What if my husband refused to be a spiritual leader? Sadly, it's a question I hear all to often. Many Christian wive's cry out in frustration and disappointment, longing for their husbands to do what God has called them. It amazes me how many professing Christian men struggle to bring the gospel to bear on their family life. For many men, spiritual things ooze of femininity, weakness, emotion—things men are typically opposed too. Somehow the church has failed to cast a vision for a strong, robust masculinity that sacrifices, denies the self, and serves others. As a result many men, though professed Christians, abandon their spiritual responsibility and pass off spiritual issues to their wives.
Yet, many wives long to see their husbands take more initiative in leading the family, particularly towards Christ. A man may go to church with his family, but he distances himself and checks out. You can see it in his eyes; he'd rather be out on the golf course. Where is the godly man whose soul pulses with the strength of Christ and whose heart burns in gospel zeal? Churches, pastors, and ministry leaders must sound the alarm to the spiritual lethargy in so many christian homes, caused in large part by lazy and apathetic men.
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But what about the wife who longs for her husband to take leadership in this way? How can she encourage her husband to take spiritual leadership in a way that respects and affirms his leadership? That is the question I want to help answer today, but first a few disclaimers:
- I'm assuming you and your husband both confess Christ. If your husband is not a Christian, that's a different situation requiring different counsel. For starters read 1 Corinthians 7 or 1 Peter 3:1-6.
- I'm assuming you agree with male headship, and that the man should be the spiritual leader in the home. I won't take the time to defend that position in this brief blog post, but I believe the biblical position on gender is the position of complementarianism.
So, with the disclaimers out of the way, how can a Christian wife encourage your husband to take the spiritual leadership? Let me suggest five ways.
1. Pray for your Husband
Love your husband through prayer. Bring him before the Father daily, asking God to strengthen his faith and his walk. Pray that God would protect him from sin, and that his heart would be filled with love for God and his family. Pray for his spiritual maturity and his growth in Christ.
If your husband lacks the motivation or desire to lead you spiritually, God must give that desire to him. Therefore, fall on your face and petition the Lord to bring a work of awakening in your husband's life so that he can grow into the leader you need him to be and that he's called to be.
2. Talk to Your Husband about his Spiritual Leadership
Many people mistakingly think that submission means silence. That certainly is not the case. As a wife, striving to live out God's word in your roll, you can and should share your heart, emotions, and concerns with your husband. As a result, talk to your husband about his leadership, and ask him to take more of a lead.
However, a few words of counsel. Men can be incredibly prideful (I know because I am one!). If you approach your husband in anger, hostility, and bitterness your husband will only became defensive. Speak tough words to your husband with gentleness and kindness. Your aim is not to hurt your husband with passive aggressive guilt, rather your aim is to spur your husband to fulfill God's call.
Find a time when the kids are asleep, the night is calm, and emotions are cool, so you can approach your husband in a gentle and non-threatening way. It won't make your words any easier to hear, but if your husband humbles himself, he will listen to what you have to say. I can't help but hold my own wife Kaitlyn as an example. There are times when I have failed greatly in my own spiritual leadership in my family. Yet, Kaitlyn approaches me with respect, gentleness, and firmness. The words still sting, but my defenses are down and I'm more apt to hear her.
3. Get Involved in the Community of the Church
I hope you and your family already participate in a solid local church, but the community of the saints is essential for your families health, and your husbands spiritual leadership. Do not be spectators, but join in the community. Get to know other couples. Get involved in Bible studies. Learn and grow together as a family. Within the community of the church, your husband can learn from other men what it means to be a godly husband and father.
Now, what if your husband refuses to go to church? Well, that sort of mule-like stubbornness is all to common. Yet, I'm assuming your husband is a Christian, so a Christian who refuses to participate in a local church doesn't make a lot of sense of me. How can you be a member of Christ's body but never gather with his body? Talk with your husband about this, and your desire for him to attend. If he is a member of your church, get your pastors or elders involved in reaching out to him. Yet, if your husband demonstrates a consistent, antagonistic attitude towards the local church, I'd consider his profession of faith suspect. Perhaps your husband is not a Christian. Not that your church attendee saves you, but a refusal to go indicates an unregenerate heart.
4. Ask to be Mentored by a Wiser Couple
So if you and your family get involved in the local church, you will meet other couples who has marriages you respect. Now, no one has a perfect marriage, but many people have the experience and wisdom you lack. The joy of the Christian church means we can learn from one another and grow together. That's called discipleship.
As you meet other, older, wiser believers in your church, ask to be mentored by them. Get together for dinner and come with a list of questions. There your husband can build a relationship with another godly man who can help him learn what it means to love Jesus and love his family. In addition, you not only hear wise counsel, but you both can watch the marriage of the other couple.
Encourage your husband to surround himself with other godly men and let them to the training. Men tend to respond better to rebuke and correction from other men. Help your husband build those relationships with other men who love Jesus, so they can speak truth and confront when necessary. The church exists to equip the saints, training husbands to be spiritual leaders. Press into the body of Christ, so that you both can be equipped together.
5. Find Hope in Your True Husband
Sometimes this idea of "my husband as a spiritual leader" becomes a mythological fair-tale with unreasonable and unrealistic expectations. No matter how strong in his faith, your husband can never be Jesus to you. There is only one husband who never disappoints, and he died on the cross for your sin. We sinful, but redeemed husbands do our best to imitate the husband Jesus who lays down his life for the church, yet only Jesus is the real deal. Yes, love your husband and pray that God would help him become the spiritual leader, but at the same time even in your husband's failures, may your identity be so wrapped up in the love of God that your joy remains fixed on Christ.