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My Husband Is Immature. How May I Help Him Change?

My Husband Is Immature. How May I Help Him Change?

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A lady asked, “Would you be willing to write about living with an immature husband and how to respond to him biblically? I need help; I would much appreciate it if you could give me some advice.” Her question is not new to me. We are no longer a Christian society, a time when the Christian ethos was the zeitgeist, and it did not matter as much if you were a Christian because even the unregenerate culture had a clue what it meant to be a man. That day has passed. We have reared several generations where boys grow up with no biblically male templates that show them what it means to be good husbands.

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Biff and Mable

Biff is immature and insecure. If Mable says anything related to him, their marriage, or his need to change, Biff takes it personally and usually sulks for days. Mable doesn’t believe she can be candid with him because of his insecurity, fueling his pity parties and passive-aggressive responses. Mable chooses guardedness over openness whenever she is around him. Rather than speaking honestly about what is going on in her life, Mable reluctantly treats her husband like a child. She does not want to do this, but she is all too familiar with his infantile reactions when interacting with her concerns (John 16:12). Every word has to be measured and weighed before sharing it.

Mable is left to care for her soul while gingerly caring for Biff. She is pulling double duty. It is as though Mable has to grow him up before he can contribute to her sanctification appreciably. Though she can mature in Christ without him, there is a biblical presumption that husbands and wives cooperate in mutual sanctification. Biff is not cooperating, and Mable is missing out on this means of grace that would be an asset to her life and marriage. She tries not to be self-righteous about their awkward interactions, but it is hard. Biff is a fragile, immature, and insecure man. Mable wants to know how to move forward redemptively. Let me suggest seven considerations anyone could apply to their life and marriage, whether it’s the wife or husband seeking guidance.

1. Is Biff a Christian?

One of the first things to consider is whether Biff is a Christian. I would not assume he is a Christian just because he says he is. It’s not an uncharitable judgment of him but a typical starting place when trying to understand why someone is not changing. You must carefully assess him while holding your assessments loosely because you could be wrong. Even your best assessments will be subjective because we cannot know if someone is a believer. It is a reasonable assumption to think a person is a Christian if he attends a local church, hangs out with other Christians, or speaks the Christian vocabulary. As you try to discern whether he is a child of God, think on these three things.

Growth: I’m assuming you have known him for a while. If you could plot his spiritual growth on a chart, would you see steady upward growth? Has he been changing and maturing over the past decade? Let’s say he has been changing. If so, how would you answer these questions? Has his growth been because of his interaction with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit or because he has been learning Christian behaviors? Is he changing at the heart level—the control center for his behaviors—or is he merely learning new ideas, best practices, and valuable tips?

Illumination: Does Biff get spiritual things? Does he have discernment? I’m not asking if he is always right in his assessments because none of us are, but does he have spiritual insight? The Spirit of God illuminates the Christian mind, which is how we are enabled to see and discern spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14). There is a difference between interacting with a spiritually dense person and a spiritually discerning person. What I am talking about here is biblical maturity, regardless of age. Is he regularly illuminated and directed by the Spirit of God?

Hunger: Does Biff thirst for God? Is God in his thoughts? Does he gravitate toward the ways of the Lord? Does Biff talk about what God is doing in his life? Is he learning things because he has thought about living in God’s world? Is there a progression in his thoughts about God, life, and others? I’m asking if he is always stuck on the same old thing, or is he maturing—progressively moving forward in his sanctification. Does he like to talk to God? Are his prayers fresh, evolving, and alive? A divining rod gravitates toward the water. What does Biff gravitate toward to satisfy himself? If the Spirit is inside him, there should be a compelling desire to gravitate toward spiritual things. Describe his hunger for the things of God.

Caveat: you are not looking for perfection in any of the three things—growth, illumination, or hunger. You’re looking for the presence of them. None of us have perfected our walk with God, but there should be objective evidence that we have been born from above.

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2. Is Biff In Sin?

There are only two reasons a person will not mature in Christ according to his God-given character, capacities, and competencies. Either he is not a Christian, or he has a sin in his life. If he is a believer, it’s a sin problem, so he is not changing. If sin has captured him, the Spirit of God cannot cooperate with him to help him mature (Romans 1:18; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; James 4:6). Typically, with a man, the most common secret sin is lust—of some sort. I think most women would be amazed to know how many men struggle this way. Do you know what he is looking at on the Internet? Do you have access to his phone, passwords, and other portals where he can access shameful things?

While I don’t want to set off unnecessary alarms, I also don’t want to assume everything is okay when dealing with a person like Biff. Something is wrong, and you must consider all the options. The simplest way to discern hidden sin is to ask him, and if you do ask him, how does he respond? His response will more than likely tell you what you need to know. You probably have your answer if he is defensive, angry, resistant, or seeks to avoid your inquiry. A humble man will respond humbly. If there is no secret sin, there is no reason for him to be uptight regarding your queries—assuming he knows you are for him, care for him, and are in the habit of loving and respecting him.

3. He Has Limited Authority

Your husband does not have absolute authority over you. If he is sinning and you both can’t work it out, you need to find help, which is the point of Matthew 18:15-17. It would not be love to let him stay in his sin. You can humbly appeal to him to seek help through your local church. If he is a Christian and can’t escape a lousy habit pattern, he should be willing to get help, and you should not be passive in trying to help him. Be careful here. Each situation is different. If you can talk to Biff, it would be wise to speak to him, but if you can’t talk to Biff, ask the Father about the next steps. If you’re in a sound local church, go to your pastor. Do not walk this path alone. If you have no church, ask the Father for one biblical relationship to come alongside you.

4. You Can’t Change Him

Ultimately, God grants the gift of repentance (2 Timothy 2:24-26). I’m sure you know you cannot force righteousness. You cannot make anyone change. If Biff turns toward God, it will be because God has done a work in his heart (Proverbs 21:1). The hard part for you is not knowing when or if that will ever happen. If he does not change, there will be a need for significant work in your heart. A clunky marriage may be your cross as you wait, pray, and seek to serve Biff, hoping God will change him.

5. Examine Your Log

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

No matter what you are dealing with regarding your husband, from your perspective and how you understand what Christ has done for you, it’s imperative to know there is no stratification of humans—for all have sinned (Romans 3:10-12, 23; 1 Timothy 1:15). I do not say these things lightly. I’ve dealt with a few disappointing people: an abusive dad, two murdered brothers, and an unfaithful wife. The most effective means of grace in guarding my heart against bitterness and other forms of anger was discerning this fundamental truth: My sin against Christ was worse than anything done to me. If you understand and apply this truth correctly, you’ll be able to be part of the solution rather than the problem. If there is a temptation to look down on him (Luke 18:11) because of what he has done wrong, your heart will take you to a bad place.

Every conflict that comes into our lives has somehow been ordained by God. Knowing that he has personally tailored the events of our lives and is looking out for us at every moment should dramatically affect the way we respond to conflict. – Ken Sande

Your attitude about someone will be your first clue as to your thoughts regarding that person, which will determine your actions toward them. – Rick Thomas

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6. Model the Savior

Whatever it is you want Biff to be, you must become a representative of that for him. It would be disingenuous to insist that Biff be mature when you are not. Your modeling of Christ must always precede your teaching about Christ. Be careful about telling Biff how to behave when you’re not acting according to your instruction. You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you are not doing this. Do you want Biff to be humble? You show him humility. Do you want Biff to be honest with you? Be honest with him as much as possible while discerning his ability to steward what you want to say. Do you want Biff to encourage you? You encourage him.

7. Lead Your Husband

Though he was in the form of God, [He]made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:5-11).

One of the most profound demonstrations and motivating examples of the gospel in a marriage is when a spouse sets aside their desires for the greater good of the other person. Isn’t that what the Savior did for us? Jesus set aside the life He enjoyed with the Father to come to Earth to help us become what we couldn’t be on our own. His example is our call (1 Peter 2:18-25). We are to emulate this setting aside for the redemptive good of others (Philippians 2:3). It is easy for a wife to lose a gospel focus and application in her marriage. Instead of working toward maturing the marriage through Christ-mirrored-humility, she lowers herself to anger by making demands. Of course, it is even more challenging when her desires are not evil (Luke 22:42), one of the hardest things for us to emulate about Christ. The call to die to ourselves is impossibly hard (Luke 9:23).

Call to Action

The questions throughout this chapter are challenging but necessary. Will you work through them? They come with a prayer for God’s soothing mercy to caress your soul as you take it to task. You’re in the most demanding spot, and I’m sad for you and your husband. As with all hard places comes difficult questions. I trust you can receive these truth-directed questions with a spirit of love.

  1. Jesus set aside His desires for the greater good of you and me. In what ways can you model the example of Christ in your marriage?
  2. Do you know how to serve your husband this way? Do you want to do this for him?
  3. What needs to change in you to cooperate more practically with the Lord in the sanctification of your immature husband?
  4. Will you seek help from the body of Christ?

There are many wives who do not have husbands who lead well. God is calling them to do one of the hardest things they could do—submit to someone who does not want to care for them biblically. It’s a painful place to be. The best you can do is model what I have outlined here. If you do, albeit imperfectly, I promise you will experience a persevering grace from the Lord. He provides mercy for the humble, your best action in an unchangeable situation.

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