"The lack of encouragement is almost epidemic today. It's the reason
people dread going to work in the morning. It's why kids can't wait to
get out of school - and why some people can't wait to get out of a
marriage. What is it that enables us to give our mates this crucial
encouragement? Grace - it's the lubricant that lessens the friction in
marriage and keeps the gears of the relationship running smoothly." (Dr.
Cindy and I (Steve) firmly believe that what Dr Swindoll says about
encouragement being "the oil that lubricates our soul" is true and is
necessary to apply in marriage. Celeste Holm wrote, "We live by
encouragement and die without it - slowly, sadly, and angrily." We've
seen a lot of slow, painful deaths of marriages, with anger raging,
because encouraging one another went by the wayside. But where does
the ability to encourage come from?
Pastor Chuck Swindoll believes it is linked to grace (defined as,
"showing favor even if they don't deserve it"). His premise is that if we
understand our Biblical roles as husbands and wives, we will see that
through the grace of God we have the power to be encouragers in our
The problem that we have, is that the "roles" that husbands and wives
play in marriage have been blurred in recent times. That can be a bad
thing - when the new "role" that is being lived out, is in conflict with
what God's Word says. But it can be a good thing when one partner, who
has dominated over the other in an un-biblical way, is now backing away
from that approach.
This Marriage Message is not going to give you a list of roles for Godly
husbands and Godly wives. Rather we're going to touch upon a few points
where you might give grace (unmerited favor) and encouragement to your
One point we'd like to focus on is where the Bible tells the man he is
responsible for the spiritual leadership of the home. "Husband's, love
your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with the water through the
word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or
wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25- 27)
When you wash your wife with the water of the Word, just make sure you
don't drown her with it by pushing her face into such an extent that
instead of being drawn to it she runs away from it because you overwhelm
her with your power. Give her grace and encourage her by letting her see
you living by the water of the Word in your life to such an extent that
she wants to drink of it also - much as what the woman at the well
experienced by the way Jesus approached her.
And wives: give your husband grace to LEARN how to be the spiritual
leader. Author Dennis Rainey wrote the following (in the article, "A
Husband's Spiritual Leadership") to consider: "I think a wife needs to
understand that it may take years for a man to grow spiritually so that
he can lead his wife in this area. I would guess that most men did not
have a good role model of spiritual leadership in their homes as they
"Barbara and I have prayed regularly as a couple for our entire marriage.
But it has only been the last few years that we have morning devotions
with the kids before they headed off to school. In the past, we would
have devotions, but with a young family and an incredible diversity of
age span and needs, it was sporadic. And it was a challenge!"
Something that could help would be the list of "25 Ways to Spiritually
Lead Your Wife" - posted at Familylife.com (which we link to on our web
site at www.marriagemissions.com). Three of the 25 are:
1. Pray daily with her. [A good thing would be to pray WITH her and FOR
2. Discover her top three needs and over the next twelve months go all
out to meet them.
3. Protect your family from evil [including any evil that you might be
tempted to say or do to them; it's something you need to immediately
stop if you're doing so].
And then there is the part of the Bible that tells women: "A good wife of
noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her
husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings
him good, not harm, all the days of her life." (Proverbs 31:10-12)
Wives: Are you acting as a wife of noble character, bringing your husband
good and not nagging him to the extent that he can't hear the Lord
speaking to his heart? The Bible tells the wife to "submit to the husband
as unto the Lord." This doesn't mean she is to be a weak, unopinionated
woman. It means knowing when to say something and when not to do so. We
agree with Cynthia Heald's counsel, "Submission is ducking low enough to
let God fix your husband." Can you do that? If so, if you incline
yourself to discern when you should say something and when you shouldn't
and instead let God do all the talking and "fixing," you're filling a
distinct role as a Godly wife. God is your husband's Holy Spirit - not you.
Barbara Rainey, from the Familylife.com article, "A Wife's Job
Description," gives this counsel, "Ephesians 5:33 commands, "The wife
must respect her husband." Sometimes that's hard to do. You may not feel
that your husband is worthy of respect. However, you're still commanded
to respect him. Even if there are many things that he has done wrong, you
can find something to respect. Does he work hard to financially support
the family? Does he play ball with your child?
"He may not be doing all that you wish he were doing, but try to focus
positively on the things he IS doing. Verbalize to him your appreciation.
When you affirm him and let him know that you value his work, it will be
easier for him to continue to lead lovingly."
And husbands: are you listening to your wife as the helpmate God assigned
her to be for you in your marriage? When you do that, she doesn't feel as
desperate to "nag." You may want to consider what author Gary Thomas said
about his wife, "I refer to my wife as my 'God thermometer.' If I wake up
and discover that I am not moved by the miracle of her life and love for
me; if I am not cherishing her and honoring her, I look up and do a heart
check with God. The fact is, God knows my wife better than I do, and He
"The closer I grow to Him and the more time I spend communing with Him,
the more He will share with me His heart for my wife. I've come to learn
that the state of my marriage has as much to say about my relationship
with God as it does about my relationship with my wife." (From the
article, "The Transforming Miracle of Marriage.")
We exhort you to begin to encourage your spouse. Don't wait for him or
her to do it first. You start...even if he doesn't "deserve" to be
encouraged! By doing so you are exercising what God's word tells you to
do and blessing HIS heart, as well as your spouse's.
May you be empowered to think and act, as God would have you, within your