Simple ways to support and encourage your husband’s spiritual leadership without being controlling or demanding.
Welcome to another Wives Only Wednesday. It’s been a while since my last WoW post, so as a reminder, these are posts I do specifically for wives. Husbands can check out the related Men Only Monday post: 3 Simple Ways to Lead Your Wife Spiritually.
Most Christian wives I know are longing to have their husbands take up their God-given role as the spiritual head of the household. So how do you encourage your husband to lead? Many wives either have tried and failed or aren’t sure what to do.
(Note: these suggestion are for Christian couples and do not address the situation of an unbelieving husband. Also note that the “What Won’t Work” section is especially true for a non-believing spouse.)
What Won’t Work
There is a principle that says you can’t push on a rope. When you try pushing, all you get is a tangled mess. This rope principle applies to roles in marriage. Below are some examples of pushing.
Criticism – Many husbands won’t step up and lead spiritually because they fear they will fall short or embarrass themselves. Criticizing your husband’s spiritual life will only exacerbate his fear of failure and judgment from you. The higher the expectations you heap upon him, the less likely he is to step up. Communicating dissatisfaction will likely have the very opposite effect you hope for and cause him to pull back from expressing his spirituality to you. Be aware that he can easily view even well-intentioned questions as accusation (“Did you pray about that?”).
Nagging – Demanding your husband be a stronger spiritual leader won’t work. That is actually you usurping his leadership and will cause him to shrink back further. Nagging him about his spiritual habits will have the same negative effect. Such question as “When was the last time you had a quiet time?” or “Have you read your Bible today?” are actually just veiled attempts to control his spiritual life. It doesn’t work.
Comparison – This is probably an obvious one, but pointing out what other husbands are doing to lead their families spiritually will only make him feel like a failure and inadequate in your eyes. Just don’t do it.
What You Can Do
All of the approaches listed above amount to trying to control your husband. You and I both know that the only person you can control is yourself. Controlling amounts to pushing on the rope of your husband’s spiritual leadership, and it will probably backfire. So, what can you do to help create an internal “pull” in your husband’s heart to want to grow in his headship role? Here are a few ideas that are based on love and serving rather than on control:
Show Honor – Let go of your spiritual checklists and expectations. Your husband’s spiritual life is most likely going to express itself differently from yours, and that’s okay. My wife’s quiet times and mine are as different from each other as they can be. Mine are less frequent, less scheduled and tend to be shorter than hers. It took me a while to realize that we are just different in this regard. Honor and respect his way of seeking God.
Value His Insights – Even if (and maybe especially if) you feel you are spiritually stronger and more knowledgeable than your husband, ask for his opinion on spiritual matters. Invite him into your spiritual struggles and questions. Ask him to pray for you about specific situations and thank him when he does. Acknowledge his answered prayers. This has two outcomes. First, it builds spiritual intimacy as you learn to share your hearts in a vulnerable fashion, and second it helps him build spiritual muscle.
Express Appreciation – Acknowledge every step your husband takes in spiritual growth and in leading your family. Affirm him by saying, “I’m so thankful to have you as the spiritual head of our home.” Thank him when he opens up to you about spiritual matters or offers his perspective. Appreciation will demonstrate your desire for his spiritual leadership without you actually having to say it.
Seek Intimacy – Spiritual, emotional and physical intimacy are all connected. If you desire deeper spiritual intimacy, pay attention to your sex life and to how you act with him emotionally. There is not a formula, but fruit in one dimension tends to spill over into the others.
As I said, these actions are about showing love to your husband in language he can appreciate, and when you do these you invite his leadership by offering him your submission. The Greek word for submission used in the famous Ephesians 5 passage on marriage (hupotasso) means to arrange yourself under. When you willingly show your husband honor and respect with your actions, you are arranging yourself under his loving spiritual leadership.
Of course you should pray for your husband, for spiritual intimacy between you, and for his headship in the spiritual domain of your marriage, but you don’t have to just pray and wait. While prayer is vital and your number one strategy, there are also practical steps you can take that create an environment where his leadership can thrive.
These are my ideas for what will and won’t work in your journey toward a rightly ordered spiritual dimension of your marriage. I’d love to hear any ideas you have! Leave a comment.
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