Dear Barbara: What am I supposed to do when my husband is leading me into territory that I don’t think is healthy or holy? And he won’t listen?
Dear Daughters of Eve:
A few years ago Dennis and I signed up for dance lessons. If you had been there to watch, you would have enjoyed many laughs. Happily, we weren’t the only novices in the room, bumbling through one step and then another. Thankfully the instructors were always watching and stepped in to help. They showed us the right way, and we’d attempt to imitate them again.
The question we wives have to ask ourselves in the dance of marriage is this: Is my husband leading me to a place I can’t see clearly (and it makes me nervous or afraid), or do I think he’s not following the Instructor’s teaching at all? There is a big difference.
Marriage is very much like the intricate steps and patterns of a dance.
In most dances the man leads and moves forward, while the woman follows moving backward. Without lots of practice and trust in one another both partners can suffer injuries. Similarly, the art of allowing your husband to lead and following that lead by faith is not without risks. It can even be frightening at times.
Most of the time I see what is coming in our marriage because we communicate about virtually everything. But sometimes unexpected interruptions or circumstances invade your life or seasons of stress make following much more difficult.
So what if you do feel your husband is steering you onto an unhealthy or unholy dance floor? The starting-point truth is that a woman should never follow her husband into sin—like following his request to lie, cheat, view pornography, enter into illicit sexual situations, dishonor his or your parents, or break the law in some way.
A husband who is willfully choosing sin is making grave mistakes, and when he asks his wife to join him she must refuse. That kind of following is not required. A woman who makes “a claim to godliness” (1 Timothy 2:10, NASB) must follow Christ first; Jesus will never ask you to choose sin, even if it requires you to take a step away from your husband for a time.
But even in this terrible circumstance, a wife can still have an attitude that seeks to honor her husband, while expressing deep sadness over his choices. People have value apart from their actions.
Remind your husband of your love and commitment to him, but always seek to choose right over wrong, God’s way over sin, and encourage him to do the same. Put ultimate trust in God. A favorite verse of mine is Isaiah 33:6:, “And he will be the stability of your times.” It speaks to the One who is constant even when circumstances in a marriage or in the world scream distress.
Following in marriage is first of all a heart to follow God, so hear me in this—if he doesn’t respond to your encouragement and God’s to get back onto a healthy and holy dance floor, it is then time to seek out a godly counselor. There are amazingly gifted people who can help you with any issue you face and help you get back on track. Ultimately, as a wife, let God use the example of your own life, trusting God supremely to convince your husband to reconsider his ways.
No husband is perfect.
Every husband will make decisions that will impact his family negatively. Your husband can’t see in 360 degrees, which means he can’t make perfect decisions. Most husbands don’t intend to cause their wives or children harm or suffering. But following an imperfect man, which all married women must do, means there will be difficult circumstances and some suffering as a result.
Still, God is saying, “Do you believe my design is very good? Will you trust me?” Or is He saying to you, “This is a dangerous, unholy path. Step away and call to your husband, remind him of your love, and pray the truth will be revealed to him”?
Women are powerful. Listen carefully to God if He’s igniting alarm in your heart about sin. Stand strong and true.
Marriage is a delicate dance of balance.
Remember too that your husband is still growing, and God is nurturing him to become “an oak of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:3). Learning to lead takes years and years. He will make mistakes. Lots of them. You can help him become that strong oak tree by encouraging his leadership, continuing to believe in him and praying for him throughout your life together, even if he gets off track for a time.
Patience is abundant with God, but sadly sometimes, we wives possess a shallow supply.
May God guide you and may you follow Him closely in your journey.
Still, still learning to follow,
This post was adapted with permission from my book, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife, ©2016, Bethany House Publishers. If you enjoyed reading this, you’ll find many more letters in the book about different issues that come up in marriage. It’s on sale in our online store.
If you enjoyed reading this, check out some additional posts on relating to your husband in difficult circumstances: