Setting Aside Your Desires to Lead Your Husband

Setting Aside Your Desires to Lead Your Husband

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A wife can be a husband’s most significant asset or his greatest liability. I think most of us know this, but I wonder how many wives have thought through how to be an asset to their husbands by humbly leading them, even while being submitted to them.

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Warning: If your spouse is abusive, talk to a competent biblical leader about this article before you act on what I’m teaching. Also, if you succumb to manipulation, please speak to someone before you respond to this content. Abused spouses give in easily to the manipulation of others.

Though the Lord calls the wife to a particular role of submission in the marriage, it does not mean she cannot be a Christlike leadership example to him. With this in mind, may I ask you a couple of questions about how you humbly lead your husband by the example you model in the home?

  1. How are you using your gifts, strengths, skills, and talents to help your husband be a better leader?
  2. How are you using your God-given insight and wisdom to serve and mature your husband?

I have asked these questions to wives many times, and they do not always respond the same way. Here are three typical responses.

  • The Humble Response: I didn’t know I could help him lead. Tell me more.
  • The Angry Response: Why does he need me to help him to do what he is supposed to be doing?
  • The Victim Response: Why are you putting the weight of his failures in my lap?

Let me tackle the third response first. If he has failures, they are between him and God, and they are not your fault. Each one of us has a moral responsibility before God not to sin. The point of the question comes from a “brother’s keeper perspective,” not an accusatory one.

My questions were not about you being culpable regarding what he is doing wrong but about you living out the gospel in practical and specific ways. Though Christ was not responsible for our sins, He made a deliberate choice to come alongside us to help us while we were failing.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

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Jesus was not at fault for what we did wrong. He saw a need, and when He knew that we could not fix what we needed, He did it. He humbled Himself to help us with a problem because we needed somebody to help us. You may even recall the story in the Bible about the good Samaritan that communicates this idea.

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise (Luke 10:33-37).”

The point of this story is when we see a need, we should seek to respond to that need if we can. This man saw a need and decided to set aside his plans for the day to help a fellow struggler.

One of the more profound demonstrations of the gospel in a marriage is when a wife is willing to set aside what she wants because of a greater desire to serve her husband so he can become a better leader.

Isn’t this what the Savior did for us? This kind of others-centered attitude is at the heart of the gospel Philippians 2:5-11. Jesus Christ set aside the life He enjoyed with His Father to come to earth to help us become what we could not become on our own.

Now, we are being called to model what the Savior did for us (1 Peter 2:21-25). The Father is appealing to us to set aside our preferences for the greater good of others.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).

The good news is that dying to yourself in that way is not the end of the story. Jesus died to help us. In time, He was highly exalted, and He will be able to fully enjoy the fruit of His sacrifice with millions of people who have accepted the gospel.

It can be easy for a wife to lose this kind of gospel focus because of the difficulties and demands of being a wife to an exasperating husband. The dawning awareness of how the husband is not what she hoped he would be can be overwhelming.

Perhaps she spent most of her young life waiting for her prince to come. Then he showed up, and she married him, only to be surprised at the revelation of his true self, which came after the honeymoon. Her hope for a good marriage was more controlling than God’s call for her to model a Christlike example to her husband.

Instead of working toward maturing the marriage through her humility and practical help, her dashed hopes interfered with what God could have done through her. She became entangled by what she wanted versus what God could do and responded with anger toward him.

You Don’t Know My Husband

The standard retort to the kind of appeal that I am making here typically runs along the line of, “You don’t know my husband.” That would be correct; I don’t know him, and I don’t live with him.

But I am assuming that he is like me, and if perchance he is like me, he is selfish. He also sins, and he can be insensitive and stubborn if he is like me.

I do not know your husband, but let me ask, “Do you sin in response to some of your husband’s behaviors?” If you answered “Yes,” this is where you need to begin leading him.

Nobody can righteously make a case for sinning against someone, regardless of what they have done to you. And if you do sin against your husband because of his sin or general thick-headedness, you have found the right place to begin leading him.

You can do that through humble confession of your sin, coupled with seeking his forgiveness. How wonderful could that be for him? If he needs to repent, lead him by your example of repentance.

Isn’t this how we parent our children? You teach your children through your example. A picture is worth a thousand words. Imagine what a clear representation of the humble Christ would look like to a person who desperately needs to see it.

Are you more focused on what your marriage is not giving you, or are you regularly providing what your marriage needs by your Christlike example? Do you know how to serve your husband this way?

God has used my wife’s strengths repeatedly throughout the years of our marriage to help me be a better husband and leader. She has been a remarkable practical example of what I see Christ doing in Philippians chapter two.

Lucia has, on many occasions, set aside her preferences to quietly and courageously lead me to a greater understanding of Christ. In turn, this has simultaneously convicted me of sin while motivating me to be a better leader in our home.

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What If He Won’t Change?

Another typical response is, “What if I do all of this and my husband does not change?” That is a genuine possibility, but that should not be the first question that you need to be asking. The first question that you need to ask yourself is, “Why am I doing this for our marriage?”

Are you modeling Christ before your husband primarily because you want him to change? Or, are you modeling Christ before your husband because you want to honor God regardless of what your husband does?

There is a possibility that your husband will never change. It happens. There is a story in the Bible about a young rich man who would not change. When he encountered the Savior, he was told to sell all that he had and follow Christ. Here is how the young rich man responded to Jesus.

But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich (Luke 18:23).

I do not know what happened to this man. The Bible does not tell us. We do know what happened to Jesus. He kept being Jesus even when some of those around Him would not emulate His example. God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), and if you walk in the humility of Christ (1 Peter 2:20-25), even when you are not getting all you want, you will be repeatedly surprised by grace.

I wish I could tell you something different, but I can’t. I talk to people every week who want better marriages, better children, better parents, or a better life. Sometimes it does not work out the way they want. That is the reality of the world in which we live.

But there are some things that you can do, even when others will not cooperate with your desires. I had a friend give me a piece of advice in 1989, and I have never forgotten it. He said,

I can’t make you love me, but you can’t stop me from loving you.

He told me this during a season when I desperately wanted my first wife to change her mind about our relationship. She never transformed, and I fully felt the helplessness of our unchangeable situation.

My friend’s advice became invaluable, and I have used it many times since. He was communicating to me another aspect of the gospel. You could say it this way:

God so loved the world that He was bound and determined to lavish the world even if the world did not reciprocate. His love was so profound that He gave His one and only Son to save a bunch of unlovable people. And by doing this, He left the door open for anyone to accept His love. If they did respond to His grace, great. If they did not, their rejection would not alter His love for them (John 3:16 paraphrase).

What Is Your Real Motive?

The first question you will have to ask yourself is why do you want to lead your husband lovingly? Do you want to direct him so you can have a great marriage? Though that is a good desire and even a biblical one, it is not the best reason.

Do you want to lovingly lead him because you want to make God’s name great most of all? That is the best reason (1 Corinthians 10:31). If your motive is not primarily for God’s fame, you will need to do some heart work before you go to the next step of working on your marriage.

You may need to spend time with the Father to get your mind adjusted for the challenging task ahead. Do not skip this vital step. Ask God to give you the grace to love an unlovable person. He will provide you with the favor if you ask with the right motive.

Do not think God cannot perceive your heart motives. He knows your intentions. You may be able to fool others, but you cannot deceive Him.

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13).

Warning: If your spouse is abusive, talk to a competent biblical leader about this article before you act on what I’m teaching. Also, if you succumb to manipulation, please speak to someone before you respond to this content. Abused spouses give in easily to the manipulation of others.

If you feel what I am asking you to do is more challenging than your ability to carry out, I appeal to you to talk to someone in your local church. Do not be afraid to seek help. If you cannot find support in your local church, learn how to receive help from our community.

If you have humbly appealed to him to change and he has not repented, let him know that you are going to talk to a leader at your church about these matters. You will not be sinning against him or God if you choose this course of action.

But let me reiterate: do not sin against your husband. This one piece of advice could be the only thing that you need to do, at least for right now. And when you do sin against your spouse, quickly repent to him and God. You may be surprised at how that changes the environment in your home.

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