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Win Your Husband Without a Word to Avoid Being a Nagging Wife (1 Peter 3:1-2)

Win Your Husband Without a Word to Avoid Being a Nagging Wife (1 Peter 3:1-2)

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You can win your husband without a word to avoid being a nagging wife (1 Peter 3:1-2). For the wife can win over the husband by being righteous. Read this chapter from Your Marriage God’s Way to learn more.

Through my ministry Living God’s Way, I put on marriage conferences across the country. In between sessions I’ll meet with people. They almost always ask me questions that are difficult to answer, and oftentimes they hope that I can help fix a problem they’ve been experiencing for years in a five-minute answer.

For example, a wife will ask, “My husband won’t lead our family spiritually. What can I do to get him to pray and read the Bible with us?” If a woman married an unspiritual man, what are the chances that I can tell her something that will encourage him to be spiritual?

A husband will ask, “My wife disrespects me at home and she’s rude to me in front of my friends. What am I supposed to do?” If a man married a rude and obnoxious woman, how can I tell him, in a brief conversation, how to have a gentle, respectful woman?

These kinds of dilemmas typically take hours of counseling to resolve.

There is one question I get asked at almost every conference, and ironically, it’s one of the easiest to answer: “Should I submit to my spiritually immature or unbelieving husband?” Why is this so easy to respond to? Because the answer is spelled out in Scripture: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (1 Peter 3:1-2).

These verses are directed to wives and once again deal with submission—but with a new twist. We have established that wives are not expected to submit to abuse, sin, or even other men. But is a spiritually mature wife expected to submit to a spiritually immature husband? According to 1 Peter 3:1-2, submission is called for not only to a spiritually immature husband, but also to a spiritually bankrupt husband—or more specifically, an unbeliever.

How do we know that unbelieving husbands are what Peter had in mind? Each human author of the Bible has a recognized style of writing. When Peter mentioned husbands who “do not obey the word,” we know that he was referring to unbelieving husbands because he used similar terminology for non- Christians elsewhere. For example, in 1 Peter 1:2, he described believers as “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience.” Peter equated obedience with salvation, and rightly so. While obedience is not what saves us, Scripture makes it clear that believers should be obedient. In 1 Peter 2:8, he similarly described unbelievers as “being disobedient to the word.” Because Peter used “obedience” to refer to believers and “disobedient” to refer to unbelievers, we can know that when he wrote about men who “do not obey the word,” he was referring to unbelieving husbands.

Now, just because a man is an unbeliever doesn’t mean he is a scoundrel. He may be kind, affectionate, and hold to a high moral standard. However, if he has not taken the first step of obedience—that is, the obedience of faith, which leads to salvation in Christ—then he is properly identified as disobedient.

A wife whose Christian husband is not as spiritually mature as she would like should be encouraged, because although submitting to an immature believing husband may be difficult, it’s not as difficult as submitting to an unbelieving husband. Because God’s Word commands wives to submit to unsaved husbands, how much more willing should wives be to submit to spiritually immature believing husbands? A Christian husband might not be as spiritually mature as his wife longs for, but at least she can be thankful that he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

WHAT IF YOU ARE MARRIED TO AN UNBELIEVER?

For wives who find themselves in marriages with unbelieving husbands, Peter offers encouragement and hope. Through a wife’s example of godly submission, her husband may be won to faith in Jesus. In a parallel passage found in 1 Corinthians 7:13-16, Paul explains why a believing wife is called to submit to her unbelieving spouse rather than leave him to find a spouse more compatible with her spiritual commitment:

[If] a woman…has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

Paul’s teaching here is twofold. First, a believing spouse is called to remain in marriage to an unbeliever. “Sanctified” means “set apart” or “holy.” By staying married, the believing spouse can have a spiritual influence on the unbelieving spouse, who is “set apart” due to constant exposure to the believing spouse’s faith. This can help open the door for the unbelieving spouse to come to faith as well. Logically, we understand that one of the best ways for unbelievers to come to salvation is through relationships with believers. An unbeliever could have no more intimate relationship with a believer than through marriage.

Likewise, the children in that family are far more likely to be exposed to godly living when the believing spouse remains in the home and creates a Christian environment. The alternative breaks up the home, possibly leaving the children in the custody of the unbelieving parent. In 1 Corinthians 7:13-16, this issue is directed primarily at the believing wife—perhaps because at the time Paul was writing, husbands had sole legal possession of any children born within a marriage. A believing wife who abandoned the marriage would also be abandoning her children to the custody and sole influence of an unbelieving husband. As Paul concluded, a believer staying in the marriage may provide just the influence necessary to bring an unbelieving spouse or child to faith. It is not guaranteed, though, for Paul wrote, “How do you know…?,” pointing out that this a possibility and not a promise.

The second matter Paul addressed was that of an unbelieving spouse choosing to leave the believing spouse. While believers are instructed to stay in the marriage and be an influence to win their spouse to faith, they can’t force an unbelieving spouse to remain. This is especially pertinent when a wife or husband comes to Christ after getting married—an unbelieving spouse may end up rejecting a spouse who becomes a Christian.

Notice what Paul’s instruction is based on: “God has called us to peace.” If the conversion of one spouse to Christianity has become the source of continued conflict, then the believing spouse should not quarrel over the unbelieving spouse’s departure. This would be antithetical to the Christian’s calling to peace. In addition, unbelievers are never won to Christ through heated arguments. It is more important to be true to the Christian testimony of peace than to attempt to keep an unbeliever in a marriage by force or argumentation. This elevates the Christian faith above even an unstable marriage. It’s better to let the unbeliever depart than to sully Christ’s reputation.

This brings us to an important point: Paul’s permission for Christians to allow an unbelieving spouse to “depart” should not be interpreted as permission to divorce. As we already discussed in connection with abuse, a separated spouse is commanded to remain single while seeking reconciliation: “If [a wife] does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife…A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives” (1 Corinthians 7:11, 39; see also Romans 7:2). The principle is that even when separated from an unbelieving or sinful spouse, a believer may still be an influence for change and repentance through faithfulness to the unsaved person. God’s design is always reconciliation and never divorce.

I will be the first to acknowledge that marriage can be difficult enough for two people who are already believers—and much more so for believers married to unbelievers. But how tragic it is—and disobedient to God’s Word—for Christians to divorce an unbelieving spouse when that believer constitutes the unbeliever’s greatest chance to be drawn to faith. I have heard Christians talk about wanting to leave an unbelieving husband or wife, usually because of how terrible that spouse is. I don’t doubt what they say, but in my mind I am thinking: Yes, this sounds terrible, but the worse you make the person sound, the more obvious it is just how much your spouse needs Christ. And that person needs to be exposed to Christ through you!

A WIFE’S NAGGING AND A HUSBAND’S STUBBORNNESS

Let’s take a closer look at two important contrasting points in 1 Peter 3:1: “[Husbands], without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.” Wives are told

  • how not to try to win their husbands—with words.
  • how to try to win their husbands—with their conduct.

In Genesis 3:16, God told Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” This verse reveals two struggles husbands and wives face because of the fall. As we learned earlier, the first half of the verse speaks of wives’ desires to control their husbands. This often manifests itself as nagging, which we find described in Proverbs:

  • “The contentions of a wife are a continual dripping” (Proverbs 19:13; see also Proverbs 21:9, 19; 25:24).
  • “A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike; whoever restrains her restrains the wind, and grasps oil with his right hand” (Proverbs 27:15-16).

Not only is the tendency to nag ongoing, but as Proverbs 27:15-16 confirms, it’s virtually impossible to stop. When a man responds to a nagging or contentious woman, she usually becomes more contentious and argues and nags even more.

The second half of Genesis 3:16, “and he shall rule over you,” reveals the corresponding struggle men have with stubbornness. God created men to be leaders in the marriage relationship, so by nature there may be times when they are less receptive to what their wives say to them. Let me illustrate through two incidents that occurred in my relationship with Katie.

For the first few years of our marriage, every couple weeks I would grow a beard, then shave it off. At some point I asked Katie, “Do you think I should grow a beard?” She said, “Why do you ask me that? You know you’re never going to keep one. You grow a beard for a couple weeks, but then shave it.” I’ve had—and kept—a beard since that conversation!

One day I was putting wood in our fireplace. One piece was rather big and should’ve been split into two or three smaller pieces. Katie said, “You’re not going to be able to get that big piece of wood into the fireplace.” I was determined to prove her wrong and almost pulled a muscle or burst a vein when I lugged that piece of wood, but you can be sure I got it into the fireplace.

When husbands are told not to do something, frequently their all-too-human response is to do it anyway because they are inclined to be stubborn:

  • Katie: “You’re not going to grow a beard.”
  • Genesis 3:16 in action: “I’m going to grow the longest beard you’ve ever seen.”
  • Katie: “You’re not going to get that piece of wood into the fireplace.”
  • Genesis 3:16 in action: “I don’t care if I have to hold one end of this piece of wood outside the fireplace as the other end slowly burns and I push it in over the next few hours—it’s going in there.”

Two realities about our fallenness make the tension between husbands and wives even worse:

  • Husbands seem to struggle with stubbornness even more when they feel they are being nagged.
  • Wives seem to struggle with nagging even more when they feel their husbands are being stubborn.

This can create a vicious cycle that sucks the joy out of a marriage. God is aware of this, so He has revealed how to bring such contention to an end—not with words, but with godly behavior.

If you are a believing wife, most likely there are certain activities you want your husband to do, such as pray and read the Bible with you. Perhaps you also want your husband to do things of a less spiritual nature, such as finish a couple of projects around the house or take the family on a trip he promised years ago. There might also be things that you want your husband to stop doing, such as watching ungodly movies or spending too much time on a certain activity.

The truth is, nagging your husband won’t bring him any closer to being the man you desire him to be or increase the likelihood that he’ll do what you want. On the contrary, because men are stubborn, nagging will probably make him less inclined to do what you want and could possibly even push him in the opposite direction. What a wife needs to do instead is obey Peter’s command to win over her husband not with words, but with godly conduct.

The Line Between Helping and Nagging

Earlier, I shared about my addiction to World of Warcraft right after Katie and I got married. One reason I felt so convicted about my behavior was that I had married a wonderful woman, and even at the worst of my addiction, Katie continued being a godly wife. If she had nagged me, I wouldn’t have felt as bad.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Katie let me know how much it bothered her that I was playing; I already mentioned that she had a little breakdown over it. But she spoke to me honestly out of her pain instead of in anger; she didn’t nag me. Part of the conviction I felt came from being married to such a godly woman who deserved better than a husband addicted to a video game. Had she nagged me, she would not have seemed like a woman who deserved better. Katie’s godly conduct while I was being a lame husband helped convict me of my selfishness.

Hopefully, you see the balance I’m pointing out here: I’m not advising wives to refrain from ever asking their husbands to do or not do certain things, or from giving their husbands reminders. After all, God created a wife to be a helpmeet to her husband. Sometimes husbands forget things, and a reminder (or two) can be a blessing.

Also, sometimes husbands are not aware of how much they may have hurt their wives, children, or friends. It’s common for men to be oblivious to how others feel about what they’re doing, and wives can help their husbands to see what they themselves don’t see. There have been times Katie and I were driving home from spending time with people, and she said, “When you said that, it sounded rude,” or “He was talking, and you interrupted him.” Was Katie nagging me? Not at all! She was helping me grow. But there can come a point when attempts to be helpful can turn into nagging.

When wives share with their husbands what they want and how they feel, they should keep two points in mind:

  • The frequency with which a wife says things is important. At some point, a request made a few times moves from being a reminder to nagging.
  • The way a wife makes requests is important. Yelling and disrespecting a husband will not convict him. Lovingly and respectfully petitioning him about the way he is acting and the pain he is causing will. When a wife speaks to her husband with grace and patience, he will likely feel terrible for mistreating such a wonderful woman.

Husbands, in turn, need to let their wives know when they have moved from being helpful to nagging, but do so in a gentle and loving manner. Husbands who respond stubbornly to their wives are not going to help their wives stop nagging. When a husband stubbornly raises his voice at his wife or gets angry with her he is sinning, and he is also pushing her to yell and nag in response.

A Warning About Winning Over Your Husband

It’s possible for a wife to win over her husband yet not necessarily in a positive way. We have already looked at two examples of this:

  • Sarah convinced Abraham to take Hagar as a concubine.
  • Jezebel convinced Ahab to steal Naboth’s vineyard.

Scripture gives another example of a man who made a habit of allowing the women in his life to win him over with their words, with disastrous consequences. Ironically, Samson was the strongest man in history, but he was easily overcome by the persistence of two women who could be called the Queens of Nagging.

Samson, an Israelite, disobeyed God’s command forbidding intermarriage when he chose a Philistine for a wife. During the wedding festivities, he posed a riddle to 30 men from his bride’s town. If they didn’t solve the riddle, each one would have to supply him with a set of clothing. If they solved it, he would supply each of them with a set. Wanting the answer, the men secretly went to Samson’s wife, who agreed to help her fellow Philistines. For seven days she wept and complained, “You only hate me! You do not love me! You have posed a riddle to the sons of my people, but you have not explained it to me” (Judges 14:16).

Samson’s new bride “pressed him so much” (verse 17) that he finally told her the answer, and she, in turn, told the Philistine men. Feeling betrayed, Samson rejected his wife, and she went on to marry one of the 30 men (verse 20).

Sadly, Samson did not learn from his mistake. Sometime later he fell in love with another Philistine woman, Delilah (Judges 16:4). By this time, the Philistines were furious over Samson’s successful attacks against them. They offered Delilah a large reward if she would find out the source of Samson’s great strength so they could defeat him.

Delilah nagged Samson, and he lied to her on three separate occasions (Judges 16:6-14). Each time she would wait until Samson was asleep, then she would call the Philistines and act on the lie he had told her. Because Samson was lying, he was able to easily defeat the Philistines who came against him. Finally, Delilah played the victim: “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies” (verse 15).

Does this sound familiar? It is almost identical to what happened with Samson’s first wife. Delilah “pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death” (verse 16). She made Samson so miserable with her nagging that he wished he would die. He then finally admitted, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man” (verse 17).

Samson knew that Delilah would turn him over to the Philistines, but he told his secret to her anyway. This is a strong testament to the power of a woman’s nagging. In a scene that is painful even to read, Delilah cut off Samson’s hair while he slept, and when he awoke, he discovered his strength was gone. The Philistines captured him, put his eyes out, and turned him into a slave. He remained in captivity until his last-ditch stand that resulted in his death along with the deaths of 3,000 Philistines.

The lesson here is that some wives will attempt to manipulate their husbands like the two women in Samson’s life. They will play the victim and act as though they are being mistreated. They will nag until their husbands’ soul, like Samson’s, is vexed to the point where death feels like a better alternative. Their words can eventually wear down their husbands until they give in. They win over their husbands, but they do so in the wrong way

Win Your Husband Over by Godly Conduct

As 1 Peter 3:1-2 states, husbands “without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.” Wives are not called to win over their unbelieving husbands by what they say, but by their lifestyle. The gracious submission of a Christian woman to her unsaved husband is the strongest evangelistic tool she has.

What does this look like in practical terms? Comparing 1 Peter 2:18 with 1 Peter 3:1- 2 can help with the answer because of the parallel language that appears in the verses:

  • “Servants, be submissive to your masters” is similar to “Wives… be submissive to your own husbands.”
  • “Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” is similar to “even if some do not obey the word.”
  • “With all fear” is similar to “your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.”

With both passages, it is important to understand Scripture is not speaking of servants or wives submitting out of fear to their masters or husbands, but rather, out of fear and reverence for God. The NIV translation says, “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters.” First Peter 1:17 supports that this is the intent in both passages—there, Peter used similar terminology when he wrote to believers as a whole: “If you call on the Father…conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.” When an unbelieving husband sees his believing wife’s heart for God, that will serve as a powerful witness. His wife’s godly behavior will convict him of his need to be a godlier husband. Her life will speak louder to him than any words.

If a wife wants her husband to read God’s Word more, pray more, or be a more godly man, rather than nagging him, she herself should read God’s Word more, pray more, and be a more godly woman. Wives should be encouraged by Jesus’s promise in John 16:8, which says, “When [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin.” Notice the emphasis is on the Holy Spirit doing the convicting. This includes husbands, unbelieving or otherwise! Wives are not supposed to take over the Holy Spirit’s role in their husbands’ lives. Wives should pray, and then trust the Holy Spirit to do the work of convicting their husbands.

No unspiritual husband can watch a wife’s godly example without feeling ashamed. A husband might pretend that he is not convicted, and his wife might not be able to tell by looking at him that he feels convicted, but he does. In contrast, when a wife is angry, nagging, and unsubmissive, the husband does not see God through her, and, as a result, avoids feeling convicted.

JESUS SETS THE EXAMPLE OF GODLY CONDUCT VERSUS WORDS

Jesus is the greatest example—not just for wives, but for all of us—of demonstrating godly conduct with actions versus words. Consider His silence before His unbelieving accusers:

  • “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7; see also Acts 8:32).
  • “While He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing” (Matthew 27:12).
  • “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:22-23).

These verses point to Jesus’s conduct during the unjust trials that led up to the crucifixion. He was willing to endure the shame and eventually the cross for our sake. While we were yet unbelieving and lost in sin, Jesus willingly laid down His life to win our salvation. This is the example to which we are called, whether wives or husbands. We are to be willing to live in such a way that unbelieving spouses may be won to salvation through our Christlike conduct.

Your Marriage God's Way: A Biblical Guide to a Christ-Centered Relationship
Your Marriage God's Way Workbook author Scott LaPierre

The text in this post is from Your Marriage God’s Way, and the audio is from the accompanying audiobook. I am praying God uses the book and workbook to strengthen marriages and exalt Christ.

68 Responses

  1. Thanks Pastor, more truth and love!

    My same dysfunctional behavior over and over and expecting a different result sure has been frustrating.

    1. Please pray for my husband and I and our marriage of 46 years. We are struggling with many things. We really need help.

  2. Great teaching, Scott. It helps me as a pastor to explore the secrets of marriage and God’s revelation for couples. Now is the time for people to be working with God. Bless you!

  3. If he just did the thing she was asking for, there would be no ‘nagging’. Most of the things a wife requests are perfectly reasonable and only become problematic when her husband repeatedly ignores her. It’s all on him, he has the key to making sure she doesn’t get so desperate.

    1. Fiona,
      So you don’t think wives can ever nag their husbands? The verses in the Bible, particularly in Proverbs, warning women about nagging are in there unnecessarily?

      Also, you wrote that it is all on him. Do you really mean this? A wife can never bear any of the responsibility or fault?

  4. May I ask how a believing wife is to respect her husband when he could care less about serving God and verbally lashes out at her no matter how godly she tries to be? He’s like a train out of control because his sins were found out and so now all he does is find fault with her mistakes that have been long corrected while his were still and may still be an issue. He refuses any form of outside help or counsel, nor will he do research together with her as she grasps at every straw doing all she can to bring things to a level of peace, harmony and happiness. Sadly it is pushing her further and further away from her relationship with the Lord and causing her love for her husband to become less and less. And yes it really is a toxic back and forth that she has tried almost in vain to fix. Thank you so much!!

    1. Christina,
      Not to repeat the whole post to you, but the answer is in the verses of the post was written about. First Peter 3:1-2 says, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” These verses clearly state that the woman you’re referring to should try to win over her husband with her Christlike conduct.

      If you don’t mind me asking, if the man you’re referring to is as bad as he sounds, why did the women marry him?

  5. This is a great post. My mother and step-father have always preached this; women need love more than men, and it needs to be shown to them in different ways and more often. Men need respect more than women, and respect needs to be shown in different ways and more often. I hate to hear women talk bad about their husbands to each other or in public, and to hear constant nagging. Marriage is supposed to resemble the relationship between Christ and His Church, and I doubt that a nagging/disrespectful wife shows that sort of holy relationship!

    1. Thank you, Kay!

      Yes, in God’s wisdom there are reasons He commanded wives to respect their husbands, and He commanded husbands to love their wives. In the marriage counseling I’ve performed, I’ve often found conflict takes place when men don’t feel respected, and when women don’t feel loved.

  6. This is very interesting. Who knew… I wonder when asking someone to do something becomes nagging. I don’t believe a wife should constantly ask her spouse to change who he is to please her, but I think sometimes men think they are being nagged when really they just need to get rid of the wood pile in the yard or take out the trash. I like what JJ had to say and the quote by C.S. Lewis. I do think respecting each other involves learning to change our own perspectives and choosing to love the quirks and imperfections in each other.

    1. Hi Rachael,
      You said:

      I wonder when asking someone to do something becomes nagging.

      I think that depends on the person. This is why husbands need to understand their wives, and wives need to study their husbands. Here’s a portion from my book:

      Learning Your Husband’s Respect Gauge
      After listening to hundreds of hours of my teaching, Katie often knows how I will answer questions and can even finish sentences for me. Because of this familiarity she can help me know when not to say certain things. She will swipe her hand across the front of her neck, signaling, “Not a good idea.” Perhaps the most common criticism I have received of my preaching is that I talk too quickly. Katie will make a hand motion that lets me know to slow down.
      I find these actions helpful, but Katie has had other women tell her: “I can’t imagine doing that to my husband when he is talking.” I have had men ask me: “You don’t mind when your wife does that?”
      At the same time, there are things other men might find helpful that Katie knows I find disrespectful. This is why it is so important for wives to learn their husbands. The biblical instruction for wives to submit to their husbands also includes the concept of adapting. This is captured in the Amplified Bible:
      • Ephesians 5:22—Wives, be subject [be submissive and adapt yourselves] to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord.
      • Colossians 3:18—Wives, be subject to your husbands [subordinate and adapt yourselves to them], as is right and fitting and your proper duty in the Lord.
      • Titus 2:5a—[Wives should] be self-controlled, chaste, homemakers, good-natured [kindhearted], adapting and subordinating themselves to their husbands.
      • 1 Peter 3:1a—In like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate yourselves as being secondary to and dependent on them, and adapt yourselves to them].

  7. Great job! I know nagging is a common source of tension in relationships and I feel like your blog post did a great job of shedding light on the effects!

  8. What would your suggestion/wisdom be regarding a wife who exhibits the following traits?

    • Psychological projection (kettle calling the pot black)
    • Emotionally induced accusations (delusional reality – fact manipulation)
    • Never ending demands (cannot be satisfied)
    • Verbal abuse (temper tantrums – screaming and stomping)
    • Superficial/Primitive (child-like) reasoning skills
    • Extreme resistance to admitting fault (victim mentality)
    • Intentionally spiteful rebuttals (sharp tongued assaults)
    • Hypocritical double standards (inconsistent/shifty philosophy)
    • Resistant to correction (cannot swallow her own medicine)
    • Resistant to praise (skewed context as patronizing condescension)

    I am literally at my wits end. Although I cannot financially afford to leave – not to mention the religious convictions – I am considering divorce as a last resort. Your article could explain why my health has been slowly degrading over the three years we’ve been together (married one year now). And I say this as a borderline health nut who has always been mistaken for looking about 10 years younger than my age. I’ve never needed routine medical care until now. Maybe it’s because I’ve arrived at my mid 40’s now, but I still eat very well (even kosher) and workout every day. So I found this article to be coincidentally compelling.

    Her primary “Love Language” is Acts of Service. So I have gone to the extreme of printing out check lists to make sure that I’m doing my utmost to live up to her (unrealistic/unquenchable) expectations. My primary “Love Language” is Words of Affirmation. She knows this, but has remained consistent with the verbal abuse, name calling and insults. I really have no means of retreat to anybody or anywhere else – she is constantly suspicious – most likely due to her first two marriages failing to infidelity. I have exhausted the Proverbial Contentious/Quarrelsome wife syndrome with her – but the result has been something like trying to herd cats while simultaneously running into a brick wall. At this point I would literally welcome death. Suggestions?

    1. Hello TMS Zurishaddai,
      There’s a lot I need to know to try to form a response. Is your wife a Christian? Do you pray with her, read the Word with her, and take her to a bible believing church? Have you sought counseling from the church? Do you have children? What does your wife do during the day? Stay-at-home mother or student or work?

  9. Thank you for the prompt reply Scott. I’m not exactly sure what my husbands fears are. I was mainly questioning the fear part in regards to the other persons post…my husband is extremely pessimistic and negative. When we were dating I saw that he had a tendency toward negativism and I was willing to see past that. I am the complete opposite and tend to be overly positive and see the best in people even when I should probably recognize some faults. I figured we would balance each other. After over 9 years of marriage I am beginning to struggle with the overly negative view. I have prayed and prayed that he would recognize when the voice of the enemy is whispering negative thoughts, prayed that the Holy Spirit would fill him and give him discernment, and prayed for divine order in our house. I admit that in the past two years I have become discouraged and am praying less. Due to this I find that the negative attitude is trying to take root in my heart and the enemy uses that to try to discourage me further! I plead with God to stop this cycle…it is driving a wedge between my husband and I and it’s heart breaking 🙁 I read this post and it really touched me. I used to be able to overcome the negativity easily. Words of encouragement (my husbands first love language) used flow ceaselessly from my mouth and now I find those words come less easily for me. I am fully aware that this is probably my problem but I struggle with constantly being the encourager when the one I’m encouraging never begins to see the positive. I feel like after 8 years of consistently speaking encouragement, praying over lies that the enemy is speaking into his mind and using against him, and trying to be the spiritual leader of the household, that I am exhausted.
    My hope is that since you or even your wife can offer me some encouragement or insight on how to pray differently for my husband. While nagging specifically isn’t the issue, I feel like the first response to this post resounded deeply with me in regards to the negative portion. Our pastor often mentions that we should not keep company with negative people because they can wear on you and bring you down but I need to know how to address negativism when the person whose company is negative is your spouse…and divorce is not an option! So I just need ideas on how to encourage him, encourage myself, and to keep praying. Sorry for the long post! Thank you in advance for your response 🙂

    1. Jen,
      I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who have gotten married “hoping” their spouse would change, be different, etc.

      If it’s wearing on you so much to keep trying to be the encourager – and especially if it’s not working – then I would encourage you to stop trying to be the encourager. Conserve your time and energy for more profitable areas of the relationship. Keep the prayers going up for your husband and marriage, but don’t try to change him (which is somewhat what you’re doing trying to encourage him when he’s discouraged). Be a good listener. Let him be negative. Let him be discouraging. Don’t try to talk him (often argue) out of it.

      I might not have the most encouraging news for you. The longer I’m in ministry, the more I become convinced that people don’t change that much. Instead, people have to learn to accept their spouse, choose contentment, pray for grace, and pray God helps them love and cherish the person they’ll be with for the rest of their life.

      You asked me how to pray differently for your husband, and I might invite you to pray for yourself more. Pay you have the strength and endurance you need being married to this man.

  10. One question. How do you “minister to his fears”? What does that look like in action? Is that quiet pinpoint prayer with specific scripture about fear, conversing with him regarding what those fears are, or a general sense of prayer in all areas of fear?

    I guess what I’m asking is how do I minister to a fear if I’m not sure what the fear is of? Thank you for this post Scott it was exactly what I needed to read!

    1. Hi Jen,
      Thanks for the question.

      Without knowing more details about your husband’s fears, here are the general recommendations I’d make…

      You already mentioned prayer. Continue to pray for him, and pray that God will help you to know how to minister to him and be an encouraging, wonderful wife.

      Share encouraging verses with him.

      Make encouraging statements to him: “God wants you to lead our family. He’ll help you do that. I know God wants what’s best for us and He’ll use you to see that happen. God is going to work through you.” Compliment your husband on his strengths: does he work hard? Is he a servant? Is he faithful in the Word? Faithful at church. Encourage him in these areas.

      Has God been faithful to your family in the past? Remind your husband of that: “God has taken care of us in the past and He’ll continue to do that.”

      If you want to give me more details of the situation I can try to respond more specifically.

  11. CS Lewis wrote, “When serving your spouse, you aren’t pursuing him but what you hope he would be. Far better is to love the original, not your revised edition. After all, you’re an original, too.

    Loving the original requires lifelong adjustment on your part, and this deference is a key proof of the marital love that Christians are called to (Eph. 5:21-33). Don’t be discouraged when you don’t see eye-to-eye with your spouse. Where there is no disagreement, no annoyance, no resistance, there is no opportunity for sacrifice. If we love only what is pleasing to us in our spouse, we are loving only our preferences. We don’t need the gospel to do that.

    We do need it to free us from our tendency to adjust one another constantly to our liking. Jesus came to serve an impulsive Peter, a distracted Martha, a dubious Thomas. And he came to serve a silly person like each one of us. And yes, Christ’s redemptive love changes us by degree, but this change is about conformity to righteousness, not conformity to personal preference.

    So if your husband laughs too easily for your taste, love him for it. If he’s more pessimistic than you prefer, minister to his fears. If he’s quieter in social gatherings than you’d like, be grateful for it. If he has more difficulty making plans than you think reasonable, come alongside happily. In all the little spousal resistances, celebrate the privilege of loving a person, not an image.”

    As Lewis said, reality is iconoclastic. And thank God this is especially true in marriage.

  12. This topic fell in my spirit this morning and I began to research the scripture and commentaries on this topic. I came across this article. I learned some things I did not know. I have been seeking God for wisdom and as I mentioned, I learned some things reading this. I have been struggling with things in my marriage which I am seeking direction from God concerning, how to move or if to move. Reading this helps me to know that in my lifting my husband in prayer daily, I am doing the best thing I can concerning him by praying for him. We have been separated for 4 years married 6. I am blessed in reading this because in my keeping myself and conducting myself as a married would should, I am pleasing God with my actions. By my not nagging or confronting him about his actions, but praying for him, knowing that the Word of God is true, even though he does not show that my prayers are effective, I know they are and God will allow the Holy Spirit to convict my husband. Reading this helped reassure me to continue to press on and not give concern to what things appear to be. However to know that God is in control. I will continue to trust in God’s unfailing love for me even when I can’t see what He is doing.

    1. Hello Mrs. Henderson,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I am encouraged that my article ministered to you.

      Your words blessed me. Yes, God would have you lift up your husband and pray for him daily. I am sorry to hear about your separation, but I will also pray that God uses this, in particular your response, to provide reconciliation.

      I have a sermon on husband’s loving their wives. Do you think your husband would listen to it if you sent it to him? I would also be happy to provide free copies of my marriage book and workbook for you and your husband if you would like.

  13. Hey Scott,
    I really appreciate this article. I am not married, but I am engaged and I am struggling with overly criticizing my fiance. He is a Christian, however I am not certain that he experiences conviction or has as much zeal for Christ as I do. He has told me time and time again that all I do is nag him. We’ve dated for four years and it’s a vicious cycle of contentment and then discontentment. He loves me whole heartedly for who I am and accepts me, but I don’t think I truly accept him because he isn’t living up to my expectations of him. He is an introvert and doesn’t necessarily like fellowship with other Christians. He goes to church, reads with me on occasion, says prayers before work, after meals, before bed..etc. BUT I feel he doesn’t have a servants heart ad he is young. I am 24 he is 23. He has so many great characteristics, but I feel confused most of the time and I know God doesn’t operate in confusion. I don’t know if I should continue our relationship and live out a Godly life and win him over(however long that will take w/out a certainty that that will even work) or breakup with him because I am impatient and know what I want. Perhaps God is using this situation to show me my own shortcomings and how I should be the change I want to see. I don’t know. I just don’t want to be out of God’s will. I am afraid most times of the future. I pray ALL of the time. Please help me.
    Thank you

    1. Kria,
      Nice to hear from you. I’m blessed that my article ministered to you. I’m also glad to hear that you are focusing on these things even during your engagement.

      I have found that often women are more spiritual than men. Of course, this makes for challenges in the relationship. My best guess why God allowed it to be this way is because as soon as a man is ready to lead, he will be able to look to his side and see a wife who is thrilled for that to be the case.

      I am not trying to discourage you from marrying this man, but I think you need to decide if you want to marry THIS man versus someone you want him to be in the future. I cannot tell you how many women have come to me and told me that they “Hoped” their husband would be a different man when they got married. And if you do want to marry him the way he is, then you cannot try to change him. It isn’t to say that you can’t hope for growth and pray for that and try to encourage it, but you can’t count on it.

      Ask yourself: do I want to spend my life with him the way he is now or do I want to spend my life with him the way I believe he will be in the future? If it is the previous you should continue, but the latter you shouldn’t marry him.

      Also, keep in mind that according to 1 Peter 3:1-2, as the post discusses, you should try to influence and encourage your husband by your behavior versus your words.

      1. Thank you for responding in such a timely manner. I have a Christian therapist who has asked me the same thing, can I see myself marrying him the way he is now? My answer is no. However just because we are engaged doesn’t mean I have to marry him this year or even next year. I think for so long I have tried to control him and the situation while thinking that I was being loving because I have always just told him what God says about things and how he should be if he is a Christian. However, I think I am now willing to try it God’s way.. lovingly, true love that is patient and kind.. not self-seeking. I think it is okay to just be engaged for another year or two and if after trying things differently by making behavioral changes ( slow to anger, being more understanding, more patient, less critical) if I still see no progress then I would probably end the relationship. It will be super hard, I know. Honestly I am praying for God to just change his heart and also mine in some aspects. I believe in the power of prayer. Also Does 1 Peter 3:1-2 only apply to married people?
        Thanks again!

        1. Hello Kria,
          If the answer is no, then you definitely should not marry him now. I am not saying you should break up with him or that you should never marry him in the future. Maybe he will change and become the man you would be willing to spend your life with. You said it well: “just because we are engaged doesn’t mean I have to marry him this year or even next year.”

          Hopefully this new approach you will take is one God will use to help him become a better man and one you would like to marry. I think your prayer is a wonderful one.

          In answer to your question, those verses are for husbands and wives, but by extension they apply to men and women in general even when unmarried.

  14. The salvation of a mate is a serious thing. However God’s ways are not our ways. He reaches in and causes our hearts to submit to Him. It usually takes a wake up call to get our attention. We all enter the Kingdom through a raging battle. We accept Jesus finished work of the cross but we can also perish for lack of knowledge. Only God can turn a heart toward Him through Holy Spirit’s power working through prayer and fasting. It is the greatest miracle and blows as the wind. Only God knows and if we take one step He takes two. He loves each of us too much to give up on us. We are fighting powers and principalities in hi places.
    We fight with God’s weapons of love and gratitude and leave the results in His Almighty hands. We call those things that be not as tho they were-exercising our faith. The fruits of the spirit must totally be working through us who truly know Jesus. Our example will crack the shell that holds our loved ones captives. We command the enemy binding and loosing. God is faithful. Let us believe !!

    1. Hello P Greiner,
      You made many good points. I agree with you that God’s ways are not our ways and He is the Initiator of our salvation.

      I appreciate you providing the encouragement to be an example that points others toward Christ.

  15. Great article, one pattern I noticed is this with all these women and their husbands non believe or believing. Y’all should have figure out who these men are before you were married to them. The men don’t deserve these women at all. id say its better to be single than deal with this passive aggressive narcissitcic BS. Men have gotten away with every bad behavior for centuries and for their kind conduct to be weighed on the lives of women to be praying for them to be nicer? accountable? seems like men aren’t taking accountability for the shit they must adhere too:

    MEN SHOULD BE TEACHING MEN THIS AND MAKING THEM ACCOUNTABLE AS THIS IS HELLFIRE THEY MUST FACE OR NO ENTRANCE INTO THE KINGDOM. Sorry but the constant burdening of women to be praying for year after year when there is prob demonic strong holds OR they are just fricken lazy ass men and 3000 year later still lazy. Sure there are women out there who are hags but we still live in a men ruled fallen world. Men who say they are godly should NEVER act like this to their wives. ITS THAT HARD AND THAT SIMPLE BUT MEN HAVE BEEN CONDITIONED FOR CENTURIES WHAT DO YOU THINK WE HAVE TOXIC FEMINITIY TODAY? WOMEN ARE TOLD UNDER HARSH CORCUSMTANCES JUST TO “PRAY MORE” GIVE ME A BREAK?

    1 Timothy 3:3 (NIV) not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
    Revelation 21:8 ESV / 32 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
    But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

    1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV / 32 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

    Galatians 5:19-21 ESV / 28 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
    Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    1 Peter 4:17 ESV / 23 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
    For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

    1 John 5:18 ESV / 13 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
    We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

    1 John 3:6 ESV / 11 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
    No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
    James 4:17 ESV / 9 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
    So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

    1. Nicole,
      You are correct that men have abused the authority that God has given them in marriage, but it is not a good reason to deny that authority or the plain teaching in Scripture that wives win over their husbands with their behavior versus their words.

      Also, from the marriage counseling I have done and marriage conferences I have put on the most common complaint I have heard from woman is not that authority is barbaric or chauvinistic or only for narcissistic men. Instead, the most common criticism I have heard from wives about their husbands is that their husbands won’t lead.

      No, women are not told to just “Pray more.” Instead, as first Peter 3:1-2 says they are to act in such a way that the gospel is evident from their lives. This is much more than simply praying more.

    2. Nicole, your words are dicey, but in my opinion, they are true. Women are left with the burden to sit with quiet conduct, and pray for men who are repeat offenders and willful abusers. In my case, verbal, emotional and financial. (No physical). Some things should not even require prayer, because it a matter of a man just wanting to be the same person he was when he dated. And while it can easily be said to figure men out before you marry them, that is not always the case. The person I married went through great lengths to exemplify every fruit of the spirit he could possibly imitate and put on full display. After marriage, he literally stopped; and now when questioned about his change in conduct, and is approached about doing things that are not in line with salvation, he flatly stated, “you didn’t expect things to be the same as they were when we dated, did you?” Actually, “yes” because it means you intentionally deceived me…deliberately presented a false-self, with the intent to manipulate and gain something you know you didn’t deserve. I am deeply devastated by my fear that this motive was willful and deliberate. I am angry. So no, my response to this is not as easy as to sit and be quiet in my conduct. He has to be held accountable for this because he got involved with another LIFE, not to mention he involved a COVENANT. In all fairness, I am not God and don’t know his heart, but if his heart matches his decisions, words, and the tone of his words, I have nothing else to go on.

      As I mentioned, some things should not even require prayer because there are people who are not professed to be saved who exemplify common sense in their approach to life. I should not have to pray for a man to give rent to the family we are temporarily living with. Nor should I be silent about it. At age 54, you know better. He has expected better out of his own adult children who came to shack with him, so there’s no excuse to act like he needs some “deeper” understanding of scripture as it relates to being a provider, or some deeper level of salvation. Its not even about salvation. Its about being a stingy jackass getting over on my family, and taking advantage of the fact that they are Christians, and won’t say anything to him about it.

      You don’t have to be a man saved for no looooong time, to want to tell your wife where you’re going when you leave the house. That just comes with being a responsible transparent MAN. I should not have to pray for crap like that, nor should I keep silent. Quote scripture? No, but I should have the right to tell you you’re being a jackass for leaving the house to go to work and not bothering to even SPEAK to me before leaving the house – after sleeping in the bed with me all night. (Or being nice enough to get sex only to talk to me any kind of way after). That’s just pure mean and narcissistic. Salvation has nothing to do with that type of conduct. And for a wife to be expected to allow it to go on and not say anything, she’s an enabler.

      My husband to this day refuses to put me on his bank account much less shut it down from the old bank in another state, that he and his ex banked at. Despite the fact that we agreed it would be done after we married. Now it is a matter of contention. Why pray about that? It is what it is – he is a jackass. There’s no “salvation” issue at the root of this. This is just something he should do because its the adult thing to do, as opposed to traveling an hour away to do banking. He wants to keep it a point of contention for the sake of having another card to pull out the back pocket and argue about at his leisure. I now just ignore his antics. Praying for salvation isn’t always the need. It’s willful and somethings men just simply need to decide to STOP doing just as easily as they insist on CONTINUING to do. I don’t even believe in karma, but I just move on with my life knowing that what goes around will definitely come around, and when you treat daughters of God poorly, a man sets himself up for a “woe unto” like you can’t even imagine.

      1. Caroline,
        Can you help me understand something? I don’t mean this question to be rude or insensitive. I hear often about women being in relationships like you describe with terrible husbands. Because nobody forces us to marry someone, in other words the wives married to terrible husbands chose to marry these men, why would they marry men who are so terrible? If the answer is that they didn’t know the men were terrible when they married them, then that is still a problem, because these women married men they didn’t know. It seems to me that these women bear some fault in marrying these men if they are in fact so terrible.

        The problem is that at weddings the wives committed to stay with the man they married for life through good and bad, and the bad includes all of the bad you described in your message.

        I believe I do what I can in telling young women to make sure that the man they are marrying is a man they will want to put their lives and their children’s lives in the hands of as long as they are on this side of heaven.

  16. Thank you for this article. However, what about believing husbands who won’t do their part and starve their wives of spiritual guidance and intimacy? I’ve been living this for three years. I’ve done nothing to deserve it (no cheating, have followed alongside him, supported). Sure, we go to church and he does devotions with the kids after me asking a few times (within a year, not nagging), but there’s nothing for our marital relationship. I do my part, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the family, but he has cut off ALL intimacy (sex, prayer, etc.). I have explained to him how this hurts our relationship and that it’s important to me, but there’s only talk and no action. I pray for him and try to model Christ, but this is HARD. In the three years he stopped pursuing me, i have brought it up three times. In no way is that nagging…that’s desperation. If you sense anger in this comment, you better believe it. It’s hard to watch disobedience in your spouse’s life…especially hard when he is a believer. He’s missing out on all God wants him to be…and it affects EVERYONE in the house. I have two teens (girl, 15 and boy, 13). This is modeling some bad things for them, so i have to continually pray and have faith that God protects them. I just don’t know what to do anymore, except pray. Thoughts?

    1. Hello Suzette,
      The Bible commands us to hear both sides of a story before embracing one; therefore, I would have to talk to your husband as well to fully understand the situation. But to be honest, if your husband is taking you to church and he does devotions with the kids it sounds like you are experiencing a situation that many women would love. Most of the women who contact me have husbands who won’t even go to church with them, say nothing about doing devotions.

      Alessia say for a moment that at best your husband is a spiritually immature man, and at worst an unbeliever. Either way, 1 Peter 3:1-2 speaks to your situation: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.” These two verses clearly state that if you would like your husband to change, you should try to change him by your actions and behavior.

      I appreciate that you have talked your husband and been careful not to nag. How has he responded? Would he get counsel, or would he allow you to talk to the elders so that they could speak to him and try to help them in these areas?

  17. Mr. LaPierre,
    Thank you for this post, I enjoy reading articles related to this topic because the past year or so, I have been trying to work on being a more submissive wife in hopes that it will save my husband one day. He does “believe” in God and Christ but is very skeptical about the Bible- he is the type of person that does not want a book to tell him how he should live and act. I try not to preach to him, and insead i have been trying hard to work on remaining calm and kind(but also tell him hes being unreasonable) when he belittles me, which is often. I love my husband, and he is generally a good man, but he did not have a good example of marriage from his parents growing up. He’s very over criticizing of my every move, pretty much every single day, I feel I cannot do anything right in his eyes. He’s disrespects me and insults and disrespects me daily, including in front of our children. I have been praying for him everyday that the Lord makes him feel conviction and he truly accepts the Holy Spirit into his heart. I know he loves me and would die protecting me or our children, he is a good father and I am so thankful for him in a lot of ways but he makes me feel physically ill with his belittlement, cursing, and threats of making life with him harder. He has good days and bad days. Sometimes the smallest things will set him off that most people wouldnt get amgry about. I’m struggling with how I can respond to him when he’s belittling me without coming across disrespectful. He never takes responsibility for his mistreatment of me. The main thing that has kept me from going insane is knowing my worth in God instead of my worth in my husband, and the faith that I have that I can win him with my chaste behavior- whether that saves him 4 months from now or 40 years. I don’t want my little boys to grow up thinking that’s how they should treat their wife one day!
    If you have any insight to how I should best reapond to his constant criticism and belittlement, I would so appreciate a man’s prospective!! Thank you so much and God Bless you.

    1. Hello Emily,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m blessed that my post ministered to you.

      Regarding your behavior affecting your husband’s salvation 1 Peter 3:1 says, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.” In other words, God can use your submission to your husband to win him to salvation. He will see Christ through your behavior and be drawn to Him.

      I’m sorry about the ways your husband has mistreated you. Regarding how you can handle it easier, whenever any of us are mistreated we should think about how much Christ was willing to be mistreated for us.

      As your husband mistreats you, but you respond kindly and submissively, the Holy Spirit can convict him about mistreating such a godly woman.

      I appreciate that you look for the good things in your husband, such as the way he treats your children.

      Finally, even if your behavior never results in your husband’s salvation, God sees it, it pleases him, and He will reward you.

      You might enjoy watching this message I preached on a wife’s submission.

  18. I thank God for this post, I was so disturbed yesterday as I am praying very hard for my husband’s salvation (he is not a Christian) and to break him free of the bondage. I did see some changes but yesterday he got some candles to light (pagan festival). I was heartbroken but I decided not to nag but assertively displayed my view on this action. he understood and was scared that I would confront him. I was disturbed that I did not testify loud enough and was searching for answers and God guided me to this post. Praise God! I now know that I should allow holy spirit to work in me and my husband. Amen! God bless you.

    1. Hello Lina,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m blessed that my post ministered to you.

      I am sorry to hear that your husband is not a Christian. I will pray for his salvation. I will also pray for your endurance being married to him and that he can see Christ through you.

  19. Might the Holy Spirit choose to speak to an unbelieving husband through a believing wife’s words and verbal witness? How will they hear without a preacher–can’t that apply to a godly, wise wife? Yes, the example, quiet spirit, and love are most important, submitting for Christ’s sake, I get that. But I don’t believe believing wives are never allowed to speak a word for God to their unbelieving husbands, with great humility and prayer for the Holy Spirit to give understanding and God’s call for salvation. How do we know that “disobedient to the word” in 1 Peter 3:1 means unbelievers and not just believing husbands who are outside God’s fellowship in disobedience, since Peter wrote this letter to believers? Is there something in the original language that shows us that “disobedient to the word” means unbelievers? Thanks in advance if you can answer this.

    1. Hello Beth,
      You asked some good questions, so I’m going to respond below your thoughts…

      Might the Holy Spirit choose to speak to an unbelieving husband through a believing wife’s words and verbal witness? How will they hear without a preacher–can’t that apply to a godly, wise wife? Yes, the example, quiet spirit, and love are most important, submitting for Christ’s sake, I get that. But I don’t believe believing wives are never allowed to speak a word for God to their unbelieving husbands, with great humility and prayer for the Holy Spirit to give understanding and God’s call for salvation.

      Yes, God can definitely use a wife’s words in her husband’s life, and I’m sure He has countless times in most Christian wives’ marriages. I have a section in my book, Marriage God’s Way, about wives being their husband’s helper, and I discuss wives being one of the greatest resources God has given men, and this includes through a wife’s counsel, advice, thoughts, etc.

      So if that’s not the point, then what is?

      It’s two-fold:
      1. First, wives should recognize their behavior is a stronger witness than their words
      2. Second, wives shouldn’t nag their husbands as that won’t win them to Christ

      How do we know that “disobedient to the word” in 1 Peter 3:1 means unbelievers and not just believing husbands who are outside God’s fellowship in disobedience, since Peter wrote this letter to believers? Is there something in the original language that shows us that “disobedient to the word” means unbelievers?

      We know Peter was referring to unbelieving husbands because he used similar terminology for non-Christians elsewhere. For example, in 1 Peter 1:2 he described believers as “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience.” Peter equated obedience with salvation, and rightly so. Believers should be obedient. In 1 Peter 2:8, he similarly described unbelievers as “being disobedient to the word.” Since he used obedience to refer to a believer and disobedience to refer to an unbeliever, Peter’s description of men who “do not obey the word” in 1 Peter 3:1 means he was referring to unbelieving husbands. This does not mean the man is a scoundrel. He may be kind, affectionate, and hold to a high moral standard; however, if he has not taken the first step of obedience—that is, the obedience of faith—then he is properly identified as disobedient.

      Thanks in advance if you can answer this.

      You’re welcome. Please let me know if there’s anything else!

  20. This is a subject that we just don’t discuss enough. All of your examples are great. I really cannot think of anything else I would add to this one.

  21. Sure, and thanks for receiving my feedback so well. I figured we’re on the same page with the distinction between ‘practicing’ and ‘struggling with’ sin. Great verses to consider, by the way.

    I’ve seen a lot of younger Christian guys panic when the struggle becomes intense, and start to question their salvation and God’s presence even though they’re fighting hard. They need to be encouraged.

    At the same time, guys who aren’t fighting need to be warned strongly in love.

    So, this is a distinction that’s really important on many levels: for us personally, for guys faced with sexual sin and temptation, their wives, and, church leaders who are trying to shepherd all of the above.

    Thanks again, brother!

    1. Hi Bryan,
      Hmmm, when you wrote this it really created some pity in me for these guys, and I don’t mean “pity” in the condescending way, I mean genuine sympathy:

      I’ve seen a lot of younger Christian guys panic when the struggle becomes intense, and start to question their salvation and God’s presence even though they’re fighting hard.

      I think we project ourselves on others, and because this isn’t a particularly difficult struggle for me, or you could say by God’s grace He’s given me victory in that area, I lack sympathy for those who are dealing with it in the way you describe. I’m sorry for the previous sentence in that I don’t want you (or others) to “think more of me than you ought” (Romans 12:3), but I didn’t know how else to explain why I’ve – regrettably – lacked compassion that I should feel. The sin (pornography) seems so evil to me that when I think of men engaging in it, at least married men, I have trouble not thinking of them being unsaved. But I know I have my own sins and struggles, and someone could easily look at my failings, the evil of them, and think the same.

      One other thing I’ll add. It seems, at least in some circles, that pornography is sort of an acceptable sin. It’s almost like people are resigned to thinking, “Well, men are men, so they’re just going to struggle with it. The percentage of men looking at porn is so high, it must just be something all guys are into.” That could contribute to a desensitizing to the seriousness of it, and I think I’ve seen that too.

      At any rate, I think you have a very healthy balance, and I’m glad these young men have you in their lives. I mean that. God bless you Brother!

  22. Hey Scott, I think I enjoyed this post more than any others you’ve done. (And I like them all.) It was clear, biblical and ended with a note of hope in Christ.

    With regard to #1 above, in my experience, nearly all of the young men I counsel are both Christians and struggling in some way with pornography. It’s a fine line. On the one hand, as you say, ‘no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him’ (1 John 3:6). But on the other hand, even Paul could say ‘I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.’ (Romans 7:19). So, while a pattern of unbroken sin can certainly indicate someone isn’t saved, I’m equally concerned to see that someone is fighting sin, even if they’re losing more than I’d like. The fighting shows the Spirit is at work (Galatians 5).

    Finally, with regard to your first discussion question, a wife can go to her church leadership if necessary. Hopefully, it won’t need to escalate to formal discipline, but this process can be the stimulus a husband needs to change.

    Thanks again for a fantastic post, Scott!

    1. Hi Bryan,
      Thanks so much for reading, commenting, and disagreeing with me :). I mean that! I appreciate your question/clarification, and I agree with you. Romans 7 is the safe haven, not for the unbeliever, but for the believer who is struggling against sin. And I think the key word is “struggling.” You said you’re counseling Christian young me who are “struggling.” You definitely see the “struggle” in Paul in those verses. 1 John, and other places, describe people who are not struggling against sin, and that serves as evidence of being unregenerate. With that said, I think that could’ve been clearer in my post.

      The word that contrasts struggling is “practicing. For example, in Galatians 5:21 Paul said:

      envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

      Probably the clearest place is 1 John 3:4-10:

      4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

      These verses describe individuals practicing sin versus struggling against it, and that’s evidence of being unregenerate. Again, that could’ve been clearer in the post. Good contribution about the church elders too.

  23. These are important topics… Wives need to know where the hang-ups are for their husbands in this area. I have a great mentor, a woman further down her walk with God, in marriage and motherhood… and she also makes sure to get to the mail first and removes any pieces of advertising that have women dressed less than modestly because that is a hang up for her husband. He doesn’t know she does it she doesn’t tell him… she just does it to keep snares from her husband’s path…little things like that are important.

    1. Hi Marissa,
      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Your mentor sounds like a wise woman. I appreciate what she does for her husband. That’s a good piece of advice for wives, that I’m glad is included on the post now. She might tell him that she does it though, instead of keeping it from him; if he’s a godly man he’ll probably appreciate her efforts for him!

  24. We can hold our husbands accountable on some level, but I think it’s really important to pray for there to be other men in their lives that will hold our husbands accountable too. Over accountability with our husbands can turn into nagging if we aren’t careful. Having another man to hold him accountable is helpful on many levels.

    1. Hi Tara,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad you also recognize the need for men to have accountability in their lives from besides just their wives, not because it agreed with the post, but because I’m glad to hear that from a wife! Also, yes, great point that it can turn into nagging!

  25. I came across this article after a huge heated argument with my husband a couple hours ago. I prayed the prayer of salvation back in 2008 and tried with all my might to be a Christian. Go to church read my bible, serve go to lifegroups. I kinda forced my husband into coming to church with me. We come from non spiritual households so most of this was all brand new to us. Long story short. We both became Christians and attended church and received pastoral counseling. We have been married for 15 years. My husband is active duty army who came back from a deployment about 3 months ago. Over the last year I met a women who has come alongside me to guide me in strengthening my relationship with Christ and teaching me things about the true cost of following Christ, her and her husband have served along time with the navigators and committing their lives to disciple others. So she offered me the same invitation which I took and it completely changed my life and my view of God and my view of being a Christian. Even changed the way I read the Bible and search out God through my quiet times.

    My husband claims to be a Christian, every morning he reads a short devotional he gets sent, he has knowledge that he is to be the leader of our family ( through pastor counseling) while he was deployed he did bible study books that we sent him. He is an amazing provider and he is steady. We are going on 3 years no alcohol. Our marriage has really changed so positively in a lot of ways. We have 2 girls, 5 and 7. So yesterday I went on lost with my mentor and got to do some cold turkey evangelism and got the opportunity to share the bridge. I was so excited to get out there and get passed the fear and anxiety of approaching strangers so that I could more open to let God use me even more for Him. My husband avoided any kind of spiritual talk. I talked about how awesome it was and the details and how refreshed I felt and how me speaking so loudly got an older couple to turn around and ask questions. And I could tell he was doing the uh huh, that’s nice, and the more I talked (because I was trying to get more out of him) he was like that’s great I’m happy for you. The night before he blew of going to bible study with me knowing how much it means for him to just come with the girls and I.. he expressed that he feels they expect too much from us by completing a chapter a week. ( doing 2-3 questions a day you can complete a chapter) they are short read this scripture what attitude or write in your own words… stuff like that. I was very hurt cause it once again seemed as though he knew how much it meant but blew it off for selfish reasons.. I even said, no one is gonna fault you for not doing your study. They will encourage you and challenge you but in the end, we all know it’s your decision and it’s hurting yourself not anyone else. So of course I went nutty and started telling him that there is a cost to being a Christian and if he would read with me or take some of my help about reading he would know there is an expectation. I quoted Joshua 1:8 cause he said he reads a little. To make matters worse I basically accused him or told him that I don’t believe he is a Christian and he pretends to be because there is no fruit, you are getting angry about not wanting to do a study, you don’t want to meet with someone to help you like I’m being helped… when I ask what you got out of a sermon or quiet time you just say “nothing”. So basically I did everything I shouldn’t, even down to when he finally responded (because he shuts down and I get angrier to where I keep on b/c I feel, hey you hurt me and frustrate me by your actions so I’m not gonna be quiet and give you what you want.. to get out of the conversation, cause apparently being submissive and not pushing about study just makes you chose to not go when you know I want you to and you told me you would) with I feel like you are not suppose to judge me.. I said I absolutely can judge you because you claim to be a Christian and you are in sin by not studying the Bible and teaching your kids about Jesus. And I gave a scripture vs to go along with it. It was crazy.. I was so angry that I kept saying I don’t believe you are a Christian and I want to know if you are, you either made a choice for Christ or you didn’t, and if you did, you are suppose to be actively trying to grow that relationship and lead us and learn his will for you. He said he is, but then when I asked how do you become a Christian? What are you suppose to believe? He said in jesus, I asked what about Jesus and he say well you know you tell me, I said I want to know what you think. He said in his ways.. so now I’m pretty sure he has never made the decision and if he is reading the Bible everyday, why is it not transforming him. I think he is not a Christian. He ended up sending me a message apologizing and admitting to getting defensive cause he knows he is failing and I’m just trying to help him and encourage his relationship with God, says I should expect that. I also apologized and asked forgiveness because I know without a doubt coming at him the way I did was wrong, is not biblical, is not the way a wife is to speak to her husband. I told him that I think I get frustrated because he says one thing and then doesn’t show that he is trying. Where I can at least say yeah this is wrong I shouldn’t do it and I actually try and seek God and others for help. So I think, lol, my question is, is it absolutely wrong to point out a sin in my husband that says he is a Christian? I know doing it the way I did was wrong, but I also believe it’s wrong to model to our children that we all love Jesus and so certain things out of that love, and he doesn’t have to. Any advice would be greatly appreciated… sorry for the novel, I thought it would be best for some background. This same stuff has about our relationship with Christ has been going on for just over 10 years. He was even annoyed with me when he came back from deployment and we went to lifegroup at our pastors house which was usually a potluck and fellowship and the pastor would speak about the previous sermon and ask specific thought questions on it, and we were doing a study on the book of mark. It’s like he just refuses to have anything to do with the Bible our side of his 2 min devotional thing.. he told me this morning that he read the gospels and is in acts now. If so, why in the world does he not see what I see? Thank you and I enjoyed the article and it has challenged me in a good way and reminded me of what Christ expects of me. I just can’t get over thinking that if I don’t point out his wrong living, he will continue? And I love him too much and I desire Christ to be the center of our marriage so bad.. to just not have that

    1. Hello Renee,
      I’m sorry to hear about the problems you and your husband are having, but I am blessed by your pursuits of the spiritual disciplines, including church attendance, Bible study, small groups, etc, and that a godly older woman has come into your life to mentor you.

      I appreciate that you shared some positive things about your husband, even though you’re hurt by some other things. It’s especially important to keep the good things about him in mind, especially when your flesh wants to tempt you to think only of the bad.

      If I’m understanding you correctly, it sounds like you could tell your husband wasn’t interested, but you kept talking so that, as you say, you could “get more out of him.” It might have been better to stop before he became annoyed. Perhaps he knew you could tell he wasn’t interested, and felt disrespected that you kept going. While I wish your husband was interested in the spiritual things you were sharing, you can’t make him interested. And trying to make him interested causes problems (as you saw).

      I can tell you and your husband have different expectations. For you, the questions are not too much, but he says they are. Whether they are or not, I don’t think you want him doing the questions against his will. I appreciate your candidness in sharing you “went nutty,” when you lectured him. I can imagine this going poorly. He probably felt like a child. I don’t know if your husband is unwilling to put forth as much effort as he should – maybe that is the case – but I can say, again, forcing him will cause problems. First Peter 3:1 says, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.” You have to try to win over your husband “without a word.” Lecturing him – even if you’re right – will probably cause him to dig in his heels. Let him see your submission and respect, as that will convict him to be a godlier man. If your husband is not a Christian as you shared with him, getting angry with him won’t get him saved.

      I’m glad you both apologized and asked for forgiveness from each other. Your and your husband’s humility is a good sign.

      You said, “I just can’t get over thinking that if I don’t point out his wrong living, he will continue? And I love him too much and I desire Christ to be the center of our marriage so bad.. to just not have that.” First, Jesus said the Holy Spirit will come and convict the world of sin (John 16:8). Do you believe that? If so, then let the Holy Spirit do His work on your husband, and you try to do yours. Second, I can tell you want Christ at the center of your marriage. Your husband knows that too. He needs to see that through your actions versus your words. Keep praying for him. The truth is that as I read what you said about your husband, there are some wonderful things about him that many women wish were true of their husbands: he goes to church, Bible studies, reads the Bible, etc. Rejoice over that and pray for further growth.

  26. My wife says she is a Christian reads her bible every day and goes to life groups every friday and church on Sunday. I her husband am not a Christian there for I walk on egg shells around her I bought a new car with out her and she need to new tire for her vehicle I realize now that was wrong of me to do that she say that I’m selfish and she want to leave me

    1. Hi Joseph,
      I’m glad to hear that your wife is a Christian, but I’m sad to hear that you’re not. What’s holding you back if you don’t mind me asking?

      If your wife truly is a Christian, she shouldn’t leave you. 1 Corinthians 7:13-14a says, “If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife.” Your wife should desire to see you become a Christian, and she’s the greatest influence in your life.

      I appreciate your humility in recognizing you shouldn’t have purchased this new car. Have you apologized to her for your mistake?

  27. Thank you for posting this article and for the reminder that it is the Holy Spirit that does the convicting. I have been mulling over 1 Peter 3:1 quite a bit for the past few weeks. I have a similar situation as to “Many Years” and my husband also is a very good provider. What I find frustrating is that I settle it in my mind to be silent and not use my words when provoked, but then still find myself speaking defensively and out of agitation before I can think better of it. My question is how do I keep silent during those trying times, without acting as though I am ignoring him? Is it considered disrespectful to not answer if he asks me a loaded question and I sense that an argument is inevitable? Should a wife defend herself when wrongfully accused and try to explain her intentions that were misunderstood? Early on in our marriage I was determined to be a submissive wife, but became a doormat and struggled with bitterness. I guess the key would be to do everything as unto the Lord so as not to become bitter. What about when children are being wrongfully accused or spoken to harshly? Should a wife speak to her husband about it in private or keep silent altogether? I love my husband so much and want him to be admired in all ways by our children. Because we are considered ‘one flesh’, I think that is why it is such a struggle. When he says something harsh, it is as though I am saying it…
    Thank you again.

    1. Hello Josie,
      You’re describing a situation that all of us – men and women – are guilty of. We’re convicted about letting our flesh flare up. We commit to responding humbly and in the spirit. Then we find ourselves in another tense situation and we’re disappointed in the way we respond…again.

      You asked:

      How do I keep silent during those trying times, without acting as though I am ignoring him?

      I’ll share something with you that I hope can encourage you. I can look back on some situations when I was mistreating Katie. Definitely not loving her as Christ loved the church. Sometimes she has responded equally sinfully toward me, being disrespectful or rude. While I felt convicted about my sin toward Katie, I didn’t feel that bad about mistreating her…because she mistreated too. The times I look back and feel completely terrible regarding my treatment of Katie are those times I mistreated her and she responded respectfully and kindly to me. Those memories still beat me up.

      Is it considered disrespectful to not answer if he asks me a loaded question and I sense that an argument is inevitable?

      It depends on your husband. If he finds it disrespectful, then it’s disrespectful. I can understand what you’re asking, because I’m guilty of the same with Katie. Instead of remaining silent, I would recommend saying, “I don’t know how to answer you. I’m afraid no matter what I say it will be wrong and lead to a fight.”

      Should a wife defend herself when wrongfully accused and try to explain her intentions that were misunderstood?

      Definitely…but don’t repeat yourself. What I mean is, defend yourself (in a respectful way). He might have misunderstood something. Perhaps your explanation will clarify things to your husband and alleviate some of his frustrations. But if he’s intent on arguing, further explanations won’t help. They will worse then situation.

      What about when children are being wrongfully accused or spoken to harshly?

      Interestingly, the approach children should take is not much – if any different – than the approach a wife should take. There are similarities because wives are commanded to respect their husbands, and children should respect their fathers.

      Should a wife speak to her husband about it in private or keep silent altogether?

      Definitely speak to him in private. I am so thankful for the times Katie has told me, “You were exasperating the children” or “You don’t know how you were coming across” or “You were being too intense.” She was right, but I might not have seen it. Then I can go to my children and ask for their forgiveness.

      I am sorry about the way you’ve been treated and that you became a doormat. I will pray for endurance for you, and conviction for your husband. Yes, remember you’re not ultimately submitting to your husband. You’re ultimately submitting to Christ.

  28. Oh and please, do some deep research on Abigail and Nabal, as Abigail also used wisdom in dealing with her own ungodly husband. Her story has given me courage and strength to do that which is right in the sight of the Lord, over that which is evil in a marriage. There are many online blogs and sites, which talk about the story of King David, Abigail, and Nabal. Abigail is a good example of what a submissive wife should be. She is the ‘good’ wife, and one who feared the Lord.

    1. I have preached on Abigail, so the studying for that sermon (actually I think it was two sermons), constituted a considerable amount of deep research. Abigail’s actions are interesting, in that they can be interpreted two ways: she did some things behind her husband’s back – including even slandering him – but she was trying to save his life. You could say, “She did save his life,” but considering God killed Nabal, it seems she only delayed his death. In that sense it appears God meant for him to die from the beginning. Abigail only delayed the inevitable. Is it okay to “do evil” to produce good? Should Abigail have disrespected her husband and acted deceitfully, even if it was in his best interests? It’s hard to tell.

      I do have a post on Abigal serving as a dramatic type of Christ if you’re interested in reading it. I don’t discuss whether her actions toward her husband were good or bad.

  29. Thank you for this discussion about how a wife may possibly win her husband to the Lord. This is a deep subject. When a couple gets married, and they have belonged to the same religious fellowship, it is often the case that it is ‘assumed’ that both spouses are saved. A person can, talk the talk, and walk the walk, in a religious way, yet, years down the road, the ‘appearance’ of a godly life begins to ‘tell’ on itself. I am not perfect, as a wife, yet through the years, I have submitted to my husband, who has been a very harsh person to live with, yet, he also has been a good provider for the family. Yet, over the years, I found that he did not display the Holy Spirit’s response he should have, if he was a godly, Christian man. Therefore, in the past two years, I have had to ask the Lord to help me to discern whether my husband is truly a Christian or not.

    Two very good friends, helped me to realize that I needed to ask my husband what John 3:16 meant to him. My husband’s response was not what a truly born-again believer would have responded. Instead he looked at me with a kind of blank stare and then said “What do you mean?” Then he said “You can express it better than I can”. That was the end of the conversation. I later sent my husband an email, and thanked him for saying that I could express it ‘better than he could’ yet I told him that I could not express it to GOD, FOR HIM, that HE HAD TO DO THAT FOR HIMSELF. In other words, he was unable to tell me what the most simple verse of salvation in the Bible meant. There was no ‘believer’s response’, in his comment to me such as “It means that we as an unregenerate man or woman MUST accept Christ into our hearts in order to be saved”. There was no spiritual response because that is what the unbelieving spouse does not possess in their heart.

    And because of this fact, Peter said that the unbelieving spouse ‘… may be won WITHOUT THE WORD because, even if they HEAR the WORD, they will not be able to understand nor comprehend SPIRITUALLY, what you are saying to them. ‘He that is of GOD HEARS GOD’S WORD”. So, the evidence that a spouse is not saved, is the fact that they cannot possibly hear God’s word if they are NOT a believer. So, a wife can preach all she wants to to the unbelieving heart of her husband, but it won’t do any good, as he won’t be able to understand it. That is why, the Holy Spirit is the only one who can reach the unbelieving heart. As Christian’s we can ‘sow’ or ‘plant’ or ‘water’ but it is up to the individual person to accept the convicting of the Holy Spirit. So, Peter was telling the truth.

    And I have found my ‘voice’ through the Holy Spirit, and I do defend myself when my husband is harsh with me, but I do not ‘use the Word’ to defend myself, but I use wisdom of speech, and TRUTH, when I am being unfairly treated. And my husband does,listen to me, in that regard. And he will apologize when his authority, as you said, goes against God’s own authority which is over me in the Lord, first and foremost. .I am also continuing to pray for my husband’s salvation.

    1. Hello Many Years,
      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! Yes, you’re describing something that’s common. People claim to be Christians, but down the road it becomes clear they aren’t. First John 2:19 comes to mind:

      “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

      I appreciate your humility in acknowledging your faults, as well as recognizing the good in your husband—he provides for your family.
      Hmm, yes, your husband’s response is concerning. John 3:16 almost explains itself. Your husband – if he was a believer – shouldn’t have trouble explaining it. Is it possible though that he simply made a statement? You can explain it better than him.
      Yes, you’re right that until your husband becomes a believer, he will not understand God’s Word. The only preaching he needs to receive is the Gospel.
      I think Peter’s main point is your actions, versus your words, will win over a husband. Here’s what he says in 1 Peter 3:1-2:

      Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.

      It’s not just that a husband can’t understand a wife preaching to him. It’s more that a wife’s conduct and godly life will preach even louder to him.

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