Dear Barbara: How do I still respect my husband when I feel like his lack of faith negatively affected the plans God has for our family? Don’t get me wrong; my husband is a strong believer. And there’s not a big sin issue. I just feel like he isn’t believing and relying on God in several areas where we really need it.
Oh friend, I know exactly what you mean. I used to get frustrated with Dennis for not leading our family the way I thought he should. I assumed we couldn’t be a Christian family and raise kids who loved Jesus if we didn’t all sit down for a Bible lesson and prayer time regularly as a family.
At times I asked Dennis, “Why are you doing it this way?”
He would reply, “There’s more than one way to lead and teach.” I felt dismissed.
I’ve learned in the years since that my “why” questions weren’t the best way to approach him. “Why” questions put people on the defensive. It would have been better to say, “Help me understand what your goal is for our family times.” And then ask, “How can I help?” or “How can we work together to make this happen?”
My objection wasn’t about his lack of leading, but that he wasn’t leading the way I thought he should. He was doing it the way he thought was best. In our different ways of approaching family values, decisions, and opportunities I came to realize our clashes were often about mismatched expectations.
But what if a husband is not demonstrating faith?
This is normal in marriage because God is at work growing each of us as individuals. Both of you will experience situations or seasons when it’s harder to believe God, when one of you is strong and the other is not. At times your faith strengthens or supports his, and at other times his does yours.
Give him grace, ask to understand how he feels and offer to pray for him specifically. We need each other.
There are other times when our husbands could have acted differently, responded more lovingly, been open to reaching the neighbors, or demonstrated more patience. Even though your husband might not be sinning, there are many areas where his approach to life isn’t yet refined. It might be that his way of handling conflict, relationships, money, the children—or all of the above—are skills that must be grown and developed. He’s not perfect!
When you’re learning to ride a bike, what do you do? Fall. A lot! In the same way, other more important strengths slowly develop over years, including how to be your husband.
Most husbands have never had this responsibility before. Especially with you! Remember he’s still learning. He has never been your husband at this season of life before. He has never been a dad to these kids at these ages before. He was never responsible for another person 24/7/365 until he married you.
I know you’re thinking: Being a wife is hard! Being a mother is hard. Yes, it is. Being a husband is hard, also.
Any man who is a believer in Jesus and has any sensitivity to the Holy Spirit feels a sense of responsibility. The Bible teaches men that they are to love their wives and lead them as Christ does the church. Being like Jesus is an impossible job description!
The God-given burden our husbands have for shepherding the entire family is a heavy one, whether they ever admit it or not. So start by acknowledging that your husband has a lot to live up to. He is practicing … learning how to lead and love every day in his interaction with you and your children.
When we observe his sin, or what we perceive as lack of faith, or even just his differences some days, it’s easy to forget that we are both growing into the person God wants us to be. Women don’t have it all together, either. So rather than focus on the growing pains, remember that God isn’t finished yet.
Instead of correcting him, what if you, as his wife, choose to give thanks that your husband is trying and learning along the way? Maybe he’s in a spiritual plateau or valley.
A dear friend of mine, Susan Yates, often says, “Everyone has the potential to become who God wants that person to be if we continue to give grace and wait for God’s timing.”
Dennis said for years that the very best gift I’ve ever given him is my belief in him. As a woman I still don’t fully understand the significance of this. But I have learned that when I choose to believe in my husband, I’m really choosing to believe in God. I’m stating that I believe in God’s sovereignty to change Dennis’ life and heart.
Here’s a thought for you to ponder: My husband can’t change his own life, and your husband can’t either. Yes, he can change some of his behaviors by a decision of his will, but true life-change is a work of the heart and only God has that power.
I can’t change Dennis to get the results I want from him. And I’m glad. My changes would have produced either deformity or a robot. Neither would have been very fun!
Will you choose to believe the work of our transformational Savior and lean into the refining process?
Here are a few ways to do this in the day to day.
- Give thanks for the way God made your husband. Acknowledge that God is the creator of your man and the author of your marriage.
- Give thanks for the opportunity for growth even though it doesn’t feel like a wanted opportunity.
- Find something your husband is doing right and praise him for that. Don’t stop at just one thing. Find many things he’s doing right and tell him about them.
- Voice your belief in your husband. Tell him that you know he can land the job, support your family, disciple your children, love you well, etc. Be specific. Your belief in him is half the battle.
- Pray for your husband to respond to God’s work in obedience and pray that you can honor him through the process.
And remember: Every disappointment or clash of styles reminds us that God will continue to work in our husband to transform him into the likeness of Christ. And He is doing the same for us too, thankfully.