Baking, cleaning the house, buying presents, wrapping presents, transporting or sending presents, crowds, kids home on break, big gatherings, working, picking Christmas Eve outfits, shopping, working with charities, traveling . . . .
Honestly, it gets to be a lot. My prayer is that focusing on God in the ways I’ve talked about over the last couple of weeks will bring some sanity and joy to your Christmas season. (See this post, if you’re not feeling joyful: (becoming) joyful.)
Today, though, I want to talk a little more about joy – and why our joy so important not just for us, but also for those around us.
Even those of us who are very joyful about Christ’s birth, seeing family, buying presents, etc., can find December overwhelming. I think this overwhelmed feeling is indicative of losing sight of the real point of all of this: Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. –Luke 2:11
This is good news of great joy! And if we’ve lost the joy, we’ve probably lost sight of this good news.
[An important caveat: As I said in the previous post about joy, I’m not talking here about people who are truly grieving. I’m not qualified to talk about what it’s like to go through a holiday season after the death of a loved one. So please know that I’m not saying that if you’re grieving this December, then you’re doing something wrong. I’m talking more, in this post, about those of us who often go through the typical activities of the season joylessly, without a clear reason and often without understanding why.]
With that caveat in mind, I’ll say it again: Jesus’s birth is good news of great joy! And if we’ve lost the joy, we’ve probably also lost sight of this good news.
In these moments of feeling overwhelmed, I’ve found it helpful to ask myself a question: In what way is my concern about this thing/situation celebrating the good news of Jesus’s birth?
This is an especially good question for things like deciding what the family will wear for Christmas Eve services. Is it honoring Jesus for all of us to go with a green color scheme? Or, instead, is it satisfying some need I have to present my family in a certain way? I’m not saying dressing up (coordinated or not) for Christmas Eve services is wrong. (I usually dress up, too.) I am saying, however, that if it starts to take much time or make me feel overwhelmed or make me less joyful, then I may need to walk away from it. Jesus will still be born if we wear jeans.
And it’s important to remember that what we’re concerned about regarding Christmas lets other people know what aspect of the season is important to us.
If we make a big fuss about what we wear to Christmas Eve service and get cranky with our families, what message does that give them (and other people) about Jesus’s birth? Probably that it’s a stuffy formal occasion, that pleasing God involves rules about clothes, and that Jesus’s birth makes people cranky and nervous.
I’d much rather people saw my celebration of Christmas and got the message that Christmas is about thanking God for and celebrating the arrival of the greatest gift of all time, that God cares more about our hearts than our clothes, and that Jesus’s birth makes people joyful!
What is your attitude telling people about Jesus’s birth?
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Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful
Are you a worrier? Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
8Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous — to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Before Jesus’s arrival, God sent John the Baptist to prepare us for Christ’s arrival on earth (could anything really prepare us for that?). God knew that the people had to get their hearts right before they would be receptive to the coming of their Savior – a Savior Who, it’s important to note, was not going to look or act the way they expected. John the Baptist had an important role: turning people back to God and preparing their hearts for the coming of Christ. Who prepared you for Christ’s arrival in your life? Who encouraged you to take those first steps of turning to God?
Oftentimes we quickly forget our spiritual heritage. And oftentimes we forget that we’re even on a journey! We tend to forget that this turning to God is something we have to do daily, hourly, each moment (Luke 9:23, for example). We have a shared Biblical history of amazing men and women who have implored us to turn our hearts back to God. Many of us also have histories of such people in our own lives. Who is someone who has encouraged you when you’ve strayed during your journey? Who has reminded you to turn to God and confess and rededicate yourself? Who has God used as a prophet to speak to you?
Today, please pray for this person who has significantly impacted your walk with Christ by reminding you to turn to Him and rely on His mercy. Pray for this person’s own walk with Christ and for God’s protection and encouragement of this person as she (or he) helps you and others in your walks. (You might also consider calling this person — or writing a card — to say “thank you.” My guess is that this person gives out a lot of encouragement, and would probably consider it a huge blessing to get some back — especially from someone she has encouraged in the past.)
And remember: God’s arrival on Earth didn’t look the way people expected. How do you expect God’s presence to look in your life? And how might those expectations hinder your experience of Him? What do you need to do to prepare your heart for Christmas this year? Do you need to repent of a sin? Offer forgiveness to someone? Rely on God, instead of yourself, for provision? Encourage someone else in his or her walk with God? How will you become ready for the arrival of your Savior?
Previous Christmas Post: (becoming) a good gift-giver
Start of the Christmas Posts: (becoming) peaceful
Wife Posts: (becoming) a godly wife
Fully-submitted Posts: (becoming) fully submitted
But what if you don’t always feel joyful?
[An important caveat: I’m not talking here about people who are truly grieving. I’m not qualified to talk about what it’s like to go through a holiday season after the death of a loved one. So please know that I’m not saying that if you’re grieving this December, then you’re doing something wrong. I do believe the Scriptures below offer joy (and peace and hope, etc.) even in the worst of circumstances, but I also know that the worst of circumstances can make that joy (etc.) hard to feel at times. I’m talking more, in this post, about those of us who often go through the typical activities of the season joylessly, without a clear reason and often without understanding why.]
Consider what your Christmas preparations and celebrations are focused on. We are bombarded from the time Halloween ends until the after-Christmas sales are over with images and commercials and people who try to get our focus off what actually matters.
Think about it: Even something seemingly innocent like Southern Living magazine (which I have a gift subscription to, and which I like) contains an overwhelming array of ways our houses need to be decorated and new foods we should prepare. After looking at some of the pictures of meticulously decorated dinner tables, our centerpiece of jars and lights might look a little pathetic. But: Does God want adorable place cards for everyone who comes to your house – or does He want you to be patient and kind and joyful?
And think about what our culture tells us matters in regards to gifts: More! Bigger! Newer! We’re going to look at how to be a good gift-giver on Friday, and I’ll invite you to consider rethinking what constitutes a “good” gift. I’ll say now that I love gifts. I like getting them. I like giving them. I like picking them out. I like wrapping them. I like opening them. I like watching people open them. I am in no way anti-gifts. It’s just that everything has to be put in its proper place – and gifts are one area that causes a lot of unnecessary stress for people.
Re-focusing our preparations and celebrations on what matters can make a big difference in our joy.
Consider what God says about joy and how we might use His Words of wisdom to feel more joyful:
4 For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD;
I sing for joy at the works of your hands.
5 How great are your works, O LORD,
how profound your thoughts!
Consider the work of God’s hands. Your husband, children, parents, siblings, friends. They’ve all been crafted by God. The snow, the birds, the Christmas trees. All crafted by God. The lights, the food, the decorations. All crafted by God. Whatever parts of Christmas we find joy in can help us find joy in God – because He created everything that brings us joy!
23 A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—
and how good is a timely word!
We usually think of our words as a way to bring joy (or harm) to others. In this verse, though, we’re told that words affect the speaker, too. How might you use your words to lift someone else up AND increase your own joy? Who in your life could use a timely word?
16 When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
O LORD God Almighty.
Here we’re told that joy comes from eating the words of God. If you haven’t regularly been reading (and digesting) God’s Word, please start. I know it may not seem like it at first, but God’s Word is an amazing and never-ending source of joy.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.
God’s commands give joy to our hearts. Which command might He be asking you to pay more attention to?
1 Peter 1:8-9:
8 Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
We are filled with joy as we love and believe in Jesus. As we receive the salvation of our souls, we are filled with joy. When was the last time you spent some time thinking about what an amazing gift salvation is? It is the best and most important gift of the season. Have you shown others how grateful you are for this gift? Have you shown God?
3 John 1:3-4
3 It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
John is not speaking primarily of biological children here. He’s talking about people in his spiritual heritage. He finds joy in seeing others (especially those whom he’s influenced) live out their faith. Consider who in your life has faith that brings you joy.
Psalm 16:11 (and Acts 2:28):
11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Note that these are not necessarily temporal pleasures. These are eternal pleasures. They are far better, but they may not look like we expect them to. When looking for joy, remember to focus on the eternal. How has God brought you closer to Himself in a way that prepares you to spend eternity with Him? How has He helped you work on becoming holy, as He is holy?
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus came to give us an abundant life. If we aren’t living that life, then we’ve allowed something/someone else to steal part of that life from us. What better time to allow God to take it back than during the celebration of His arrival!
John 4:10, 13-14:
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” . . .
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinking this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give Him will never thirst. Indeed, that water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
If you don’t feel joyful, ask God to fill you. (Remember, joy is a fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23.)
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Joy (and peace) come from trusting in God. Is there something you’re not trusting Him with? Maybe some part of your holiday preparations or plans? What worries have you not let go of? I love this verse because we’re told that so many good things come from trusting in God: joy, peace, hope. I pray all these things for you for Christmas.
Ultimately, resting in and focusing on God is what restores our joy. How can God be a more present part of your Christmas preparations and celebrations? Please share your ideas in the comment section below!
Previous Christmas Post: (becoming) excited for the season
Next Christmas post (on Friday): (becoming) a good gift-giver
To read the fully submitted series, click here: (becoming) fully submitted
To read the wife series, click here:(becoming) a godly wife
The Word Became Flesh
1In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood [or “overcome”] it.
5 Then I said:
“O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
As we welcome the Christmas season, I invite you to prepare to be filled with the light of Jesus – that we might let our light shine before men (Matthew 5:16) and point them to Jesus, the true Light (John 8:12). While we might not like to think of ourselves as the wicked Israelites or the blind Pharisees mentioned in the verses at the start of this post, we are far too often a combination of the worst qualities of both – wicked while being self-righteous. In preparation for the powerful ways God can use us during this season, we need to repent of any sins that may hinder our prayers and our witness during this time (1 Peter 3:7; also see Hebrews 12:1).
Although it can be a painful process, verbally confessing and repenting of sins has a two-fold blessing: God graciously offers His forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and when we actually confess them out loud, we’re often less likely to commit them in the future. Hearing our pride or self-centeredness or jealousy or idol worship called what it is before the God of the universe often opens our eyes to our sinfulness in a more immediate way.
Perhaps you might spend part of your prayer time today focusing on what God may want do through you over the next month. Ask Him also what is most likely to keep you from being involved in His work this Christmas season: What is most likely to draw your heart away from Him? What are the weeds that threaten to choke out your fruit? Busyness, forgetfulness, greed, laziness, anxiety, anger, sadness, loving the trappings of Christmas more than we love the Christ Whom we should be celebrating? God wants to help with these barriers. We can’t overcome them on our own. Once we acknowledge this fact and hand them over to God, we’ll be amazed at the way God can remove barriers – or lift us over them. Pray that God would deal with your barriers and continually fill you with His Holy Spirit, so that you can be a blessing to others – and a herald of the real joy of the season.
Previous Christmas Post: (becoming) peaceful
Up next (on Friday): (becoming) excited for the season
To read the fully submitted series, click here: (becoming) fully submitted
To read the wife series, click here:(becoming) a godly wife
We all see it over and over, not just in Christian marriages, but actually happening in church! How can a woman be nodding along to a sermon and singing praises to God one minute, and then scold her husband for having another cup of coffee the next minute – in front of strangers? As we discussed in the last post, this shouldn’t be.
But this raises a related question: As Christian women trying to be godly wives, when we see other women – even Christian women – doing this, what should we do? Even if we don’t talk negatively about our husbands, does staying quiet when others do imply that we approve of it?
Let’s start here: Our culture has normalized the image of women talking negatively about their husbands – gathered together in gossip circles and even publicly scolding them. Sadly, not only have women bought into this image, but many men have as well. Many men have been emasculated to the point where they will accept this from their wives – even if it happens right in front of them.
If we look carefully, we’ll often see our men exchange knowing glances when one’s wife starts in. It’s that “sorry, buddy, but I’m glad it’s not me” look. Or the “you know how it is” look. Or the “thank goodness she’s not my wife” look. Is that really what we want to be? More to the point: Do you want people to feel bad for your husband because he’s married to you? Do you want to be the reason other men pity him? If so, scold, nag, and degrade him in front of others. If not, don’t.
Because our culture normalizes this sort of public chastisement – nearly encourages it, really – it’s very easy to do. However, “don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” (James 4:4)? We shouldn’t look like the world. Our marriages shouldn’t look like the world’s marriages.
So: what if we didn’t “conform any longer to the pattern of this world”? What if instead we were “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s]” (Romans 12:2)? This world and its prince (the devil: John 12:31, 14:30, & 16:11) want to sabotage Christian marriages. The devil wants to make our Christian marriages look just like every other marriage. And you know what? For the most part, he’s doing a great job.
If we can change this culture of scolding and nagging and griping, if women and men can see that we don’t have to accept “normal” for our marriages, our marriages can be transformed.
But we have to make a choice. A conscious, repeated choice to change this culture of complaining by choosing something better. In the Bible we have the illustration of serving two masters – they will eventually conflict, and we will have to choose a side. We can’t serve God and money, for instance (Matthew 6:24). We also can’t serve God and our sinful desires (such as complaining about our husbands to others). In the Bible we’re told our sin nature and God’s Spirit in us are always conflicting (Galatians 5:17). We have to, in God’s power, deny our sin nature and choose instead to follow His Spirit. And to be clear, choosing God is not a natural choice; it is a supernatural one, a choice for something (and Someone) better than normal.
One reason it’s so difficult not to engage in this sort of behavior is that it seems like everyone else is complaining about her husband. As women, it’s so tempting to jump into that conversation. We like to relate verbally. But remember: To have the marriages God wants for us, we must give up this fake intimacy with these women for true intimacy with our husbands. This is a choice we have to make.
Remember: We can be different. We can be the light.
Being the light, of course, looks different depending on the audience. I’m not suggesting that you start lecturing your non-Christian friends about their attitudes towards their husbands (1 Corinthians 5:12). But I am suggesting that you steer conversations towards positive aspects of our husbands. If a friend is having real problems (and some of my friends have), obviously you need to listen and help; but if he won’t fix the garbage disposal, the topic can be changed. And, above all, do NOT join in the griping. This is the biggest thing: Don’t join in. Let her see that your marriage is different. Let her see that there is a way for marriages to be happy. You don’t have to say it directly (unless you feel led to); instead, let your life, your attitude toward your husband speak for itself.
Among Christian women, however, I think we need to be more intentional. Steering conversations away from complaints about our husbands is a good start – but also prayerfully consider asking questions that get more to the heart of the matter, such as “This sounds like a long-term problem. Have you and Bob sought counseling? How has God spoken to you about this during your quiet time with Him?” Etc. Again, I’m not saying you need to lecture her – in fact, this is rarely the best approach – but I would prayerfully consider trying to help her turn to the right resources, whatever those might be in her situation: a pastor, a Christian counselor, her husband (often real communication between husband and wife can fix these issues), and especially God (He should be her source of strength and wisdom). Again, above all, do NOT join in the griping!
I’m not saying we all have to suppress our problems and pretend everything is perfect. In fact, I think that sort of fake happiness is really damaging to the church. I think it prevents people from openly addressing their struggles, and I think it makes many of those struggles worse. But there are ways we can help. For those of you who are in happy, Christian marriages, you might consider talking to your husband about how much he’s comfortable with you sharing with women who are struggling in their marriages. If the two of you have overcome certain struggles, you may have opportunities to be invaluable resources to couples who are currently struggling. It can help those couples to know that people have faced similar problems and made it through. Spend some time talking to your husband and thinking about how God led you through your difficult time. Consider what you might be able to share with a woman whose marriage is struggling. Remember: The idea here is to keep the focus on the real solution (God) and to build our husbands up in the process.
While it’s important for Christian women to help other Christian women, it’s also important for churches to be brave enough to speak up when there’s a problem. Women complaining about their husbands is a problem. The church shouldn’t be afraid to call it a problem just because some women might not like to hear that. Yes, that message might make some women uncomfortable or angry. But honestly, the sermons and Sunday school lessons that make me the most uncomfortable and irritated are usually the very ones I need to hear.
I think the reason some of us are hesitant to face problems head on is that, as Christians, we’re to love one another – and too often we translate “love one another” into “don’t cause anyone to be uncomfortable.” But truly loving a friend doesn’t mean overlooking serious problems and destructive tendencies in her marriage so she doesn’t get mad at us. Allowing a marriage to be unhappy (and potentially fail) because we’re afraid we might upset someone is cruel. And let’s face it: It’s usually our own comfort we’re looking out for. I like talking to my friend. I don’t want to jeopardize that friendship. Trying to truly help her might (at least initially) make her mad at me. We don’t want to feel uncomfortable. So we just watch the show.
Most of us have heard some variation on this: To not share Christ with others is like holding a life raft on the shore and not throwing it to them – choosing to watch them drown while holding the very thing that could save them. Watching a friend’s marriage fail is similar. You see her going down a destructive path. You know she needs to turn around. But you let her go. You choose to watch your friend’s marriage fail while holding the very thing that could save it.
These are touchy subjects, and anything we say to others about these topics requires prayerful consideration. But we must remember: Women complaining about their husbands to others is a problem. We can’t stay neutral on this topic. The default position on this in our society (and sadly, in most churches) is that it’s okay. If we don’t share that opinion, there may be a time when we have to speak up. In Scripture we’re told:
Proverbs 17:4: A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue. [When we listen to this type of talk, we’re complicit in the behavior. We’re giving our approval.]
Proverbs 18:8: The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. [We will internalize what’s being said. And while, if our marriages are strong, listening to other women degrade their husbands isn’t likely to make our marriages fall apart, listening to this type of talk is still unhealthy for us and our marriages.]
The other thing we have to remember is that there is a solution to this problem of women complaining about their husbands to others. The marriages around us can be happier. We just have to be careful to learn what our role in that may be. In Scripture we’re told:
Proverbs 15:23: A man finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word! [A good reply to a situation is good for everyone involved!]
Proverbs 26:20: Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. [Don’t be the wood on this fire. By standing and listening, we’re fueling the fire.]
Proverbs 31:26: She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. [The Proverbs 31 woman is wise when she speaks. She instructs others faithfully. Notice this does not say she silently disapproves of sinful behavior. It also doesn’t say that she stands in the town square and randomly decries various sins. Instead, we’re given a much more intimate picture: That of a woman wisely, faithfully instructing others.]
So, the challenge this week is not to confront the next woman you hear talking negatively about her husband. The challenge this week is to ask God how He might use you to help His vision for Christian marriages be realized. And remember, this starts with your own marriage. We’ve got to get the planks out of our eyes before addressing the specks in others’ (Matthew 7:3-5). But if, by God’s grace, you’ve made some progress in this regard, it may time to consider: Does He want you to broach this subject with a close friend who is always negative about her husband? Does He want you to bring it up in a women’s class you attend or lead at church? Maybe you lead a small group of high school girls and He wants you to discuss this topic with them, to help them prevent the problem in their own future marriages? Maybe He wants you to begin thinking about this topic to prepare you for a time when a daughter or friend or co-worker asks you a question about it? I don’t know what His task for you will be. But He knows. Ask Him!
Next week: (remaining) Thankful
Want to read more?
Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife
Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted
Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward
Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6
Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful
Are you a worrier? Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier
Last Monday we talked about nagging and the damage it does. One of the biggest problems with nagging is what it often leads to: complaining to others about our husbands.
Do you want to usher satan into your marriage, roll out the red carpet, offer him a warm beverage, ask him to make himself at home? Complain about your husband to other people.
[As has become my habit, I’ll give a caveat here: if you need professional help in your marriage, by all means, seek it from your pastor or from a Christian counselor. That’s not complaining. That’s trying to strengthen your marriage. If you need advice or a safe place to express your feelings (and you aren’t using “advice” or “expressing your feelings” as a cover for complaining), then I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to seek it from another Christian woman. (A group of women becomes more problematic because it’s unlikely all of them will be strong Christians). And this should be a strong Christian woman. One who won’t let your advice-seeking turn into a husband-bashing session. And we know the difference when we think about it for a minute. And remember: “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord” (Proverbs 16:2). God knows what our motive is. He knows if we’re truly seeking godly counsel or if we’re using that as a cover for gossip. He cannot be fooled (Galatians 6:7).]
But the type of communication covered in the caveat above isn’t most of what we see. What we see are wives complaining about their husbands to other women. Because he can’t wrangle the kid correctly. Because he still hasn’t gotten the oil changed. Because he acts like a child. Because he’s just so clueless. These are throwaway comments to so many women. They aren’t thought about; they’re just said. There’s no moment of reflection: Will this build my husband up or tear him down? Will this honor God’s plan for marriage or dishonor it?
We laugh about how hapless our husbands are. We top each other with stories of the ridiculous things our husbands have done. Ways they’ve failed us. As with nagging, we focus on the negative. And then we wonder why we’re dissatisfied in our marriages.
A few things I think we need to think about:
1. Why would we want other women to think our husbands are incompetent morons? Why would we want other women to think our husbands are children, incapable of leading? (What is motivating us when we complain?)
2. What the Bible says about this:
a. Proverbs 11:12: A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. [And our relationship with our husband should be far closer than our relationship with our neighbor.]
b. Proverbs 12:18: Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. [Our husbands are pierced by this badmouthing, even if they never say anything. It’s painful to see the woman who is supposed to be your closest companion belittle you to others. We need to be the tongue of the wise. Our words need to heal, not pierce. If our tongues aren’t the ones healing our husbands, they may drive them to others for that healing.]
c. Proverbs 14:1: The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. [Why are we trying to destroy our own homes?]
d. Proverbs 15:28: The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes folly. [This one is hard for me. Not regarding complaining about my husband, but regarding almost anything else. In so many situations, I know what I want to say, and I know the tone in which I want to say it. I don’t want to weigh my answer because I know that God will often change my words, my tone, or keep me silent altogether. I’d much rather gush than weigh when it comes to words. Ultimately, though, I know I have to learn how to keep a reign on my tongue. The Bible is full of verses that tell me that. (Such as James 1:26: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.) This takes an act of will, though. This isn’t something that’s going to magically (or even easily) happen.]
e. 1 Peter 4:11: If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. [Is what you’re about to say going to bring praise and glory to God? Does what you’re about to say line up with the Word of God? Sometimes I don’t like answering these questions, but this is what we’re called to.]
3. If the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, then what we are doing is akin to the Church walking around telling people: listen to how Jesus failed me. Listen to how He keeps messing up. Listen to how incompetent He is. We wouldn’t think this was okay. And I understand the difference: Jesus is perfect, our husbands aren’t. But we aren’t told that the perfect husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church — just that the husband is. We aren’t let off the hook because our husbands aren’t perfect.
4. Why do we think talking negatively about our husbands will make anything better? Honestly, has anyone ever talked about her husband behind his back, gotten it off her chest, and never done it again because that one session of complaining met her needs? Nope. Because those sessions of complaining can’t meet our needs. They may make us feel better short-term, but we’ll find that we have to keep coming back to them to get that short-term feeling. Complaining about our husbands doesn’t fix anything. It’s an empty “solution” that has to always be repeated. It’s similar to the sacrifices that had to be offered year after year in the Old Testament. Those sacrifices were not a permanent solution. They “fixed” the problem for a time, but had to be repeated because the same problem kept coming back. Similarly, complaining “fixes” our problem temporarily (because we’ve vented), but we haven’t actually SOLVED the problem. We’ve just put a band-aid on it. And this wound will reopen.
The only solution to the yearly sacrifices was Jesus. He was the only way those sacrifices could stop because He was the only thing that actually FIXED the problem of our sinfulness. In the same way, He is the only solution to problems in our marriage. He is the only thing that can FIX our marriages. He is the solution that never runs out. He is the only One who can heal our wounds.
So, what does this mean in practical terms? It means we turn to Jesus (and our husbands), not to others, when we’ve run out of patience with our husbands.
Jesus is the only permanent solution. This doesn’t mean, though, that you can use Him once and be done with Him. The exact opposite in fact. [He told us to take up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23).] He commanded us to remain in Him, and said that we could do nothing apart from Him (John 15:4-5). It does mean, however, that in Christ, you’re on “the Way” to permanently improving your marriage.
What I said last week about nagging holds true here as well: Like any bad habit, this one will take time (and God’s help) to break. It’s a process of being intentional about trying, leaning on God’s power, and apologizing when we mess up – to our husbands, to the women we complained to (or whoever else who may have heard it, children, etc.), to God.
Start now. Tell God you’re sorry. Ask Him to draw you closer to Him. Tell Him you know He is sufficient for you — and that His way is sufficient for you.
Start today. Tell your husband you’re sorry. Tell him that keeping a rein on your tongue is hard for you – women just are verbal; we process things by talking about them – and ask if he’ll help by being more willing to talk through things when they come up. This does not mean we nag our husbands more when problems come up. This means we talk kindly (in ways that honor our husbands and our God) and calmly (prayerfully weighing our words). And that we stay more focused on how we can improve in the situation than how he can.
Under conviction from God, I made the decision before we were married that I would not complain about my husband to other people. (As I said last week, it’s easier to not start a habit than it is to break one, so I’m grateful that God was so firm with me about this early on.) This is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And let me be clear: I don’t feel isolated. I don’t feel like I have to bottle up my emotions. In fact, I feel far closer to my husband because of it. We solve our skirmishes. We work through our issues. [More about conflict resolution in future posts.] And it draws me closer to God – because let’s be honest: HE solves our skirmishes. HE enables us to work through whatever the issue is.
If I have sacrificed anything in this decision, it is the false intimacy women feel with one another when they complain about their husbands. I’m willing, however, to trade false intimacy with a friend for true intimacy with my husband. I’ll make that trade every time.
And please understand: I’ve made plenty of bad decisions. I’ve had to unlearn LOTS of bad habits. I know how hard it is to give up something that you’ve always done. Something you’re comfortable with. Something you feel nervous without. So, even though this isn’t my struggle, I do know what it’s like to have similar struggles.
So, here’s the challenge: Stop complaining about your husband to other people. Start stopping today. (As always, I’d love to hear your insights below!)
Next Week: Okay, I’m willing to stop complaining, but do I have to stop listening to other women complain? (aka: being the light, but not fueling the fire)
To read the wife series from the beginning, click here: wife, part 1
To read the fully submitted series, click here: fully submitted, part 1
Micah 6:8: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
[This is one of those great “sum it up” verses. Here’s what the Lord requires of you (because it’s good – for Him, for others, for you): balance justice and mercy and walk (humbly) with Him. Walking with someone, of course, gives us the image of always being with someone. Staying in step with someone. Sometimes I wonder what God wants. Here he tells me.]
James 1:26: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
[While it may manifest itself in different ways (harshness, gossip, anger, meanness, lies, blame, among others), most of us have difficulty corralling our tongues at times. Because of that, I think this is a hard verse to think about. But, I find when I do try to keep it in the forefront of my mind, I tend to do a better job giving God my tongue reins.]
John 15:4: Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
[I want to bear fruit. This tells me how I can. It also tells me how I can make sure I DON’T bear fruit.]
Psalm 127:1a: Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
[I do not want to labor in vain. I want God to be the builder of our home and family. I think this is difficult, though, when I have ideas about how things should go. This verse helps me remember that my ideas are never going to be better than God’s.]
So, what verses really make you think? Why?
Last time we talked about some things we might need to let go of as wives. Today, I’d like to spend a little time on some things we might need to start doing — or at least ways we might need to refocus our efforts.
So let’s start here: In what three areas do you least like serving your husband? Or, put another way, what three specific things do you know he likes/wants/appreciates/needs, but you just don’t like to do?
By doing the things we like to do to serve our husbands, we’re really serving ourselves, not our husbands. These things might still be helpful to our husbands, but as long as they’re things we also want, they are service to ourselves primarily. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad things. If my husband and I both want the laundry done, and I do the laundry, that’s good — it’s just not selfless service.
By intentionally ignoring the aspects of serving our husbands that we don’t like, we’re ultimately saying “I’ll ‘serve’ you as long as I like it, as long as I want to, as long as I’m getting something out of it, too.” Consider what terrible marriage vows that would make: “I promise to love and serve you as long as I like what that entails. When I don’t like what it entails, however, I will choose to not serve you. You’re not that important.” Yikes!
But essentially that’s what we’re telling our husbands when we don’t seek to meet the needs they want met. We put ourselves first by only meeting his needs if we’re not being too inconvenienced, as long as it’s not too much extra effort for us. This is incredibly hurtful. Imagine if your husband only loved you when it was convenient for him — if, when you were difficult to love (and for some of us, this is much of the time!), he stopped bothering. And I know some of you don’t have to imagine this at all; you live it. But you know how hurtful this is, and how harmful it is to a marriage. And this is exactly what we do to our husbands oftentimes. We “love” them (read: put their needs first) when their wants and needs don’t interfere with our own – so we’re not really putting their wants needs ahead of ours at all.
Okay, so consider again those three ways that your husband would like to be served that you don’t like. These might be mundane. For instance, while my husband isn’t a fan of piles lying about the house, I don’t really like putting laundry away:
(This photo is from about 5 years ago. Generally my piles aren’t quite as bad now…..)
One (or more) of the three might be of a more adult nature. (I will not be inserting a picture here.)
Some of the three might be things he’s been asking you to do for a long time. This summer I made an extensive chart of things I wanted to get done and things my husband wanted me to do. Some of these things had been on my to-do list for years. Let me tell you – it felt REALLY good to get them all done!
Now, once you’ve thought of your three things, ask yourself: why do you dislike them?
First, are they illegal? Are they physically dangerous or otherwise harmful to you or others? If so, obviously I’m not advocating that you do them. I am suggesting that you seek help outside yourself, however. Here’s a resource that may help: http://referrals-loc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/referrals_loc.cfg/php/loc/enduser/loc.php.
If none of this is true, consider: Is it because these three things are boring to you? Or time-consuming for you? Or uninteresting for you? See the pattern? All of these have to do with our preferences — not his needs.
God has so much more in store for our marriages than we ever allow Him to do! The sorts of blessings He can give us in our relationship with our husbands are unmatched in any other human relationship. But He will not flood our marriages with these blessings if we are serving ourselves instead of one another.
Do we always feel like serving (again, read: loving) our husbands in selfless ways? No! (Well, if you do, then you’re a much better woman than I am!)
Why don’t we always feel like serving our husbands? Plenty of reasons, I believe. Sometimes the fault is theirs: they act in hard-to-love ways sometimes; they don’t always love us like they should. Sometimes the fault is ours: we’re too busy with our own needs or the needs of others (unless you are clearly led to do this by God, don’t replace service to your husband with service to someone (anyone!) else); we’re tired; whatever he’s asking for doesn’t seem important to us.
But the main reason we don’t meet our husbands’ needs is that we aren’t loving God the way we should. Once we are continually (daily, minute-by-minute) being filled with God’s love, loving our husbands becomes possible. It becomes fulfilling. Even enjoyable. . . . usually.
And what does it mean to continually be filled with God’s love? (See the previous post about abiding in Him.) Ultimately, the main thing in our lives has to be our relationship with God — He is our Source of strength, our best friend, our Father, the Lover of our souls.
And He has an amazing design for our marriages! Not all good marriages will look the same – and that’s good – our walks with God don’t all look the same either. My prayer is that we’ll all find God’s best for our marriages – and this takes time. Time with God. Time serving our husbands. All of this, though, is time well spent.
Here’s my challenge to you today: Look at your list of three ways your husband would like to be served that you don’t like. (Again, as long as they’re not harmful, etc.,) prayerfully consider doing all three of these sometime this week. I know that might seem ambitious, but we put a lot of effort into lots of far-less-important things.
Think about this: If someone from church called and needed you to do three things that would take some rearranging of your schedule and some extra time from your week, would you do them? What if your child’s teacher needed you to do something for the classroom? What if your boss needed you to pick up some work, maybe for a co-worker who got sick? What if a friend needed some extra attention? We rearrange and reallocate our time for lots of different reasons. Reasons that, ultimately, should come AFTER our service to our husbands.
So, rearrange and reallocate what you have to. Show your husband that next to God, he’s the most important thing in your life. And, remember, he’s not going to believe he’s important if these things are done grudgingly. This has to be done with a cheerful, servant’s heart.
I’d love hear about successes or roadblocks, either in the comments here or in an email (email@example.com). Trust me, ladies. Our husbands will notice this!
Next week: part 3 of the wife series: the biggest and most culturally-encouraged saboteur of marriages….
Click here to read part 1 of the wife series: “why won’t he________?”
Click here to read the “(becoming) fully submitted” series.
To find out more about this blog, check out the About page.
Thanks to all of you who are praying for the anonymous girls in this week’s (prayer) warrior wednesday post!
Ephesians 5:22 reads: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
And I’ve been wondering:
Do we struggle to submit to our husbands as unto the Lord because we aren’t submitted to the Lord in the way we should be?
If our relationships with God are out-of-whack, it shouldn’t surprise us that our relationships with our husbands have problems. If we’re having trouble putting God (who is all-wise, all-good, has our best interests at heart all the time) first, of course we’ll have trouble putting our husbands (who are, as humans, flawed) before ourselves.
And, while those of us who are “good wives” often pay lip service to submitting, to putting our husbands’ needs in front of our own, when it comes down to it, we often want to hold our husbands to a standard that we don’t want to hold ourselves to — we expect his selfless service to us, and we feel like anything less than that lets us off the hook. We find ourselves thinking things like: “He didn’t seem interested in my day, so I’m not going to have sex with him tonight.” OR “He doesn’t seem to be handling this problem correctly/fast enough, so I’m going to take over.
This is not an option we’re given in Scripture — it doesn’t say “wives submit to your husbands when you feel they’re living for you.” Nope. It just says to submit. Well, submit as to the LORD. Which brings us back to our original question: Are we having trouble submitting to our husbands because we’re not fully submitted to God?
Hopefully, we’ve begun working on fully submitting to God. That, in and of itself, will do wonders for our marriage, because it is God’s Will that we honor and respect our husbands. If we’re in God’s Will at all times, respect for our husbands will naturally flow from that. This post, though, is about what respecting our husbands looks like a little more specifically.
TWO NOTES BEFORE I BEGIN:
ONE: While this post is specifically about marriage, I think it’s important for unmarried women as well. First, many of you will eventually marry, and being aware of some of these common problems beforehand might help you and your husband avoid some of them. Second, those whom God never calls to marry will, very likely, have married friends who face struggles in the husband-wife relationship. Perhaps something here could help you as you minister to them. Plus, much of what we’re going to talk about affects all of our relationships, not just the husband/wife relationship. (Mark 9:35: Sitting down Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”)
TWO: I’d like to note here that it might seem like these next couple of posts are unfairly hard on wives. That I don’t say enough about what our husbands should be doing. Here’s why: We can’t control what our husbands do. We can only control what we do. What we’d like to do is change our husbands so they’ll do what we’d like them to. Or we’d like to use their shortcomings as an excuse to not improve ourselves as wives. All of this is selfishness (sin) and all of this is very natural. We like easy fixes. We like comfortable things. We like getting what we want. But, as Christians, we’re called to something better.
In addition, these posts are about the Biblical role of the wife, not the husband. I’m not going to handle the husband part because I feel like that will tempt us to focus on his shortcomings, instead of our own. What follows is meant to help us become better wives — no matter what kinds of husbands we have. I can almost guarantee you, though, that allowing God to make you a better wife will help make your husband a better husband. But that can’t be our goal. Our goal is to honor God and our husbands. Period.
Without further ado…….
This post is going to pose several questions. These are NOT rhetorical. I think it’s helpful if you stop and answer them. They also don’t always have a right or wrong answer. Sometimes, it just a matter of taking stock of where you are so you know how to move forward.
First, what three things do you feel like you’ve told your husband over and over or asked him to do over and over?
Second, why can’t you let go of these things? This isn’t meant to imply that you should have to, but I think trying to articulate why something is so important to you can help you plan how to handle the issue in the future.
For example, if you’re constantly telling your husband to drink less because he’s had a DUI, is spending too much money on the habit, and frightens the kids when he’s drunk, I’m not telling you that you have to stop being so selfish and leave him alone. Quite the opposite in this case: your concern is stemming from actual safety and relational concerns. I would recommend, though, getting help other than just yourself. (A great resource is Focus on the Family’s website. They offer solid advice on a wide variety of issues: www.family.org. You can also call to talk to family care specialist or look up Christian counselors in your area: http://family.custhelp.com/app/home.)
However, for many of us, what we nag our husbands about is not nearly so important. So, once you have your list, consider why you can’t let go of those issues. WHY is this so important to you? What need of yours would he be meeting if he did these three things?
For instance, let’s say you always tell him to get projects, etc., done faster. Just totally pulling this example out of the sky. Have no real experience with it or anything…. J
And this speed is important to you because, well, you want these projects done. The house would look better. Or he could then move on to a new project. Etc. He should want to do this for you because you want it done. In this case, though, if it doesn’t get done, there’s no real harm.
Consider, too, why he might be taking so long. Does he even know how to do the project? Does he have other things that are more pressing priorities? Is he just a slow person? Is the project not important to him?
1. If he doesn’t know how to do the project, there’s a good chance this is causing him quite a bit of anxiety. As we’ll talk about in a later post, there’s a lot of pressure on men to know how to do stuff. More than there is on women. Maybe easing up on him would relieve some of that pressure. And really, is the project so important that it’s worth causing him anxiety over?
2. If he has other, more pressing concerns, then he probably needs to be cut some slack. If he actually has more to do than he can get done in a day/week/month, then asking him how you can help with the load might be a good idea.
3. Is he just a slow person? Honestly, this was probably something you knew about him before you married him. But maybe he’s gotten worse. Or maybe you thought you could “fix” him. But, if this is a trait you knew he had when you married him, you’re probably going to have to let your timetable go in a lot of cases.
If you’re pretty sure he’s just a slow mover, I’d ask him about this. My husband is notoriously slow at almost everything — and I knew this going in. The positive side of this is that almost everything he does is done to an incredibly high standard and he makes very few mistakes. The negative side of this is that he’s SLOW! And I’m NOT!
We’ve found lots of ways to cope with our different styles (and I’m happy to talk about them, if anyone finds themselves in a similar situation) — and for the most part, we work very well together. That doesn’t mean, however, that the slowness never gets on my nerves. However, this is usually a personal preference thing, not an actual issue. (Even if I sometimes feel like my preference is the correct one!) If this is the case for you and your husband, I would recommend talking about it. Our discussions have taken us some time (time I don’t always feel like we have to spare), but they’ve allowed us to utilize our strengths really well — and spending the time talking about it when we’re both level-headed has led to far fewer disagreements.
4. Is the project not important to him? Sure, he should want to do it because it’s important to you, but the fact is, he’s not perfect at this putting-others-first thing either. Again, you might find out why it’s not important to him. Was he not consulted about the decisions regarding the project? Is it a project he doesn’t see the need for? It is outside his area of interest? Talking about this might help you handle projects better in the future.
Overall, though, I’d recommend prayerfully considering letting go of the top three things that you feel you tell your husband over and over or ask your husband to do over and over. Unless, as discussed above, this is an actual issue (drinking problem, violence, etc.), it’s probably a matter of preference. And, as we’ve discussed, his needs should be put ahead of your own.
I’ll grant here that this is much easier if you’re both trying to do this the right way. If both of you are trying to put the other first, you won’t bother him so much with projects, etc., and he’ll get done what is important to you. Both of you will make some sacrifices and both of you will have needs met. And if, like me, you’re blessed enough to have a husband who leads and puts you first, take some time to thank him today. I think sometimes those of us with husbands who do this well underestimate how much easier that makes our roles as Biblical wives. If, however, this is a one way street, it becomes much harder. The truth is, though, that it’s still what we’re called to as Christian wives. If your husband isn’t a Christian (or claims to be one, but doesn’t show much evidence of it), remember that you are not alone! God is with you through this journey – and other women who have been in the same situation can offer solid advice. Here are some resources that can help you:
Focus on the Family Advice: http://family.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/25920.
Book Recommended by Focus on the Family: http://family.christianbook.com/spiritually-single-raising-godly-doesnt-believe/nancy-meyer/9781576838747/pd/38747?event=CF
Another Book Recommended by Focus on the Family: http://family.christianbook.com/doesnt-believe-encouragement-alone-their-faith/nancy-kennedy/9781578564347/pd/64344?event=CF
So, Challenge One on the road to becoming a more godly wife: Prayerfully consider letting go of some things that you most nag your husband about. Realize that “why won’t he . . . . ?” isn’t the only question to ask. The right question to ask might be “why won’t I . . . .?” Remember that this is a sacrifice you’re making for the good of your marriage. Remember also that it doesn’t even begin to compare to the sacrifice God made for the good of your relationship with him.
I’d love to hear about successes, questions, concerns, etc., as you work on loving your husband more and more. Please comment below!
Want to read more? Check out the start of the (becoming) fully submitted series.
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