Happy Holidays. It can be the best of times. It can be the worst of times. It’s an especially hard time if the ones closest to you are struggling. I was talking with a wise woman this week (mother, grandmother, and former pastor’s wife) who suggested I write a post about helping hurting husbands. This is a subject I suspect will resonate with many of you. There is much teaching now on strong male leadership in the church and home. If effort isn’t made in a book or sermon to carefully parse the doctrine of sanctification, distinguishing between the image of God to which we are being conformed and the realities of our depravity until we are glorified, a woman can become very discouraged by the nebulous image of Joe Christian Dude, pastor dad, leading his family from a position of strength and power, constant in character in the marathon Christian walk. The truth is that that caricature of the overcoming Christian man is just that … a caricature. He doesn’t exist. Or actually he does exist, but only in one single person, the perfect man Christ Jesus. For ALL other men, he may be the goal, but he is not the reality. Get that, ladies – even the pastors who seem like that guy, the ones that you secretly wish you’d married, do NOT have it together like that. Godly men may be somewhere along that journey, but none of them have arrived.
(And please note that this is not an article of disrespect to husbands. We are called to respect and submit to this very man in cooperation with God’s work to transform him into His image in Christ.)
God created the first woman to be a “helper suitable” to her male counterpart. But it is important to note that the Hebrew word for help is much stronger than our English term. When you think of “the help”, you may envision a maid, butler, or cook standing to the side waiting for a master of power and authority to give some order. If that’s your idea of what it means to be a helper suitable to your husband, you have missed the Biblical meaning of the term. Instead, think of the Man of Sorrows carrying His cross toward Gethsemene. As He stumbles, Simon of Cyrene steps in to carry it with (or for) Him. This is a much closer picture of the Biblical concept of Help. It’s not a maid. It’s more like a crutch. It’s not a mindless sidekick waiting on an order. It’s Morpheus or Trinity to the Matrix’s Neo. The Hebrew word is strong.
Consider again the Hebrew word translated helper at the first mention of the first woman in Genesis 2:18. We absolutely must let Scripture and not preconceived notions from our culture guide our thinking on the meaning of this term. The Hebrew word translated “helper” is ezer, meaning to help, nourish, sustain, or strengthen. It’s used in the Old Testament of God Himself, as in Deuteronomy 33:29.
Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places.
Ezer is used 21 times in the Old Testament, 16 of which are descriptions of God Himself. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is also called our Helper, Counselor, and Comforter (depending on which translation of the Bible you use—these are all translations of the Holy Spirit’s role of “paraklete”, or one who comes alongside in help.) God Himself is the greatest example to us of what He is calling us to do in fulfillment of this term.
So let’s consider God’s example on this issue of Help. In Exodus 18:4, God our Help defends (in contrast to attacking or ignoring the fight altogether). In Psalm 10:14 God our Help sees and cares for the oppressed (rather than being indifferent and unconcerned). In Psalm 20:2 and 33:20, God our Help supports, shields and protects (rather than leaving unprotected and defenseless). In Psalms 70:5, God our Help delivers from distress (rather than causing distress). In Psalm 72:12-14, God our Help rescues the poor, weak, and needy (rather than ignoring the poor and needy). And in Psalm 86:17, God our Help comforts (rather than causing discomfort or avoiding altogether).
God’s example reveals a high and worthy calling for wives as “helpers suitable to their husbands”. We are not glorified maids, butlers, or cooks simply waiting on an order to perform from a master. This is not God’s example of help at all!! We are called to show compassion, to support, defend and protect, to deliver from distress and to comfort, to bear burdens and sometimes hold up as a crutch. We are called to be conduits of God’s grace in our homes. We are called to be like Christ.
Don’t despair over respecting, submitting to, or helping a wounded husband. Don’t think that these instructions only work for wives of Joe Pastor Dad who has it all together. It is for this very moment that God intended you to come along side in quiet strength to support, uphold, and encourage your husband (often without words). If your husband is hurting, THIS is the time God has prepared for you. Be an ezer to him – helping him, sustaining him, strengthening him, and nourishing him as God does for you.