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When my son was much younger, we watched the old Superman TV shows. They were from 1942. We found eighty-four minutes worth of fifteen-minute shows on YouTube. It is awful television, but my son was enamored, and that’s good enough for me. At some point in all the fifteen-minute shows, Clark Kent would say, “This is a job for Superman.”
Then he drops the suit, dons the leotards, and flies off to save the day. Superman wins. He saves the town. My son is thrilled. I’m vicariously enjoying the show through my son’s experience. As I reflected on that line—it is a job for Superman—about seven or eight times, I began to think about the challenges of being a husband.
I deal with marriage problems every week of my life. Somebody is always calling, asking, and hoping their marriage will change. Now and then, a husband will come asking how he can change rather than how his wife can change. This request is a fantastic start to a counseling session. When anyone places the accent of change on the right place—his or her own heart, mind, and behavior, there is a near 100 percent chance the marriage can experience restoration from the Lord.
This kind of person is more interested in changing himself than his wife (Matthew 7:3-5). When anyone’s heart and mind are in-line with God’s Word like this, there will be forward, redemptive progress. If it is a husband talking like this, I want to be honest with him. Meaning he needs to know that he cannot be a good and consistent husband to his wife within his strength.
At best, if he is a Christian, he is a saint who sins, which implies that he will fail at the “art of husbandry” on occasion. There will be days he will sin through his harsh words, apathy, discouragement, or general selfishness. Marriage is not for the self-reliant man who thinks he can leap a building with a single bound. Marriage is for the weak, the helpless, the frail, the broken jar of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7). If any husband wants to be good at his role, he must come to terms with his limitations.
What a man needs in his marriage is not strength but weakness. If he tries to be a great husband by using all of his power, he will cancel out God’s strength because God will not compete with him. There are always two options for the man but only one choice. The two options are his strength or God’s strength. The one choice is up to him. Which will he choose? If he tries to be a great husband by his might, God will only marginally help him.
If he chooses to be a great husband by walking in weakness—the humility of mind and behavior, he will position himself to experience amazing grace. The power of God works through weakness, not strength. Paul said, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I am talking about what the gospel is and what it can do in our lives (Romans 1:16). Our counterintuitive gospel is about God’s power coming through something foolish and weak to the human mind (1 Corinthians 1:25).
This gospel-centered presupposition is how God always works. He does this so there will never be any doubt as to how the greatness happened. A great man and a great God confuses the picture that God wants to put on display. It tempts the self-deceived, strong man to smuggle God’s glory away from the Almighty so that he can enjoy it for himself. A weak man and a great God leaves no doubt about where the power came from and who gets the glory.
The first choice the husband has to make is how he wants to go about being a husband—his strength or God’s strength. The humility of mind is where you begin when you’re trying to change. This starting point cuts against the grain of proud hearts. There is no glory in being weak, but that is precisely the point. We are not supposed to get the glory. Weakness is always the biblical point of departure for other-wordly greatness.
To be a great husband is a job for Superman because no husband has what it takes to be what God has called him to be. Husbands need super-human help. The bad news is that Superman is not real. Superman. Santa Claus. Easter Bunny. All fake. Fortunately, there is another option. There is someone who is not a figment of our imagination. He is greater than Superman (Hebrews 3:1-6).
If a husband embraces personal weakness by tapping into this someone greater than he is, he will be able to become what God has called him to be. If he is willing to humble himself by learning the art of husbandry from the Master, he can become a skilled husbandman. Peter, who walked with the Master, gives us excellent advice on how to practice husbandry.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).
The first time my brother rode his bicycle, he rode it down a hill, out of control, and through a barn door, landing in front of a bull. He forgot a crucial step: how to use the brakes and dismount. What he did is what I call, “Ready! Fire! Aim!” Husband, if you don’t know your wife well, I’d recommend you not get on the bike quite yet because you may end up in the barn—or the doghouse.
It is incumbent upon you to spend time studying the wife God gave you. Are you familiar with the word exegesis? It is what your pastor does each week. It is a word theologians use to describe the process of interpreting the Bible. It means to learn a text from every possible angle.
Your pastor does this to bring a clear interpretation and understanding to the hearers so that they can practically apply the Word of God to their lives. Sound, purposeful, intelligent, and disciplined exegesis is essential for a congregation to mature. This process is similar to what you are supposed to do to your wife. You study her.
You only need two books to be successful in life. The primary textbook is your Bible. The other one is your wife. If you spend your life diligently exegeting both of them, you will become a skilled husbandman. Your wife is not my wife. What works for mine will not necessarily work for yours. Cookie-cutter application is the bane of discipleship.
Please don’t do what I do. You’re studying your wife, not mine. From your studies, you carefully apply the Word of God to her. You are customizing the Scriptures to make them applicable to your wife and your lives. One size does not fit all. There are two ways for you to accomplish this essential first step.
If you want to know about something, you go to the source. Research it. Everybody does this because it’s wise. There are two primary sources: God and your wife. The first time I applied this concept to my wife, she gave me a list. I was shocked at how quickly she came up with a list of ways to serve her more effectively. Then it dawned on me that she had been thinking about this for a while, though it only came to my mind just before I asked her.
I have given more space to the idea of “learning (knowing) your wife” because it is an essential step. Now that you know her—or are in the process of learning her—you will experience the equipping you need to lead her well. Though there are many practical examples regarding how to lead your wife, the most crucial biblical leadership area is leading her spiritually.
Though there are many other ways to lead your wife, if you’re not leading her spiritually, all the others will be like walking in mud. Either you won’t have the clarity to lead her correctly, or she won’t be in faith to follow a spiritually shallow man. People could tell Peter and John had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Most wives will follow a humble, God-fearing, Spirit-empowered, Word-informed, gospel-centered man. He will not have to demand it.
If you are regularly pursuing humility at the foot of the cross, studying your wife, and leading her spiritually, you can honestly say that you love your wife. On occasion, I’ve heard people say something like, “I love her, but I don’t like her.” That is silly talk. It’s intellectual dishonesty. Imagine Christ saying to the church, “I love her, but I don’t like her.”
Why dichotomize a coin? It skirts the issue. It does not matter whether you call it love or like. The real question is, “Are you Christ to her.” Semantical arguments about love and like end up in the weeds of excuses, justifications, and rationalizations. Do you love and like your wife? If you are a humble, studious, and leading man, you will be a loving and liking man too.
1 – Protect: Christ protects His Church. He died for His Church. He calls a wife to submit to her husband. The husband needs to give her something worthy of her submission. One of the things she must know, feel, and experience is the husband’s protective care.
2 – Model: The husband is Exhibit A, as far as modeling the Savior to her. If you do not model the Christ-life before her, you will disqualify yourself from teaching her anything. A picture is worth a thousand words. What kind of image does your wife see when she observes your attitude and behavior toward her? Is she drawn closer to Christ by your example?
3 – Disciple: Teach her about Jesus. Teach her how to love Jesus. Teach her how to be like Jesus. The husband’s primary student—other than himself—is his wife, not his children. Too many husbands are more diligent with their children than their wives. The wife becomes a cog that keeps the children moving in the right direction.
4 – Encourage: The change process is rooted in encouragement. Do you want your wife to change? How are you encouraging her toward change? It is the loving-kindness of God that leads to change (Romans 2:4). The meanness of God does not change people. Are you mean to your wife? How do you treat her? Does she sense the love of God coming through the words you use when you talk to her?
5 – Confess: Biblical husbands are sin-confessing husbands. How could it be otherwise since we still sin? One of the most effective ways a husband can lead his wife is by removing the sin between them. He leads the charge by confessing his first because a non-sin-confessing couple is spiritual constipation for the marriage. You will not move forward—at all.
As you reflect on these things, there is no doubt this is a job for Superman. But Superman is fake. My recommendation for any husband who wants a great marriage is to connect with the only One who can make it happen. Dear husband, do not attempt this on your own.
No matter how great you think you are, you will fail. This job is for Jesus Christ. Ask Him to help you. Find a community of believers who have a similar passion and are willing to be humble enough about their weaknesses. I have asked you several questions. Will you answer them?
Perhaps writing out your responses and sharing them with your wife would be a good start. If your marriage is not at the place for these intrusive questions and perspectives, ask a good friend who will be honest with you.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).