She Prayed – Part 2

Last month the Mom’s Corner focused on praying in situations where there is a difference of opinion between a husband and wife. In this Corner, I want to go further on the issue of a wife’s praying.

We can know the importance of praying for our husbands. We can plan to pray for them on a daily basis. However, do we follow through, or do we find our prayer life steps up only when there is a crisis? I would rather be praying positively for my husband daily when all is going well than to wait until the difficulties arise.

When we begin praying for our husbands, particularly concerning areas where we disagree, we must be very careful that our motives are pure. It is easy to get caught up in the “I am right” syndrome and pray pridefully for our husbands to switch to our way of thinking.

Two times in our marriage Steve has been led to change churches when I didn’t agree with him. While I conceded there were good reasons to leave the current church, I was afraid of the unknown. I was settled in the present church and comfortable. The children had ministries and friends. I didn’t want to “rock the boat.” My prayers were not in support of Steve and the decision he was making.

We made each of those church moves despite my reluctance. In retrospect, they were good decisions on Steve’s part even though they were not the ones I wanted. The work the Lord did in our lives through each of those new churches was wonderful. Now I would not change those decisions for anything. In these cases, my opinions on leaving a church were not right, but I sure thought they were at the time!

Fear was ultimately at the heart of my desire to stay in churches that weren’t right for our family. I was uncertain of what the future would hold with a move. 1 Peter 3:6 says, “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” We are encouraged not to be afraid as we follow Sara’s example.

How many times are our prayers about differences with our husbands based on fear? We are afraid that if we follow our husbands in these decisions, it will mean we may face financial difficulties, we could lose our children’s hearts, or perhaps we will be embarrassed in some way. Our Lord Jesus does not want our prayers for the situation to be resolved as we think it should simply because we are afraid. Rather, He wants us trusting in Him.

Keep in mind the biblical stories where everything looked terrible, but God had a purpose in it and brought about good: Joseph being sold into slavery, Samuel being raised by Eli the wicked priest, Moses taken from his mother to be raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. Our trust must be completely in the Lord and not in what makes sense to us.

Of course there are legitimate issues where it is clear the husband is making poor choices. When we are considering praying for changes in our husbands’ hearts, I would caution that we can easily be consumed with this and develop a critical spirit toward them.

It is important to lay a necessary groundwork for a careful guard against a critical or condescending spirit in a wife toward her husband. If we are praying in one area after another for a change in a husband’s heart and doing this day after day, it could keep our focus on the perceived failings of our husbands. This would fuel our critical spirits.

To avoid this, I would suggest being careful how we pray. For example, in my situation when I didn’t want us to go into debt for a new roof, I think I was asking the Lord to change Steve’s heart so that he didn’t want to go into debt for the roof. On the other hand, I could have prayed for the Lord to provide the funds for a new roof or another alternative that would keep us from debt. Do you see the subtle difference in those two prayers and how the latter would keep my thoughts off of my unhappiness with the direction Steve was headed?

What about the mom who didn’t want to have to go back to work? She can petition the Lord to change her husband’s heart, or she could ask the Lord to provide for the family without her having to work. Again, a very subtle difference, but one worth noting.

Proverbs 31:11-12 says, “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Is it possible that by allowing a critical, prideful spirit to develop in my heart toward my husband, I am doing him evil rather than good?

My heart’s desire is that, as wives, we truly learn the role the Lord has for us. Since areas of disagreement are bound to arise between a husband and wife, may we make it a priority to be much in prayer about each of them. May we rest in the Lord even if we don’t see the changes we would like to have happen.

Do Real Men Ever Become Fearful?

In the spring we went through some difficult times. I have no doubt it could have been worse. I imagine that had it been years earlier, I would have lost many hours of sleep.

Christopher, my twenty-two-year-old son who works with me, was heavily involved in publishing a yearbook for foreign Army officers. We ended up spending extra time on the layout because one section in particular was not provided to us as we had requested (and in the manner on which we had based our cost estimate). That led to overrun on the design estimate. Then when it was printed, the yearbook pages began falling out—in the customer’s hands! We had to work with the customer and our printer to get the books repaired and redistributed before the officers left for countries around the world. During these challenges, I was extremely busy on another project that consumed my thoughts and time. In addition, we had several other problems that surfaced, plus I had a presentation I needed to complete, and it was not coming together. I don’t remember ever feeling such pressure—it was awful.

Then, fairly recently, we faced another time of intense pressure. There were no clear-cut answers to the numerous challenges that we faced. It easily could have become more than I could bear.

In Matthew 8:23 we read about Jesus and His disciples entering a boat to depart to the other side of the lake. The disciples were obediently following Christ’s direction. Verse 24 reads, “And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.” Several of the men were fishermen and would not have been surprised by a storm. However, this day it was a terrible storm. It was so bad that the ship was covered by the waves, and they thought they would perish. They would have been accustomed to storms; however, this one was so severe they feared for their lives. (It occurs to me that my petty problems were not life threatening and nowhere near the severity these men faced in the storm.)

The disciples were helpless. There were no flares to be shot, distress signals to be radioed, or life vests and boats to be relied on. It was grave, and they had every reason to believe they were about to drown. What could they do?

The disciples did exactly what I would have done. In their terror, they went to the Lord Jesus, Who was asleep. They were deeply afraid and likely had no preconception concerning how Jesus could help them out of their crisis, yet they still went to Him. (This lack of preconception is obvious by their amazement after He stills the storm.)

There have been many times when bad news has arrived, and the only thing I could do was go to our bedroom, lie on the floor, and pray. I can now see that usually my prayers were motivated by fear. I know men aren’t supposed to be fearful, but often I respond to outward pressure with fear. It may be fear of failure, of being embarrassed, of financial loss, or of conflict. I may call that fear many things such as uncertainty, concern, worry, or doubt, but I think if I were to strip away everything else and ask God to examine my motives, most often fear is at the root.

Consider the difficulties we had with the yearbook. When we exceeded the estimate, there was fear of a confrontation with the customer. When the pages fell out, there was fear about not being able to deliver a quality product and our customer being upset. A disgruntled customer produces fear of financial loss. On and on it goes, with fear being at the heart.

Let’s look at Matthew 8:26 and read, “And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? . . .” By every appearance they were about to drown while Jesus slept. They were at the point of losing their lives. Jesus didn’t ask them why they woke Him up or why they weren’t baling water. While the wind raged in their ears, Jesus asked them, “Why are ye fearful?” Jesus knew exactly why they were fearful. He had a teachable moment and wanted them to think. Clearly, they were afraid to die, but the deeper cause was their lack of faith that Jesus was God.

I worked for a company that was laying off their employees. It is an awful thing to see the fear that runs rampant in men’s lives when they are faced with losing their job. It is very sad indeed. It would seem reasonable for a man to fear losing his job. However, in Matthew 6:30-34 Jesus says a man has little faith if he worries about what he will eat and wear. Worry and fear are closely related; they go about as co-conspirators, hand in hand to trouble us.

My heart aches when I hear of brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing persecution. It would be natural to be afraid of persecution. In Matthew 10:22-26 Jesus told His disciples not to fear persecution because of Him. He continues to tell them not to fear those who would kill them.

You and I are going to encounter problem after problem in life. How we respond to them is very important as it can have a significant effect on our children’s belief in a sovereign God. May we be bold encouragers of their faith and not fuel the fear that is so natural in children.

So where might we begin? The commands, truths, and promises of Scripture are what I often cling to. We see from Matthew 6:30-34, 8:26, and 14:27 Jesus’ admonitions not to fear under difficult circumstances. Then we read, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Next, we are to run to Christ. We should not approach with a doubting spirit, wondering, “Can the Lord deal with the situation?” as the possessed young man’s father did in Mark 9:22. He said to Jesus, “. . . but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” We are not to be like the disciples in the boat. Jesus did not rebuke them for coming to Him. He rebuked them for not having faith. If we lack faith, then like the possessed young man’s father may we cry out, “. . . Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Our Lord is so merciful and understanding that He will help even our unbelief if we will ask.

I don’t know of anyone who enjoys difficulties. However, there is a big difference between enjoying them and being at peace in them. God has a purpose in those pressures. Problems are going to come, and they will be used by the Lord in our lives. Jesus used the situations to teach the disciples. We need to look at the problems and challenges we face as opportunities to deepen our faith in the Lord. It is easy to trust Him when things are great, but when a child is ill, business is slow, or there is great pressure, our faith is being refined.

“Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer” (Proverbs 25:4). It takes intense heat, much greater than just the heat to melt silver, to burn the dross away. The problems we face can be extremely uncomfortable for us, so much so that we cry out to the Lord to “turn down the heat.” Even though we don’t see Christ or we think He may be sleeping, we must believe that He hears our prayers and is at work in our life. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The disciples could have sat down and said, “Jesus is with us, if we die we die.” But that wasn’t the answer. They were to go to Him, not in fear, but in faith. Isn’t that what He was teaching them when He fed the four and five thousand people?

We must encourage ourselves that the trials and refining of our faith will result in greater challenges as we grow in the Lord. First the disciples had Jesus in the boat when they were in the storm. The next storm they encountered was with Jesus not in the boat with them. They were doing exactly what Jesus told them to, and yet they were encountering severe difficulties. When it was time, the Lord came to them. Maybe their fear was the reason they did not recognize Christ. I would like to know if they were crying out to Him. My guess is that they probably weren’t; otherwise, they would not have been so surprised to see Him.

Fear is a terrible master. It robs our joy and prevents us from properly responding to situations. It is likely we will never react to a situation correctly when fear is the stimulus. However, may we welcome—yes, welcome—our difficulties as opportunities for the Lord to refine our faith. It is with pressure that He conforms us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

May we be men of God and leaders of our families. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).