“A successful marriage is always a triangle: a man, a woman, and God” (Cecil Myers). Think about your marriage in relationship to that definition. Is your marriage “successful”? Is God leading you in your marital relationship? And even if your spouse isn’t walking in spiritual obedience, have you invited God to lead you in your part of your relationship? That’s a hard thing to do, but it’s important. We all share a spiritual responsibility within our marriage.
In this particular Insight we’re focusing on the subject of spiritual responsibility in marriage. I (Steve) will address the husbands and Cindy will address the wives.
Spiritual Responsibility in Marriage
So first off:
Men, do you spiritually bathe your wives? I’ve been told many times that a HUGE concern expressed by women is that their husbands are contributing little, if anything, to the spiritual health of their marriage. They say things like, “He’s a great husband but he doesn’t give me what I need spiritually.”
There are two things I’ve come to understand about this subject (through my own struggles in this area):
(1) One of the hardest things for husbands to remember when it comes to our bride is to do what Christ showed us by His example.
Jesus said that you are “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of the water from the word.” (Ephesians 5:26)
For some reason many of us husbands neglect doing this. But each day is a new beginning. That means that today could be good day to start. It’s better late than never!
I can relate (and hope you can related to something Eugene Peterson wrote in his interpretation of the scriptures in Ephesians 5:
“Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness.” (Ephesians 5:26-27 MSG)
“God feels passionately about the one you married. If you doubt His care and concern, consider this: He sent His only Son to die on behalf of your spouse. Think about how you treated your wife this week. Is that how you want your daughter to be treated by her spouse? Never forget: you didn’t just marry a woman; you married a daughter of God. Treat her, accordingly.” (Gary Thomas)
(2) We strengthen our marital intimacy as we follow Christ’s example and lovingly pray for our bride and wash her in the word of God.
We create a stronger bond by doing this than almost anything else we can do for her.
To wash our wives in the Word doesn’t mean preaching to her. That can make her feel like a child if she doesn’t appreciate this. But it’s communicating the gospel with and without words. Even if your wife is hostile when you share the word of God with her, you can still pray a blessing silently over her. You can ask God to show you how to bond you closer together.
Spiritual Responsibility for Connection
For those of you who do have a wife who would enjoy this spiritual connection, we’d like to share with you some insights that Eddie wrote in one of the comment sections of the Marriage Missions web site. He wrote:
“Probably the single most important thing that my wife of twenty-eight years and I have learned, is to pray for each other out loud every day. I am supposed to be her covering. I wouldn’t want my wife going out into the world naked for every man to look at. If I don’t cover her each and every day then spiritually, I’m sending her out naked for the enemy to see. We pray out loud so that we can hear with our ears and get it into our minds that we are loved and cared for.
“Also, we know that the enemy doesn’t know everything like our Father does. So we pray out loud so that he can hear. We do this even when we’re angry with each other. It’s amazing how hard it is to stay angry with someone when you hear them praying just for you. It’s even harder to stay angry with someone while you’re praying God’s blessings on them for the day.”
That’s great advice, isn’t it? The following are some additional tips that you might find helpful as well in uniting you and your wife closer together.
1. Find a devotional (maybe on marriage) that you can read together every night before you turn out the lights. A great one we recommend is Devotions for a Sacred Marriage: A Year of Weekly Devotions for Couples written by Gary Thomas.
2. Read scripture together. You can do this even a few verses or chapters at a time. And then share insights that come to mind.
3. When God teaches you or you learn something from His Word, be sure to share that with your wife. It may bless and enrich her life as well.
4. Ask your wife how you can be praying for her throughout the day while you’re apart.
5. Start the day by praying together (and/or end the day this way — whichever works out best). This has greatly enriched my marriage with my wife. I believe it will help yours as well.
And here’s one last thought as we talk about “washing” and the effect it can have on our wife.
“Jesus said, ‘Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.‘ (John 13:14,15) Marriage provides opportunities every day for both spouses to practice this admonition. The challenge is not to keep on loving the person we thought we were marrying, but to love the person we did marry.” (Gary Thomas)
As we take spiritual responsibility in our marriages, other problem areas often begin to resolve themselves as well. And men: love your wife enough to resist the temptation to chastise your wife if she isn’t doing what Cindy will share next.
You are not your husband’s Holy Spirit. Yes, you are his partner and you may need to “speak the truth in love” to him at times. But sometimes we do too much horizontal talking and not enough vertical talking to the Lord over matters that bother us about our husbands.
Sometimes our words can get in the way of what God intends to do. That is especially true when our husband’s ears are not receptive to hearing what we have to say.
It has taken me a lot of years of anguish to finally listen to the Lord over this matter. I’ve come to realize that it’s not my responsibility to shame or throw accusations at my husband for not being spiritual enough. And it isn’t yours either. Here’s something Gary Thomas wrote on this issue:
“If God’s attitude toward you in your sin mirrored exactly your attitude toward your spouse in his or her sin, where would you be with God? If you think you are a stronger, more mature Christian than your spouse, I know this: you compare yourself to your spouse instead of comparing yourself to Christ. Nowhere does the Bible urge you to compare yourself to your spouse. Stop comparing your spiritual maturity with your spouse’s; instead, start comparing your spiritual maturity with Ephesians 4:1-3. If you do that, you will change the climate of your marriage.” (From the book, “Cherish”)
It is written in Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV):
“… I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.“
We ARE told in the Bible in Galatians 6:1-5:
“If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.“
Spiritual Responsibility to Gently Restore
What I see from those scriptures is that we are to be GENTLE as we try to “restore him.” But we’re also warned to watch ourselves. That is because we could be tempted to do what we shouldn’t. It’s tempting to say more than we should. It’s also tempting say things in the wrong manner or timing. We will often point out the “speck” in his eye; but then we have a “log” in our own eye. That’s called hypocrisy. God warns us against that in the Bible.
“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.“ (James 1:22-24)
Also, don’t allow the problems you see in your husband to distract you from living Christ. If you feel you have to berate your husband to get him to “wake up” spiritually, beware! You’re stepping into Holy Spirit territory. Be your husband’s prayer partner and ask the Lord to show you how to love him as “unto the Lord.” Know when you are to say something and when you are to be quiet. Just because it comes to mind to say something—it doesn’t mean we should. Pray, and let God lead you in this.
Your Spiritual Responsibility
As you interact with your spouse it’s your (and my) responsibility to do what we’re told in 1 Peter 3:8-9:
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.“
We pray that each of you will be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in carrying out your spiritual responsibilities.
Above All, Remember:
“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 power forever and ever. Amen.“ (1 Peter 4:11)
This IS your spiritual responsibility within your marriage.
Steve and Cindy Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
We give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below to do so:
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