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Posts Tagged ‘wife’

Relationships grow when rooted in the love of Christ.  Christ’s love was shown in the doing of a hard thing.  Christ’s love was sacrificial.  We don’t have to sacrifice for our salvation.  Jesus Christ did that on the Cross for us.  It’s done… once and for all.  Believing that, we’re called to live as forgiven people who also forgive others.  In a working marriage, husband and wife are constantly forgiving each other.  A particular “need” or “want” may be sacrificed for the sake of the relationship.  Such sacrifice cannot be measured, but is a fragrant offering to God.

During my lifetime, women have been told they have the right to have their needs met.   A “good” husband is expected to meet those needs.  But, what if he doesn’t?

Time and experience wrapped in God’s Word speak.

“I thought I could change him.”

A friend wasted so many years trying to “fix” her husband.  She pushed, prodded and regularly reminded him of his failures.  In time, she realized that her techniques never worked.  Instead of trying to change him, she asked God for a changed attitude.  Little by little, she learned that it was her job to love her husband and God’s job to change him.  1 Peter 3:1-5 reminds a wife that she can win even an unbelieving husband with respect, pure conduct, and a quiet spirit.

“He doesn’t make me happy.”

A friend admitted that she was very dependent on her husband for her happiness.  She married him because he seemed strong, stable, and confident.  She expected him to take care of her like a good dad would take care of his daughter.  So focused on her own insecurities, she didn’t see that he, too, was sometimes fearful, unsure, and struggling.  One day, she adjusted her prayers.  “Please, dear God, help me be a better wife.”  She welcomed him at the door with a smile.  She asked him about his day.  She left cheerful and encouraging notes on his mirror, by his plate, and inside his boots.  It sounds rather magical, but in choosing her words with care and thinking of little ways to make her husband happy, this wife became more content.  She had a purpose.  She was serving God and He was surprising her with joy.  Joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

“I feel more worthless with him than I think I would without him.”

A woman does not get her identity from her husband.  Treasured or abused, her value does not come from man.  Nor does our identity change with the circumstances of life.  Our identity — our value — is sure and certain because of what Jesus Christ did for us.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

“He’s such a disappointment.”

For many years, the wife mourned her marriage.  She was sure that God had made a mistake.  We’re too different, she thought.  This will never work.  Quite unexpectedly, the woman realized she really wasn’t fighting her husband, she was fighting God.  Focusing on her disappointment, she was paralyzed to think or do good.  Over time, she began to zero in on her husband’s strengths and minimize his weaknesses.  Every time he acted in an annoying way, she chose to think about his positive attributes.  She stopped criticizing him to her friends and started speaking well of him.  People of light “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 4:5, 11).

“He doesn’t seem to care about meeting my needs.”

No matter what the feminists told us, men and women aren’t the same.  Equal, yep.  But, not the same.  So, first of all, men can’t know all of our needs because they don’t think, feel, or communicate like we do.  And, second of all, shame on us for idolizing ourselves!  Are we called to be served, or to serve?  Honestly, who really knows our needs: us… or the One who made us?  A wife of many years put it this way: “I’ve learned that my husband is meeting my greatest needs.  His faithfulness is my security.  His labor provides financial covering and numerous freedoms.  Our shared faith makes us companions even when times are hard.   Does he love me?  Yes.  It is shown in his perseverance (1 Corinthians 13:7).”

“I don’t feel loved.”

Maybe we have the wrong definition of love.  If it’s an emotion, sometimes we’ll feel it and sometimes we won’t.  Love is better defined as the willingness to act for the benefit of another.  Love is being patient, kind, and unselfish (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).  I have found that love is when a husband and wife, in spite of differences, want to be a team.  “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11).  This is a world made hard by sin.  When the enemy of life stands at the door ready to devour us, feelings and emotions will provide little defense.  But, real love evidenced by selfless partnership will overpower evil.   “A threefold cord (husband, wife, and Christ) is not quickly broken” (v. 12).

“Everyday, he grows more distant.”

A woman has great power.  She can break or make a man.  She can crush a man’s spirit — with a look or a word — or she can help his spirit soar.  When she emasculates him, brashly or subtly, her dagger slices deep to his masculine core to attack his very personhood.  No wonder it is better for him “to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9).  Indeed, “the wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Proverbs 14:1).

Marriage is a hard dance.  Not surprising when we remember that we are sinful people living in a sin-filled world.  Not surprising when we acknowledge that men and women are equal, but different.  Not surprising when we consider our uniqueness as persons.  For this reason, we need the Word of God as our music.  Only then does the dance begin to change. 

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An excellent wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life (Proverbs 31:10-11)

The Proverbs 31 woman seems to receive lots of praise from both men and women.  But, perhaps the praise is for something different than we think.

The first woman, Eve, fell into sin when she failed to trust God, doubted His Word, and determined for herself what was right and wrong.  This is not the case with the Proverbs 31 woman.   She appears to know her identity as a feminine creature loved and valued by God.  She trusts God and the fruit of that trust is her service to others.  She does all that she does — smart and talented as she is — for her household, her family, her husband — out of love for the Lord.  She does not focus on having her needs met, but on meeting the needs of others.  She does not sit at the “gates” of the community “among the elders;” her husband does (v.23).  She practices self-control because “she opens her mouth with wisdom” (not foolishness) and “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (v. 26).

If we cannot praise the first woman, Eve, because she doubted and was deceived, then think about it.  Why can we praise the Proverbs 31 woman?    One of the early church fathers, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, wrote, “You have been enabled to reject the deceitful glory of the world . . . you deserve to be praised for not being deceived.”

So, then, “the heart of her husband trusts in her.”

Eve was tempted by a distortion of truth.  Vulnerable — and not trusting God, she allowed herself to be deceived.  I venture to say that the Proverbs 31 woman, living in a fallen and sinful world, was also tempted by distortions of truth.  But, every time she put her trust in God, she was able to reject the “progressive” trends, lifestyles, and behaviors of the world around her.

In being submissive (remember gals: Jesus is God, yet He was submissive to the Father), a wife can win her husband for the Lord even if he is disobedient to the Word.  It is not a woman’s outer appearance that influences a man so much as it is the “hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:1-4).  This is how “holy women” who put their hope in God have always adorned themselves (v. 5).

So, then, “the heart of her husband trusts in her.”

Now, it’s time to get personal.  I’m a wife.  I’ve had my “Eve days” and my “Proverbs 31 woman” days.  The prince of darkness likes to see me in conflict.  But, when the Holy Spirit nudges me out of myself to see the men in my life, I recognize their fragility.  My husband and sons, my dad and brother, my brother-in-laws and uncles all know how to tackle the “hard work” of life, make their way through obstacles, and faithfully provide for and cover their families.  But, they often aren’t sure what to do with the relational side.  They may appear strong, but feel weak.  They may seem heartless, but feel wounded.  They may look confidant and even arrogant, but feel like a failure.  The heart of a man needs the “gentle and quiet spirit” of a godly woman.

The Proverbs 31 woman was aware of the feminine influence God had given to her, but she was not deceived into abusing that influence.  I wonder: Could her husband open up to her because he knew she would bring him good not harm?  Could he have confidence in her respect for him even when she disagreed with his leadership?   Could he trust her to act rightly toward him no matter if she was having a good — or bad — day?  Could he depend on her for an encouraging word, even in the midst of difficulty?  I think so.

So, then, “the heart of her husband trusts in her.”

In all of my travels and all of my conversations with both men and women, I hear the same message: Wives need loving affirmation, conversation, and commitment.  Husbands need respect.  They receive this respect in a number of ways including intimacy, companionship, and domestic support and admiration.  The “heart of her husband trusts in her” when she speaks well of him to his children and in the community.  A godly man knows when he’s failing.  When his wife speaks well of him in front of children or friends, he knows she isn’t giving him a pass or letting him off the hook.  What he recognizes and values is her loyalty and “gentle and quiet spirit.”  This encourages him to try harder, to do better.

Well, that’s how I see it.  Anyone reading this may disagree.  That’s o.k.  I’m not calling myself a Proverbs 31 woman because I too often act like Eve.   The struggle within me between deception and truth rages on.  But, I have hope:

Those whose eyes rest on the Savior’s Cross will be renewed and transformed.  Those who trust the Lord will obtain the wisdom needed to oppose deceit.

So… “the heart of her husband trusts in her.”  He praises her, not because of what she does, but because she has been enabled to reject the deceit of the world.

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“It is not good,” said the Lord God, “that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).

Let’s assume a Biblical understanding of the word “helper.”  A “helper” (Hebrew: ezer) is defined as being an “assistant” or an “ally.”   Perhaps most significantly, it is a description of God Himself.  Before Jesus returned to heaven, He promised His disciples that He would send “another Helper” (John 14:16).  That “Helper” is the Holy Spirit who is described as a “comforter” (Greek: parakletos) or someone who appears on anothers behalf.  Some commentaries speak of the Holy Spirit as an “encourager.”   The Holy Spirit imparts truth.  Builds up.  Strengthens.

I am not demeaned or offended to be a “helper fit for” man.  There is order and purpose to everything that God does.  God is order, the opposite of chaos.  The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet the three are equal.  The Holy Spirit is not inferior to the Father or the Son, but plays a different role.  Lives are affected through the power of the Spirit’s presence as He helps, comforts, and encourages.

In the created order, woman is not inferior to man but plays a powerfully different role.  Her presence and the way she chooses to use her natural power affects the lives of others.

Will she choose to use this power to discourage or encourage?  To bring pain or comfort?  To tear down or build up?

Man was created to be a good steward over all the earth, a defender of life, a tender covering over his wife, and the mentor of children and grandchildren.  But, he can’t do this by himself.  He needs the Word of God.  After that, he needs a helper.  That helper, said God, is woman.

How a woman helps, especially in her vocation as a wife, is explained by the way in which the first woman was made.  “The rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman . . .” (Genesis 2:22).   The Hebrew word for “rib” is commonly used for a structural component related to the side of something.  When speaking of a building, it may mean a pillar or beam.  But, when used in reference to a person, it generally means a “rib bone.”   In the structure of our anatomy, the rib guards the human heart and breath of life.  Martin Luther called his wife, Katie, his “rib.”  I am my husband’s rib.   The rib is a strong bone, but it is also easily fractured or broken, especially when under attack.  Women — and the men that women love — are vulnerable in a sinful world.

In this fallen and difficult world, a woman helps her husband by being a pillar supportive of his personhood and his vocations.  Those vocations, or callings, include his stewardship, fatherhood, employment on behalf of family, and respected place in community.  How does she do this, yet remain fearless in the face of her own vulnerability?

She clings to her identity as God’s creation and the treasure for whom Jesus Christ gave all He had.  This identity never changes, no matter the circumstances.  Some women think their identity is found in being a wife, mother, teacher, musician, care-giver, or friend.  Some find their identity in their appearance, popularity, or health.  All of these vocations and circumstances are in a constant state of change.  Our identity as God’s creation and the treasure of Christ never changes… no matter if our children grow up or we lose our job, best friend, or health.

When a woman trusts her identity in Christ, she is free to use her natural power in positive ways.  She doesn’t have to control the people or circumstances in her life, but can practice self-control for the good of her neighbor.  In a marriage, that neighbor is her husband.  She has the power to make or break or husband; to build up or tear down.

Some women know they have this power.  They make a conscious decision to assume control.  Some women are clueless about this power.  They may slowly and painfully destroy their husbands with cruel and insensitive words and behaviors.  Perhaps, feeling small, they try to build themselves up by tearing their husbands down.  Both kinds of women have the same core problem: Their foundation is unsure.  They have forgotten (or never been taught) their identity in Christ.   There is another woman.  She is keenly aware of the power entrusted to her by God; therefore, she strives to use that power for good.  She knows her identity is sure and certain, no matter the circumstances.  She turns outward from self to others and, in so doing, brings glory to God.

God’s Word in the book of Proverbs speaks of a woman’s power — and choice.   “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones” (12:4).  “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (14:1).  “A wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.  House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (19:13-14).

The power of a woman — the helper, pillar and rib — is life-affecting and life-changing.  Disciplined, it is awesome.  Undisciplined, it is dangerous.

Will a woman choose to tear down… or build up?  The answer to this question doesn’t only affect men.  It affects children — for generations to come.

This ezerwoman will continue to ponder and think aloud on the journey.  In the meantime, you’re invited to visit Titus 2 for Life.

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Marriage is a grand idea.  God designed it.  One man + one woman + God = joy!

The male and the female: equal, but not the same.  Compatible.  Complementary.  Two hands from two bodies playing one song on the keyboard of life.  God bringing forth new life from one union.  A procreative masterpiece.

Sigh.  Now, in a fallen world, it is difficult (if not impossible) to imagine the perfection of God’s design.  Marriage, like all relationships, is challenged.  In the spiritual battle between life and death; good and evil; God and satan, marriage is attacked — relentlessly.  Why?  Because it is the cornerstone of civilization, a “nest” for children, and the hope for generations to come.

But, even in the most challenged marriages, God can (and does) work.  When we see our role of husband or wife as one of our vocations, we better understand our call to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”  A husband serves his neighbor (his wife).  A wife serves her neighbor (her husband).  Together, both serve their little neighbors (their children).  God doesn’t need us to do anything for Him, said Martin Luther, but our neighbor does.  God works through us to serve our neighbors.

Are we challenged in our service of others?  Oh, yes.  Even in the closest of families there are differences in personalities, mannerisms, preferences, perspectives, patience, confidence, show of love, and even humor.  The lessons learned while growing up, personal experiences, and a motly mix of genes shape one person to be a little (or a lot) different from another.  Still…

In marriage, as in all relationships, we have choices.  We can build up, or tear down.  We can focus on what’s working, or what’s not.  We can serve, or wait to be served.

Contentment in marriage doesn’t come when someone acts the way we think we’d like them to.  Contentment doesn’t depend on one person making the other happy or filling them up or meeting their needs.

Contentment is a “core” thing; it’s from the Cross.  A Cross-focus rather than a “me” focus changes husband and wife, saint and sinner, from the inside out.  Personalities and quirky habits remain, but a Cross-focused “core” changes our attitude.  Attitude changes behavior.

Our response to our neighbor reveals our “core,” no matter if they make us happy or sad.

We love because He first loved us.

(1 John 4:9)  In response to Jesus’ sacrificial love for us, how do we choose to love our neighbor?

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