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Biff is immature and insecure. If Mable says anything that relates to him, their marriage, or his need to change, Biff takes it personally and usually sulks for a few days. Mable doesn’t feel as though she can be completely honest with him because of his insecurities. She chooses guardedness over openness whenever she is around him.
Rather than speaking honestly about what is going on in her life, she reluctantly treats him like a child. She does not want to do this, but she is all-too-familiar with his infantile attempts at interacting with her concerns (John 16:12). Every word has to be measured and weighed before she can share it.
Mable is left to care for her soul while gingerly caring for Biff’s. It is as though she has to grow him up before he can contribute to her sanctification appreciably. She tries not to be self-righteous about their interactions, but it is hard. Biff is a weak, immature, and insecure husband.
To move forward redemptively, I am going to suggest seven things for you to consider and apply to your life and marriage. (These things can refer to either spouse, not just for an immature husband.)
One of the first things to consider is whether or not Biff is a Christian. I would not assume that he is a Christian just because he says he is. That is not an uncharitable judgment on him but a typical starting place when trying to understand why someone is not changing.
You will need to carefully assess him while holding your assessments loosely because you could be wrong. Even your best assessments will be subjective because none of us can 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 vernacular. As you try to discern whether or not he is a child of God, here are three things to consider.
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, here are some questions for you.
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 our minds, 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 spent time thinking about doing life 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 of him, he should be compelled to gravitate toward things that are spiritual. Describe his hunger for the things of God.
Caveat: you are not looking for perfection in any of the three things that I have mentioned–growth, illumination, or hunger. You’re looking for presence. None of us have perfected our walk with God, but there should be a presence of them.
There are only two reasons a person will not mature in Christ according to his God-given capacities, competencies, and abilities. Either (1) he is not a Christian or (2) he has some sin in his life.
If he is a believer, it’s a sin problem, which is why he is not changing. And if he is caught by some kind of sin, 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. I think most women would be amazed to know how many men are looking at porn or some other form of sexual lust on the side. Do you know what he is looking at on the Internet? Do you have access to his phone, passwords, and other portals where porn can be accessed?
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.
If he is defensive, angry, resistant, or seeks to avoid your inquiry, you probably have your answer. A humble man will respond humbly. If there is no secret sin, there is no reason for him to be uptight regarding your queries.
As the wife, you must understand 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. Again, if he is a Christian and can’t escape a lousy habit pattern, he should be willing to get some 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, join our community so you can build biblical relationships in a safe place.
Ultimately it is God who 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, 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 to be done in your heart. This kind of “clunky” marriage may be your cross as you wait, pray, and seek to serve Biff while hoping that God will change him.
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. – Jesus
This next point may be the hardest. 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 had to deal with them from the acutest vantage point with an abusive dad, two murdered brothers, and an adulterous wife. Probably 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 do understand and apply this truth correctly, you’ll be positioned to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. If you are tempted to look down on him (Luke 18:11) because of what he has done wrong, your heart will take you to a bad place (Matthew 7:3-5).
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
Whatever it is that you want Biff to be, you must become a representative of that for him. It would be disingenuous to insist that Biff be a mature person when you are not one.
Your modeling of Christ must always precede your teaching about Christ. Be careful about telling Biff how to behave when you’re not behaving according to your own instruction. If you are not doing this, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
One of the most profound demonstrations and motivating examples of the gospel in a marriage is when a spouse will set aside his/her desires for the greater good of the other person. You must be motivated to serve your husband so he can become Christlike practically. Isn’t that what the Savior did for us? (Breaking down Philippians 2:5-11)
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.
What makes it even more challenging is when her desires are not evil desires (Luke 22:42), which is one of the hardest things for any of us to process. The call to die to ourselves is impossibly hard (Luke 9:23).
These questions throughout this chapter are hard questions but necessary ones. They come with a prayer for God’s soothing mercy to caress your soul as you take your soul to task.
You’re in the most difficult spot in your life, and my soul is sad for you and for your husband. As with all hard places comes challenging questions. I trust you can receive these truth-directed questions from a spirit of love.
I am sad for the wives in our world who are married to men who won’t lead well. What these women are called to do is one of the hardest things any of us 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 the things that I have outlined in this piece. If you do, albeit imperfectly, I promise that you will experience a persevering grace from the Lord. He provides mercy for this kind of humility, which is your best course of action in an unchangeable situation.
Thank you for asking your question.
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).