentle and quiet spirit often speaks loudest to both believing and unbelieving husbands.”

However, as Christian wives, “confidence” might not be the first word we’d choose to describe our longing for our husband’s spiritual growth and maturity. We might choose less solid-sounding words, like “dream” or “wish,” preferring not to set ourselves up for disappointment. When he zones out on his phone more than he engages with God’s word, “concern” more accurately reflects our heart than “confidence.” When negative patterns seem to be setting in, our response might be, What can I do to fix this?

Philippians 1:6 helps us zoom out and see the bigger picture. In this short verse, Paul gives us an overview of salvation. Even though the Philippians were faithful gospel partners, he based his confidence not on their ability to complete the good work of their salvation, but on God’s. Paul saw God in their conversion (beginning the good work in their lives), then in their sanctification, (where the ongoing work of growth was taking place), and finally in their glorification (where one day the work would be complete). This is the past, present, and future progression of the Christian faith. Paul’s confidence that no Christian would be left incomplete should be ours too.

When we find ourselves being quick to criticize our husbands, we can remember this bigger picture: if he’s a true believer, God is at work in his life. So often, we try to draw conclusions based on the evidence we see right now. Yet Paul found confidence in the God who knows the beginning from the end. The one who directs all human history sovereignly orchestrates both current circumstances and future events. He is the author and finisher of our faith, so you can trust that when God truly starts his work on a man, he will bring him through all the uncomfortable middle parts to completion.

Not My DIY Project

There aren’t many things in life we’re guaranteed will get done to perfection. You might hope that your husband will finish all his projects around the house, but you might not be confident he will. However, the project of his faith, which is yet unfinished, will one day be completed because God is doing it.

How does this practically take place? Paul writes in Philippians 2:12–13, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” There’s a mysterious cooperation between us and God as we grow in Christlikeness: by faith, we work out what God works in. But we can only work out our salvation, not our husband’s. We can encourage him and pray for him, but this truth frees us from seeing our husbands as our own DIY projects.

We know the Holy Spirit often uses wives to convict a husband of sin and lead him to salvation and greater holiness (1 Peter 3:1). But Peter encourages wives that it is their conduct, more than their comments, that wins over a man. A gentle and quiet spirit often speaks loudest to both believing and unbelieving husbands. A wife with this spirit knows she doesn’t have to voice all her concerns about her husband to her husband. Instead, she can turn to God in prayer, casting her cares on him, and patiently await the opportune time to speak an upbuilding word.

Philippians 1:6 reminds us that salvation is all a work of grace. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have honest conversations with our spouse about spiritual growth and how we can encourage one another to pursue Christlikeness. But the heart of our calling is not to fix him or point out all that’s lacking in him or carry the burden for his sanctification, but rather conduct ourselves with a quiet confidence that God will.

This Day and That Day

When can we expect this work to be done in his life? Paul says it will be complete “at the day of Jesus Christ.” The phrase “the day of Jesus Christ” refers to the final day of judgment and reward. Believers eagerly await this day when Christ will return and bring his reward with him (Revelation 22:12). Martin Luther reportedly said, “There are only two days in my calendar: this day and that Day.”

This might feel like the good news, bad news aspect of this verse. While we’re encouraged that God will complete what he started in our husbands on that day, we’d like those changes to take place as soon as possible, please. Meanwhile, however, a wonderful thing happens as we wait for that day: we’re becoming sanctified too.

As we meditate on this verse and the rest of God’s word, Paul’s settled confidence in God’s saving, sanctifying, and completing power becomes our own. Over time, we see evidence of growth in our lives as we become more dependent on God and less on ourselves. Where we were prone to criticize or worry, we learn there’s great freedom and peace in casting those cares on God. In all the uncomfortable middle parts of our lives, we see God has been at work all along, completing his good work in us.

We don’t know when that day will come, but it’s closer now than when you started reading this article. While we long for sanctification to have its full and perfect work in our husband’s life, we learn to trust God, pray faithfully, and wait confidently. We know God will bring about his perfect results in his perfect time.

writes on her personal website and operates an online writing community, My Writers’ Bloc. She and her husband, Tim, live in Gilbert, Arizona, with their four children.