Updated: Feb 21
This is a very tender subject in the hearts of many believers within the context of marriage. As a woman who lived many years in this state, this article is written from a wife’s perspective. However, I pray the application will be more far-reaching for any heart yearning to be equally yoked. As partners, it is our heart’s absolute desire to run in tandem with our spouse in the callings of the Lord. Sometimes, however, that is not the reality in our homes.
Can we still fulfill the purposes of God?
Is it our job to stir the other towards God?
What do we do when we recognize a lack in our partner?
These are all difficult questions that God has wisdom for. Isn’t that what we need, ladies? Wisdom?
James tells us that if we lack wisdom, with faith, we can request it of God who gives it out in abundance! The proviso here is a caution against doubt, which leads to a double mind and instability. So, let’s begin with the firm foundation of God’s perfect wisdom; His word!
The purpose of God in my life
When you are a wife, part of your purpose is to serve your husband, which is part of the greater purpose of any believer; to serve.
“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 ESV
Yikes! Subjection? This is a charged subject. While I am no theologian and I do not claim to fully understand what this means, I know it is in God’s Word and I know the heart behind this from my own experience. I can assure you that God can use UNSAVED, UNREDEEMED leadership to protect us.
I will never forget when my husband was not walking with the Lord and I wanted to bring some children into my home to care for them and he said, “no.” I called an older woman friend of mine and lamented how he could not possibly be hearing from the Lord because he was not seeking the Lord. This precious sister told me, “This does not excuse you from submitting. God can impart wisdom to your husband in order to protect you and your children.” I was furious but I heeded the wisdom. That fury faded when I discovered that one of those children I wanted to care for, ended up victimizing another child in our neighborhood.
Ladies! If God can turn the hearts of pagan kings (Proverbs 21:1) and move them to rebuild temples (Ezra 1:2) or praise the name of the one true God (Daniel 4:1-3), can He not bring wisdom and help through a lacking or even an unsaved spouse? Better yet, if He can speak wisdom and bring protection from death through a donkey (Numbers 22:24-31) can He not do the same through our husbands?! The answer is an unequivocal, “YES!” I would STRONGLY encourage you to seek wisdom and ask the Lord what this looks like for you. If we desire to walk in true freedom and believe we have more of the Lord than our spouse, we will need to seek God and pray more than ever.
The next portion expresses that if our spouse does not obey the Word, they can be won by our conduct or conversation. Looking into the Greek root of the word "conversation", I found that it literally means to “return or pass.” Your response is your “return”. How are we responding to our spouses? How do you behave when you don’t agree? Maybe this sounds more easily said than done. I get it, sisters! I get it more than you can imagine. I had 12 years of pain, disappointment, and destruction in my marriage. But I can sit here with total confidence and tell you GOD IS FAITHFUL and He is a restorer! My husband and I will celebrate 24 years of marriage this July ONLY because God is full of grace. Let me undergird this point. Right before this verse, Paul is addressing servants with harsh masters. This goes above and beyond what a wife owes her husband but even still, he says:
“For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly."
1 Peter 2:18-23 ESV
Ladies, place yourself in the hands of the One who judges righteously. He knows all about it. He sees, He hears, and He is with us!
The final portion speaks to the fear of the Lord and chaste conversation. First of all I’d like to address the conversation portion, briefly. It is so important to watch what you say about your spouse. You can shame and damage them with your words, as well as marring their character, before others. This grieves the Lord’s heart so much when we treat each other in this way.
I'll never forget being in that situation, and I was challenged by an unbelieving family member that was going through a divorce. He overheard me talking unfavorably about my husband to other family members and came to me in front of everyone. With tears in his eyes and pain in his broken voice, he pleaded with me to never do to my husband what his wife had done to him. In that moment the fear of the Lord came upon me, I had no more words, and my heart was moved to a place of repentance that brought me freedom that I will never forfeit again.
The benefits of this fear are transcendent. This fear is just the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10a). Scripture says that it is “pure, enduring forever.” (Psalm 19:9). In Jeremiah 32:40 it says that He will make an everlasting covenant, and not turn away from doing good to His people putting “the fear of Me in their hearts, that they may not turn from Me.”
Psalm 25:14 says that “the secret [or friendship] of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” And He further commands us that we are not to fear what people fear or live in their dread but that “The Lord of Hosts is the One we shall regard as holy. Only He should be feared. Only He should be dreaded and He will be a sanctuary,” (Isaiah 8:12b-14a). The fear of the Lord brings wisdom, sanctuary, purity, friendship with Him, endurance in our walk, and so much more. Let’s get free of the fear of what can happen, of what it may look like, or how hard life can be, and take on the fear that brings life and not death.
Who’s stirring who?
I’ve heard questions asked about stirring others to a relationship with Jesus. Let’s take a look at John 6:44a to address this:
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”
John 6:44a NKJV
Here was a revelation for me in my most arrogant moments: I am not the Holy Spirit and if I was, my job description would be advocate, not accuser (that title belongs to Satan). My youngest child is the most spirited. She used to make us laugh so hard with her little monologues about God. She would say, “Mommy! You gonna be on the devil’s side or God’s side?”
There was so much truth in her little quips– whose side am I on? Will I be an advocate or an accuser to the man I am called to help? It is the Holy Spirit that moves in our hearts, makes us willing, and draws us to Himself. I don’t stir my husband, I love him. I don’t judge him, I observe what he needs and bring it to God who can supply it. Our judgments are boomerangs and have a very sneaky way of coming right back on our own heads. Beware this path. Keep in mind also, an often misunderstood curse from the garden; to “desire our husband” as he rules over us, is to desire to rule over our husbands. If we desire to rule over our protectors, we forfeit our protection. Finally, encourage your husband instead of inspecting him for errors. Expect good things and perhaps you will find that he rises to the occasion!
What about my own heart?
Fix your eyes on Jesus and lean on Him. Let Him tell you the truth about your spouse. The enemy may be telling parts of the truth but it’s not his place. Just like I tell my kids, it’s not your job to tell your sibling what they’re doing wrong, it’s mine. It’s always the job of the Father to tell us when something is off because His truth brings redemption - the enemy’s “truth” only brings destruction. As you lean, ask God to shed His love abroad in your heart (Romans 5:5) because after that, comes HOPE! Bind this love around your neck (Proverbs 3:3) as if your life depends upon it because it does! Your life in Christ is at stake.
“If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also."
1 John 4:20-21 NKJV
Love never fails, ladies (1 Cor. 13:8a) and God cannot be anything but faithful!
In addition, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!!! Gather a team of women who love him as the Father loves him and will not be offended when you are offended; women who will help you maintain your lane (Titus 2)! In the depths of my anguish, God brought me women to come alongside me, not to talk about my husband or commiserate with me but to pray for me and pray with me. Then I prayed for men to come alongside my husband. I can say with full confidence and proof that prayer does way more than talking. I prayed every morning, every night, and every opportunity with these women for strongholds to be demolished and axes to be taken to roots. Faithfully, daily, and weekly, I prayed and stopped talking; and God moved!
E.M. Bounds in his Complete Works chapter on “Putting God to work” (pg 441-447) says, “God has of His own motion, placed Himself under the law of prayer, and has obligated Himself to answer the prayers of men”; “Man has it in his power by prayer to move God to work in His own way among men.”; and “Prayer lays hold of God and influences Him to work.” He cites that the inverse is far more grave. “It (prayerlessness) leaves man in this world with its tremendous responsibilities and its difficult problems, and with all of its burdens, sorrows, and afflictions, without any God at all. In reality, the denial of prayer is a denial of God Himself, for God and prayer are so inseparable that they can never be divorced.” To solidify this point is God’s word that says,
“I searched for a man among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land so that I might not destroy it, but I found no one. So I have poured out my indignation on them and consumed them with the fire of my fury. I have brought their conduct down on their own heads.' This is the declaration of the Lord God."
Ezekiel 22:30-31 CSB
He didn’t move, because no one prayed! Let me explain– if you feel like you don’t have the energy, look at what the Lord can do for you! He can make you willing on the day of His power (Psalm 110:3).
He will put His Spirit within you and cause you to walk in His statutes (Ezekiel 36:26-27). He will uphold you with a willing spirit (Psalm 51:10-12). He will work in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). He will help you serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness (Luke 1:74-75). He will betroth you to Him in righteousness and faithfulness (Hosea 2:19). He will write His law in your heart and mind (Jeremiah 31:33). He will strengthen you and help and uphold you with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10). And, He will be faithful to protect you from the evil one and direct your heart into His love and perseverance (2 Thessalonians 3:3-5).
One final thought: results are not the end goal - the end goal is being in the image of Christ, for both of you! Marriage is for sanctification as you lay down your life. There is only one way to overcome, ladies; the way Jesus did– AS A LAMB. One statement a leader made to me in the midst of my deepest heartache was that there was something bigger than my marriage. My heart cried, ” What could that possibly be?!” He wisely replied, “The condition of your souls.” The battle is real but the victory belongs to those who participate! Get in this fight, sisters!
Lord, I pray for every wife that is reading this article today and ask that You would come with Your energizing spirit of love and grace and give them everything they need to honor and love in a way that brings You glory! In Jesus’ mighty name!