Bitter or Sweet? – Part 4

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We are continuing with the topic of improving one’s marriage, whether it is currently bitter or sweet. If you haven’t read the previous three Corners, I would encourage you to do that now. Marriage is precious, instituted by God, a type of Christ and the Church, and not to be trifled with. As with anything of significant value, great care must be expended to protect and enhance it.

In Scripture, we discovered that husbands are commanded to love their wives with “agape” love. What is most amazing to me is that I haven’t found anywhere in Scripture where a wife is called to “agape” love her husband. I understand that we are commanded to love our enemies, and in some rocky marriages a wife may feel like an enemy. We are also to love our neighbors as ourselves, but I’m referring to a mention where the wife is specifically told to “agape” love her husband.

One thing a wife is instructed in Scripture is that she should submit to her husband. “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Peter 3:1). Let’s be clear about submission in a marriage. It is a voluntary offering by a wife as unto the Lord. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). It is not to be commanded or demanded by a husband.

We discussed previously how humanly impossible it is for a husband to love his wife with “agape” love at all times, but equally so would it be for a wife to submit to her husband all the time. Yet, God would not command it if He didn’t expect us to make that “the standard.”

“Since God has directed, and He will give grace to both parties, are there things that husbands can do to make it easier for their wives in those times when submission would be her appropriate response? Absolutely! First, let’s define the term “subjection” as found in 1 Peter 3:1 and “submit” in Colossians 3:18 and Ephesians 5:22. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines that word in the Greek as a military term “to rank under.” In essence, it means to obey. It presents a beautiful picture of how a wife’s submission strengthens the marriage, just as a soldier’s willingness to obey his commander’s orders strengthens an army. In the same way that God placed the husband in the home as the leader and final decision maker, He has put the wife in the home to be the follower. It is not difficult to see why God called the wife to obey and respect (we will talk about that next month) the husband because those are necessary qualities of a follower. The husband is to love his wife since that should cause him to be a careful, gentle, and compassionate leader. Neither husband or wife is going to be one hundred percent successful in their God-given roles and will therefore at times disappoint the other. In spite of his bad choices, she is still to obey her husband in the Lord. He is to love his wife even though sometimes she might not follow him and other times remind him of his failures.

The most obvious way Dad can sweeten the marriage and make it easier for Mom to follow him is for Dad to be a man of God, a follower of  the Lord Jesus, and a wise decision maker. There was a two-part series of Dad’s Corners about making wise decisions and here are the links: Part 1 and Part 2. One aspect  the articles highlight is how our pride can cause us at times to make stupid decisions and then that pride also prevents us from acknowledging our error. That is certainly a recipe for making it difficult for a wife to cheerfully follow. On the other hand, humble leadership can be a soothing balm to her soul since his humble acknowledgement of failure eases any potential reaction she might have.

The more we are in the Word, the more we understand God’s will for our lives. There are many decisions we will immediately know the answer to if we are daily in the Word. One man years ago told me he was praying about whether to leave his wife. I told him that was unnecessary. If he was reading his Bible, he would see that God had already told him, “No! Don’t do it.”

We are to see everything in life through the “grid” of Scripture. Christian wives desire husbands that know the Word and lead their family accordingly. If she is to submit to her head, shouldn’t her husband cheerfully submit to his Head, the Lord Jesus Christ? My wife’s head can be seen, but my Head, the Lord Jesus, must be followed with eyes of faith and a close walk. My Head is infallible; her head makes mistakes. We are to follow our Lord and Shepherd. “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (John 10:4). Are we doing all we can to listen to Him and hear His voice? If we do, it makes it much easier for her to follow, and it sweetens the marriage.

One way that makes it especially easy for a wife to follow is when she is prized as a helpmeet with valuable abilities and insights. A wise husband will recognize that God often works through his wife and gives her insights that he might not have. Most Christian women have a keen spiritual sensitivity, and God may give your wife cautions and insight at times that He doesn’t give you.

This weekend, God gave us an example of this. I had plans to attend a graduation event with three of the children. It would involve a four-hour drive, and we would be driving home very late Saturday night to avoid the cost of a motel room. Teri came to me and shared a concern about being on that particular road late at night with potential drunk drivers. She asked that we consider staying in a hotel and coming home on Sunday. Because of my respect for Teri, I opted for the motel room. The only way to prove it was of the Lord would be to drive home and see if something bad happened. However, I want to be someone with a sensitivity to the Lord and how He might direct: therefore, I accepted her counsel. Men, your wife is a God-given jewel of greater value than rubies. Be easy to follow, and you will have a sweeter marriage.

Let’s consider an example as to how difficult it can be for wives when their husbands are making bad decisions. I have heard many Christian dads exclaim their displeasure in governmental authorities’ decisions these days. Those decisions are serious with far-reaching consequences impacting the lives of unborn babies, family welfare, educational policies, national sovereignty, and national financial stability to name a few. Just as we dislike following governmental leaders who are making poor decisions for our country, consider how a wife feels about following a husband she believes to be making bad spiritual choices for their family.

We are going to be much easier to follow when our hearts are brought low in humility with the reality of how serious our decisions are. Similar to the difficulty in turning this nation around, poor decisions will affect the lives of our children and likely their children after them.

God has given a wife the job of being a helpmeet and follower. Do we appreciate how difficult her job is? She is called to follow her husband as unto the Lord even if he makes bad decisions. However, it makes for a happier wife and sweeter marriage if we will make it easier for her. Are we men of God following our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ?