Step 1 —Look Upward

woman in a corn maze

In my last post, “It’s Time for You to Become the Woman God Created You to Be!” I shared a simple, yet profoundly important plan that can get you from where you are now—frustrated, lonely, insecure, and maybe feeling unloved— to where you really want to be spiritually, emotionally, and relationally in life.

We all want to be secure, fully known, completely loved, and empowered to be the very best version of ourselves we can be.

Every woman starts out on this journey unsure, weak, afraid, and in need of help.

Then, she meets a mentor who understands her plight and has been there and who can show her the way and give her a plan that can help her achieve success and avoid failure.

There is a specific path you will need to take if you want to become all you are meant to be.

The secret is Jesus. He is the One who can safely guide us on which way we should go. He has the plan. And not only that, He can give us the power we need to carry out His plan for us.

When women are whole in Christ, they are empowered by God to have divine relationship skills that greatly bless their marriages and other relationships.

There is a more detailed refresher of the 4-Step Peace Plan in the last post in case you didn’t get to see it, but here is the bare-bones version:

  1. Look upward.
  2. Look inward.
  3. Look outward.
  4. Look forward.

Most of us are used to looking at others, our circumstances, and ourselves. We are fixated on space and time. It’s kind of like we are mice in a maze. All we notice is what is horizontally in front of us at the moment. The walls, the openings, and the other mice right around us.

But what a different perspective we could have if we looked upward!

God is not inside of the maze of space and time like we are. He is not limited to each snapshot of a moment. He can see every day in the history of the earth as clearly as He can see today and He can see every future day equally all the time.

He is far above the noise and clamor of this world, but He knows everything that is going on. He can see the entire maze. He knows the beginning. He knows the dead ends. He knows the pitfalls and traps. He knows the enemy’s every thought, action, and strategy to thwart us. He also knows the way out. He did design life, time, and space, after all.

And He can see it from a much more strategic vantage point, which makes Him the perfect Guide for us.

We wear ourselves out running around the maze like crazy trying to figure it all out. But we keep getting frustrated and running into dead ends in our relationships and problems.

Why do we trust ourselves? None of us can see the whole picture!

Yet, if we would stop, be still, and look up, we would see Jesus, high and lifted up in the throne room of heaven reigning in majesty, glory, and authority over the entire universe. We would see myriads of angels praising Him continually. We would see a vast crowd of saints singing to Him and worshipping Him.

He is not a mouse like we are. But He knows our needs and He loves us and wants to provide well for us. He came and lived as a “mouse” on our behalf. He was fully man and fully God all at the same time. He lived in the same circumstances, the same maze. And yet, He made no wrong turns and He conquered the whole thing on our behalf, if only we will trust Him.

Now, He lives in all of His divine glory in the highest heavens with all authority.

Here is the picture we should have of Jesus as He is today—stop and focus completely on these words and imagine every detail in your mind’s eye:


Among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword.His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Rev. 1:13-18

Imagine that you were standing in front of Jesus and you saw Him like this and that you collapsed in awe and holy fear and reverence. Imagine that He put His hand on your shoulder and said these words directly to you that He spoke to John.

  • How important would His words be to you in that moment?
  • How significant would your problems on earth appear?
  • How difficult would it be to put your faith and trust in Him if you could experience His holiness so tangibly?
  • Would you have any doubt that His wisdom is greater than your own if you could see Him in all of His glory and understand who He is?

As we focus on Him and we see Him in His proper place then we also understand rightly our identity and who we are in Him. There is no room for pride here! No telling God what He better do. Only true humility and thankfulness.

We willingly, gratefully allow Him to be the rightful Good Shepherd of our souls.

We can also begin to see and hear His communication with us about the way we need to go each moment through His Word, through prayer, through circumstances, and through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, as we are sensitive to His voice.

We may not understand why He wants us to take a certain path at the time, but He is looking ahead to the end. He wants what is best for us in light of eternity and what is best for the kingdom. He, alone, is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. What an incredibly Good Father He is for us if we will simply look up in total faith and surrender.

We can trust Him completely.

What if you lived every moment with the knowledge of His presence in your mind and heart like this? What if you received all of Himself that He is offering to you and if you surrendered all of yourself to Him, keeping your gaze always on Him in your spirit?

I want you to get to experience Him, His love, His presence, and His provision more and more every day of your life. There is no greater Gift. There is no greater Love!

He is the Pearl of Greatest Price.

He is worth giving up all else for and sacrificing everything here on earth for so that we can have Him close to us now and forever!

HOW DO YOU LOOK UPWARD?

  1. See who He really is. Examine His character and attributes. Build your entire understanding of God from the truth of the Bible and reject any caricature you may have developed of him in your mind.
  2. Repent from everything that grieves His heart. Turn away from your wisdom, your sin, and anything/anyone else you put on the throne of your life to try to meet your deepest needs for security, identity, fulfillment, love, and empowerment.
  3. Yield completely to His Lordship in faith from this moment on for the rest of your life. Leave everything else behind in your heart and mind and follow Him wholeheartedly with love.
  4. Respond with a life of worship— joyful reverence, awe, love, praise, faith, thanksgiving, and holy fear.

Then— His heart will be filled with joy! He loves to have close fellowship with you! He gave up all of Himself for you. Now you give all of yourself to Him.

You will be blessed to abide in His presence, love, grace, mercy, glory, and beauty. Being close to Him is the best place to be in all existence.

When you look upward like this:

  • God changes your perspective to be more and more like His eternal perspective.
  • God transforms your mind to become more like Jesus.
  • God gives you a new heart, nature, and Spirit.
  • God opens your eyes to see your problems, your trials, other people, and yourself in divine ways.

Problems, trials, and painful things begin to look so tiny and small as you see how big, strong, and mighty He is.

Like the old hymn says,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

When you look upward, as a child of God, you avoid so many toxic things.

When you keep your gaze on Jesus in worship, love, and surrender, you can’t be filled with fear, worry, anxiety, despair, depression, or frustration.

When you look upward:

  • His perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)
  • There is no need for worry, anxiety, or frustration when you know who God is and you know who you are in Jesus. (John 15:9)
  • There is no place for despair because you serve a sovereign Lord who has all power, all wisdom, and whose every motive toward you is love! (Phil. 4:6-7)
  • There is no room for discouragement because His promises to you are all true in Christ. (2 Cor. 1:20)
  • You know that there is no condemnation for you (Rom. 8:1).
  • You know that nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord! (Rom. 8:1, 38)
  • You know that He will use all of the problems and difficult things in life, as well as all of the good things, to conform you to the image of Christ and for your ultimate spiritual good and His ultimate glory. So you can’t lose. No matter what happens in this life, when you are in Jesus Christ, you win! (Rom. 8:28-29)

You can choose to have a saving relationship with Jesus today to begin finding life-changing spiritual healing and hope. 

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3

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What is the Lord speaking to you today about this topic?

Why do you think looking upward is a critical first step for a hero to take in her journey?

Do you have a word of encouragement for others?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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"I Was SURE I Would Never Make My Husband into an Idol!"

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A reminder – please always check anything anyone (including myself) says against Scripture and remember that ultimately we must each seek to do what we believe God desires us to do and we are each responsible for our own decisions.

 

From a dear sister in Christ whose marriage is facing many extreme difficulties right now:

It’s funny how God works.

Circumstances, test and trials send us fleeing to the Father’s feet for help (usually to tell on and get Him to “fix” someone else for what they did or are doing to us). Such was the case for me. And, while my case is quite legitimate and my need dire, He still has managed to take my focus more and more OFF my dire and legitimate need/case. As I looked up through teary eyes–with every intention of seeing the sympathy and pity in My Father’s eyes, I so desperately needed–I saw myself…MY SELF…broken, yes, but in my true state…as a sinner.

He’s been a mirror to me; and is showing me some things about myself that I just didn’t even know existed. I’m sitting here–having put away (for the time being) every print out and book on marriage, relationships, winning my husband over, etc. It’s not that those aren’t of interest. On the contrary. They are medicine to my aching heart, and aid to my searching soul.

However, the Lord showed me one shocking thing yesterday. The reason I had thoughts of killing myself over this whole thing is because…my husband is my IDOL!

I couldn’t believe it, when God told me. I’m sitting there like “umm…no, Sir!! Thank YOU very much. I don’t even do that!!” Soo… (and don’t laugh), to prove myself right (since I just couldn’t bring myself to even think I was going to prove God wrong) *smh*, I googled “tear down the idols in my life.” That search yielded, among other things, one of your posts “The Biggest Problem in Our Marriages and Our Spiritual Lives” and a few questionnaires.

I printed your post, and glimpsed one of the questionnaires entitled “How Do You Identify Your Idols”. One of the lines in the post is “Are you ready for some painful examples?” I thought, “Ha! I’m ready, because I KNOW, I’m not going to fit into any of these scenario questions!” Imagine my surprise when I saw questions like

  • “What are you most afraid of?”
  • “What do you long for most passionately?”
  • “Where do you run for comfort?”
  • Here’s the one that kicked me in the rear… “What do you complain about most?”
  • “What do I want to have more than anything else?”
  • The one that brought tears to my eyes is “What do you make the biggest sacrifices for?” That one got me at my core, because I knew the answer was NOT “Jesus.”

The answer to all of those questions is – “my husband.”

*Silent awe.*

I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t even realized this is what I’ve come to.

Before my husband and I reunited, I was SOOO close to God. He was my everything!! It was me and Him all the way. I’d look forward to our time together at the end of the day. He’d be the last thing on my mind, and I’d truly rest in Him every night and wake up to/with Him each day. When my husband came along, none of that changed. As a matter of fact, I drew closer to God, because I was so grateful for the blessing of my husband. I remember seeking God for our son, when everything said having him was almost impossible. God blessed us abundantly!

But then… somewhere along the line …I took my eyes off of Jesus and placed them SOLELY on my husband. Instead of God being the one I rested in and the last voice I heard, it was hubby. When God woke me up in the mornings, hubby (and what he was or wasn’t doing) was already playing through my mind, as if somehow there was a movie that never got turned off. Instead of running to the Word (like I used to…even sleeping with it like a teddy bear in my arms), I’d reach for the cell phone to see what text my “heart” sent for me.

…*sigh*…

I’m sharing this with you now; but it’s really humbling and heart breaking to see all the damage I’ve done to my ONE…my Savior…my FATHER…my Friend…my true LOVE. I left Jesus for my husband; and propped that man up on God’s throne in my heart (like it was mine to give). Then, I ached literally (almost) to death, because hubby wasn’t doing/being/giving all the things that role requires. I just didn’t realize what I was doing…what I’d done, until God showed me.

So, while I am still praying and waiting for The Lord to redeem me and my husband (and restore our marriage), I am donning my yellow rubber gloves and doing some soul cleaning with God. I need to truly be transformed (from glory to glory) by the renewing of my mind–becoming more and more like Christ each day.

RELATED:

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“If I Respect and Honor My Husband, Then God Owes Me a Godly, Loving, Wonderful Husband, Right?”

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For wives who have a history of being controlling, sometimes we  latch on to God’s commands to us to respect our husbands and to honor their headship and spiritual authority in the marriage and assume that if we do these things for God, then “God owes us,” as if it is a business transaction. I do this for God, then He gives me what I paid for. We may think, maybe subconsciously, that we can manipulate God and our husbands to do what we want them to do or that we can force them to do our will and submit to us. We may think we are entitled to be in control if we obey God outwardly.

Sometimes women will think:

If I respect my husband, honor his headship and if I obey God in my life, then God HAS to give me what I want – a godly, loving, attentive, affectionate, romantic husband (by my definition, of course). 

There are many promises of various kinds in Scripture.

1. Some of God’s promises are unconditional:

  • The promise God made to never destroy the earth again by a flood was an unconditional promise of God for all mankind that does not depend on us whatsoever. Genesis 9:13.

2. Some of God’s promises are conditional. We must fulfill God’s requirements in order to receive that promise – these promises often begin with “if” and conclude with a “then”:

  • If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14
  • If we confess our sins, (then) he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9
  • So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, (then) you are not under the law.The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.But the fruit of the Spirit (from PW – this is a promise of God that we will have these things if we allow His Spirit to fill us and be in control) is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:16-24

 

 

3. Some things in Scripture are principles, not promises. They are not guarantees of a particular outcome. And some of these principles are commands that God gives us that He requires us to obey regardless of the outcome in this lifetime.

That is what I believe the commands for wives and husbands are in marriage.  God commands us to do these things to bless our spouses, marriages, children, the church and unbelievers and to bring honor and glory to Him. We have the best possible chance at a godly outcome and we open the door for God to pour healing into our lives when we walk in the power of God’s Spirit in obedience to His Word. We certainly cannot expect to receive answers to our prayers if we walk in sin, rebellion and disobedience. If we refuse to obey God, and we disrespect our husbands and cut them down and usurp their authority, we will put a big stumbling block in their way that may help to repel them from us and from God. And, if we walk in sin like this, we forfeit being filled with God’s Spirit because our sin has grieved His Spirit and we forfeit the fruit of His Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).

When we obey God, we show that we honor and love Him as LORD. We also allow His power to flood our lives. And He will reward us for our obedience in heaven when He judges what we have built here on earth in His kingdom.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. II Corinthians 3:10-15

Also, Jesus counts whatever we do for other people, including our husbands, as if we are doing those things for or to Him (Matthew 24:31-46 is the parable of the sheep and the goats).

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 24:40

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” Matthew 25:45

When God commands us to:

– respect our husbands and submit to them as head of the marriage/family (Ephesians 5:22-33, I Peter 3:1-6, Colossians 3:18, I Corinthians 11:3, Titus 2:5) and love others with the love of God (Matthew 22:38, I Corinthians 13:4-7)…

There is no “if” and “then.”

God does not say, “If a wife respects her husband and submits to him, then her husband will always come to know Christ or will always respond to her in love right away or will never sin against her ever again.”

I Peter 3:1-2 says:

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, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

It does not say “they WILL be won over.”

This is the best approach we have, the most powerful approach, the only God-honoring approach. If a wife desires for her husband to come to Christ, it will be as she obeys God for the rest of her life in this if necessary – until God opens her husband’s eyes, he repents and turns to Christ. But this is not a guarantee. I have seen God work through a godly wife many, many times and use her as part of the way He draws a wayward husband to Himself. I don’t want any wife to ever give up on her husband, but to continue to seek to set a Spirit-filled, godly example and to pray for God to draw him to Himself. We pray for God’s will and we know it is His will that all repent and be saved and that none should perish (I Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9)

  • When God says, “Wives must respect their husbands” in Ephesians 5:33, He does not say, “If wives respect their husbands, then their husbands will always love their wives and wives will always feel loved and they will always have all the romance and emotional/spiritual connection they want.”
  • When God says for husbands to “love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it” in Ephesians 5, He does not say, “Husbands, if you love your wives as Christ loved the church, then your wives will always treat you with the utmost respect and honor and they will cooperate with your God-given headship every moment of every day and you will never feel disrespected in your own home.”

It is simply a command. There is no attached promise of earthly outcomes.

Sometimes, commands do have promises attached.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3

Sometimes commands are just given by themselves without any specific promise attached to our obedience. He is Lord. He knows best. He has all wisdom. We do not. He knows what is right and what is sinful. God is revealing biblical principles to us for how marriage works best and how He might be most glorified in our lives, marriages and families. But this is not a guarantee that IF I obey God’s commands, THEN my husband will change the way I want him to when I want him to. My job is to obey God and then I trust Him with the results.

How I long for us to guard our hearts against testing God, making demands that He fulfill our desires the way we want Him to before we are willing to trust Him. May we never do this!

God will change ME as I seek Him with all my heart. That is a guarantee. That is the process of sanctification. But I must leave my husband in God’s hands, trusting Him to work in his life for His will and His glory, praying for God’s greatest purposes to be accomplished in his life.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30

MY CONTENTMENT
I am able to be content in whatever circumstances I may find myself because I have Christ. He is the key. Not my husband or my situation. I can be overflowing with the love, joy, peace and abundant life of Christ and the power of His Spirit even in very trying, difficult circumstances. Even if I feel unloved by my husband. Even if my husband is not meeting my needs and I am emotionally hungry. Jesus is enough. He is sufficient for me.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

MY MOTIVES

If my motives are, “God, I will obey you IF you change my husband and make him love me more and make sure I feel loved all the time by him” – I am asking with wrong and selfish motives (James 4:1-10) and I should not think that I will receive what I am asking from the Lord in that case.

God does not owe me anything.

He gave me salvation through Christ, when I deserved condemnation and hell, which is more than enough cause for me to praise, thank, love and serve Him every moment of the rest of my life even if He gave me nothing else! God does give me certain unconditional promises that I can trust and cling to. He also gives me conditional promises and I am welcome to fulfill my part of the conditions, then I can trust Him to fulfill His promises in His wisdom and His timing.

  • But when it comes to my obedience to Him as Lord, He does not owe me anything for my obedience to Him.  Jesus describes a proper, humble attitude for me to have as God’s servant in Luke 17:

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty. ” Luke 17:7-10

My motives in obeying God must be simply, “I love God. He is my Lord. I long to please Him more than anything in this world. I am fully available to You. I am Yours. Use me however You will for Your glory.”

Yes, I will receive rewards in heaven for my obedience. But I may experience difficulties, suffering, persecution and trials here on this earth. Some people will hate me because I love Jesus, possibly even my husband or my family members. Jesus calls me to die to my own will, my desires, my dreams, my expectations, my purposes, my plans and my self. Then I live only for His will, His desires, His dreams, His plans, His purposes and His greatest glory.

– “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” John 14:23-24

– “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10:37-42

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. Matthew 16:24-27

Lord,

How I pray You might expose any sinful, selfish or hidden motives in our hearts by the power of Your Word. Convict us of any sinful thoughts. Empower us to turn from our selfishness and let us seek to love, honor and obey  You just because we love You and want to please You more than anything. Refine our faith and purify our motives. Make our lives honoring, holy and pleasing in Your sight.

We trust our husbands to You, Lord. We cannot change them. And we do not seek to obey You so that they will change and be what we want them to be. Let Your will be done. Let Your Name be glorified in our lives and in our husbands’ lives. Draw us and our husbands to Yourself. Let each of us know You deeply and experience the spiritual abundant Life You offer to each of us.

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

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DISCLAIMERS:

If you have severe issues in your marriage – if either you or your husband are violent or extremely emotionally/spiritually hurtful/abusive, if there are addictions to drugs/alcohol or infidelity going on or if there are mental health issues, please seek in-person, experienced, appropriate, godly counseling. Involve the police if necessary if you are seriously in danger. Don’t stay in a dangerous place. Get somewhere safe if you are not safe. I do not condone abuse of any kind against anyone. Yes, as we obey God ourselves, God may heal marriages. But a wife’s respect and biblical submission cannot “fix” a violent man, or an extremely controlling man (i.e.: who monitors your every phone call and keyboard stroke and who tracks you every moment of the day with a GPS tracking device). If a man is not in his right mind, it may not be safe for a wife to submit to him.  I am not writing for these severe situations. God is able to heal and His Word is sufficient for all of us, but I don’t personally have experience with any of these issues and I don’t want to give any advice that might be harmful to wives in such situations.