Tag Archives: Husband Wife Communication

Bitter or Sweet? – Part 6

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I anticipate this to be the final Corner in this series on the subject of improving one’s marriage, whether it is currently bitter or sweet. If you haven’t read the previous Corners in the series, I would encourage you to do that now. Marriage is precious, instituted by God, and a type of Christ and the Church. A good marriage is a beautiful testimony of God’s grace and love. May each of us evaluate what our marriage proclaims to the world about our God. Does our marriage bring God glory or shame?

We have discussed what agape love is in marriage and practical ways to live out the love that Scripture commands a husband to have for his wife. However, the emotional component of love is icing on the cake. It is like the sweet cream on the top of my favorite brand of yogurt. How we can make our emotional love stronger is the topic of this Corner. The question is: Do I desire a greater love for my wife, and if I do, what level of effort am I willing to expend?

I have a concern about writing on emotional love. Emotional love is the less noble love when compared to agape love. Agape love is love based on choice and commitment. Agape love is God’s love for us that sent Jesus to the cross. It is a sacrificial love that affects our actions toward another. Agape love, for the most part, is separate from emotions. It is a choice. However, phileo love is an emotional, pleasurable love. The Bible primarily speaks of agape love, and therefore, we must focus our attention on agape love and minor on phileo.

How do I build phileo love upon my agape love? I have to say that I don’t believe there is any simple one, two, three step approach that guarantees phileo love for someone. I do think there are concepts we can learn from Scripture that give us important general direction. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). The word for our love for the Lord is defined in Strong’s Hebrew Concordance as to “have an affection based on a close relationship.” We are to have a strong emotional love for the Lord God!

The following verses are key for us to affectionately love God. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). We teach our children to emotionally love God by positively talking about Him with them through out the day and by using His Word frequently during those conversations.

When our family is in the Word in the morning during our personal Bible devotions and then in the evening during family Bible time, we see how glorious the Lord is. We see how gracious He is and how merciful He is. We see how great His love is for us all day, every day! As we reflect on these things, we are filled with a sense of emotional pleasure due to the awesomeness of our God! Focusing on the positive aspects of God that relate to us builds our emotional love of God.

David, a man after God’s own heart is a superb example of someone with strong emotional love for the Lord. Many of the Psalms that David wrote are his personal love letters for his God. “Listen” to just a few passages from the first twelve Psalms.

“But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; My glory, and the lifter up of mine head” (Psalm 3:3).

“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: For thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

“O LORD our Lord, How excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1).

“The LORD trieth the righteous: But the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth” (Psalm 11:5).

“The words of the LORD are pure words: As silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6).

In my desire to love Teri more, what can I learn from David’s love for his God? David focused on the qualities of God that were applicable to his relationship with God. For my emotional love to grow toward Teri, I need to focus on her positive qualities that are applicable to our marriage and relationship. I thank the Lord for her heart to love and please the Lord Jesus. I praise God for Teri’s desire to be a good wife and mother. I thank God for her kindness and thoughtfulness. I delight in her love for me and desire to please me. I am eternally grateful for her carrying each child for nine months and giving birth to him. I am so grateful for all the years she has selflessly invested in the children’s education. She is a teammate in our marriage, and we work well together. She is an outstanding home organizer. She manages her time exceptionally well and is a wonderful example of being diligent. She is constantly seeking to grow in knowledge and grace in the Lord Jesus Christ. She is so faithful to her Lord and to me.

When I focus on Teri’s qualities, I’m grateful to the Lord for giving me her, and my emotional love for her grows. Last night I stopped by an auto parts store to pick up a couple of items. Having accomplished my goal, I was about to get into my vehicle when I noticed a good-looking car parked next to me. There was a man about my age waiting for someone in the store. Since I was struck by how nice the car looked, I commented on it to him. You should have seen him “come alive.” He became happy and animated. He just couldn’t stay seated. With an ear-to-ear grin, he jumped out of the car and excitedly started talking about his car. That man LOVED his car, and with each glowing word of praise for it, I observed his emotional delight ratchet-up a notch higher as if winding a spring tighter and tighter. We talked about his car for a while, and then it was time to go.

I know some men have been accused of loving their cars more than their wives. Hopefully if I had asked him about his wife, he would have been even more animated and excited to tell me about her. My brief encounter with that gentleman highlighted to me that when we major on what is good, there is a positive, emotional response to follow. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). However, if I allow myself to entertain critical or negative thoughts, I kill emotional love.

May we decide whether we want to grow our emotional love for our wives or diminish it. Our marriages are all the sweeter the more emotional love we have for our wives. Why not do all we can to enhance our marriages?

Bitter or Sweet? – Part 5

To listen to this Corner as a podcast, please see this link.

Our area is in the midst of a severe drought. There are several wooded hillsides in the area, and as you look at them, you can see trees that are slowly dying. Even in the neighborhoods where Teri and I walk every day, we are observing trees that first turn brown, then lose their leaves, and appear to be dying. What is sad is that the trees in people’s yards don’t have to die. If only the homeowner would turn on a hose under the tree and let it run, he could save the tree with that small amount of preventative effort. How much greater value is a marriage and therefore worthy of effort to sweeten it, making it a testimony of God’s grace?

No matter what the condition of our marriages, how committed are we to improving them? We can become lazy or complacent, not treasuring the precious gift a wife is from the Lord. If you haven’t read the previous four parts of the series, I would encourage you to do that now. This month we look specifically at the topic of ways we are able to make it easier for our wives to respect us. As we discussed last month, a wife is called to follow her husband. The husband is never to demand or command that she follow, but instead her following is an offering to the Lord. However we can make it harder or easier for her to follow us. In a similar way, the wife is to respect or reverence her husband. “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). Certainly, one small way I can love my wife is to make it easier for her to respect me. So the obvious question is: husbands, how respectable are you?

Have you ever heard about a scandal involving a person in a religious organization or a government position? It becomes the “talk of the town” because all are shocked that someone in such a position would do something like that. I remember when a police officer shared with me how he had arrested a judge for drunk driving. Here was a judge, who would routinely sentence someone convicted of drunk driving, committing the same crime. Those who respected the man and his position would then struggle to show the judge respect. When people in authority make bad decisions, those under them will have difficulty respecting in the future. Dads, are we making it easy for our wives to respect us?

Being able to follow a leader is all about the decisions that leader makes while respecting him with who he is in terms of character and virtue. I want to list a number of character qualities along with a brief description of how each one makes it easier for a wife to respect her husband. There are additional qualities that were defined in the previous Corner on agape love, so I won’t include them here.

Attentive: When my wife is speaking to me do I give her complete or partial attention? Even though I might be able to listen to her and skim an e-mail at the same time, if I give her my complete attention, I demonstrate in a tangible way that she is first in my life next to my Lord Jesus.

Available: I make it easier for my wife to respect me when I’m available to her whether it be to listen to her concerns, help her with something, or simply to be together. If other things take priority over her or the needs of the family, it makes it difficult for her to respect me.

Content: Am I at peace with what the Lord has provided, or am I covetous of something “better”? Often we hear stories of dads who borrow money from the bank to purchase things they really don’t need. Then the family is under huge financial stress, making it very difficult for Mom to respect Dad.

Dependable: When my alarm clock doesn’t alarm, it causes no little disappointment. When Dad has made a commitment, such as the family will have Bible time every night and then that doesn’t happen, Mom can be discouraged. She will likely struggle to respect him as well.

Diligent: For a stay-at-home mom, her children and home are her life. It starts when she gets up and ends when she goes to bed. When Dad is hardworking to fulfill his responsibilities, Mom is encouraged to be diligent with hers as well. In addition, when Dad will come alongside Mom in the evenings to pitch in with work that still needs to be accomplished, she sees that he isn’t lazy or self-focused. That makes it easier for her to respect him.

Enthusiastic: Job said, “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). We can expect difficulties in this life. However, if we have a cheerful attitude toward them, taking whatever comes with the strength the Lord Jesus gives us, we are easier to respect.

Faithful: A dad who is faithful to his Lord and his family is easier to respect.

Flexible: One thing we can be sure about life is that something is always going to change. When Dad is willing to adjust his schedule, even when calling for self-sacrifice, to meet an unexpected need in the family, it is easier for Mom to respect him.

Generous: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Whether it be giving of our money or time, it is easier for Mom to respect Dad when Dad is following the Lord’s direction and leading his family in these areas.

Gentle: When Mom observes Dad being gentle with the children or herself, it is easier for her to respect him. However, if Dad is harsh or angry with the children or with her, it crushes her heart and makes it ever so difficult to respect him.

Honest: When Dad’s word is as sure as granite, it is easier for Mom to respect him.

Humble: When Mom can share with Dad her concerns and hurts knowing that Dad will not react but be sympathetic and loving, it makes it easier for her to respect Dad.

Just: Dad is the “Supreme Court” of the home because the children will bring Dad concerns over the fairness of Mom’s decisions at times. How well Dad can rightly (according to God’s Word) support Mom when settling authority challenges will make it easier for Mom to respect him.

Loyal: There will always be someone prettier, more charming, or more compatible than Mom. The more loyal Dad is to Mom, the easier it is for her to respect him.

Obedient: A dad who openly delights to obey his Lord Jesus, makes it much easier for Mom to respect and follow Dad.

Patient: When Dad patiently waits for Mom or listens attentively when she needs to share her heart, it makes it easier for her to respect him.

Punctual: A dad who understands that punctuality is a matter of honor and respect for those to whom the time commitment was made makes it easier for Mom to respect him.

Responsible: When Dad understands and follows through with his obligations, whether he committed to them or they are perceived by others, it is easier for Mom to respect him.

Temperate/self-control: A dad who uses his authority for his own indulgences will have little respect from those in the home. “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27). In a day when self-control means stopping after eating twelve donuts, it is easier for Mom to respect Dad when he is a man of true self-control.

Yes, a wife is instructed to respect her husband and the husband is commanded to love his wife, yet both can make it easier for the other by right words, actions, and attitudes. May we be men of our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and we will be easy for our wives to respect.

Bitter or Sweet? – Part 4

To listen to this Corner as a podcast, please see this link.

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?

Bitter or Sweet? – Part 3

To listen to this Corner as a podcast, please see this link.

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 two Corners, I would encourage you to do that now. Marriage is precious, not to be squandered or taken for granted. If we will invest in our marriages, the dividends will be rich and ongoing. Therefore, may we invest whatever is necessary to improve our marriages.

Think about when you were getting to know your wife and then during your engagement. Did you buy her gifts and write her notes telling of your love for her? Did you delight in being with her and spend large amounts of time talking to her? What other acts of love and kindness did you show her? Are you doing those same kinds of things now? If not, why not?

As we continue looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, we see that love is known by the actions that are prompted. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Agape love is not passive but active. At the end of the last Dad’s Corner, we had studied 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 up through charity envieth not.

Love doesn’t vaunt itself, and it is not puffed up. We could restate these two points by saying that love is not proud. Pride is the utmost in self-love which would be the opposite of agape love. Perhaps that is why it is listed first in the “love killers.” There is no need to ask ourselves if we are proud, but rather we can simply assume that we are. Pride is such a “funny” thing. The more we resist the idea that we are proud, the more likely it is that we are proud. It would be far better to confess our pride before the Lord and seek His humbling grace. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Pride will be the root of contention in the home. It takes two proud people to quarrel. “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10). If even one will choose humility, there will not be a quarrel. Pride will justify unkind thoughts, words, and finally actions. The place we must begin to conquer pride is to hate it just like God hates it. “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:16-17). Look for opportunities to humble yourself, and God will lift you up. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). One simple way to humble yourself would be to admit when you are wrong. In that process, though, be careful not to justify yourself.

Love does seek his own way. Last year there was a “Dictator or Servant Leader?” series of Dad’s Corner articles Part 1, and Part 2 that would nicely cover this negative aspect of love. Suffice it to say, it isn’t Dad’s way or Mom’s way. It is to be the Lord’s way. Dad just happens to be the one responsible for making the final decision.

Love is not easily provoked. Face it. There are going to be times when your wife does not say the right thing to you or doesn’t respond well. When that happens, do you react? Are you offended? “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalms 119:165). Have you ever been around anyone who is touchy and easily reacts? At best, they make life most unpleasant. May we be “thick skinned” and choose not to let things “bug” or offend us.

Love thinketh no evil, therefore, it doesn’t keep a record of the wrongs committed. There will always be offenses in a marriage, and you can be sure it will not draw me closer to my wife if I keep score. The Lord Jesus set the example for us to follow when He took all of our offenses on Him and forgave us. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Forgetting offenses is just the beginning of denying ourselves. It’s a good place to start.

Love does not rejoice in iniquity but in truth. I wonder if a key application of not rejoicing in iniquity would be not to tease my wife. I’ve noticed that many, well okay, maybe most, wives do not appreciate their husband’s teasing. Teasing appears to be like a dagger in a wife’s heart. I believe what makes it so painful is that generally there is at least a seed of truth in the tease. From a wife’s point of view, that means her husband, the one she trusts and who is her defender, has now turned on her and is making fun of her. In essence, teasing one’s wife is not the way to show agape love. I’ve been married to Teri for thirty-seven years, and I’m hopeful (she is probably too) that I will someday learn not to tease. I’m sure I’m much better at avoiding teasing than when we were first married, but there is still significant room for improvement.

One way to rejoice in truth is for Dad to delight in leading his family in Bible time every night. Family Bible time isn’t a “have to” but it is a “joy to”! I love Teri (and my family) by my love for the Word of God.

Agape love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. This last verse presents the never-ending strength and perpetual power of agape love. It is not weak and frail. Agape love never says “the end.” It never quits no matter how difficult things become.

We just received very sad news about a wife who has cancer. Several years ago, that family also had a crisis with one of their children which has required great care and investment by the parents in both time and finances. Now on top of that, they face the heavy blow of the wife’s illness. This couple has demonstrated the reality of agape love through the years. They have been a beautiful picture of bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring. How that testifies to the reality of Jesus Christ in their marriage. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). They have glorified the Father through their love and devotion to each other. The Lord desires that depth of love in each of our marriages for our own personal edification and for a testimony to those around us.

Is your marriage bitter or sweet? Would you like it to improve? Agape love is a choice, and it is defined by the actions that it prompts. Make agape love decisions in your relationship with your wife and see what the results are. We will continue to look at this next month.

Bitter of Sweet? – Part 2

To listen to this Corner as a podcast, please see this link.

We are continuing a series on marriage. We receive a fair number of e-mails where the main issue has to do with marriage difficulties, and that greatly saddens Teri and me. Surely all marriages begin with great anticipation of the union being joyful and if Christians are marrying, they desire it to be Christ-honoring. Yet, everyone encounters bumps in the road. When the road becomes rough, what happens? Will the couple hunker down, determined to do whatever it takes to smooth things out? Whether your marriage is smooth, bumpy, or severely pothole-ridden, Jesus Christ brings hope that every marriage can improve. He has given us His Spirit and His Word to encourage and equip us so that we might walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Are there some practical ways to walk in the Spirit toward one’s wife?

Let’s look at a foundational passage directed to a husband regarding his relationship with his wife. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). As husbands, we think we know the importance of love for our wives, but do we really understand love from God’s perspective? Men are most easily drawn to emotional and physical love, but God’s command to us through Paul in verse twenty-five can be most enlightening and maybe even a little scary. The more we study this verse, the more we might be tempted to say like the disciples said, “. . . If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry” (Matthew 19:10).

The love a husband is commanded to have for his wife is agape love. Vine’s Expository Dictionary describes agape love as the type of love God has for His Son and for those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is also the love for believers to have for one another and for all mankind. Agape love is the essential nature of God. In our society, we are used to everything being dumbed-down and disposable, but God is calling us to the highest standard possible in how we are to love our wives. In the same way God loves me, He commands me to love my wife.

The more we understand agape love, the more impossible it sounds for us to love that way. We need to realize that in the flesh we can never love our wives that way. As we prayerfully declare our weakness to the Lord, He will enable. When we are weak, He is our strength. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). When God commands, He empowers. If we have any hope of loving our wives with agape love, we must be saved. Then the Holy Spirit can work through us to love as God has commanded us to love.

Why would God call you to love your wife with agape love? One reason is that it requires us to depend on Him. No one can love another with agape love in their own strength. The greater our dependence on the Lord Jesus, the better. Agape love will weather any storm or trial; it is not only divorce-proof but joy-filled. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Here we see how the Lord ties in our emotions. When we love with agape love, we will be highly investing in our wives, and as we invest our time, effort, and choices, we will have great treasure invested in them. Hence, our heart will follow our efforts. If that is true, and it is, then we ought to look more closely at agape love.

Maybe the primary passage on agape love is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It would be great to memorize and meditate on these four simple, but powerful verses that summarize how God calls us to love. If we live out these verses, they will have significant impact on a marriage. As we read them, notice that agape love is a choice and can only be known by the actions that it prompts. Warm thoughts and a good attitude just aren’t enough!

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

We don’t generally use the word charity when talking about love in our modern English, but it is the King James word for love. Charity suffers long means love is patient, not just when everything is going well, but also when we are tired, hungry, or have had a bad day. I believe patience is one of the greatest measures of our Christian maturity. Is it any wonder it came first in the characteristics of agape love? If the love of our life is late again, and it is time to leave, are we patient or angry? It really is a choice that we can make that she is more important than being on time, and it doesn’t matter what others think of us when we are late. Even better would be for us to take the initiative and help get the children ready early so she isn’t struggling to get it all done before it is time to leave. We are to be a team, pulling together to get the job done. What actions do our love prompt, or is love just an empty word that sounds good when we say it?

Are we kind? Would our families describe us as being kind? Our family’s view of us is objective when in reality our evaluation of ourselves would be quite subjective. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9)? Our hearts are deceitful and can’t be counted on to give us right information about ourselves. We are prone to make excuses and justify, but our families are unbiased as they experience the fruit of our words, attitudes, and actions. Are our words pleasant and gentle without a motive of manipulation? Kindness carries with it actions of benevolence. It is one thing to have a kind attitude but entirely something else to act kindly. Are we likely to do things for others in the home? If your wife is in bed before you at night, do you ask her if she needs anything before turning out the light? Perhaps, it’s Bible time; do you get the Bibles out for everyone if they are already sitting down? If someone needs something from the other room, do you pop up and get it for them? Do you ever clear your wife’s dishes from the table and then work together with the family during cleanup? Family time is filled with opportunities to show kindness.

The next characteristic of love from 1 Corinthians 13 is that we aren’t to be envious. In a study of “envieth not,” I discovered it means to be content. Maybe a key application of this, in the context of loving a wife, is being content with her. Just as we each have our weaknesses, our wives will have their personal weaknesses as well. I show agape love toward my wife when I am content with her in the face of her weaknesses. Rather than wishing she were different, I love her, weaknesses and all, just as I want her to love me despite my failures.

We didn’t even finish verse four in this Corner, but there is so much to think about in this portion alone. We are commanded to be patient. If your wife is late and you end up waiting on her, practice patience. If she has excuses as to why she is late, practice patience. If she is having trouble explaining herself, practice patience.

She deserves to be treated with kindness. Are you doing so? There is no place for envy when I agape love my wife. Rather I am to be fully content with her. She is a treasure from the Lord of great, great value. Am I loving my wife with agape love? Are you loving your wife with agape love? We will continue this topic next month.

By the way, Mother’s Day is a great opportunity to show agape love to your wife.

Bitter or Sweet? – Part 1

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We receive a fair amount of e-mails. While most are greatly encouraging, a few trouble our hearts. The ones that usually sadden Teri and me the most have to do with marriage difficulties. I’m convinced that no one wants a rocky marriage, or one where each is pulling in different directions. Yet that is quite common. If we have the honor and pleasure of a spouse with which to share a life together, why not make it a wonderful experience? Why not be committed to making our marriages joyous examples to the world of how good a Christ-centered marriage really can be? Living each day with your best friend by your side as you seek to follow the Lord’s direction together, step-by-step, is a beautiful thing.

I’m convinced that any man and woman can live happily together in marriage if they want to, and I believe Scripture teaches that as well. How does one begin to improve a suffering marriage? You start in the same way you would if the marriage is okay currently, but the couple desired to make it better. Every thing good starts with the Lord Jesus Christ. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). First, do we have a relationship with Jesus? Sadly, many will count a childhood profession as salvation, but they have never had a real saving relationship with the God of creation. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23). Do you have the confidence of a real relationship with Jesus?

A human relationship with limited or little communication will suffer, and so will ours with the Lord if we aren’t reading His Word every morning and then communing with Him in prayer. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6). We would do better in life to neglect the habit of breakfast than to miss our morning fellowship with the Lord Jesus. He encourages, convicts, and even admonishes us through His Word and prayer, and it is needful to keep our lives on track. Jesus Christ, the Living Bread, is the spiritual nutrition that our hearts need daily. We can’t change a spouse, but there is much that we can do in our lives that will help matters.

Every marriage will suffer when our spirits are not receiving His grace and strength. The Lord has the insight into a marriage of what is needed. Without Him we really don’t even know what to pray for. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). There is such power available to us if we will appropriate it.

In addition to developing our relationship with the Lord Jesus to strengthen a marriage, are you spending quality and quantity time with your wife? Time together is critical to the health of the marriage. I would encourage you not to count time in front of the TV or watching a movie as time together. Go for walks early in the morning if you have an older child who could be awake while the others slept. Take your wife out to eat (not a movie), and listen to her. Communicate with each other. Sandwiches at the park or in the car are great if finances prohibit eating at a restaurant, and they don’t cost any more than eating at home.

Years ago when the children were young, I made it a financial and time priority to take Teri on a weekly date. She tells me how important those couple of hours were to her each week when we were able to talk to each other without the interruptions of children. In more recent years, we have been able to walk together early each morning. Not only are we exercising, but we have over an hour of time to communicate. We also attempt to get away briefly once or twice a year. For Mother’s and Father’s Day, we have the tradition of giving a night away together, which we take when we are able to fit it into the schedule. We love our time away, although we have found that our enjoyment of the children is so great, it makes it difficult to be away from them. However, we have found it good for our relationship to have that time for just the two of us, even though it isn’t very long.

An attitude check is great for the marriage. We have a family friend who is such a delight to be around. She is positive and always complimentary. She constantly says nice things when we are with her. She doesn’t flatter, but the things she says come from her heart. She is quite a marvel to us, and I’m sure to many others. It is just nice to be around her. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

People enjoy being around someone who is kind and positive, which would include a husband. What is it like for your wife to be around you? Do you praise or criticize her? Do you thank her for the countless ways she blesses you? I am so grateful for Teri’s respect, love, and deep desire to be an encouragement to me. Then there are the “things” she does for me. She takes the initiative for clean clothes showing up in my drawers every week. If you have folded many clothes, you realize how much time that takes. I wonder if men did the laundry, if they wouldn’t just dump them in the drawer without folding them with the justification that they would soon be pulled out and worn. What about making the bed? Timing is such that Teri makes it while I’m busy, and I have never heard her complain. Does your wife make your meals, clean your house, run errands, and raise and homeschool your children? Do you have a grateful heart for your wife, and do your words communicate that to her?

Equally important to what you say to your wife are the edifying thoughts you think about her. It is easy to begin thinking negative or critical thoughts about a wife. Soon you will find, as I have, how those negative thoughts grow and color your interactions. It is far better to focus on your wife’s good qualities and be grateful for them. We all have faults, and if either husband or wife dwells on the other’s negatives, it will poison the marriage. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mout out of thine eye; and beoThou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:2-5). Think about what your wife does well and what a blessing she is. Hopefully, by God’s grace, she will do the same.

We can’t change a spouse, but we certainly can appropriate God’s grace in changing ourselves. Then as we change, often that will be a stimulus in changing those around us. Marriage can be one of the most wonderful experiences this side of Heaven. We’ve found that a great marriage doesn’t just happen, but it takes desire and effort. Why not be committed to doing everything in your power to make your marriage a testimony to God’s grace? We will continue this discussion next month.


Buddy was cutting my hair while the owner of the barbershop was giving a twenty-year-old young man a haircut. The man’s wife and six-month-old baby were watching “daddy” get a major overhaul. There was some teasing going on as six inches worth of hair was being moved from his head to the floor.

Blake, the barbershop owner, has had this shop for many years. I suppose when you stand there all day cutting hair, you find ways to make time a little more enjoyable. Blake had just put shaving cream around the young man’s ears and on his neck. Then, with a straight razor in his hand, Blake pointed at the wife and asked her husband, “Do you trust your wife?” This question not only peaked my curiosity, but I saw that she quit bouncing the baby, becoming quite interested in what her husband was going to say.

The husband thought just a moment and said, “I sure do!” With that admirable reply, his wife smiled, put a kiss on the baby, and began bouncing him again.

On hearing the words Blake was hoping for, he held out the straight razor to her and said, “Great! Come on over here and shave around his ears with this.”

I’m not sure I can adequately describe the emotions that husband and wife began to exhibit. Both of them were repeatedly saying, “No!” with enough zeal that Blake was feeling very rewarded.

After the couple relaxed again, Blake said he recently did the same thing to a couple about to be married. The groom-to-be had answered, “I’d trust her with my life.” (Good answer, if true.) However, when Blake tightened the noose that the groom-to-be had just stepped into, the future bride saw her “prince charming” do such a U-turn that she was crushed. Blake chuckled with a little satisfaction as he said, “It really turned into quite a squabble.”

Trust is an amazing thing. It is the foundation for the depth of a relationship. You can have a relationship without love, but if there is no trust, then there is no real relationship. Merriam-Webster defines trust as: “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something, one in which confidence is placed.” The more we trust someone, the more open we will be with him and the closer the relationship becomes. David trusted Jonathan and shared information that could have cost David his life if Jonathan had betrayed that trust by telling his father, Saul. That was an example of a friendship between two young men that had a deeper level of trust than the relationship between the son and his father. How sad, and yet that is common today, even in Christian homes.

As the straight razor in my barbershop story put into perspective, trust is only a word until it is tested. David’s trust in Jonathan wasn’t meaningful until Jonathan proved he could be trusted. Our children’s trust in us is a measure of our trustworthiness through the years. We need to guard it zealously.

The issue of whether my children trust me is critical to my effectiveness as a parent. What is their level of confidence in me? A little child initially has deep trust in his parents, but often as he grows that trust is eroded. This can happen throughout childhood, as the child perceives that his parents are making some bad decisions. “Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey” (1 Samuel 14:29). With the strength of Jonathan’s criticism of his father, this was obviously not the first time that Jonathan felt his father, the king, had made a wrong decision. Likely, he had watched his father’s pride lead him to make many other bad decisions.

There are times we, as dads, make bad decisions. There may be other times when we make the best decision, but our children’s understanding is not sufficient to see the decision properly. When this is the case we receive “credit” for a bad decision.

This is one reason I choose to have a weekly private meeting with each of my older children (eleven and up). I cherish that time on Sunday while lunch is being prepared and then cleaned up. The time I meet with each child varies according to what we have to discuss. It has proved to be critical in maintaining and deepening their trust in me. We discuss decisions that have been made and why they were made that way. It gives the child a chance to understand why I did what I did and why I felt the Lord leading in that direction. There also have been times when I confessed to them that I made a wrong decision and asked their forgiveness if it affected them. That way they are able to see that dad can make mistakes, but when he does, he makes it right with them. Both situations are so very important in ensuring confidence in me.

In the area of trust, think about what our poor wives go through. You and I know that no wife would make every decision perfectly if she was responsible for making the decisions. However, there are times when she would have made the correct choice, when her husband made the wrong one. Even if she doesn’t remember the times when she would have chosen wrong, she is likely to remember the times when she was right.

If any wife had reason to distrust her husband, it was Sarah. Abraham betrayed her twice out of concern for his own safety (Genesis 12:11, 20:2). Twice! Yet, she did not rebel against Abraham’s leadership and appeared to continue to trust him (1 Peter 3). She was commended for her faith in God in Hebrews 11, and that is probably the secret of her confidence in Abraham. (All moms would likely learn a powerful lesson in how to have faith in a husband, and that is by trusting in their Lord.)

A wife’s trust in her husband is to be treasured. Husbands can easily damage that trust, and it is difficult to regain. Frequently, we hear of a mom who has discovered her husband is into pornography. Why does it hurt a wife so badly? It is because porn is mental adultery. The husband into pornography or lusting after other women “drives a knife” into his wife’s heart, and she cannot trust him. She knows her husband is driven by lust and therefore can’t be trusted. Once an adulterer, will he ever really stop, and to what lengths will he go?

Repentance is the only way to begin rebuilding trust. The father who reacts defensively when questioned by his wife has not repented. He is only sorry he got caught. But the man who truly hates his sin, is repentant, and wants to change will accept any boundaries and accountability necessary. A man who is repentant will embrace boundaries as an opportunity to show those who love him he realizes his sin. He will gladly avoid all appearances of evil. He will be willing to spend the rest of his life trying to rebuild what he does not deserve. What do you think? Was the young man showing prudence in not letting his wife use the razor, or did he simply not trust her? I believe he didn’t trust her. If he had, he would have thought, “I trust that she loves me so much she wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. I believe that if she doesn’t have the skill to use that razor, then she won’t, because she doesn’t want to take a chance of cutting me.” In the same way, do we love our families so much that we choose to do nothing that may hurt them?

Trust is priceless. Do you want the hearts of your family members? It isn’t possible without trust. Have you damaged trust? Be committed to rebuilding it. We can’t demand it, but we must covet it and seek to always build it.

“Dad, Are You in Danger?”

“A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3). I don’t believe I have ever met a dad who would consider himself simple. However, there have been times in my life when I acted in a simple fashion, and I expect that might be true of many dads as well.

Over fifteen years ago, I took a test to qualify for a sales position. It was a personality profiler, and if my profile matched the standard, I could transfer to a potentially lucrative sales position in the company. If my personality wasn’t similar to the top sales performers they evaluated, then I would stay in my present job. I passed the test—not because I was similar to the other salesmen, but because I knew how they would answer. Did I lie or cheat on the test? Of course not! Well, at least not according to my reasoning.

I moved my family away from friends, a wonderful church, and across the country from Florida to Washington. I soon was a failure in my job! Everything that could go wrong was going wrong. This simply did not make sense since God had always blessed my work in the past.

I could have saved my family and myself a lot of hardship had I discussed the test at length with Teri. She has such a sensitive spirit that she would have immediately seen that I had not responded honestly on the test. She would have cautioned me about heading down a path based on deceit.

I read about a rancher who made a very bad decision. He had greatly benefited by some men’s help, but later, when he had the opportunity to help them in return, he was rude and offensive. His words were so inflammatory that these men purposed to kill the rancher and the men in his household.

The rancher was a good example of a poor leader. His foolish behavior led his wife to feel the need to step in and take leadership. Sadly, that is exactly what happens in many “Christian” homes today. Dad will make a poor decision, and his wife will attempt to come to the rescue to protect the family from perceived consequences.

Frequently Teri and I will observe the agonizing dichotomy a wife is faced with because of her husband’s decisions. The wife knows the husband is the head and supposed to lead the family, yet she sees the consequences that are looming ahead. She sees herself with two choices. First, she could decide to be submissive and let the consequences, which may ultimately be used by God to teach her husband a lesson, come upon the family. Second, she could decide to usurp her husband’s role, jump in, and possibly miss a growth opportunity.

The rancher I mentioned above was Nabal in 1 Samuel 25. He was so simple his name actually meant “fool.” Nabal’s wife Abigail understood the situation and knew her husband was in grave danger. She decided to take charge and appease David’s anger. Was it for the best? Only the Lord knows. In the end, God chose to take Nabal’s life even though David decided not to attack.

Many unbelievers purchase radar detectors for the purpose of breaking the law and avoiding the consequences. In some states radar detectors are illegal because they circumvent the authorities’ ability to punish wrong choices. The owners rely upon these devices because they don’t want to receive the very punishment that may help them make better, law-abiding decisions. Nathan and I went to breakfast years ago with a state senator who had a radar detector in his car. I couldn’t believe it. Here was a man who was responsible for making laws with a device built to circumvent the law. The lost may choose a radar detector, but may a man of God never consider it.

I believe God has equipped wives with a special sensitivity to know when God is about to chastise the husband. Think of your wife as a God-given, legal radar detector of sorts. This “consequence avoider” is given for the purpose of learning before the chastisement is sent. If only we would receive this “help” and humble ourselves by listening to our wives’ counsel, I believe we would have the God-given opportunity to learn before the trip to the woodshed.

At one time we were renting an enormous, poorly insulated house in Washington. It was the only rental we could find. We were heating it by wood because fuel oil for the furnace would have been very costly. Unfortunately on some days, the county imposed a wood-burning ban on everyone who did not depend on wood for their primary source of heat.

Using my great rationalizing abilities (Teri has another example in her August 2001 Mom’s Corner), I decided that since the fuel oil was prohibitively expensive, our wood stove was our primary source of heat. I was completely satisfied with my decision. Every time I heard the ban announced on the radio and the mention of the consequences for those caught, it did not bother me in the slightest. I was at peace.

Oh dear brothers, may I encourage you to never justify a decision solely because you are at peace with it. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people use that as a reason the decision they made was the right one, when even a cursory, objective study of a few appropriate Bible verses would reveal otherwise. “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26).

We are sinners at heart and must be on guard because the heart is wicked and deceitful. We can selfishly justify anything. Divorce, adultery, pornography, stealing from an employer (time or materially), and breaking the law (my wood-burning example) can all be rationalized. “Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king” (1 Samuel 12:24-25).

One day on the way to church the subject of the wood burning came up. Teri, in a very gentle way, shared that she believed I was breaking the law. I expect you can guess how I responded. I did the only natural thing and was offended, becoming angry with her. How could she say that? Didn’t she understand how expensive it was to burn that fuel oil for such a large house? What she didn’t understand was why I would choose to break the law.

It didn’t take long before the truth of her words broke through my hard heart. I humbled myself to her, asked forgiveness for my anger, and made the decision to turn the oil furnace on. What would have been the consequences had I not listened? I believe someone would have turned me in, and I would have been fined. Maybe the greatest negative result would have been that my testimony would have been harmed had I continued burning wood. I think we too often forget about how our neighbors view our wrong decisions.

As members of the body of Christ, when we make choices contrary to God’s Word, the world notices and mocks God. When a Christian gets a divorce, generations will suffer. When Christians commit adultery, even if the marriage survives, the scars will never be removed from those involved and probably from the children as well. When a man commits mental adultery using pornography, he will never be the same again, he will torture the heart of his wife, and his prayers will be cut off until he repents (1 Peter 3:7). The list goes on.

There may be some men reading this who are in grave danger. “. . . There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it” (1 John 5:16). 1 Corinthians 11:30 says, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” There are times when the Lord will send sickness and death to chasten. Paul was referring to men who were taking the Lord’s Supper and had not dealt with sin in their lives. It is very likely that there are some men reading this Corner who are at serious risk.

There may be many others who have ignored the cautions of their “consequence detector” and may be facing some difficulties that could have been avoided. Why put yourself and your family through it? Why not ask your wife if there are areas that she has expressed a caution about and that you haven’t heard? Then take those before the Lord with a repentant heart, and ask the Lord what you should do.

There are others who may be missing out on blessings that God desires to give you. I have observed that often it is the wife’s heart that appears to be sensitive to the Lord’s promptings.

Dads, may I encourage you to go to your wife and ask her if there are issues that are on her heart that she either has brought up previously or has been afraid to bring up. I know there can be times when I will not want to listen to what Teri may be sharing. Usually, the subject matter is something that is a little painful, and I would rather not hear her. I’m not implying that just because Teri has a caution I will automatically receive it and respond to it. However, I have learned that I had better be prayed up and have good Scriptural basis for not responding to her counsel.

God has given each of us a marvelous helpmeet and equipped her with great sensitivity. May we each listen to our wives’ counsel in order to grow and avoid consequences. May we be men of God and take our wives’ counsel to the Lord and His Word for confirmation (God may not confirm it, but we must take it ever so seriously). When God does take us to the woodshed, may we be men about it and humble ourselves to our family, admit our failure, and share what we learned from it.

God bless each of you as you endeavor to be a man of God and lead your family in His ways.

A Husband’s Perspective on His Wife’s Depression

We have had so many e-mail us to ask about how we dealt with the depression Teri suffered from years ago, we decided to write this month’s Corners on it. It is important to remember that we are not doctors giving advice but believers sharing our experience. What I am writing in this Dad’s Corner is a result of what the Lord taught me through the years Teri struggled with times of depression. Depression was a part of her life off and on for about fifteen years. It was the worst when I worked long hours and traveled a great deal. Only in the last eight years has the Lord brought Teri out of those dark times. Not only was the depression something Teri had to cope with, but it obviously had an impact on the children and me as well.

When a wife is suffering with depression, it can be very difficult for the family. Depending on the age of the children, they may be aware of it and asking questions as to why Mommy is crying or sad. There don’t seem to be any easy answers. However, everyone is in agreement that they want Mommy happy again.

Working through issues in my mind was critical to developing a godly perspective on Teri’s depression. It was very easy to think about myself and not the pain Teri was suffering. I believe that was absolutely the first and most important step: that I would get my mind off of myself and focus on my wife’s and children’s needs. Isn’t that what we are really called to do as husbands and fathers? Isn’t that a perfect picture of the shepherd who is tenderly caring for an injured sheep?

I had to realize that God was not surprised by the situation. He had a plan for it. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29). God desired to use my wife’s depression to conform me into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that the word “conform” is from the Greek word “morphe,” from which we get the word morph. His desire is to morph us into the image of Christ. Are we willing?

It may mean that there are “things” in my life that are hindering God’s conforming me into the image of Christ. I believe that God uses problems in a wife’s (and children’s) life to bring serious pressure to bear on a husband. As long as things are smooth sailing, we might not be willing to deal with areas that may be displeasing to the Lord. However, as the pain grows in my family, I become increasingly more willing to surrender what I might not previously have let go. I have now learned to use every serious difficulty that our family faces as motivation to cry out to God to examine my life and for Him to point out sin that He wants to eliminate. Pain in the family can become a wonderful stimulus to seek God’s will for change in my life.

I also saw my wife’s struggles as opportunities to show her my love. It is easy to love someone when she is pleasant and meeting my needs, but what about when her eyes are swollen from crying, and she isn’t much fun to be around? Maybe it isn’t too difficult for one or two days, but what about when it is longer than that? Truly, I could demonstrate that I meant my wedding vows by choosing to love Teri through better or worse. Whether my wife is discouraged all the time or just a few days a month, I must be understanding and love her as Christ loved the church. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Those are not just nice-sounding words used to fill up an empty page; God commanded us husbands to live them out. I must choose to give of myself in whatever way God tells me to. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). So what does “according to knowledge” mean? Vine’s Expository Dictionary amplifies it as “to come to understand.” I needed to understand the struggles my wife was having. I needed to shoulder the load she was stumbling under.

When Teri was depressed, I had to learn how to listen. As I prayerfully listened I heard about things that I had not adequately dealt with, things that produce bitterness and hurt. Unresolved offenses are fertile ground for Satan to sow seeds of doubt and discouragement in a wife’s heart.

As I listened, I heard about areas of intense struggle with the children that she did not have answers for and that led to frustration. Again, they had to be dealt with as well. A dad may hear that his wife is discouraged because she is too busy while accomplishing too little. Dads often can be the cause of encouraging lots of activities for the children. This can be terribly draining to Mom of both energy and time, not to mention introducing many additional character problems with the children. We need to be prepared to encourage the elimination of unproductive use of time and be willing to help. It might mean doing the grocery shopping or cleaning house; whatever it takes, we should be prepared to do it as long as necessary. Although one caution is that I don’t believe it would have been good for Teri if she’d had nothing to do. Idleness gives Satan much opportunity for working in a person’s mind. A certain balance of work and rest is good, but having nothing to do is harmful.

One thing I learned was that doing the family budget was stressful for Teri. She had begun doing it to free up some of my time. However, it was adding to the pressure she was under and was actually hindering me from being financially responsible. I have found, and now believe, that it is good for the husband to manage the finances so he feels the financial pressure. I am freer with money than Teri is, and when she tracked the spending, it caused her to worry. However, if I have to manage it and see the bills, I’m more likely to be careful. I now handle the finances–not as efficiently as she did, but adequately and without her having the pressure.

There could be other areas of responsibility that a wife has taken on that really should be her husband’s. When a wife is shouldering any extra load that God did not intend for her to, it can clearly lead to depression. Unfortunately, most wives will quickly step in to take over an area when the husband is not doing the job.

There are many things I don’t understand about women, and one in particular is the effect clutter has on them. I can be content with a closet so full it takes a week to find something in it! As long as the door is closed, I’m fine. Not so with most women. There is something about clutter that nags at a woman’s heart and will bring her down. I know that when I help Teri by building storage areas and weeding things out, she is unbelievably grateful. It is as if a big weight is lifted from her shoulders.

When she was struggling, I needed to understand that her choice of words might be less gracious than normal. I had to be prepared to be loving and accepting anyway. The situation would not have been improved if I became insensitive and offended because she was more direct now than at other times. Truly, we need to be men of understanding. Next, I believe that the husband needs to take full responsibility for his wife’s depression. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). It was not my wife’s problem, but it was my problem. We are one, and if part of the union is hurting, we are both hurting. Unless I took full responsibility for my wife’s depression, I was not going to have the compassion that God desired for me to have, and I would not have been crying out to Him for direction. I believe that most of what Teri is sharing in her Mom’s Corner is a result of God answering our prayers. It was not a pamphlet we picked up somewhere, but our Lord hearing our cries to Him and slowly showing us new things.

Just after moving to Florida in 1980, I was extremely troubled and concerned for her. I was led to fast and pray about the situation. God is so good! In my heart, I felt strongly that He told me not to worry, but to be loving, patient, and supportive. I would have preferred a quick solution, but God had as much for me to learn as He did for Teri. One of the most critical things I did was closely maintain my walk with the Lord and do everything I could to encourage Teri in her walk. “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him” (Psalms 28:7). Oh, how great our pride to ever think that we can get along without a close walk with the Lord. During times of depression the mind can play all sorts of games, and to focus on God and His truth is imperative. If we have neglected the Lord, we must repent and turn to Him. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Taking responsibility also will ensure that I am not being judgmental. It was easy to become impatient and critical. However, Teri would have given anything to be herself, and it was not a wrong choice she was making. If anyone could have just willed it differently she would have, but she couldn’t. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Again, God commanded me to love my wife as Christ loved the church.

Don’t be distracted by “non-issues.” Often when Teri felt bad, she would think some circumstance must be the cause. Most things were not really the cause of her feelings, but they would seem very monumental at the time. We would discuss it, and I, in typical male fashion, would come in and tell her how to fix it. Finally, it dawned on me that what she needed was someone to listen to her. I didn’t have to fix it, just listen! There were times when I would ask her, as she would begin to share a problem, “Honey, do you want me to listen or fix it?” That helped so much as I finally understood, at that moment, that all I needed to do was be sympathetic and listen to her. I think this was one of the most challenging lessons God had for me. To my shame, there are times now when I really just need to listen and not jump ahead to a solution. So much still to learn and so little time.

In our experience and that of people I’ve spoken to, there just doesn’t seem to be a “silver bullet.” Unfortunately, that is what we usually want. We need to be very cautious if one is proposed–a quick fix so we can get back on track and things can be normal again. Husbands, we must get our heart fixed on Christ, and be prepared that it could take a while. How long before our sovereign God says it is enough? Obviously, no one knows, but we need to set our expectations such that if it takes years, then we will minister in whatever way God calls us to during that time.

That is about all I could think of that God might have me share. Truly, it can be such an awful time for husbands and wives. I think the easiest to deal with was when the depression was mostly caused by my failures. Then, if I’m willing to humble myself, God is able to resolve the situation fairly quickly. However, God designed women the way they are for a purpose. Hormones are not a design flaw; our wives are perfect according to His plan. When the depression is physiological in nature, it might last a while, and we need to be the strong, faithful shepherd that God desires us to be. This won’t happen in our own strength, but it can happen when we are in full, complete dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our strength and our shield. All praise to Him.