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Sometimes the Journey is Lonely – but This Wife is Being Faithful to God!

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This dear Christian sister of mine began emailing with me last summer.  God has done HUGE things in her heart.  It’s totally a God thing.  She does not sound like the same person at all!  She has such a sweet, gentle spirit now, a humble spirit, and a willing spirit to obey God no matter what.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for her.  Her marriage is so much stronger now than it was just 6 months ago.  Please pray for her husband to accept Christ as his Savior and Lord.  I know her story will bless many wives.  Thank you to this precious friend of mine for sharing!

Hi, April.

First of all, I thank the Lord for giving you the gift of words. 🙂

Secondly, I pray that your post today will touch the hearts of many women- even perhaps reach women who may be the “outside support.”  I just wanted to share with what I have been going through and an update on what God’s been doing in my life in hopes to specifically encourage those in a spiritually mismatched marriage.

As you know I had no outside support. Even my Christian friends weren’t supportive about me respecting my husband since he wasn’t a believer. I received many mixed messages that left me confused. In all honesty, I may not have taken this long to get started with the respect journey if I had proper godly advice. I’m not blaming my sweet, good willed friends. I just think there hasn’t been much teaching about respecting an unbelieving spouse.

Anyway, when I decided to take that Respect Dare one more time, I decided to no longer vocalize it to my friends or family. I just followed 1 Peter 3:1-6 and prayed and prayed and prayed. To keep myself in check, I have reached out to you several times. Aside from that, I kept my experience to myself– I even kept silent about the positive changes in my husband and in myself. Instead, I would praise God for them, and shared it with you to encourage you on your ministry and to hopefully encourage others.

Sometimes, it does seem lonely. I miss my friends. I miss the face to face Bible study. I miss that awesome Sunday worship I experience in my church (vs. sorry to say it, the seemingly monotonous ones in his). But I am doing my study online. Even there, God has taught me so much in the three studies I have done online so far. My husband doesn’t mind worship music playing.

The Lord is slowly restoring my friendships. My mother is still off-standish with me because she has complained we don’t visit her. My husband leaves for work before the kids and I even wake up and by the time I get home from work, it is dinner and after dinner he’s ready for bed since he has to wake up early. In the past, I complained that my husband hardly does things with the kids. And now, he insists that the weekends is our family time.

He sometimes has to work half a day on Saturdays so that’s when I do my grocery shopping and errands and the other half I clean and Sundays is all family. I am super excited to tell you that, my husband, who despises going to kid places on weekends because it is usually packed, agreed to take the kids to the children’s museum this past Sunday.  I found that sexy! I told him so too. A year ago I would’ve said, well, he should go since that’s what parents are supposed to do. But God has also changed my heart and I appreciated what my husband did.

Back to my mom, she lives 40 min away and since my husband drives into the city all week long, the last thing he wants is to drive to the city on his day off. He has said why doesn’t she visit us more?? She isn’t old (not even 60 yet!). I used to think this was selfish of him and there have been weekends when I’d leave him home alone and sleepover my mother. But now I don’t because I realize… I need to spend time with HIM. As I have shared before, she was the very opposite of what a submissive wife is. She always controlled the household.

So there you have it. I am trusting the Lord to work out and restore whatever relationships that have been severed because of my respect journey. To my knowledge, I am not being disrespectful to anyone. I am simply putting boundaries around me. This way, I don’t fall into the habit of “venting” when my husband does things I don’t agree with or have unbiblical advise from outsiders who mean well.

As 1 Peter 3:1-6 says: we are to trust God and accept the authority of our husbands… do what is right without worrying about what our husbands might do.

Thank you for your ministry!

Do Not Expect Outside Support

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If you decide to obey God’s Word about respecting  your husband and honoring his God-given leadership (Ephesians 5:22-33) – I believe your marriage will be greatly blessed.  I believe you will likely find much greater intimacy with your husband.   You will definitely find incredible intimacy with God as you submit completely to Jesus first and then want to obey Him in everything.  You will  find God’s joy, peace and abundant life as you walk this road.

It will be painful first – as you die to yourself and have to see your own huge sin and repent of all of that.  Digging out all the decades of lies, idols, pride, disrespect, controlling behavior/attitudes, unforgiveness, bitterness and misunderstanding about God and His design is HARD!  Then you begin to rebuild your life on Christ alone and His Word alone.  You throw out everything you thought you knew about femininity, masculinity, being a godly woman, being a godly wife, marriage and even being a Christian and understanding who God really is.   You begin to realize just how toxic our culture is and how very far we have strayed from God’s Word.

But as you follow Christ and obey Him – you discover that His yoke is easy and His burden is light and that you will have freedom, joy, peace and a huge weight off of your soul that you have never experienced before.   It is the most wonderful thing in the world to live in obedience to God and be full of His Spirit!

UNFORTUNATELY

Many wives quickly discover that when they talk about respecting their husbands,  they begin checking with their husbands before making decisions and they begin to live with their husbands’ authority/protection/provision/covering over them instead of trying to please all the other people in their lives – other people sometimes get really angry.  A turf war for control begins.

Many wives learned to be disrespectful and controlling wives by watching the dynamics in our own families growing up. (I think I learned it from being a dominant twin, my mom wasn’t controlling or disrespectful at all, interestingly!)  So our original families are where this new way of living will probably  receive the greatest amount of criticism.  The people I have seen who get the most angry with wives are controlling extended family members who suddenly find that they don’t have power over these women anymore.

To these family members, losing control over their loved one  is UNACCEPTABLE.  Many times, families begin to up the pressure, the guilt, the manipulation and attempts to control wives because that is what they have always done in that family and they cannot tolerate that this woman is no longer under their control.  For a controlling person to realize that he/she no longer “has control” over someone is the ultimate insult and nightmare.

Trying to control other people is idolatry of self – it is sin.  It is saying that we are sovereign and have to make everything work out right, not God.  It is saying that other people don’t have a free will but must do what we say.  This is how I lived for DECADES – trying to control others and be a people pleaser (which meant allowing others to control me).

We do not have to submit ourselves to that!  THANK GOD!  The only One Who is qualified and worthy to have control over me is God – when His Spirit fills and controls me, I have His joy, peace, love, patience, kindness, goodness,faithfulness, gentleness and self control! (Galatians 5:22-23).  I either am controlled by God’s Spirit or by my sinful nature.  Those are the choices.  If I give in to the controlling and manipulative tactics of other people, I am allowing my sin nature to be in control of me, not God.

It’s interesting to me that family members will say, “You are oppressed!  You don’t get to have a mind of your own anymore.  How dare you listen to your HUSBAND!?!?!”  – like that is the most heinous thing in the world.  “GASP!!!!  You are listening to your HUSBAND???????   How awful!!!!!!  There is no hope left  for you!”

But these same people are totally fine with being controlling themselves over these women  – even though that is wrong and the wives who are respecting their husbands are actually walking in obedience to God.  We like to call evil, “good” and good, “evil” in our society.  If the family exerts sinful control and the woman caves to them in an effort to be a people pleaser – that is labelled “good” in these families.  NO! NO!  People pleasing is sin – actually, the worst kind of sin – it is idolatry!!  We are to please God, not men. And God commands us to LEAVE our parents and all other human relationships behind as secondary and cleave to our husbands.  There should be clear boundaries around our marriages that well-meaning, loving family members cannot cross.  It’s time to let go of unhealthy boundaries and trying to control other people and erect healthy boundaries – that is better for everyone in the family!

We have a covenant with our HUSBANDS and with GOD.  Not with our parents, sisters, friends or coworkers.  I no longer answer to my parents as my God-given authority.  I answer to my husband as my God-given authority when I am married.  If we don’t get that straight, we are in for a lot of misery and possibly the destruction of our marriage.

Our family members/friends/coworkers need the freedom Jesus can bring, too!  We can pray for God to open their eyes to their sin and we can pray that God might use our example to draw them to Himself.  Being a controlling person is awful.  It is a stressful, frustrating, anxiety-producing, lonely life.  That is how most of us used to be.  PRAISE GOD, there is hope for change and a new life in Jesus!

IN THE CHURCH

You can expect other people, even people who call themselves Christians, to say that you are “oppressed” or that you have “joined a cult” if you begin to respect your husband and honor his leadership.  Seriously.  Just saying that you trust your husband once or twice can get you labels like this.  That just blows my mind!

Even in the church – many people do NOT understand God’s design.  Our culture’s influence has poisoned the church, too.  There are so few women living as godly wives that it is extremely difficult in many places to find a godly wife as a mentor who actually obeys the Bible about marriage on even the most basic level.    This is a huge problem.

SUPPORT

Pray for a godly mentoring wife to talk to as you learn on this journey.  And you may always find support, prayer and encouragement here.

It is hard enough trying to learn to completely submit and yield to Christ and die to self and live with Christ as Lord and learn His design for marriage without opposition.  But I want you to be aware that you will likely face opposition.  There are many people you may not be able to talk with much about what you are learning.  That is ok!

THE BLESSING

Thankfully, God can take what other people mean for harm and use it for good.  I find that when people insult me, mock me, verbally attack me  (sometimes pretty viciously) –  it is a great reminder to me that I answer to God and I answer to my husband.  I do not answer to these other people.  God calls me to love them and to respond to them with prayer, kindness, respect, gentleness and goodness. But I am no longer a slave to pleasing other people.  I used to do that.  It is a form of idolatry – desiring to please people more than desiring to  please God.

  • People pleasing is OPPRESSIVE!
  • Having my sinful nature controlling me was oppressive.
  • Grieving God’s Spirit and not having His power filling me was oppressive.

Now, I am living to serve and honor and please God alone.  That is FREEDOM, joy and peace!  What a relief!  I don’t have to try to make everyone happy anymore.  That was an impossible and extremely stressful goal.  I love people, but I am not oppressed by them anymore.  I will stand before Jesus Christ to give an account one day – not to any friend, family member, coworker or someone who reads my message online.

When we stand for God’s Word and His truth – we will be hated by this world.  We will be persecuted to some degree.  And God says that we are blessed and to give thanks that we are counted worthy to suffer insult for the Name of Christ.  It is totally worth it to do things God’s way!  I am not ashamed of my Jesus AT ALL!  I thank God EVERY DAY for what He has done for me, my husband, our marriage and our family!  And I thank Him every day for all that He is doing in so many of YOUR marriages!

Focus on TODAY

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Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,

what you will eat or drink;

or about your body, what you will wear.

Is not life more important than food,

and the body more important than clothes?

The pagans run after all these things,

and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,

and all these things will be given to you as well.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow,

for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25,32-34

One of the most freeing concepts Jesus offers us, in my mind, is the concept of living in today.  Not zooming ahead to tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, 10 years from now… but just focusing on living in this moment today and trusting God for our needs today, then leaving tomorrow in His capable hands.

Of course I believe we are to be godly stewards and to be responsible with what God has given us.  I don’t believe it would honor God for us to blow all our money on today and make no financial plan for tomorrow at all… but my faith is not in my finances.  My faith is ultimately in Jesus Christ.

I don’t know what will happen later today – much less 5 years from now.  Only God knows the future.  And He knows how to get me to the place where He wants me to be.  I don’t know the way!  He will give me the light I need today for my steps today.

WORRY AND ANXIETY

I used to worry constantly.  Back when I trusted myself instead of God.  I was all the time trying to figure out how to MAKE things happen right in the future and how to avoid bad things and make sure to do everything RIGHT all the time so I and my family would be “safe.”

I didn’t realize that I was picturing the future WITHOUT God.  Of course, that makes sense to me now, because I was living in the present without His Spirit having control in my life – so that would be the way I would picture the future, too.   I was trying to figure it all out on my own and in my wisdom and power.  It was an illusion.  I didn’t have control in reality.  And it was depressing and very stressful picturing trying to figure out every possible scenario that might happen and trying to be sovereign and make everyone and everything in my life go the “right” way in my view.

Worry is such a slap in the face to Jesus.  It means I don’t trust Him.  I HAVE to choose one or the other.  I can worry and try to control things myself, or I can have faith in Jesus and have intimacy with Him.  I cannot have both faith and worry!

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.  Hebrews 11:6

I used to have such weak “trust muscles” as Laura Doyle calls them in “The Surrendered Wife” (not a Christian book, but a helpful book and practical book for figuring out how to relinquish control and how to begin to respect ourselves, our husbands and how to trust.)

When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.  James 1:6-7

FAITH

Jesus commands me not to worry and not to live today obsessing about my needs being met in the future.  He wants me to see that He is here with me now, and He will be with me tomorrow.  And He is ABLE to meet my needs.  When I trust Him, I know that He can and will use all things for my ultimate good and His glory.  THAT must be my goal!  To seek God’s will and His glory in everything in my life.

Then, I can relax and rest in the love of God – and SAVOR the gifts of today with contentment, gratitude, joy and peace.

ONE WIFE’S STORY OF COMING TO LIVE IN REAL FAITH (This wife’s husband just left her a few weeks ago suddenly and without much warning – and she has not heard from him since)

It’s SO hard to explain things because there are so many unanswered things. I am in a scary place with my future and a week ago, I wrestled with myself and God. I said that either I believe all that He tells me in the Bible (including that He provides for me, He protects me, He loves me, He will Never abandon me …. ) or I don’t believe all He tells me.

(From Peacefulwife – this is EXACTLY the place I had to come to 4 years ago, also!)

I came to a point in that painful time with Him, where I said “I am going to believe that You are who You say You are. I have been walking with you over 25 years and have held on to fears, control, worry, doubt. I don’t want to have that anymore. I want to believe with calm assurance that You are who You say You are.

Something in me broke.

In a moment, the excruciating pain in my chest and the heavy pain in me was gone. I don’t have any answers but have told God that I will trust Him to provide for my every need from now until the day I die. I asked for His forgiveness for so many things. I cry as I write all this. I am so thankful that He loves and takes care of me.

FROM PEACEFULWIFE

This kind of brokenness, humility and decision to put our faith in Christ is EXACTLY what Jesus longs to see in each of us.  NOW – He can start powerfully working in this precious wife’s heart in ways that He couldn’t before because of her lack of faith and her trying to be in control.

I can’t wait to see what God has in store for her!!!  And I can’t wait to see what He has in store for you!!!!!

Expectations – Part 1

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We all go into marriage with a lot of expectations.  (Click here for Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

And, as a reader of mine quoted last week,

“Expectations are premeditated resentment.”

Ladies, what are some expectations you have of your husband and marriage?

Some expectations – I believe are valid.  I believe we should be able to expect our wedding vows to be honored.  But sometimes even that doesn’t happen, sadly.

WHAT ARE SOME EXPECTATIONS THAT GET US INTO TROUBLE?  WHEN I THINK:

  • if I love my husband well (or submit to him biblically and respect him), that my husband will always love and cherish me the way I want him to – that he will “owe me” and must please me or must be the man I want him to be or act in certain ways
  • if I do things right – God will also “owe me” and I will never have to suffer
  • my husband will never turn me down for sex
  • my husband must be perfect and must never sin against me
  • that marriage will be like a romantic movie, I will constantly feel “in love” and “loved”
  • that marriage will solve all my problems
  • that if I am married, I will never be lonely

There are many more possibilities, but this is a good place to start.   Keep in mind that these expectations can easily become idols for us – and we can easily set our hearts on these things instead of on Jesus alone.

We will look at some additional expectations tomorrow.

LET’S TALK ABOUT REALITY VS. EACH OF THE ABOVE EXPECTATIONS

  •  I have an obligation to my Lord, Jesus Christ, to obey His Word and to love my husband, respect him and honor his God-given leadership (Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:2-5, I Corinthians 11:3, I Peter 3:1-6).  But my accountability to God is for my own sin and my own obedience and God requires my obedience to His Word regardless of my husband’s corresponding obedience to God’s Word to love me as Christ loves the church.  Husbands are people.  They have free will.  Just like my husband cannot force me to obey God and love Him, I cannot force my husband to love God and obey Him.  And I cannot force him to love me either.
  • God values suffering when it is for His glory. God promises that we will suffer in this life.  Jesus suffered as an example for us.  And God wants to use suffering to make us more like Jesus.  My life will have suffering.  But God’s promise is that He will be there to empower me to endure and that He will teach me and make me more like Jesus.  I will learn the most during my times of suffering if I will listen for God’s voice.
  • Reality is that husbands do reject their wives sexually, sometimes.  Some husbands do this more than others.  But the way I respond when I am rejected is a big indicator of how close I am to God.  Can I take my hurt and pain to Jesus and find my fulfillment, joy, strength and purpose in Him alone?  Or do I begin to cherish a grudge and bitterness and hatred?  God can and will use these situations to help make me more holy if I am willing to do things His way and let go of my own wisdom.
  • Husbands are human.  They are all wretched sinners in desperate need of Christ!  So are wives! He WILL sin against you – the question is only when and how much.  God can and will use these opportunities to reveal the sin in your own heart because we are most tempted to sin when we have been sinned against (Gary Thomas Sacred Marriage).  If I cannot respond to my husband’s sin with mercy, forgiveness, grace, respect, gentleness and speaking the truth in love (after removing the sin from my own life first) – then I have a lot of sin to confess and repent of before my Holy God.
  • Marriage CAN be very romantic sometimes.  But it is not Hollywood.   And it can be and will be excruciatingly painful other times.  It will not follow a carefully scripted movie plot line.  When we expect men to act the way they do in romantic chick-flicks (which are often written by women) – we are buying into a fantasy that completely warps real masculinity.  We set up false expectations for our men when we consume these things. If watching romantic movies, reading romantic books and listening to love songs creates discontentment in you – romance may be an idol and it is time to stop watching and listening to these things and time to focus on Jesus and His love.
  •  Paul says that those who have married will have much trouble in this life.  Marriage does not solve nearly as many problems as it creates!  Marriage is a gift and a blessing.  God designed it to demonstrate His love and relationship with His people.  But in a marriage between two sinners – there is MUCH TROUBLE.  Expect that.  Be prepared for it.  Don’t complain and argue.  Be ready to give grace and to roll with reality and be flexible.  Your way is not the most important thing.  God’s will is the most important thing!
  • The loneliness that happens sometimes in marriage is a loneliness that far exceeds (in my view) the loneliness of being single.  There are times that we will be lonely, VERY lonely in our marriages.  I believe that is our cue to look to Jesus.  Our husbands will fail us.  But Jesus never will.  When I keep my heart set completely on Jesus alone – I will find the belonging, the security, the peace, the love, the acceptance and companionship I so desperately long for.

WHAT DO I DO WHEN MY HUSBAND DOES NOT MEET  MY EXPECTATIONS?

Do I believe I am justified to sin against him by cussing, screaming, yelling, throwing things, hating him, resenting him, gossiping against him, undermining him to our children, withholding sex from him, not forgiving him, thinking I am so much better than he is, belittling him, disrespecting him, taking over and trying to control him and the family?  If I respond in even one of these ways – I am in sin before God.

The way I respond when my husband doesn’t meet my expectations reveals the level of sin in my heart.  It shows whether the sinful nature is in control or God’s Spirit is in control.  When God’s Spirit is in control, He empowers me to respond to my husband, even if he sins against me with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.

Take a minute and think about

1. What are your expectations of your husband and marriage?  Are any of them toxic?

2. How do you respond when your expectations are not met?

3. What idols and sin is God revealing here that He wants to deal with and remove from your heart?

A Wife's Little Victories as God Changes Her Heart

1167176_54598022From a dear wife, thank you so much for sharing!!

Since the argument, I have been praying and applying the principle of being respectful towards my husband and it really does work. Maybe a part of it is that after an argument we are both usually more kind and careful to act in the right way too…which is positive also because it shows we both still really do care…

On Valentine’s day decided to get my husband a small gift and a card – which he liked…we went for a swim together and that was nice, as the day came to an end and there was no little gift for me,  I tried to be logical about it telling myself it didnt matter if he got me anything and I was able to stay kind and composed thru the day but as soon as my head hit the pillow my eyes just started to well with tears and I couldn’t help it I cried quietly for probably an hour.. my husband kept asking what was wrong and if i needed a hug (if he was angry at me he would normally ignore it or not be as kind about it) but I just said I was fine and it was okay he didnt need to hug me. I did that because i knew if i said something it might cause an argument as he would feel criticised and also late at night is never a good time for us to talk about these things.  (From peacefulwife – I believe she could have graciously accepted his hug and thanked him for checking on her.  But I appreciate that she didn’t want to cause a conflict.)

In the morning my husband came up to me and wanted to know if i was okay. I then told him that i felt sad that i didnt get any flowers.  (From Peacefulwife – i like how she shared her feelings simply and without blaming him).  He was kind of surprised but did not see it as a problem at all. He said, for our anniversary next week I will definitely get you flowers. He didnt say it under duress either. You are right when my husband feels respected he is definitely more willing to meet my needs. And I do feel I need to be true to myself – first to examine my ‘needs’ and if it really is a something i need that only my husband can meet to share it respectfully with him. I felt that even though I was sad it still came across respectfully and that made all the difference. (from Peacefulwife – yes!!)

I think i am learning that: If i can overlook an offense, accept and anticipate that my husband will snap at me when he is stressed over seemingly minor ‘mistakes’ and respond with grace and a calm composure, speak my needs to him respectfully and preferably in a ‘light/fun’ way, join him in some of the things that are important to him – We will have a much happier marriage and just these past few days have shown that.Y

Yesterday at church my husband forgot some papers and wanted me to rush home and get them. He sort of asked me in a bit of a frazzled way and I could tell the girl I was speaking to was kind of like ‘oh dear ok..’ but stayed calm said, “Yep, sure,” and went home to get them. Then he called me up and i was aware that probably other people were around when he spoke to me, he was like ‘where are you!!??? DO NOT stop to get anything at home, take the papers and come right back’. Before, i might have said with a ‘tone’ ‘I AM ALMOST BACK! ARE THERE OTHER PEOPLE AROUND? YOU DONT NEED TO TALK TO ME LIKE THAT, STOP PANICKING’ etc…and this would flare him up.

But i remembered from our last incident that this is the way he is in these situations so i just listened and said ‘yep sure i am only 30 seconds away so i will see you soon’. It was so much better and later he was the one that told me about how he got into a bit of a panic. It  happened numerous times last week too. I was helping him with a project for work and he started to get all stressed and worked up. I stayed calm and said ok so this is what you need me to do ‘and started writing it all down’. and it turned out fine. That calms him down too. Also at lunch yesterday with friends he shared something little i didnt really want him to – about how he thought I didn’t react well with doctors at the hospital once – but instead of trying to set him straight (probably for the first time) i just smiled and looked at him (remembering this is just a small mistake i can overlook). And then our FRIENDS were the ones who were like kind of coming to the rescue and just helped ‘move the conversation on’. It was so much better than us arguing in front of them! And i didn’t FEEL offended i could truly just let it go. Later on we were sitting on the couches all talking and I noticed my husband was playing with my hair as we all talked, i thought how sweet he is such a ‘man’s man’ but is not embarrassed to play with my hair in public.

I heard something in a sermon too recently. If you add fire to fire you get an even bigger fire. But how can you put out a fire? with water. That is why in these situations i need to diffuse them with water (grace, calmness) and not more fire (stress/anger etc).

I definitely feel God drawing me to himself lately, i think i have had a real grieving period with facing my infertility but He  has been constantly wooing me. I think you are right i need to spend time with God for the purposes of enjoying him as my Creator, listening to the love messages He has for me (both in his word and in nature), continuing to teach me how to bee a good wife, daughter, friend… seeking His will in specific situations and also seeking wisdom for situations i may come across that day.

I will also pray that God will help me put the desire for children in a proper perspective. One thing i have been thinking about lately and finally found the answer yesterday is was there anybody in the Bible who was married, struggled with infertility, pleaded with God for a child, and did not receive a baby in the end? And the answer was no. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Elizabeth, Hannah. Their infertility was not permanent although they had to wait for a very LONG time (eg. 100 years in some cases). Although that doesnt mean that God OWES me a child or that i will definitely have one… it was encouraging to me to see that God more used these times to work in the lives of these couples and for them to learn to trust him fully.

Handling "External Pressure" on This Journey

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A Wife’s Questions

I just wanted to start off by saying thank you and God bless you so much for your labor of love in creating the wonderful blogs that are blessing me and so many others.  I was thinking to myself this morning that ever since I discovered your blog about a month ago I have been so inspired and so relieved!  So many of the things I felt God speaking to my heart over the past few months are so well covered in there as confirmation, and it is amazing to see you and others describe walking through this journey. I feel like I am not alone in learning some of these things that can be difficult on the flesh, especially after being a certain way for so long.
Something I have deeply struggled with relationship-wise is what I view as great “external pressure”.  The people around me have always been very much involved in every aspect of my life.  But in this season, I find it so difficult to talk to the people around me even about minor things because I worry about their judgement and comments, especially as I walk through this respect journey.  Its hard enough dealing with my own expectations, but when I focus on my family and friends, its unbearable! So I have a hard time opening up even as I am learning awesome things and see God moving in the midst of it. My attitude right now is that I have been listening to the wrong people for so long; others opinions, the devil’s lies, and my own flesh. Now I am doing something different, which is listening to God and obeying Him alone for a change, leaving whatever the outcome will be to Him, and I just want to stay focused instead of being so stressed that I feel I need to avoid people sometimes. I just want to be able to be honest about my growth journey while at the same time not letting their opinions bother me too much.
My question is what is the best way to deal with all the questions all my well meaning friends and family members constantly have about my relationship?  I don’t want their comments to get in the way of how God leads me, but I feel weak in this area. When they notice I’m not talking about my man very much, because they are so used to me being an “open book” they harass me and ask why I’m not updating them on things, then I feel guilty lol! I almost feel like I need to establish new ground rules, because I feel like this is a delicate period.  I just wanted your take on the best way to go about this.

Peacefulwife’s Response

WHAT I DID (I am not saying this is what everyone should do – this is just what I personally did)
I was controlling and disrespectful towards other people in my life, too, before I learned this stuff – AND I had awful boundaries, or no boundaries, and was always an open book as you describe and also allowed other people to control me before.
When I realized my sin – and WOW – was there a lot of it – I wanted to hide in a cave and never talk to another person again.  I knew I would sin if I opened my mouth.  And back then, I would have.  Everything out of my mouth was criticism, control, disrespect, gossip, bitterness, pride… yep.  Sin.  
I actually immediately backed away from everyone.  I practically disappeared as I began studying respect and biblical submission and realizing my sin and repenting and asking God to take all the evil out and rebuild on His foundation alone.
I was afraid to talk to anyone.  I knew I would say something disrespectful and I did NOT trust myself with words to anyone for a long time.  I am not sure that this is necessarily the healthiest thing ever – it would have been better if I had a godly mentoring wife, probably, or a women’s study group or a godly girlfriend or two, but I didn’t at the time.
I became a bit of a recluse, praying, studying and trying to apply what I was learning just to my marriage.  I could only really focus on that one thing at first.  So I apologized to my husband and my young children, and began to try to set a godly example of respect and submission for them, too.
I spent hours studying, praying, reading and taking notes almost every day.  I was SO DETERMINED to learn this stuff and do it God’s way.
THE RESULTS
Backing away from my family and friends actually ended up being good in several ways for me (again, I am not saying this is what everyone must do):
– it kept me from temptation with MY MOUTH
– it forced me to develop new and stronger boundaries and hedges to protect my marriage.  I had not properly “left” other relationships to “cling” to my husband.  So part of backing away helped me cement in my mind, and probably in their minds, that I was leaving all others and cleaving to my husband.
– I wasn’t trying to explain what I was doing to other people
– it gave me time to  work through all the new things I was learning and time to try to process all the new information I was studying before I had to apply it in more difficult situations
You may not have to back away as much as I did. I don’t know!  But I had to take some BIG STEPS BACK emotionally and even time-wise for a long time as I learned.  Later, I was able to re-enter some of those relationships and only speak highly of my husband.  But it took time.
Some people did not take kindly to me backing away.  But I didn’t single anyone out, I just backed away from everyone but God, Greg and my children.  I focused on those relationships and was loving and kind to others, but didn’t do a lot of talking with other people for awhile.
If people ask questions, only say POSITIVE things about your husband and your marriage.
** For wives being physically abused or who have SERIOUS problems in their marriage, please find godly, experienced help ASAP!  Those issues go far beyond the scope of this post and this blog** 
HANDLING CRITICISM AND QUESTIONS
First of all, the unfortunate reality in most cultures today is that  there are almost no women who will be supportive of your efforts to truly become a godly wife – not when you talk about respecting your husband and honoring his leadership.  And if you use the word, “submission,” you may have rotten tomatoes thrown at your head.   If you don’t have super godly friends, even Christian women will get upset about respect and biblical submission – some of them become downright hostile.
Many times, we have learned our disrespectful and controlling ways from our own mothers and sisters  – so sometimes they can be the most difficult to deal with. (My own mother was not at all controlling and was very respectful – but I guess I learned the control thing from being a dominant twin).  And if you talk about what you are learning with them, they may take these new ideas as a huge threat and try to control you even more than ever.  The HARDEST place to break dysfunctional relationships is in our family of origin.  That is usually where we learned our messed up ways of relating to people, and we can quickly revert back to those old ways when we are around our family because that is what is expected and it is hard to buck against the usual old “dance” that everyone does in the family.
Right now, I am not sure I would do much explaining.
You can smile and say, “Thanks for asking.  I’m doing well.  God is working on my heart.”
And if they pressure for more, “I am not at liberty to discuss any details right now.  Thanks for praying for me. :)”
PEOPLE’S PRYING QUESTIONS
People probably don’t mean to cause angst and trouble and pain, but sometimes the questions they ask are just not very polite!  Definitely don’t expect anything from your man right now (for Valentine’s Day).  Thank him if he does something for you.
But you can just nonchalantly say something to those who ask what you got for Valentine’s Day like, “That’s my little secret.”  or “I have such an amazing husband, he is a gift from God in and of himself.”  Or “God has given my husband to me.  I’m really thankful for him.”  Or, “I hope I get to spend some time with my favorite man in the world tonight.”  Something that promotes your admiration of your husband and expresses your gratitude.
NEW GROUND RULES
YES.  You will need new ground rules and boundaries.  Here are my goals:
  • I don’t talk negatively about my man or anyone else’s marriage or their relationship
  • I don’t gossip (about my husband or anyone else)
  • I only say positive things about husband
  • I don’t ask other people for advice about my husband – only godly mentoring wives
  • I build a hedge of protection around my heart and marriage – “guard your heart, it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs)  Being a Christian does NOT mean we are total open books.  I used to think it did!   We are honest and open to a degree, but there are some things we must guard as sacred and precious that are not available to public view.  Our marriages are one of those things.  The most important thing!
  • I may need to say something like, “God is working in me.  I can’t talk about it much right now.  Thanks for understanding.”  Or “God is teaching me so much.  It’s too personal to go into right now.  I hope I can share more one day.”
The way God-given authority works is like this:
God>>Christ>>Husband>>Wife>>Children
Also there are God-given authorities we must submit to like the government, church leaders, our bosses, the police, teachers, etc.  Children must submit to their parents.  But once a child is grown, God commands us to honor our parents, but not to submit to them and obey them.
You answer to God primarily and also to your husband.  Your goals are to please THEM.  First to please God – and then your man.  If your husband asks you to sin or condone sin, you must respectfully resist him to obey God.
Other people’s opinions and ideas are nice, but you do not answer to those people.  It is no longer your job to please other people.  (That can quickly become idolatry – seeking the approval of men over the approval of God)  You answer to God and your husband.  It helps to clarify that, I think!

The Wife’s Response Back to Me

Thanks so much!  I think the thing that gets me the most is when people seem to think I’m “suffering in silence” since I am being so quiet nowadays.  Mind you he is the sweetest, kindest, gentlest person, not mistreating me in any way, but the emotional distance I feel right now is the thing that makes it difficult. Is my flesh suffering as I learn to walk this out? Absolutely!  And sometimes the repentance I feel is so thick and the lessons and realizations and remorse hit me so hard that I feel heavy.  But I don’t know that its for me to necessarily share with everyone. I think that since females are so used to sharing our feelings with eachother that it seems natural that that would be the case, but for some reasonthese feelings seem sacred as I am going through my process and allowing God to show me things.  I hope that makes sense, just venting.  It can be hard changing so much in a short period of time!  But I know its all for a great purpose.

Here is a post about healthy boundaries and controlling people that might help, too.
YOU ARE WELCOME TO SHARE YOUR STRUGGLES!
All wives struggle on this path!  It is the most difficult and wonderful thing most women will ever do in their lives, in my view!  Please share your struggles or your story if you would like to.  MANY sisters in Christ are on this same walk and we are stronger when we hold hands and walk together side by side!

The First Few Months (or More) of This Process is HARD!

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I share a lot of success stories and light bulb moments that wives have.  Those are really inspiring.  I love seeing what God is doing and when things seem to start to go well.

But you know what?  I get WAY more emails that are full of pain, frustration, angst and struggle.  But I don’t share those.  I guess, primarily, because I don’t want to ask a wife to put that up in public – her lowest moments and biggest struggles put on display.  Sometimes wives do talk about their struggles in past tense in the emails I post.

I believe that for a woman to learn to respect her husband and honor his God-given leadership in the marriage is THE BIGGEST TEST OF FAITH IN CHRIST a Christian wife will probably ever face!

In learning to respect my husband – I really learn to respect God.  In learning to submit to my husband, I first learn to submit to Christ.  What an incredible road we are on!

But I want to be sure you know…

STRUGGLE IS NORMAL ON THIS JOURNEY OF BECOMING A GODLY WIFE AND IN BECOMING CHRISTLIKE:

  • Most wives make a LOT of mistakes – especially at first.  Since we are human – we will always make some mistakes and sin sometimes.  Until we get to heaven!
  • The first month or two is often the hardest, sometimes the difficult time lasts longer than that – it just depends on a lot of circumstances and the attitude of each woman and her husband how long the different phases last.  For Nina Roesner’s (author of The Respect Dare) explanation of the usual stages of this process, please read here)
  • Most wives want to just flip a switch and suddenly be the most godly wives ever.  It does NOT work like that!
  • Most wives that write to me say, “I must be your ‘worst student ever’!”  When they tell me about a disagreement that day that didn’t go well and recount the ways they were disrespectful or controlling.
  • This takes TIME.  A lot of time.  MANY months and most likely many years before it really feels “normal” and “natural”.
  • We will stumble.  Then we get up and apologize to our husbands and repent to God and keep going.
  • We are actually talking about the process of sanctification – where God makes us more and more like Jesus.  It is a life time of learning and growing.
  • Things go more smoothly when we have an attitude of humility before God, and a willingness to learn.
  • We will NOT make progress if we hold on to sin – unforgiveness, bitterness, pride, putting other things ahead of God in our hearts, rebellion against God and His Word.
  • Some wives embrace God’s design and try to learn it all at once and change everything right away.  That can be REALLY overwhelming and is actually impossible to do.  This is a long journey of many thousands of miles, not a sprint.
  • Some wives hate God’s design and feel angry about it and rebel against Him and turn and go their own way.  For some, they have to really hit rock bottom before returning to Christ.
  • EVERY wife will need to apologize A LOT when she sins against her husband and God.  But eventually, the taste of humble pie will grow on you!
  • Most of us will have husbands who don’t respond for awhile.  Their reactions can range from seeming indifference, anger, sadness, gratitude, joy… and our husbands’ reactions may change along the way.  They may feel confused.  They may not understand what is going on.  They may get angry when we mess up – thinking it means we haven’t really changed – when, in fact, we HAVE made a lot of progress, but they don’t understand the process.

WHAT I SAY TO A LOT OF WIVES

When things are not going well, and a wife messed up again, and she is feeling overwhelmed and inadequate and like she will “never get this right…”

I tell wives things like:

  • None of us can do this in our own strength!!!!  We need Jesus and His Spirit EVERY SECOND of EVERY DAY! 
  • You aren’t going to be perfect.  That is ok!  You will need to give grace to yourself.
  • Your husband is not going to be perfect.  He needs a lot of grace from you.
  • This is like learning a foreign language – it takes time, study, practice and also a lot of prayer and dependence and trust in God.
  • Other women and extended family and friends will probably NOT be very supportive.  God’s ways appear like foolishness to the world, even to many believers in our culture, unfortunately.
  • Find a godly mentor wife if you can who you can meet with once a week or so and learn from her example.  Be sure she lives out respect and biblical submission and has a very intimate relationship with Christ herself!
  • Don’t look to carnal women and disrespectful women for advice or counsel!
  • Thank God – we have Jesus’ blood to cover our sins!  WOOHOO!  PRAISE GOD there is forgiveness, mercy and grace for us in abundance, if we will just tap into it.

A Wife's Learning Curve

 Winding Country Road through autumnal Landscape

Here is a comment from a deeply wounded husband that I posted on FB this week.  And then there is a wife’s email to me after that about what the husband said.

FROM A HUSBAND

 
Enlightened by your messages. I really question myself when dealing with my wife, which nearly always resulted in very harsh very mean words from me to her for years. I have cried my woes to several in utter frustration, that the meanness is reactive, that this was not the wife or life I desired. What was I doing wrong?? I really questioned myself, was I really this monster with such a mean streak. I was convincing myself that I was mean, which is in total conflict of where my heart is for my wife (my relationship with the lord has codified that). I have lived in total conflict internally and externally. 
 
Then I saw your posts and lists, and I saw my life with my wife in print. WOW. I feel disgusted by my words, no justification, but having read your lists and posts I could clearly see what extracted such a relationship. My story sadly is ending in divorce, BUT to the wives who read your posts give them credence. We husbands are a delicate breed, though very rough and rugged on the outside, not so on the inside. As a husband I can only wish my wife had seen this list, and gave it credence, I truly would have laid my life for her, as any husband would do. The power and destruction of the list is very real, and any God-loving husband given the respect outlined in this post, will return it in kind to an unimaginable degree. Ephesians 5:21
(the post the husband was talking about was a list of things husbands find to be disrespectful here)
 

A COMMENT FROM A WIFE

Hi April,

As I read the post from the husband who (commented on the) list of disrespectful attitudes and behaviors, I’m struck yet again at how foolish I have been in the past.  I find that I’m doing better with recognizing things as I’m doing them, but sometimes it’s not until after I’ve done it “wrong.”  (FROM PEACEFULWIFE – this is REALLY normal in the first few months of trying to learn respect/biblical submission!  It is a long process, not an instant light switch flip. It is more of learning a brand new language, or learning to walk after being paralyzed and bedridden for many years.)
For instance, yesterday I allowed my fear of something to interfere with agreeing with what my husband thought was best.  I wasn’t argumentative, but I voiced my concern in a way that didn’t allow for his way to be right.  After church, I briefly apologized for allowing my paranoia and fear to challenge his suggestion and that I knew that whatever he chose to do would be good because I know he desires to keep us safe.  I have found that I am apologizing for particular things individually as they come to my mind instead of rehashing a widespread apology again (after the initial time he shared his heart with me).
What blows my mind is that the lists the you have composed as well as others’ contributions are verbatim what I have done (and 99% of other wives, I would imagine at some point). It’s frightening and comforting at the same time. I am not unique in my struggle, but it’s so sad that it’s so common.  It’s scary to think what could happen to my marriage if the Lord had not opened my eyes…or if I didn’t seek Him now that I see my sin.  I just pray that there will be continued growth and change for the better and that we never see the cliff of a crumbling relationship as some sadly have.

I can’t wait for my good reactions and responses to outweigh my disrespectful knee-jerk responses.  I just pray that as I am learning, that my husband will continue to give me grace through my apologetic missteps along the way.  I’m thinking about telling him what I’ve been learning, but can’t decide if it’s right, yet.  I’m mainly thinking that I want him to know that I’m trying to change, so he can have “knowing” patience.  It might not be time…I’ll be praying about it, though.  At some point, I would like for this topic to be open with him, so I can approach him about items on these lists to find out even more about how he is wired.
FROM PEACEFULWIFE:
I like what this wife is doing!
  • After the initial apology for her disrespect and controlling behavior – she then just apologizes BRIEFLY (that’s good!) for specific things.  GREAT JOB!
  • She sometimes doesn’t see her disrespect or lack of trust until after she does something disrespectful.  That is NORMAL!   When you’ve been disrespectful and controlling for decades, it takes some time to learn what is respectful and what isn’t and it take time to learn to stop yourself BEFORE you do and say things.  You will need to have plenty of grace for yourself.  You are human.  And you are a sinner.  And this stuff is all brand new information.  I pray your husband will be able to give you grace as you learn, too.
  • Only God can open our eyes to our sin.  And once our eyes are opened to our disrespect and controlling behavior – YIKES!  Then we wonder, “How on earth did I not see that all those years!?!?”  But most of us didn’t see it.  Most of us didn’t do this stuff intentionally.  We were reacting in our pain to feeling unloved – and unknowingly deeply wounded our husbands.
  • Over time, learning to trust God, seeking Him above everything else, dying to self, being aware of sin, repenting, being humble, understanding what disrespect and respect are, understanding our particular husband’s needs, and committing to submit first to God and then to our husbands – eventually becomes “normal.”   At first, it takes severe emotional and spiritual contortion.  But, in time, with prayer, with God’s Spirit’s power and with practice – our faith and trust “muscles” grow stronger.  And eventually, God changes our hearts and minds.  Eventually, we don’t even think the disrespectful and controlling stuff anymore.  And that is a VERY PEACEFUL and JOYFUL place to be!
  • Some wives don’t talk with their husbands about what they are doing.  Laura Doyle, “The Surrendered Wife” (not necessarily a Christian perspective), talks about giving up unnecessary control and learning to respect our husbands and the good things that result from that.  But she suggest wives NOT tell their husbands what they are doing for 6 months.  Why?  Because when you are first learning, you still don’t have a good grasp on what is disrespectful, and some wives will actually say things like, “I’m not going to tell you how stupid your ideas are anymore.  This book says I need to be quiet about that.”  YIKES!  She says that after the 6 months, most wives have changed a lot and most husbands are very happy and don’t really ask about what exactly their wives are doing differently, they are just glad things are so wonderful!
  • Some Christian wives DO talk to their husbands about learning to biblically submit and respect their men.  IF your husband is a believer in Christ, and he is fairly strong in his walk with God, he may be able to help coach you through some of these things.  And it may help him to know what you are doing.  So some Christian wives will apologize at first by saying:

I have sinned against God and against you by disrespecting your God-given leadership and by trying to control and be in charge in the marriage.  I realize now that I was so wrong.  I want to learn to respect you and to cooperate with your leadership.  I pray that you might be able to forgive me.  I know it is going to take me some time to learn how to do things right.  You are always welcome to tell me when I am disrespectful or controlling.”  (and whatever you do – keep it BRIEF and DO NOT EXPLAIN OR JUSTIFY YOUR DISRESPECT AND CONTROL FROM THE PAST!!!!  Just these few sentences is probably adequate)

Each wife will need to decide what the best approach might be for her marriage.  But I will say this – husbands value ACTIONS and BEHAVIOR much more than words.  They will be watching your behavior in the coming weeks and months to see if you are for real.  And it may take many weeks or months before they feel safe enough to open their hearts up to you again.  That will have to be ok.  This is primarily about us obeying God.  The results and timing of what happens in the marriage and in our husbands are up to Him.

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