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Why Do I Have to Change First?

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Greg and April on the church steps 5-28-1994

  • This seems like more than I can handle (part 1)
  • When do I get to the “peaceful” part? (part 1)
  • I don’t want to lose my voice in my marriage. (part 2)
  • I feel like I am losing myself. (part 2)
  • I feel so lonely. (part 3)
  • I don’t know how to say things respectfully to my husband, so I am just not saying anything at all. (part 3)
  • My husband isn’t changing at all.   (part 4)
  • Respect doesn’t work on my husband. (part 4)
  • But I’m right! (part 5)
  • I’m so scared to give up control!  I should be in charge. Everything will fall apart if I don’t take charge! (part 5)
  • He doesn’t deserve my respect! (part 6)
  • My husband doesn’t love me and is not on board with this marriage. (part 6)
  • Why can’t HE change first?  Why do I have to change when he’s the one who is so far from God and so unloving?

We are continuing the series of FAQs that I hear from wives.  This has to be one of the most common questions I hear.

He’s the one who is being so unloving!  He’s the one who is far from God.  He should have to change first.  This isn’t fair that you say I should ask God to change me first!

BLAMING

It’s always easier to place all the blame for our relationship problems on the other person and not look at our own responsibility or our own sin.  That is human nature.  I see it in my children!

“Mama!  He hit me!”  And, of course, my daughter conveniently leaves out everything she did to her brother.  Our son does the same thing.  I remember a few years ago when our son was 8 years old, he came running into our bedroom and said his sister  “sat on my face!!!!!!”

Greg and I were shocked that our 3 year old would do that.  So I asked, “What did you do to her?”  He said, “Well, I was pretending to sit on her head.  But I wasn’t actually putting all of my weight on her.  But she put all her weight on my face!”

Mmm Hmm.  I can’t IMAGINE why your sister did what she did.  It is such a mystery, son!

It’s much easier to point at my husband and tell God, “He needs to change!  Look how sinful he is!”  In fact, that is exactly what I did for over 14 years in my marriage.  Guess where it got me?

My focusing on my husband’s sin caused me to:

  • ignore my own FOREST of sin
  • ignore my own responsibility to God
  • ignore my own obedience to God
  • develop a huge amount of pride
  • become self-righteous
  • become a powerless victim – forever waiting on my husband to do what I wanted him to do before I could ever be content in my life.
  • break my fellowship with Christ
  • lose the power of God in my life
  • lose my influence for Christ
  • destroy intimacy on every level in my marriage
  • cherish resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness

I can’t think of ONE good thing that me focusing on my husband’s sin and ignoring my own sin accomplished.

Let’s talk about what is “fair” for a moment.  If I want “fair” – here is what is fair:

  • For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23
  • The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)  The things I have done wrong in God’s sight have earned me hell.  If I have even just one sin in my life (like Adam and Eve did) – according to the holy God and Judge of the universe – I deserve death and separation from Him forever.  God cannot tolerate sin – any sin – in His holy presence.  He cannot ignore it.  Someone has to pay for it in blood.  And I have infinitely more than just one sin in my heart.  I deserve condemnation.
  • As a sinner – I don’t “deserve” anything good from God at all.
  • Because I am a sinner, I have no “rights” before God.

THANK GOD that Jesus was willing to step in on my behalf and take upon Himself all of the sin of my entire life and stand in my place, receiving the full wrath of God that my sins deserved.  That is CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It is INSANE that Jesus would love me that much!  I did NOTHING to deserve His love.  I owe Him MUCH.  I have been forgiven MUCH.  Now, I am free from the penalty of sin.  God has given me eternal life with Him through Christ – not because I deserve it.  I don’t!  He does this because of His great love for me and because Jesus paid my massive debt to Him in full – and I have received that gift by faith.

This is so much better than if I had won $400 million in a lottery!  I truly GET this now!

I am no longer condemned before God!  Now – because of my overwhelming gratitude, thankfulness and joy – I am His servant, ready to do anything He asks of me!  There is nothing He could ask me to do that I would not be willing to do after all He has done to rescue me from the gates of hell and to give me abundant spiritual life here and life forever with Him in heaven.

I don’t obey Him to be made right with Him.  I don’t obey Him to try to earn heaven.  Jesus alone earned heaven.  God now sees Jesus when He looks at me!  Just because I put ALL my faith in Him and made Him my LORD.

I obey Him because of what HE has done for me and the scandalous grace, mercy and forgiveness He has lavished on me, a wretched sinner.

WHO AM I TO DICTATE TO GOD WHAT HE SHOULD DO?

Why on earth would I not be willing – after all that Christ has done for me – to humbly and joyfully do ANYTHING He asked me to do?  Why would I want to sit around in my own sin and not repent of my own sin and demand that God must change Greg first?  That just doesn’t even make sense at all!

“Jesus – leave me in all of my sin and filth and clean up my husband first! Don’t touch me until he is all cleaned up.”

WHAT?!?!?!!?

If I really and truly “get” what Jesus has done for me – I am going to be raising my hand as high as I can saying, “Oh, Jesus!!!!  Pick me!!  Pick me!  Change ME first!  Get rid of all of my sin first!  Don’t let me stay in this filth and nastiness another minute!!!!  Show me what you want to change in my heart!  Make me the woman You desire me to be!  I don’t care what it takes.  I don’t care what You ask me to do.  I don’t care how much it hurts or what the cost is to myself – I want to please and honor You with all my heart and life!!!  You do whatever You want to with my husband.  I trust him to Your hands.  Just don’t leave me here.  Change me!”

What if God wants to change me first and wants me to obey I Peter 3:1-6 UNTIL…. Until the day I die.  Until the day my husband dies.    Ok – if that is what God wants – that needs to be ok with me.  I want to trust Him and obey Him no matter what the future holds and seek His highest glory.

What if His greatest concerns with me are for me to learn to:

  • die to self
  • live as a daily living sacrifice to Him
  • humble myself and focus on my own sin, my own attitudes, my obedience to Him, my heart and my life
  • become a godly woman and wife no matter what my husband does or does not do – because I want to please and honor Jesus more than anything in my life
  • obey Him and allow Him to take me out of the way so that He can reach my husband

What if I am standing squarely in God’s way in my husband’s life?  What if my sin (pride, disrespect, contentiousness, control) is keeping my husband from hearing God’s voice?  What if God wants me to change first because I am causing destruction and damage in my marriage and in my husband’s soul?

In my marriage, that is exactly what was happening.

Here is why God wanted to change me first (- one of the reasons, at least.  I am sure there are many I don’t even know about.):

  • Greg told me years later that when I stopped all the criticism, negativity, lecturing, telling him what to do, all the disrespect… that it was like someone “turned off the static on the speaker in his soul that had God’s voice.”  He began to hear God’s voice again for the first time in many years.
  • Then, he said, when I began to add the positive things – the encouragement, the praise for what he did right, the genuine admiration and building him up with my words – it was like someone put an “amplifier on the speaker with God’s voice.”

What if God knows that He needs to change me first in order to reach my husband?  Isn’t that totally worth it?  If there are things I can do to become God’s partner and to cooperate with Him in drawing my husband to God and to myself –  I would be crazy not to be willing to do those things – whatever they might be.

Here is God’s prescription for us-  His commands for us – when our husbands are far from Himself:

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.   – I Peter 3:1-6

This is ALL about Christ, my precious sisters.  It is all about HIS glory.  It is not about us. 🙂

Much love to you!

GOD HAS BEEN AT WORK IN AMAZING WAYS THIS WEEK!

I would love to hear your story.  What is He teaching you?  What is He doing in your life.

If there are things you want to talk about, please reach out and let me know. 🙂

I am so glad we are on this journey together?

46 thoughts on “Why Do I Have to Change First?

    1. Brother Daryl,
      God has been doing AMAZING things this week! I am seeing a flood of women come to conviction and repentance and putting Christ as Lord. I could just burst with joy!
      Thanks for the encouragement and support. Please pray that God will speak – that it will be ALL Him, not me.

  1. April, I cannot tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading this blog. Even though I considered myself a woman of wisdom (age 57) who tried hard to apply Christian principles in my life, your articles have shown me I still have many improvements to make, and this has been truly humbling. I never really understood how subjection to my husband would ultimately bring out the best in us both, but I’ve already seen that it works. We are undergoing more than the usual stress now because we moved and are renovating a building on a very limited budget. A few days ago we discussed whether or not to keep the older carpet in the bedroom; I didn’t want to keep and my husband did. We both presented valid reasons for our opinions. My husband listened to mine, and I listened to his, and afterwards, I said I would trust him to make the decision that was in our best interests, with all the information we had discussed. He looked at me in surprise and said, “Yes, but I don’t just want you to give in to me but then be miserable every time you look at it, and then it would be all my fault.” I told him I would truly accept his decision, and that meant I would focus on all the positives of keeping the carpet instead of the negative ones. This was a turning point, April. I learned–TRULY–that submission to my husband doesn’t mean I have no voice or influence; it just means that I TRUST my husband to do what’s best for us both, and can CHOOSE to see either the positive or negative side of whatever decision he makes. When I saw the look on his face at this point, I wanted to cry, because it was suddenly tender. He said he thought we should ask the carpet cleaner–who he had arranged to come and give us an estimate for the cleaning–his opinion, and I agreed. The next morning, he thanked me for entrusting him with the decision, but said that his decision was to ask me if I would talk with the carpet cleaner and make the decision based on his professional advice. If I had kept arguing to do what I firmly believed was best, both of us would have been unhappy. But trusting my husband resulted in both of us feeling respected. As it is, the carpet is going because that’s what the cleaner recommended. But even if it weren’t, I would be at peace. Thank you again, April, for bringing such wonderful, godly counsel and reminders into our daily lives. May God richly bless you!

    1. Elizabeth,

      I am SO excited to hear your story!

      You gave me chills!

      I wonder if I might be able to share this example as a post anonymously? I have a hunch that many wives and marriages would be greatly blessed from what God is doing in your life.

      Sending you a huge hug my friend!

  2. It is easier to submit when we know our husbands are prayerful. And of course we can see their mistakes from when they blew it and go “aha.”

    But it is difficult to admit to myself how I might be putting him off from obeying God because of my critical spirit or even just the angry tone in my voice. God has been making me more conscious of this in myself and sadly it is often after I’ve blown it and hurt my husband. Then I realize how difficult it must really be to live with me, while I thought I was obeying God all along. This could come from underlying resentment I never even knew I harbored and thought was gone a long time ago.

    Also, sometimes we want to overlook the fact that when Jesus and the apostles instructed believers about how we’re to treat the brethren they also meant our spouse. So we forget to look at the beam in our own eye before we attempt to get the splinter out of our spouse’s eye.

    A lot to think and pray about here and for the Holy Spirit to change in me.

    Thank you so much for the post.

    1. Catherine,

      I love what God is showing you!

      Yes. It is much easier to respect and follow a husband who is prayerful and submitted to Christ?It is also much easier for a husband to lovingly lead and be more godly when his wife respects him and has genuine faith in him.

      Amazing how one spouse’s obedience to God makes it easier for the other to also obey God. 🙂

      Yes! Everything Jesus commanded us about loving others applies to our husbands, too. It is easy for us to overlook that.

      1. Seems like everything wrong in a marriage is the wife fault
        That’s kind of depressing but I guess it means more praying on wife’s part
        It must be nice to be a man. Does not look like they have to do much but be the boss an help with money
        ( I’m not being sarcastic )
        Thank you for this blog I will be married in a month an trying to work on being a good person an wife

        1. Jenny,

          My precious sister, no not at all! Men and women are all equally sinful. I only write for women. If I were a man, writing to men, I could write just as many things that men do that are sinful, and I would be writing to them to change first.

          We are each responsible for ourselves emotionally and spiritually. We are each accountable to God for our own sin and obedience to Him, we are not responsible or accountable for other people’s thoughts, words, actions, sins, or obedience to God.

          Actually, husbands are MORE accountable and responsible to God than wives are – because God has given them the leadership position. So they will be held to higher standards and held responsible for what happens to a greater degree than the wife.

          What is your relationship with Christ, just so I can get a better feel for where you are right now? It sounds like you are not in a very good place spiritually, maybe? And like you are frustrated?

  3. Also, if I trust the Lord about my husband’s decision and submit and put the outcome in God’s hands there is Romans 8:28, and 29 to lean on (just as it would be in our own decisions based prayerfully) because any one of us, being sinners, could easily misinterpret God’s will.

  4. A couple of thoughts….

    I think there’s a continuum along the lines….

    * Clearly leading to sin.
    * Sinning himself.
    * I disagree with my husband on a matter of fact / judgment.

    Deliberately endangering one’s children is a sin. If I ask my wife to do something that is clearly dangerous for my children, say cross a busy street without looking, then I am leading to sin.

    But, unfortunately most decisions aren’t as clear-cut. This blog has the example of diligence about how the car seat is buckled up. How bundled do the children need to be in the cold? Is it safe to play this particular sport? Should they go to this place (even church) where other sick people are and they might get sick.

    It’s not too hard to see a difference of opinion on these issues as “leading into sin” and thus not worthy of respect. Teasing this apart is tricky.

    I liked Greg’s analogy about the speakers and amplifiers.

    To extend it, I would say that most husbands have an earphone hooked up to their wives, whether you want to believe it or not. This is a source of tremendous power, and can possibly be used to drown everything else (including God) out.

    1. johnmcg,

      I agree – there is definitely a continuum – and sometimes wives count something as “sin” that God does not. We have to be very careful with that! There are many places where we will just not agree with each other – that doesn’t mean a husband is “leading into sin.”

      We as wives need to be careful not to project our convictions or ideas onto our husbands as if our convictions are “gospel” and our husband is sinning if he does not share our exact same convictions about every topic.

      I like your word picture of the earphone. Perfect description!

      Thanks so much for your insights!

  5. Wow. That was a great post. Thank you so much.

    I SO related to this statement: “become a powerless victim – forever waiting on my husband to do what I wanted him to do before I could ever be content in my life.”

    I would often tell my husband that I felt like I was sitting around waiting for him to let my life begin. How sad to be in your 40s and still be waiting on your life to begin – when all along, you were the one standing in your own way!!! I see this in my DOG! He follows me around, watching, waiting for me to decide to do something with him…and I KNOW how he feels. I love my dog, btw 🙂

    But thank you again…this has really opened my eyes.

    I’m thinking about starting a women’s bible study or book study on this whole respect thing…any recommendations?

  6. Great subject and discussion! Just wanted to add a few thoughts I had on the original question of why change first.Whenever I look at marriage, I always compare it to Christ and the church, which is really all of us collectively and individually.In my comparison,Jesus has already done all the work to reconcile us to God, but until we accept his sacrifice and submit to Him as Lord, we are still separated from Him.In the same way a husband can and should try to lead his wife, but he can’t make her follow.He can also go out of his way to be loving, but it’s the wife’s choice to believe or not believe that he cares. Now I know this is a simple comparison that leaves out a lot, but my bottom line point is your husband can not make you submit and respect him, you have to choose to do it not because he want you to ,but because as April pointed out God wants you to.Husbands are commanded in the same way to love their wives regardless of their behavior, but your behavior sets limits on how tender he can be. My view anyway which is worth every penny you paid for it.

  7. I appreciate this biblical information on marriage and your pointing out how marriage can bring blessings into our lives when we follow God’s direction. And you back it up with scripture. As a husband that has missed the mark as a dad and husband i am hoping to follow God’s design for marriage more closely. Lack of respect be it real or imagined is a big deal for men. Understanding why Ive felt handcuffed at times in marriage is eye opening. Believing that i probably dont deserve respect is my error in thought. And I know my wife always deserves my love. Feeling disrespect is paralizing when it comes from your wife. I am relieved to know that this is a natural response, but Im not sure how ill be reacting to disrespect in the future. Im praying about it. Thanks..

    1. Mike,

      It is a very painful and difficult position for a husband to feel disrespected. I can tell you that most wives do not intentionally disrespect their husbands and most wives have no idea what men think is disrespectful. I would be extremely surprised if your wife meant to hurt you. Most likely, she just doesn’t realize what you need and doesn’t realize how offensive her behavior seems to you. Also, when most wives are controlling or disrespectful, it is actually much more about their trust and respect and submission to Christ than it is about their husbands. When she gets that relationship right, then she will be able to properly respect you.

      I pray God will give you His wisdom, courage, strength, power and love to bless, love and wisely lead your wife for His glory.

  8. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this and honestly I want to reply but I believe it would be in book length because I have experienced so many things that I have been unable to truly share in the open with anyone. However, I want to share my story. Am I to enter all that here or is there another option to communicate with you in order to start my journey on the need to transform into a PeacefulWife?

  9. Hi, my name is Lillian from Nairobi Kenya. I want to say am very grateful for your words that I’ve found to be very wise. Whenever I feel low and on the verge of quitting, I have turned to this page and surely I come out stronger and more resilient every time.so thankuou and God bless you.

  10. Pingback: Don’t Wait!! |
  11. I came across your blogs somehow a few months ago and I have to say that everything you say is me to the T. God has used your blogs to convict me and bring me to repentance. I have been married for 4yrs and I would be on my way to living like this for 14yrs as well, but God in His mercy and grace, has been showing me that I need to change and stop worrying about my husband. I actually went to the goodwill recently to search for a book called power of a praying wife and God lead me to a book called Lord, change me!! When I read the part where you said after you stopped all of the criticism amd negativity that your husband heard God for the first time in a long time it brought tears to my eyes. I KNOW that God is telling me to stop trying to be the Holy Spirit in my husbands life and that is the reason that my husband isnt hearing from the Lord. It is my biggest fear and I am causing it. It is also a great desire of mine to know that he hears and is being directed by the Lord and I am preventing it by trying to lead. Actually a couple of months ago as I was reading one of your blogs the Lord spoke loud and clear to me!! He said “the reason you are so angry and miserable all the time is because you are taking on a role that I never meant for you” I cried and confessed to my husband right after and asked forgiveness for trying to lead.

    I want to encourage you to continue writing as the Lord leads. He IS using you to make a difference in the lives of wives. Your testimony is encouraging and convicting and I pray that God will help me to choose to obey Him above my feelings the way He has for you and to change ME and watch what He will do in my marriage for His glory alone!

    God bless you! Thank you for being open and honest and allowing God to use you in a powerful way! All glory to God!!

    Melissa

    1. Melissa,

      Wow. I feel like the most blessed woman on the planet to get to have a “front row seat” like this to see God changing people’s lives and transforming them to be more like Jesus. How I praise God for what He is doing in your heart and that you are hearing His voice so clearly and that you want to obey Him and follow Him in everything. THAT IS AWESOME!

      Thank you for the encouragement. Please pray that God will empower me to be faithful to Him to do what He desires me to do by His power alone and that He might use this place for His kingdom and His good purposes and His greatest glory!

      Much love to you!!! Your story brings such joy to my heart!

My grandmother is on hospice and won't be with us much longer (11-30-16). I will get to comments when I am able to but I need to be with family right now. Thanks for understanding.

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