Peter commands, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). After Peter commands wives to submit to their husbands, he tells husbands how to treat their wives in an understanding way so as not to abuse the authority given to them. Also, two husbands in the Old Testament serve as examples for husbands to learn from, and that’s Jacob and Elkanah.
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Table of Contents
- Message Lessons for Husbands Live with Your Wives in an Understanding Way
- Discussion Questions for Husbands Live with Your Wives in an Understanding Way
- Message Notes for Husbands Live with Your Wives in an Understanding Way
- Lesson 1: Remember listening is not enough
- Lesson 2: Husbands treat their wives well by (Part I) learning them
- Lesson 2: Husbands treat their wives well by (Part III) honoring them
- Lesson 2: Husbands treat their wives well by (Part III) recognizing they’re the weaker vessel
- Lesson 2: Husbands treat their wives well by (Part IV) being spiritual men
- Lesson 3: Husbands mistreat their wives by (Part I) responding in anger
- Lesson 3: Husbands mistreat their wives by (Part II) responding in pride
Message Lessons for Husbands Live with Your Wives in an Understanding Way
- Lesson 1: Remember listening is ______ ____________ (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 8:21; John 13:17; James 1:22, 4:17).
- Lesson 2: Husbands treat their wives well by:
- (Part I) ________________ them (1 Peter 3:7a).
- (Part II) ________________ them (1 Peter 3:7b).
- (Part III) Recognizing they’re the ____________ ____________ (1 Peter 3:7c).
- (Part IV) Being __________________ ______ (1 Peter 3:7d; Matthew 7:19; Luke 13:7).
- Lesson 3: Husbands mistreat their wives by:
- (Part I) Responding in __________ (Genesis 30:1–2).
- (Part II) Responding in __________ (1 Samuel 1:6–8; Proverbs 25:20).
Discussion Questions for Husbands Live with Your Wives in an Understanding Way
- Husband asks wife:
- Do you feel like I strive to learn about you and understand you?
- Do you feel like I honor you for your femininity?
- Do you feel like I make your submission easier by being a spiritual man?
- Do you feel like I respond to you in anger or pride?
- Wife asks husband:
- Do you feel like I try to be a consistent wife so it’s easier to understand me?
- Do you feel like I strive to be feminine?
- Thinking about the account with Rachel and Jacob, do you feel like I:
- Act melodramatically like she did?
- Take my frustrations out on you?
- Covet what other women have?
Message Notes for Husbands Live with Your Wives in an Understanding Way
As we begin this message, I want to pause our discussion of marriage for an important lesson, or else all the instruction we’re receiving won’t make much – if any – difference…
Lesson 1: Remember listening is not enough
There’s been a lot of teaching and application up to this point, and while we come to our second to last message I think it’s really important to keep this in mind.
I’d like to try to explain something I saw in teaching and coaching…
When I taught elementary school, I would stand up at the board and as clearly as possible I’d try to explain to students what they were supposed to do. Then I’d encourage the students to try to do it on their own and I’d walk around the room and look over their shoulders to see how they were doing. It became evident pretty quickly that even though all the students heard the same instruction, they generally fell into two categories:
- Some students did what they were taught. They applied what they heard.
- Another group of students didn’t do what they were taught. They received the same instruction as the other students, but they wouldn’t apply it.
When I coached wrestling, I’d spend some amount of practice teaching new moves. I’d go over the move, teaching it step-by-step, then put the kids in twos and have them do it. Again, you’d have two categories of athletes:
- You had athletes who did what you said. The most exciting part about coaching wrestling is when tournaments took place and you saw the wrestlers perform the moves you showed them.
- But you’d have other athletes who watched you demonstrate the moves, but they wouldn’t do it themselves.
Now I don’t think I have to tell you which group of students and which group of athletes actually did well!
The reason I mention this is we have the potential w/ God’s Word to be like one of these two groups.
- We can hear God’s Word and do what it says.
- Or we can hear teaching and think our part ends simply at hearing.
It’s great to listen to God’s Word, but we have to go further than just listening: we have to apply what we’ve heard. We have to make sure we move from hearing God’s Word to applying it to our lives. This is one of the reasons I would encourage you to do the discussion questions together at a later time.
Jesus taught an entire parable that was meant to make this single point: the Parable of the Builders in Matthew 7:24-27. The story is ultimately about two categories of people:
- People who hear God’s Word and don’t apply it.
- And people who hear God’s Word and apply it…or build their lives and marriages and families on it.
Jesus said: Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, AND DOES THEM, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25a and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house;
In my mind this is describing the trials and struggles every marriage experiences, but b/c they obeyed Jesus’ words it says their house…
25b and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. (Then Jesus says…) 26 everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, AND DOES NOT DO THEM, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27a and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house;
Again the trials and struggles every marriage experiences, but listen to what happened to their house…
27b and it fell. And great was its fall.”
The main point is you have two groups of people, and they both heard the EXACT same teaching. The only difference is one applied it – or obeyed it – and one didn’t. It wouldn’t be too much to say Jesus’ main point is: listening is not enough!
This is a very common biblical theme that we can’t just hear God’s Word for the sake of hearing it. We hear it so we can obey it. Please listen to these verses:
- Luke 8:21 Jesus said, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God (and take really good notes) AND DO IT.”
- John 13:17 If you know these things, blessed are you (if you listen to lots of sermons even if you don’t put them into practice) IF YOU DO THEM.
- James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. The words deceiving ourselves is key, b/c it’s pointing out how people will listen to sermons, attend conferences, purchase marriage books, read blog posts, and believe b/c they’ve done that they’ve done enough, but they’re deceiving themselves b/c the only way any of these help is if they’re obeyed.
James does something interesting in the second chapter of his book…
He says if you have faith w/ no works, you have a worthless faith; he says a faith w/ no works is no better than no faith at all, b/c it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, which is produce!
Hearing teaching w/o applying it is like having faith w/ no works: the teaching is basically worthless b/c it’s not producing the fruit or works in your life that it’s supposed to produce!
If you hear hours of teaching at a marriage conference, but you don’t apply what you’ve heard, you’re no better off than people who didn’t even attend the conference!
In fact you’re actually worse off b/c your accountability is higher: you know better, but you’re still not doing it…
James 4:17 If anyone knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
So as we continue w/ this message and the next one, let’s make sure we’re going to apply what we learn!
With that in mind please turn to 1 Peter 3:7.
In this passage, verses 1 through 6 are for wives, and verse 7 is for husbands. In the first 6 verses Peter commands wives to submit to their husbands, and then verse 7 serves as a warning to husbands to prevent them from abusing the authority God has given them.
There’s so much in this verse we’re going to look at it piece-by-piece…
First, let’s look at the words Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, and this brings us to Lesson 2, Part I…
Lesson 2: Husbands treat their wives well by (Part I) learning them
There are certain weaknesses w/ the English language. For example, I use the same English word when I say, “I love my wife” as when I say, “I love popcorn.” But obviously I love my wife differently than I love popcorn.
One of the other weaker words in the English language is the word “know.” For example, I say, “I know my wife” and I say, “I know of Abraham Lincoln.” Obviously I know my wife much differently than I know of President Lincoln.
As a result, in Greek, they had a word for “know” and a word for “knowing of”:
- There word for knowing of is epistamai, and it refers to having an intellectual knowledge of something.
- There’s also ginosko, which refers to knowing something – or someone – experientially or relationally.
In 1 Peter 3:7 the word for understanding is ginosko. Peter is commanding husbands to learn our wives, or develop an understanding of them through experience or through our relationships w/ them:
- We need to study our wives.
- We need to understand them.
- We need to learn them.
One commentator said, “Get your doctorate on the subject of your wife. A good husband ought to know as much as there is to know about her.”
As far as learning and understanding our wives, what does the world say about understanding women? It says you can’t understand them! We should expect the world to tell us the opposite of what God’s Word says.
The truth is it can be hard to understand women sometimes, but God commands it, which means it’s something we should do.
And let me ask you this:
- Do wives want to be known?
- Do wives want husbands that are interested in them?
- Do wives want husbands that learn and understand them?
All the women said, “AMEN!”
This is how wives feel loved, but here’s what’s very unfortunate:
- There are lots of wives wishing their husbands knew as much about them as they know about other things.
- There are lots of wives wishing their husbands were as interested in them as they are in sports, cars, television, friends, food, music, video games, you name it.
So husbands, we want to make sure we know more about our wives than almost anything else in the world, and what is it husbands are supposed to learn – or understand – about our wives?
- What they like and don’t like.
- How they feel loved.
- What’s important to them.
- What they desire.
Dwelling with our wives in an understanding way also means dealing tenderly with them; we don’t treat them the same way we treat our male friends.
This is especially applicable regarding our wives’ weaknesses. Katie has given me permission to share ways she appreciates me gently addressing two of her struggles based on the knowledge I have of her:
- Organization is one of her weaknesses, so she appreciates me being gracious to her in that area.
- She has trouble finishing things she starts, so she appreciates me encouraging her in a gentle way to complete things and not start other things.
- She said she never imagined having lots of kids. She gets overwhelmed staying places for hours with lots of children. One way I dwell with her with understanding is deciding a time that we will leave. I like to stay late but Katie wants me to compromise.
These are the ways she wants me to dwell with her with understanding.
- This isn’t to say we don’t help our wives improve…
- This isn’t to say we don’t confront our wives or address their weaknesses…
- This isn’t to say we don’t come alongside them and discuss how they can grow…
We do these things, but we do them in a loving and gentle way:
- Every husband has a wife w/ weaknesses, and we can criticize them and be harsh w/ them, or we can encourage them and be gracious w/ them.
- When we read about wives being the weaker vessel, this is also how we treat them as the weaker vessel.
Next notice the word dwell – or most translations say live. This refers to physically being together, but it means more than just occupying the same house or having a business relationship w/ your spouse…which is sadly what some marriages look like. The word dwell or live:
- Refers to doing life together.
- It refers to making your wife your companion.
And if we tie these words together – husbands dwelling – or living – with their wives with understanding it’s commanding husbands to develop a knowledge of our wives and dwell with them – or live w/ them – according to that knowledge:
- We have to take the understanding we have of our wives and use it in the way we live w/ them.
- We have to take what we’ve learned about our wives and apply it to our daily lives w/ them.
- It wouldn’t make much sense if husbands learned their wives and didn’t apply that understanding to their marriages, but this is usually where we fail as husbands:
- We have trouble following through…
- We learn our wives, but we don’t always apply what we’ve learned.
So as husbands we want to:
- Learn how our wives want to be treated and treat them that way.
- We want to develop an understanding of how our wives feel loved and love them that way.
Now please notice the words giving honor to the wife. I know in some of your Bibles this might follow the words about wives being the weaker vessel, but I’ll explain that later. This brings us to Lesson 2, Part 2…
Lesson 2: Husbands treat their wives well by (Part III) honoring them
The word for honor means, “a valuing by which the price is fixed.” 8 times the word for honor is translated as price, b/c it’s referring to the value of something. It’s the same word used:
- Matthew 27:6 The chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price (or value) of blood.”
- Acts 5:3 Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price (or value) of the land for yourself?
So in verse 7 when it says to give honor to the wife,it’s saying to recognize the value of our wives, and honor them b/c of their value.
Now here’s where it gets very interesting…there’s something fascinating about the words to the wife…
The word for wife, which is a noun occurring 221 times in the NT, is the word gynē, (pr: guh-nay).
- If you look in verse 1 Wives, likewise
- If you look in verse 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women
But the words “to the wife” are one word in the Greek gynaikeios, (pr: guh-ny-ky-oss), and 1 Pet 3:7 is the only place it occurs. Instead of being a noun, it’s an adjective or describing word. It means, “of or belonging to a woman, feminine, female.” It’s describing things related to females or femininity.
So the verse isn’t just commanding husbands to honor their wives:
- It’s commanding husbands to honor their wives for being feminine.
- It’s commanding husbands to find value in their wives b/c of their femininity.
- The wife’s feminine nature is what should prompt the husband to honor her.
- The wife’s feminine nature is where the husband finds his wife’s value.
So here’s something ironic…
The feminist movement discourages women from being feminine; it encourages women to move away from femininity toward masculinity, and in the process:
- It encourages women to move away from what God says they should be honored FOR.
- It encourages women to have less value.
- It says, “Be like THIS” where you’ll have less value and receive less honor from your husband.
So the words giving honor to the wife actually have encouragement for all of us…
- Ladies, whether young or old, mothers or daughters, you should celebrate being women. Celebrate your femininity. Celebrate the beauty God’s given you and created you with. Enjoy it and pursue it.
- Husbands, praise and honor your wife. Encourage her in her femininity. Don’t tell your wife to toughen up or try to get her to be less feminine.
- Fathers, raise your daughters to be feminine. This is what will allow them to be honored by their husbands in the future.
Next, notice the words as to the weaker vessel, and this brings us to Lesson 2, Part 3…
Lesson 2: Husbands treat their wives well by (Part III) recognizing they’re the weaker vessel
This is speaking of women being weaker physically. The Amplified says, “honoring the woman as [physically] the weaker.” But notice it says weak-ER instead of weak. If it said, “the weak vessel” it would mean wives were weak and husbands weren’t, but it’s worded this way b/c husbands are also weak. So these words shouldn’t make guys feel too tough, since it’s basically saying we’re weak too.
Now why did God make men physically stronger? He did this for one very simple reason: so men can protect women. Not only should husbands protect their wives and daughters, we should teach our sons to protect other women and especially their sisters.
The evil tragedy that takes place is sometimes men use their strength to abuse or intimidate women. God gave men greater strength so they could be protective, so when men mistreat women, they’re doubly sinning:
- They’re sinning through their behavior, but they’re also sinning b/c they’re failing to use their strength for the reason God gave it to them.
- They’re failing to fulfill the role God has given them as protectors.
Treating our wives as the weaker vessel means making our wives feel safe and protected. Wives shouldn’t feel afraid of verbal, emotional or physical abuse. This also means it’s not the wife’s responsibility to deal w/ conflict or danger. Every husband, as best as he can should put himself between his wife and anything that might threaten her physically, mentally or emotionally.
The words weaker vessel probably also refer to women being weaker emotionally, or we would better understand this as women being more sensitive:
- This means we need to be sensitive to our wives’ needs, fears and feelings.
- This means we’re not going to treat our wives like we treat our guy friends.
Now please think about something for a second…
Wives being emotionally weaker – or more sensitive – is a wonderful thing. If our wives weren’t weaker emotionally – or they weren’t more sensitive – then guess what they would be more like? They’d be like us! And that would be bad!
- How many husbands in here want to be married to someone…like them? Don’t raise your hand!
- Plus, how many mothers would really be good mothers if they were more like men? You’d have a lot of children running around that are miserable, unfed, exhausted, and un-nurtured b/c their moms are more like dads.
But here’s what’s unfortunate…
Even though wives being weaker emotionally – or being more sensitive – is a good thing, sometimes we make our wives feel like it’s a bad thing. When we see our wives getting upset or emotional, we say:
- Why are you so upset?
- Why are you crying right now?
- Why is this bothering you so much?
We should appreciate the way God’s created our wives – as the weaker vessel – and that’s really what this is about: it’s about God’s design. To be upset about the way our wives are, is really to be upset w/ God.
Now if you need a strong encouragement regarding how seriously God expects husbands to treat their wives, look at the last words that your prayers may not be hindered, and this brings us to Lesson 2, Part 4…
Lesson 2: Husbands treat their wives well by (Part IV) being spiritual men
Let me connect the dots to the earlier verses…
Verses 1 through 6 were largely about wives submitting to their husbands, and this is one of the best ways for husbands to make their wives’ submission easier: being spiritual mean that:
- Read God’s Word
- Serve the Body of Christ.
Wives will have a much easier time to submitting to a spiritual man. One of the best ways for husbands to treat their wives well is by being spiritual men.
Let me give you an example that I hope illustrates this…
Whatever position you hold in the military there’s someone in authority over you. As a result, everyone in the military always shares the exact same fear, and it’s this: “Will I have someone in authority over me who doesn’t have his act together?”
If you talk to almost anyone in the military, especially in the branches that involve combat, you’ll be told their greatest fear is being under a poor commander. And why is that? B/c they’re expected to submit to that commander and they might not trust his leadership.
The reason I’m telling you this is it summarizes the fear some women have:
- Is my husband a spiritual man?
- Can I trust him to lead our family well?
- Will God answer His prayers?”
So husbands can help alleviate their wives of this fear by being men who…
- Regularly pray…
- Regularly read the Word…
- Regularly lead the family well spiritually.
And God takes the way husbands treat their wives so seriously he has one of the strongest spiritual warnings in the entire NT in this verse:
- God wants husbands to know there are spiritual consequences to mistreating our wives.
- No matter how important our spiritual leadership is, God says He won’t hear our prayers when we mistreat our wives.
A theme in Scripture is that our sin can prevent God from hearing us:
- Isaiah 1:15 When you spread out your hands,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers,
I will not hear.
(Now He tells us why…) Your hands are full of blood.
- Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.
- John 9:31 We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.
And there’s a very clear sin in the NT that prevents God from hearing the prayers of husbands, and that’s the sin of mistreating our wives. God wants husbands to know there are spiritual consequences to mistreating our wives.
I’m ashamed to say that there have been times I’ve walked to my office and had to turn around and go home and make things right w/ my wife b/c I knew I hadn’t treated her the way I should and if I got to my office and prayed God wouldn’t hear me.
The Greek word for hindered means cut down; the Amplified says, “in order that your prayers may not be hindered and cut off.” The word for hindered is used throughout the NT for cutting down a fruit tree; that’s what the word literally means:
- Matthew 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is CUT DOWN – that’s the word for hindered.
- Luke 13:7 He said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. CUT IT DOWN.” Again, that’s the word for hindered.
You say, “Why would God use a word about a fruit tree being cut down to describe our prayers being cut down?”
- It’s picturing our prayers being cut down.
- It’s picturing our prayers being fruitless.
Since God has called husbands to be spiritual leaders, what we need most is for God to answer our prayers. And it’s so important to God that we treat our wives well, that He says He won’t hear us when we’re not doing that.
Spurgeon said, “To true believers prayer is so invaluable that the danger of hindering it is used by Peter as a motive…in their marriage relationships.”
There is actually one prayer God will hear when husbands have mistreated their wives:
- It’s the prayer of repentance!
- It’s, “I’m sorry for the way I treated my wife.”
We’ve reached another one of those times I’d like to go to the OT to look at examples of what we’re discussing. We’re going to see two men who didn’t dwell w/ their wives in an understanding way. They didn’t know how to obey this verse.
First, please turn to Genesis 30…
Here’s the situation…
Jacob had two wives: Rachel and Leah. That right there is part of the problem. Having two wives is obviously inconsiderate and sinful; that’s how you DON’T dwell w/ your wife – or wives – in an understanding way.
Sometimes people wonder why men in the Old Testament had multiple wives, but it’s descriptive and not prescriptive. In other words:
- It’s describing something that took place.
- But it’s not prescribing what we should do.
Whenever polygamy took place in the Old Testament it always caused serious problems. There are no examples of polygamy accompanied by peace and harmony – every instance is characterized by turmoil and strife – and there’s no place where it’s condoned by God.
Chapter 30 begins right after Leah gave birth to four sins: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. But Rachel hasn’t been able to have any children. And in the Old Testament there weren’t many things worse for a woman than not being able to have children. Many women today would say the same thing. So how do you think Rachel’s feeling, considering her sister, who’s also happens to be her husband’s wife, just had four sons?
Genesis 30:1 Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister (Leah), and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!”
One of the reasons I like this example is it has instruction for husbands and wives…
Like we discussed earlier, women are generally more emotional than men, and this is a fairly melodramatic statement from Rachel: not having any children was terrible, but she shouldn’t have been talking about dying b/c of it.
Second, who does she hold responsible for her suffering? Her husband!
- Was it really Jacob’s fault she couldn’t have any children? It clearly wasn’t his fault since he’d been able to have children w/ Leah.
- Rachel shouldn’t have talked to Jacob like this; she shouldn’t have blamed him. She should’ve taken it to the Lord.
Here’s the application for wives…
- Do you hold your husband responsible for your suffering?
- When you’re upset do you get upset w/ him?
- If you’re having a bad day, are you going to make sure your husband – or the rest of your family – has a bad day too?
Some wives and mothers do this!
Plus much of her anger stemmed from her sister Leah having children. So her anger wasn’t motivated by something her husband did: it was actually motivated by her own sin…her jealousy. It says she envied her sister.
Ladies, are you jealous of what other women have?
- Their homes?
- Their lives?
- Their children?
- Their husbands?
If so, do you take it out on your husband? Is it planting a root of bitterness in your heart like it did w/ Rachel?
Now w/ all that said, Jacob has the opportunity to be a loving, understanding, sensitive husband. So what is he doing to do? He’s going to pick up his insert and say:
- How can I dwell w/ my wife w/ understanding?
- How can I give honor to her, recognizing she’s the weaker vessel, and that it’s reasonable for her to be so upset?
- She’s a female and part of her femininity is a desire to have children.
- I know what I’ll say, I’ll say…
- I am so sorry you haven’t been able to have any children.
- This must be really difficult.
- Let’s pray about this together.
That’s what he could have said. Look at verse 2…
2 And Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”
This brings us to Lesson 3, Part 1…
Lesson 3: Husbands mistreat their wives by (Part I) responding in anger
His anger was aroused against her?
- NLT Jacob became furious
- ESV Jacob’s anger was kindled
- NAS Jacob’s anger burned
When wives are upset and emotional it can be tempting for husbands to get angry in return, but God commands us to dwell with our wives w/ understanding, consider why they’re upset, think of them as the weaker vessel, show them compassion, and generally be strong for them.
Now the irony associated w/ Jacob’s words is…he’s right. Everything he said is true! He’s not in control of whether his wife has children.
But he’s still wrong b/c of the way he responded to his wife. As husbands, we can definitely be right…but still be wrong.
While it wasn’t right for Rachel to talk to Jacob like this, it wasn’t right for him to respond this way.
Now please turn to 1 Samuel 1. Let me explain this situation…
A man named Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, and between these two wives, one of them, Peninnah could have children, and Hannah couldn’t. Are you noticing a pattern here?
But there’s something about Hannah’s situation that makes it even worse, and that’s Peninnah’s cruelty toward her. It’s bad enough not to have children, but it’s even worse when your husband is married to another woman who IS able to have children and she throws it in your face…
Please look at verse 6…
6 And her (this is Hannah’s) rival (referring to Peninnah) provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she (Elkanah) provoked her (Hannah – you’re told the same thing twice so you can see how bad it was); therefore she wept and did not eat.
Now there’s a difference and similarity between Jacob and Elkanah:
- The difference is Jacob was angry w/ Rachel and responded w/ anger, but Elkanah will actually try to encourage Hannah; he’ll try to cheer her up.
- The similarity between Jacob and Elkanah, is Elkanah didn’t pick up his insert and look at it first either.
Look at verse 8…
8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
This brings us to Lesson 3, Part 2…
Lesson 3: Husbands mistreat their wives by (Part II) responding in pride
Husbands, when your wife is upset, do not use Elkanah as a model! In one short response he made three common mistakes.
First, he asked insensitive questions that leaves only two possibilities. You really didn’t know why his wife as weeping, wasn’t eating, and was grieved, which makes him look like a completely oblivious husband. More than likely he knew good and well why she felt this way (she’d been unable to have children), so his questions gave the impression that his wife’s hurt was not legitimate; at the least Jacob showed that her reasons for being upset weren’t good enough for him. He communicated, “You shouldn’t be upset about this!”
Second, He made the king of all prideful statements: “Is not being married to me better than all the children you could have?” He rebuked her for crying, and then tried to encourage her by saying, “Why are you upset about not having any children when you get to have me?”
What does it look like today for husbands to be like this? “You are one lucky lady. Think of all I do for you! Aren’t you glad you get to be married to me?”
How should a husband respond to his wife’s hurt?
Elkanah tried to cheer up Hannah, which reveals the third mistake he made. Proverbs 25:20 says, “Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” In other words, when people are hurting don’t try to encourage them with clichés and platitudes. Instead, simply be with them. It’s known as the Ministry of Presence.
In the years I’ve been a pastor, many people have told me, “These people are hurting, I want to be with them, but I’m afraid that I won’t know what to say.” I frequently respond that this is perfect. If they don’t know what to say, there’s less chance of them saying something they shouldn’t. If you can’t improve on silence, don’t! Of all the times I’ve been with grieving people, I can’t think of one instance that I felt burdened to say something profound because of a question I was asked. Instead, people were glad just to have me silently with them. Think of Job’s friends, at least at first:
When Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place…For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great (Job 2:11-13).
How did they comfort him in the beginning? They did what Romans 12:15 encourages: “Weep with those who weep.” When did they stop comforting him? When they opened their mouths!
Husbands can apply all this. They should respond sympathetically by listening well and then saying, “I am so sorry. What can I do for you? Would you like me to pray for you?”
So husbands, when our wives are upset, let’s make sure we don’t:
- Respond to them in anger b/c we lack patience.
- Or respond to them in pride and tell them all the wonderful things we’ve done for them.
Let me conclude this message by asking the husbands – and I ask myself these questions too:
- Would our wives say we’re interested them and interested in understanding them?
- Would our wives say we honor and value them?
- Would our wives say we treat them as the weaker vessel, understanding they’re more sensitive, and adjusting to that?
- Would our wives say we’re spiritual men who pray w/ our families and encourage them to trust us and respect us?
Let me close by reminding all of us – not just husbands – how Christ treated His Bride, the Church…
J.R. Miller said, “How did Christ show His love for His Church? (In other words how did Christ treat His bride?) Think of His gentleness to His friends, His patience with them in all their faultiness, His thoughtfulness, His unwearying kindness. Never did a harsh word fall from His lips upon their ears. Never did He do anything to give them pain. It was not easy for Him at all times to maintain such constancy and such composure and quietness of love toward them; for they were very faulty, and tried Him in a thousand ways. But His affection never wearied nor failed for an instant. Husbands are to love their wives even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself up for it. He loved even to the cost of utmost self sacrifice.”