Wives, I want you to know how to encourage your husband to lead spiritually. Read this chapter from Your Marriage God’s Way for godly words of encouragement for your husband.
Table of Contents
- HOW TO ENCOURAGE YOUR HUSBAND TO LEAD SPIRITUALLY: EMBRACE HIS LEADERSHIP STYLE
- RECOGNIZE A HEART FOR GOD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN LEADERSHIP STYLE
- MAKE YOUR HUSBAND’S SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP EASIER
- How to Encourage Your Husband to Lead Spiritually: Five Practical Tips…
- BE YOUR HUSBAND’S BIGGEST SUPPORTER
Most people who have heard me preach know that wrestling is my favorite sport, and I like to say that it’s God’s favorite sport too. He wrestled with Jacob (Genesis 32:24-26). He warns that we will “wrestle…against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). He wrestles with sinners’ hearts.
Most wrestlers will tell you basketball is wrestling’s biggest opponent because the two seasons take place at the same time. One thing basketball has going for it is the movie Hoosiers. Even as a wrestling fan I must admit that it’s a great movie.
In the movie, Gene Hackman plays Normal Dale, the new head coach. Nobody knows him, and he’s disliked because he does things differently than the previous coach. Dennis Hopper plays Shooter Flatch, who knows much about basketball, but everyone has written him off because he’s also the town drunk. Coach Dale upsets people even more when he decides to make Shooter the assistant coach. When Shooter shows up at the first game, he’s clean-cut, sober, and wearing a nice suit, but he looks terrified.
Coach Dale wants to give Shooter a chance to prove to the townspeople— and more importantly, to himself—that he is valuable, has potential, and can coach. The problem is there’s one thing standing between Shooter and that opportunity, and that’s Coach Dale. A basketball team—like any business, organization, or marriage—can only have one person leading.
With one of the most important games on the line, Coach Dale intentionally gets himself kicked out of the game. As he’s about to leave the gymnasium, he walks over to Shooter, hands him the playbook, and says, “It’s up to you now.” The camera zooms in on Shooter’s face, revealing his fear. The team is looking to him to lead them during this crucial moment, but they understandably doubt his ability. Some of the players lower their heads and look at the floor. Shooter didn’t want to be in this position, but Coach Dale removed himself from being in charge, and Shooter had no choice but to lead. He pulled himself together and came up with the game-winning play.
Why am I sharing this? This illustrates a key point for us: When wives do as Coach Dale did and remove themselves from leading, they put their husbands in a position where they must lead. Some husbands don’t lead because their wives are already doing so.
Other husbands don’t lead because they believe their wives are going to fight whatever decision they make. As a result, they don’t even bother to lead, or they don’t take their responsibility seriously. Some wives say they want their husbands to lead, but what they really mean is “I want my husband to do what I want.”
This brings me back to my story about accepting the senior pastoral position at Woodland Christian Church. In that situation, Katie put me in a position to lead.
Though Katie encouraged me to take the position, she could see I was hesitant. I remember her saying, “If this move ends up being a mistake and we went there because of me, I couldn’t live with that. The only way I can feel good about this decision is if you make it. I respect your leadership, and I believe God will direct you. Whatever you decide, I will support you.”
I knew how hard it was for Katie to say this because of how much she wanted me to take the position. The fact she put the responsibility so squarely on my shoulders made me take the decision even more seriously. In some ways, it was easier for me when Katie was telling me what she wanted. But the moment she told me I had to be the one to decide, I could feel the burden settle on me.
When a wife says, “I will support whatever you decide,” a husband has no choice but to lead. Some husbands do not feel the weight of the responsibility God has given them because their wives act in ways that take the mantle of leadership upon themselves. Some wives even take charge and then complain, “I am so tired of not being able to count on my husband to make decisions.”
In marriage counseling sessions, wives have told me, “I have to do it because if I don’t, it won’t get done.” I often respond, “How do you know? Maybe your husband would lead if he knew you would not. Your husband might be so used to you taking matters into your own hands that he simply goes along with it.” When a wife recognizes the wisdom of stepping out of the way and placing the responsibility to lead squarely on her husband’s shoulders, she increases the likelihood her husband will take his leadership calling more seriously.
If a wife really wants her husband to lead, she should get behind him, encourage him, and make him feel responsible. Then, when a husband starts to lead, a wife must ensure she doesn’t complain about his decisions or criticize him for not doing things the way she wants. She needs to embrace the decisions he makes and resist the temptation to take over. Helen Andelin, founder of the Fascinating Womanhood Movement for promoting biblical marriage, writes,
When a woman hands back the [reins] to her husband, she must let go completely. She must turn her back on it, come what may. If he makes a mess of it, let him suffer the consequences. Refer all [questions] to him. Don’t shield him in any way. He must suffer. That is the only way he will learn [to lead].Helen Andelin, Fascinating Womanhood (New York: Random House Publishing group, 1992), 92.
When a wife steps back to let her husband lead, there’s a very real possibility things might go poorly at first. I don’t want to give the impression that following biblical principles means everything works out perfectly. Undoubtedly, some things will fall through the cracks. If a husband has never led, he probably won’t hit the ground running. Though we hope a husband will quickly step up if a wife doesn’t take over, he might not. When a husband is not used to being in the driver’s seat, he might be all over the road at first. But the wife needs to decide: “The driver’s seat is not mine. It belongs to my husband.” Regardless of how well or poorly a husband leads, the responsibility still belongs to him, and ultimately, he is accountable to God for what he does.
If a wife communicates this reality through her actions, she can be confident that at some point her husband will figure out, “Wow, she expects me to be in charge. She isn’t going to take over. I’d better get my act together.”
HOW TO ENCOURAGE YOUR HUSBAND TO LEAD SPIRITUALLY: EMBRACE HIS LEADERSHIP STYLE
A wife should not embrace sin in her husband’s life, but she should embrace who he is as a person. This is the man she chose to marry. His personality is not something she should try to change because that is the way God created him. Because men have different personalities, they will do things differently, which is to say they’ll lead differently. There is nothing wrong with that because there isn’t always only one right way to lead.
The greatest men in Scripture had different personalities and, as a result, they led differently. King David was a military-minded man. First, he was a soldier, then a general, and even as a king he still often led his men into battle. In contrast, David’s son, King Solomon, was another great leader, but there is no record of him fighting even one battle. The prophets were also different from each other. Elijah was a loner, but his successor, Elisha, was more social.
The judges delivered the people of Israel from their oppressors, but they accomplished that goal in a variety ways:
- Ehud used his left-handedness to conceal a dagger and assassinate the king of Moab.
- Samson used brute strength to defeat his enemies.
- Jephthah was diplomatic, sending messengers to Israel’s enemy.
Each of these judges was a successful leader, but each one worked differently.
- What if Jephthah’s wife had said, “Instead of sending those messengers, why don’t you try to be like Ehud and assassinate the king of Ammon?”
- What if Ehud’s wife had said, “Why are you so sneaky? Why don’t you be a real man like Samson for a change?”
Even if a wife could change her husband, she would encounter just as many frustrations with her “new” man as she had with the “old” one. For example, imagine a wife has a very consistent, steady husband who is predictable. She wishes he were more adventurous, had more creative ideas, and didn’t take so long to think about things. Then her husband becomes that kind of man. At first it seems great. They jump in the car for a spontaneous trip without bothering to plan out the details. He leaves his job for one that sounds more exciting, which means the family has to be uprooted and moved. Now she believes her husband is being too spontaneous and hasty, and she is longing for her formerly steady, predictable husband.
Or the reverse can happen. A wife has a strong and decisive husband, but she wishes he listened better and didn’t make up his mind so quickly. Then imagine she gets her more consistent, patient husband. She loves this at first. But soon she’s frustrated because he takes so long to make up his mind. When the kids misbehave, he isn’t as quick to discipline them. She even wishes he was more of a leader because she finds it harder to respect him. In time, she will miss her determined, decisive husband.
The point is, every husband’s personality has advantages and disadvantages. While a wife might wish her husband were different in certain ways, those differences would come with their own accompanying frustrations. For this reason, a wife should look for and encourage her husband’s strengths and try not to dwell on his weaknesses.
This is one reason a wife should not encourage her husband to be like other men. Instead, she should be thankful for the way God created him. When God fashioned women as comparable helpers for their husbands, He did not make all wives the same any more than He made all husbands the same. Women have different strengths that work to complement their husbands’ needs and weaknesses. Similarly, the type of leadership style God gives each husband is meant to complement the needs of his wife and family.
RECOGNIZE A HEART FOR GOD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN LEADERSHIP STYLE
In Scripture, kings were said to be good if they were like King David:
- 1 Kings 15:11—“Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did his father David.”
- 2 Kings 18:3—“[Hezekiah] did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.”
- 2 Kings 22:2—“[Josiah] did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David.”
And kings were said to be bad if they were like King Jeroboam:
- 1 Kings 16:19—“[Zimri] committed in doing evil in the sight of the Lord, in walking in the way of Jeroboam.”
- 1 Kings 16:25-26—“Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord…For he walked in all the ways of Jeroboam.”
- 1 Kings 22:52—“[Ahaziah] did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked…in the way of Jeroboam.”
When Scripture says a king is like David, does that mean he was a shepherd or that he slew giants? No, it means that king had a heart for God, like David, who was a “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).
When Jeroboam became king, he set up golden calves that led the people of Israel away from worshipping God (1 Kings 12:25-33). When Scripture says a king is like Jeroboam, does it mean that he built idols? No, it means that king was evil like Jeroboam was.
Biblically speaking, men have never been good or bad leaders because they led a certain way. Rather, men have always been good or bad leaders because they had hearts for God or they did not. That was the case in the Old Testament, and the same is true today.
Regardless of personality or leadership style, every godly man is called to do certain things. He must pray with his family, be a student of the Word, disciple his children, and serve the body of Christ. While there is flexibility regarding how men lead their homes, no man has the liberty to say,
- “I don’t pray with my family because that’s not my leadership style.”
- “I don’t take my family to church because that’s not my personality.”
- “I don’t read the Bible with my family because I’m not into reading.”
If a man is not doing these things, he is failing as a spiritual leader regardless of his leadership style or personality. Every husband should keep two things in mind:
- No matter how many good things a man does for his family, he cannot be a great husband without being a great spiritual leader. No number of family vacations, completed projects around the house, or amount of time with the wife and children can take the place of the greatest call God has on a husband’s life.
- Whatever a husband does in the church pales in comparison to what he needs to be doing in the home. First Timothy 3:5 states, “If a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” While it is wonderful for a man to serve his brothers and sisters in Christ, God states that it is even more important for him to serve his wife and children by leading them well spiritually.
MAKE YOUR HUSBAND’S SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP EASIER
When Katie and I first dated, I really wanted to impress her. So, during one of our first Bible studies, I decided to look at the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem to show her the relationship between these three passages of Scripture: Isaiah 36, 2 Kings 18, and 2 Chronicles 32. It was probably the most confusing Bible study ever taught. Let’s just say that by the time we finished three hours later, I did not look impressive—I simply looked weird. Later that day, however, I overheard Katie on the phone telling a friend, “I am so thankful to have met a man who will read the Bible with me.”
You can imagine how encouraged I was to hear that. Sadly, I have met husbands who are reluctant to read the Bible or pray in front of their wives because they are afraid of the wife’s reaction if they do not measure up to a well-known pastor or Bible teacher. Wives, let me give you some hints for making it easier for your husband to fulfill his role as the spiritual leader of your marriage and family.
How to Encourage Your Husband to Lead Spiritually: Five Practical Tips…
First, thank your husband when he takes the family to church
Unfortunately, this is more than many men do. There are women who would give just about anything to have a husband who worships the Lord with them on Sundays. Ladies, do not take for granted a husband who is willing to go to church!
Second, encourage your husband when he prays or reads Scripture with you
He might fumble every word he says, but you should still thank him for his spiritual leadership. Recognize that you are among a small percentage of wives whose husbands engage in these disciplines with their wife. Hold his hand when you pray and thank the Lord for giving you a man who desires to be godly.
Third, support your husband with the children
Help get the kids together for times of worship. When your husband reads the Bible with the family, set an example to your children by being attentive. Encourage the children to express appreciation for a father who is willing to do what few men do.
Fourth, avoid needless debate
This is a tough issue because I don’t want to discourage wives from asking their husbands questions, or even disagreeing when their husbands say something that is wrong. But if your husband concludes he is going to face an argument every time you open the Bible together, you are going to end up with a husband who does not open the Bible with you.
Katie and I once counseled a couple whom we finally persuaded to read the Bible together. Later, when I asked the husband how it was going, he told me they had stopped and he wouldn’t read the Word with her again. When I asked why, he said that whenever they read together, his wife constantly challenged everything he said.
Fifth, avoid needless comparisons
Wives, I implore you to never, under any circumstances, compare your husband negatively with another man. Your husband is the man you chose to marry. Be thankful for him. If he does not have the gift of teaching, which is a spiritual gift the Holy Spirit gives to some believers and not to others, then he is probably already nervous about reading or praying in front of you and the kids. A man who does not have the gift of teaching is not inferior or less spiritual, but simply has different spiritual gifts. Some of the godliest men I have known struggle terribly when they have to teach in front of others.
The last thing any husband needs is to hear that he doesn’t sound like a well-known pastor. Don’t expect an eloquent sermon when your husband opens the Bible with you. The power is in God’s Word and not in your husband’s teaching ability. If your husband is reading Scripture to the family, trust that it is washing over the family members and doing its work of bringing spiritual cleansing and sanctification, as stated in Ephesians 5:26.
BE YOUR HUSBAND’S BIGGEST SUPPORTER
Imagine a husband who has been reading this book and feels convicted about being a better spiritual leader. He has not been reading the Bible with his family, but he knows he should. Understandably, he is nervous about doing so. He does not know how his family is going to respond. He is asking himself, What if I don’t know what to say? What if they ask me a question I can’t answer? Where should I start? What if I don’t sound like Pastor Bill?
All day at work he has been summoning up his courage, and he has decided that today is the day. As soon as dinner is over, he is going to ask his wife and children to get their Bibles. Fast-forward a few hours. Dinner is over and the husband’s heart is racing, but he still manages to say, “Tonight, we’re going to do something different. Why don’t we all grab our Bibles and read a passage together?”
Now imagine his wife says,
- “Do we have to do this right now? I wanted to get the table cleaned up.”
- “Is that the version of the Bible we’re going to use? Can we use this instead?”
- “Is this the passage we’re going to read? Why did you pick this one?”
- “Is that how you pronounce his name?”
- “When I was listening to the pastor on the radio, that’s not what he said about this verse.”
- “I don’t think that’s right.”
- “Can you ask Mike if that’s correct?”
- “Wow, this first Bible study sure is long!”
Will this husband ever want to read the Bible with his family again? Probably not.
Now imagine this: Same husband, same conviction, same nervousness all day. Dinner is over. He tells his wife and children to get their Bibles, and his wife says,
- “I am so excited!”
- “This is such an answer to prayer.”
- “I am very proud of you!”
- “Not many men do this with their families. I feel blessed to have you as my husband.”
Imagine his wife says to the children,
- “Isn’t this great? What a wonderful daddy you have!”
- “Let’s go get our Bibles. Don’t worry about the dishes. We’ll take care of them later.” This statement alone will get the kids excited!
Imagine that, after the study is over and everyone takes turns praying, the wife says, “Lord, I am so thankful to have such a godly man. Thank You that he will read the Bible with us. We are so blessed. Help him lead our family. What a huge responsibility he has. You have called me to be his helper, so please help me to help him.” These sorts of encouragements from a wife will diffuse a husband’s fears and infuse him with the confidence he needs to be a good spiritual leader.
Wife, be your husband’s biggest supporter. Encourage him when he prays and reads the Word with the family. Husband, do these things that God has called you to do, and you will gain your family’s respect.
Check out this video with Katie and I giving wives recommendations when their husband won’t lead spiritually…