Archive | marriage

Discovering Jesus behind the Trash Can

This excerpt from Paul Miller’s, A Praying Life, was poignant to me, both in terms of marriage and raising my children.  

Imagine that Sue’s husband, Joe, takes out the trash every Tuesday. It’s his job. Last week he forgot to take it out , and then again this week. He’s usually good about taking out the trash, but Sue tells him, “Honey, you forgot to take the trash out agin.” She says again with emphasis and more than a little irritation.

What’s behind her irritation? Why does she feel compelled to add a twist to the word again? Because it is a hassle to take out the trash. It makes her late for work. If she doesn’t say again, then her husband will keep forgetting. If he doesn’t see that this is becoming a pattern, she’ll be taking out the trash for the rest of her life.

Notice Sue’s underlying assumption: “It all depends on me. If I don’t show him, no one else will.” God is absent from her thinking: consequently she believes it’s up to her to make her husband hear her words. If he doesn’t, she fears she’ll be swallowed up by his forgetfulness. … She refuses to accept the possibility of endlessly taking out the trash on Tuesdays. It is unacceptable.

Sue is in charge of her life, determined to make her kingdom pain free. Even if she prayed, prayer would just be another weapon in her arsenal of control. God would likely disappoint her, and she’d end up bitter at both her husband and God. Ironically, self-will often becomes a self defeating prophecy. The berated spouse pulls back; he not only stops taking out the trash, but he also stops opening up his heart.

Self-will and prayer are both ways of getting things done. At the center of self will is me, carving a world in my image, but at the center of prayer is God, carving me in his Son’s image.

It never occurs to Sue that God might want her to take out the trash for the rest of her life, because to do so would mean she is letting her husband take advantage of her. But isn’t Jesus endlessly taking out the church’s trash? Isn’t this action another way of loving an enemy?

What would happen if Sue puts off self-will? She doesn’t know.  How will God intervene in her husband’s life? What does God want to do in her life? What beams will she discover in her own eye? Forgiving her husband would mean losing control.

If Sue surrenders her self-will, she will join Abraham walking up Mount Moriah with Isaac. She will join David as he puts down his knife when Saul is within his reach in the cave. Sue is abiding. She has lost control of the story.

When Sue shifts from self-will to a prayer fellowship, it feels scary, as if she is jumping over air. In fact, she is leaving the unstable foundation of her own self-will and entering the stability of God. She is living out the prayer, your kingdom come, your will be done. Instead of trying to create her own story, Sue will be content to let God write his story. If her husband’s forgetfulness turns into a habit, she’ll be drawn into deeper prayer fellowship. The trash is likely the tip of the iceberg in his life. He might have issues of self-will, laziness, or just plain selfishness. Sue will have fewer words for her husband and more words for God. She’ll also reflect on her own heart. Are there any areas of her life where she does the same thing? She’ll discover Jesus on the other side of the trash can.

Reflections on 12 Years of Marriage: Faith, Hope, and Love … But the Greatest of These is Love

My pastor joked in a recent sermon that he had been married for 14 years, which his wife referred to as the best 10 years of her life. I can identify. We’ve had 12 years of marriage, maybe 8 of which have been the best years of my life and 4 of which were the toughest (and not necessarily consecutively). I have certainly learned that marriage is not the end all of the Christian woman’s life. It’s not the place to rest, to find fulfillment, and so forth. Instead, marriage is the tool God uses to move me toward the end all for the Christian woman’s life – rooting out my sin and conforming me to Christ. It’s painful and hard when sin is exposed through marriage. I HATE those times. But it is beautiful and glorious when sin is addressed and reconciliation occurs. I LOVE those moments – those miracles of God’s grace that bring balance and equilibrium back to the marriage relationship. Marriage is a constant tension between the two. Though I hate having sin exposed, I love the results of being conformed to the image of Christ. Along that journey, here are few very crucial Bible truths that have made all the difference.

First, I can never meditate too long or too hard on the Biblical characteristics of love in I Corinthians 13. The term love in our culture is such a wimpy, needy word. But Biblical love is strong. Love suffers long, love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, love isn’t resentful, love is ever ready to believe the best and give the benefit of the doubt. That last characteristic has become one of the most important ones to me. I have often assumed the worst of my husband and watched the light leave his eyes under my accusation. It’s never a good idea to assume anything in marriage. Ask straightforward questions if you need an answer. Don’t “read into” his answers (or lack thereof). Ask him what he means. In the early moments of a potentially serious conflict, I have come to respect the tremendous practical value of being ever ready to believe the best of this one to whom you are called to love as God himself commands. It can diffuse a conflict that may explode otherwise.

Second, grace beats the heck out of manipulation or guilt in terms of facilitating real reconciliation and change. Men are different from women, and it’s taken me years to fully understand how profound those differences are. Conflicts, some real and some just misunderstandings, are inevitable. Maturity is not that you stop having conflicts. Maturity is realizing how Biblically to handle conflicts. People think of grace as a wimpy laying down of your rights that makes you a doormat. But the truth is that while grace is definitely laying down your rights and not repaying in kind, if you do it from a position of strength in Christ, you are anything but a doormat. And grace is POWERFUL – it is miraculously life changing.

Paul’s closing words of I Corinthians 13 are particularly poignant as I look back on all Christ has taught me through marriage thus far. There is faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. Faith is key – when conflict or trial arises, I have to call on all I know of the character of God. He exists, and He rewards those who diligently seek Him. He is in control, He loves His children, and He knows what He’s doing. Confidence in that is faith, and it is vital to my marriage. Next is hope. So many days the sustaining thought that causes me to persevere is that when I sit with Jesus in heaven I will NOT be disappointed. Whatever the disappointments in my marriage in this moment, my hope is God’s promise that long term, I will not be disappointed. But of faith, hope, and love, only love endures for eternity. Once I’m with Jesus face to face, I will have no need for faith or hope. But for eternity I will love. Each day as I practice the choices that reflect I Corinthians 13 kind of love with my husband, I am practicing for eternity.
God has been very kind to me in the gift of my husband. My husband sacrificially loves me as Christ does His church. I thank God for him daily. But marriage still disappoints me regularly, and there are an infinite number of things over which to conflict and sin against each other. So I praise God today for His gifting from His Word with precious tools for enduring when marriage isn’t fun or fulfilling and the miraculous way Biblical love and grace transform situations that seem utterly unredeemable. Viewing my marriage through the lens of the gospel has been life changing. The gospel does indeed change everything, even marriage.


I am intrigued by the Scripture’s controversial words to women. I believe we can take Scripture at face value, and I guard myself against writing off any Scripture, no matter how hard its instructions sound. I know if I allow myself to write off the things I find hard, I open the door to writing off the things that I find precious and life giving as well. But I know the society I live in, especially Christian society. Left to themselves without proper checks and balances, authorities always tend to over reach and abuse. It’s their fallen nature. So what do I do with the Bible’s straightforward instructions to wives?

Ephesians 5:33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:33 in particular has some of the most inflaming instructions to women in all of Scripture. Paul has just used the same Greek word for respect, phobeo, in verse 21, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The Greek word means to fear, reverence, venerate, or treat with deference or reverential obedience. Just in case you didn’t find the term respect itself controversial enough, consider how the Amplified Bible words this verse.

33… let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly].

If you are a woman with any sense of pride, your body probably tenses with dread in the pit of your stomach as you read these words, perhaps in part because you know that you make better decisions than your husband. What if you do? What if you can document that your decision-making skills are more mature and biblical than his? Does that make it unreasonable to expect you to respect your husband? Which comes first—respect or respectability? I remember well an illustration given by an education professor during my undergraduate studies. He told of a junior high math teacher who, on the first day of class, mistook her students’ locker numbers for their IQ’s. For the entire school year, she treated the students as if they were only as smart as their locker numbers indicated. Sure enough, at the end of the year, they had consistently lived either up or down to her expectations.

This illustration reflects well the issue at hand. If we wait until our husbands meet some subjective standard we have set for earning our respect, we will never respect them. I would be quite offended if my husband chose to not love me until I met some external criteria for being lovable. The same should be true of my respect toward him.

Surprisingly enough, I did not personally have that much of a problem with the concept of submitting to my husband. But respect was much harder. I could submit and still harbor anger and bitterness. I could still put out the vibe that says, “I am disappointed in your decision-making skills.” In fact, submission without respect let me live in a delusion of self-righteousness. “I am submitting, but I do not think you know what you are doing, and I am going to continue to let you know that I do not trust you with my attitude, even though, technically, I am submitting on this issue.” Submission does not equal respect. And submission without respect brings NO honor to God. Why would God command the combination of the two?

If you have not yet read the first three chapters of For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn, I highly recommend that you do. She has well illustrated God’s wisdom in giving us the command to respect our husbands. God is the master psychologist who better understands the male/female psyche than we have any hope of comprehending, especially when it comes to the issue of respecting our husbands. The bottom line is that our husbands need our respect every bit as much as we need their love. Respect is my husband’s love language. But how can we respect someone if we have deemed them unworthy of our respect? This leads back to our earlier question. Which comes first—respect or respectability? We must remember that this is God’s command to wives, and God has already well earned our obedience. God has earned our respect. So we treat our husbands with deference, honoring the position in the home to which God has called them out of our respect for God.

Even if our spouse abdicates his responsibilities, when we honor him as God intended him to be, not as he is now, we are being salt and light in our homes, powerfully influencing our husbands, not by nagging and manipulating, but by humble submission to God’s design. If you want a husband you can one-day respect, I highly recommend you start treating him that way now. A godly wife’s respect for her husband despite his fallen nature and tendency toward sin is a powerful tool of God to minister grace to her husband and transform him to what God intended him to be.

Sure, you may have a more logical, systematic argument for which car you should purchase. And certainly you should make that argument. But understand too when your argument stops being for your idea and against, maybe even mocking, his. Most importantly, recognize that your husband’s conformity to God’s image is more important than that car, and God’s purposes in your marriage extend WAY past the earthly circumstances that will consume us if we let them. The car is irrelevant. Your husband’s heart and conformity to Christ are not. And your respect is apparently in God’s sight a valuable piece of the puzzle in terms of conformity back to the image of God for both you and your husband.

When read in context of all of Ephesians 5, we see that our calling is not unfair. Simply put—like our husbands, we are called to be like Christ—to submit our will, humble ourselves, and take on the form of a servant in our homes. Christ is both our model and our source of strength to obey on this matter. Do you trust God’s plan on this matter? Do you trust His Word? Do you trust His wisdom, sovereignty, and compassion? Are you offended that God calls you to be a servant like Christ? That He asks you to humble yourself by treating your husband with respect? If you are struggling with respect and submission, start by dealing not with your views of your husband, but with your views of God Himself. You can trust God with the details of your daily life. Rest in Him for He is worthy.

Helping Wounded Husbands

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.

Dealing with Our Husband’s Job Problems

In the current economic setting, many of us are struggling with the loss of jobs, reduction of income, and more general stress in the workplace as employers require more of employees with no added compensation. As a follow up to the post on being a safe place for our husbands to share their burdens, I wanted to share some practical wisdom I’ve learned the hard way about walking with my husband during a hard time with his job (or lack of job).

First of all, have you personally struggled with infertility or miscarriage? If so, you are uniquely equipped now to better understand your husband’s burdens with his job. If you haven’t struggled with child bearing issues, try to think about how you would feel if you had — if all your friends were easily getting pregnant and telling you what worked for them but none of it worked for you. If your vision for your future involved raising children but you realized your powerlessness to accomplish that on your own. In my own experience, I found very clear parallels between my struggles with fears and insecurities when I confronted the fact I may not be able to have children and my husband’s emotional struggles when faced with unemployment and job insecurity.

First, I internalized my fears with infertility in a very different way than my husband. He does the same with his job concerns. If he lectured me on why I shouldn’t be so concerned about having children, that God is good, and His timing is perfect, it would seem slightly hollow to me as he didn’t struggle with it with the way I did. Similarly, I needed to respect the fact that my husband internalized job insecurities differently than me and THAT WAS OK. Lectures for him to come around to my way of thinking on it just weren’t fair. Instead, I needed to listen to(not lecture) him when he felt like talking and respect his silence when he didn’t.

One thing I noted when I was struggling with infertility was that advice on what to do and things to try was helpful at times. At other times, it just added a weight to an already overtaxing burden. Similarly, during the near year my husband was unemployed, he was glad to try most any and everything anyone suggested. More on his resume. Less on his resume. Try this company. Try that company. But there came a point when every good suggestion he was given didn’t produce any fruit. And he needed a definite break from well meaning advice on what to try next.

Ultimately, with both my getting pregnant and him getting a job, God did it in His way in His good time, not because of the good effort we had put into it but in SPITE of our efforts. My encouragement isn’t to lay back and do nothing. But I also respect our need to sit quietly with someone with no pressure from us to try something new. Sometimes, they just need to sit, take a breath, and not think about it for a while. And it’s helpful for them to be around someone who respects this need.

So my advice is this — Don’t lecture him. Do listen to him. Don’t pressure. Do encourage when the time is right (and not by your agenda but the Spirit’s prompting). Don’t despair. Do empathize.

His job issues will strike at the heart of your need for security as well. You will need to be completely confident in the good hand of your sovereign, compassionate, and all wise God at work for your family if you want to be strong and quietly available to your spouse in this season. God is in control. He loves You. And He knows what He’s doing. Trust Him so that you can be a safe place for your husband.

The Heart of Her Husband Safely Trusts in Her

Prov. 31 (NAS) 10An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. 11The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.

The virtuous wife. She is the seemingly impossible standard that for generations has hung over the heads of Christian women who care. First, let me say boldly that I think the NAS is correct when it translates this as the excellent WIFE as opposed to translations that call it the excellent or virtuous WOMAN. The word can mean either wife or woman, but the subsequent descriptions all center around wifely duties. Many godly Christian women never marry despite their desire to do so, and they do not lose their hope of being an excellent, virtuous Christian woman because of this state. Proverbs 31 is a particular description of a particular role—what does it look like to reflect the image of Christ as a wife in the home?

The very first descriptive trait of the virtuous wife deals with the heart of her husband. She is a SAFE PLACE for his heart.

Amplified Bible 11The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her securely, so that he has no lack of [honest] gain or need of [dishonest] spoil.

The Hebrew word for heart is leb, meaning inner man, heart, understanding, mind, will, and so forth. This is our husband’s inner place where he holds his hopes and fears, dreams and worries, desires and burdens. The Hebrew word for trust is batach, meaning to trust in, have confidence in, be secure with, to feel safe with, to be careless with. When you put them together, the excellent wife is a safe place for her husband to let down his guard and be honest about his inner burdens and struggles. He can be careless in what he reveals of himself because he has confidence in his security with his wife.

This is convicting to me every time I read it, because instead of being the safe place that my husband can let down his guard, I usually feel threatened. Like Jack Nicholson says in A Few Good Men, I “can’t handle the truth.” If he lets down his guard about insecurities at work, my fears bubble up over job security and paying our bills. If he lets his guard down about problems in the church, I feel threatened over my future ministry. If he lets his guard down about issues in our home, I worry that our marriage is going to fall apart. If he shares concerns about his health, I’m afraid of what I’m going to do if he dies. When my response to his heart is fear, worry, self-condemnation, and worst case scenarios, you know what his response will be every time? He’ll shut up!

The end of Proverbs 31:11 gives an interesting consequence. A husband who can trust his heart with his wife has no need for dishonest spoil. Now, you can apply that in a myriad of practical ways. I think the big idea is that more than keeping an attractive figure, a clean house, good sex, or whatever, a wife can protect her marriage best by being a safe, secure place for her husband to let down his guard.

As someone who has a quiet husband and who has often squandered the opportunities I’ve been given to be a safe place for his heart, here are some practical tips for being an excellent wife.

1) Be secure in Christ. You MUST have confidence in the sovereign hand of your wise, compassionate Heavenly Father. There is no other way you can handle your husband’s concerns and insecurities. Traditionally, our husbands are the place women find (or at least try to find) their security. That will NEVER work, and I submit it was never God’s intention that women find their security in their husbands. Instead, we find our security in our Father, and only then can we become a safe place for our husband’s insecurities.

2) When that rare moment opens that your husband offers a tiny glimpse into his inner man, stop what you are doing and pay attention. Shut your mouth. Listen. Ask a moderate follow up question. Don’t give advice. Let him safely, securely, CARELESSLY share with you his inner concerns, fears, successes, and dreams.

I have been thankful for this first instruction in Proverbs 31 concerning the excellent wife. It has brought much clarity to my relationship with my husband. I hope meditating on it will be helpful to you today as well.

Marriage to a Difficult Man

How Knowing God Makes a Difference in our Marriages.

Marriage to a Difficult Man is the title of the biography of Sarah Edwards, the wife of the great theologian Jonathan Edwards. I am stuck on that title (I never finished the book itself) because I think of Jonathan Edwards as a great man of God, not a particularly difficult man. My husband once joked with me that would be a good title for my life, though he suggested that the emphasis should be placed on marriage rather than the man, as in Difficult Marriage to a Man. We laughed, but honestly, it was kind of true. I’m married to a complicated man. The funny thing is that I had an elder’s wife joke with me that it could be the title of her biography as well. And I started noting a trend. I am married to a wise and loving man. My friend, the elder’s wife, has a wise, faithful, loving husband. And from reading Jonathan Edwards’ writings, I surmise that he was a man of great wisdom who loved God deeply. And, yet, we have all experienced difficult, complicated relationships with our spouse. But maybe it is not that these are particularly difficult men—though they certainly seem difficult to us. Maybe there is something deeper going on that makes it all so difficult.

For me, marriage was the first place I came to recognize that every reasonable person in the world doesn’t think exactly like I do. It was a great, humbling revelation. Applying myself to understand how my husband approaches issues without condemning him for thinking differently than me has been a 10-year battle. Until I got married and my husband rejected (very politely) my favorite seafood casserole, it never occurred to me that every reasonable person doesn’t necessarily like casseroles. I was threatened that he didn’t find my favorite meals particularly appetizing. Who would have thought it would be so hard to readjust how I thought about cooking? There is no place we tend to be more egocentric than our homes, no place where we are more threatened as women by someone who thinks differently than us.

Marriage threatened things in which I found a false sense of security. And when I was threatened, my reaction was to label my husband “difficult”. He is definitely a sinner. But so am I. The easy road is to blame him. The better road is to examine myself. What has God called me to be in my home? Am I reflecting God’s image in my responses toward my husband? Or have I replaced security in God’s plan for me with false sources of security that inevitably fail?

I know from Genesis 2:18 that God has called me to be a HELPER to my husband. Okay. Fine. But I’m egocentric in even how I define the term “help”. I want to help him the way I THINK HE NEEDS HELP. I want to make him the dinners I want to make him. I want to buy him clothes that I want to buy him. I want to decorate our house the way I want to decorate it. I want to give unsolicited advice that I think he needs. And then I make him feel guilty if he doesn’t respond in flowing gratitude for the “help” I gave him. But that kind of help is so self-centered, it is worthless to the person I think I am helping. I wouldn’t take a roast dinner to a family of vegetarians or buy a Barbie doll for the new parents of a baby boy. But that’s kind of how my egocentric view of helping my husband comes across at times. Instead, I have had to learn to help my husband in the ways HE truly finds helpful. And there is a BIG difference in the two. Here’s a practical piece of advice that may seem obvious: ASK YOUR HUSBAND WHAT HE WOULD FIND HELPFUL. Then ask him an even tougher question—WHAT DO I DO IN OUR HOUSE THAT IS NOT HELPFUL? And instead of pouting because he hurt your feelings, really listen to his answer and give him the freedom to be honest.

I’ve been studying how we as women are made in the image of God, and how understanding the image of God prepares us to embrace our role in marriage. Consider the first mention of the first woman in Scripture.

Genesis 2 18The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

If you don’t know God, His Names, and His character, then hearing that woman was created to be some man’s helper is going to sound incredibly condescending and substandard to you. “I’m called to be Help?! That sounds like some 18th century plantation snob referring to their servants. I’m not the Help.” But before we adopt that attitude, we need to let Scripture and not preconceived notions from our culture guide our thinking on this. The Hebrew word translated “helper” is ezer, meaning to help, nourish, sustain, or strengthen. It’s used often in the Old Testament of GOD HIMSELF. Consider Deuteronomy 33:29.

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.”

God Himself here is called our helper, our ezer, the same word used of the first woman in Gen. 2. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is also called our Helper (depending on which translation of the Bible you use, this is the translation of the Greek word “paraklete” or one who comes alongside in aid.) God is our Help. The Holy Spirit is our Helper. When we understand God’s role on this issue, it puts this in perspective. God, Almighty Sovereign Lord of the Universe, is our helper and we, as women, are created in His image. If we hold on to the attitude that being created as a helper is condescending and substandard, we mock the Name of God and His character, for the role of Helper is one God willingly embraces. Christ says in Matthew 10:25 that it is enough for the disciple to be as his master and the servant as his Lord. There is no greater glory for a woman than to be conformed to God’s image on this issue.

So let’s consider God’s example as our Help. Do you see yourself exhibiting God’s characteristics or the contrasting ones? 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 being the cause of the 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 called to show compassion, to support, defend and protect those in our care, to deliver from distress and to comfort. We are called to be like God Himself.

Often, instead of following God’s example on this, I become the very person from whom my husband feels he needs to protect himself. Rather than expecting compassion and support, he tenses as he enters my presence expecting condemnation and criticism. It’s been painful to see this about myself, but self-delusion is even worse.

Proverbs 21 9 Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

I have found there is a very fine line between being the “Helper Suitable” for the needs of the man as God intended and being the Contentious/Quarrelsome wife of Proverbs 21. Consider our spiritual heritage, beginning with Eve. In Genesis 3, Eve, created to be the helper who complemented her husband, believed Satan’s lies rather than God’s truth, and instead of being the help to her husband God intended, she “helped” Adam right into the fall of man.

Later, in Genesis 15, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. In the next chapter, his wife Sarah is barren and manipulates Abraham into getting her servant pregnant. Then, after giving her servant to Abraham and talking him into sleeping with her, Sarah gets bitter at Abraham for the whole situation. Sarah didn’t trust God’s promises, took matters into her own hands, nagged her husband into doing her will, and then was bitter with him over the consequences.

We see this pattern throughout the women of Genesis. In Genesis 27, Rebekah manipulates circumstances in her home, getting her son to trick her husband into giving his blessing to her favorite of their children. In Genesis 30, Rachel and Leah have a fertility war. Rather than looking to the ways they could help, nourish, and protect in their homes, they manipulate every factor they can to see who can have the most sons. They have no trust in God’s Hand to provide for them. And just in case we aren’t yet convinced of the pattern, Genesis 38 gives us the story of Tamar, who manipulates her father-in-law into thinking she’s a prostitute and sleeping with her so that she will have an heir. These women weren’t helps–they were nagging manipulators intent on taking matters into their own hands because they didn’t trust God with their husbands or their situation.

Now, nothing I have said to this point should be mistaken as placing the sole blame for these circumstances upon the women in these stories. Each of the men seriously abdicated their responsibilities. Judah, in particular, certainly set Tamar up for failure, and even commends her after the fact for being more righteous than he. But for our purposes right now, the errors of the men are NOT our focus. God has called husbands to serious responsibility and accountability, and I’m always tempted to focus on others’ responsibilities. It’s easier to hear in a message what my husband needs to do and then watch like an Olympic judge to see if he does it by a specified time. But that’s a destructive mental path that I should not follow. Whether my husband is meeting his obligations or not, that does not excuse me from meeting mine.

So, our spiritual heritage is made up of women who twisted their role as helpers suitable for their husbands and became manipulators who sought to control circumstances out of their distrust of God. The word “manipulate” comes from the Latin for hand. It means to influence, manage, or control to one’s advantage by artful, subtle, or indirect means, i. e. taking things into our own hands. Contrast this with faith. Faith is confidence in a person or plan, a confident belief in the truth, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. The question we must ask ourselves as Christian wives is do we TRUST GOD in our marriages? Do we have confidence in God’s plan and His trustworthiness? Or do we believe, that to protect our interests in marriage, we have to manipulate circumstances, taking things into OUR OWN HANDS?

When I am fearful of accepting my God-given role of helper, I really need to deal with what I think about God, not what I think about my husband. Do I believe God’s Word is trustworthy? Do I trust Him to protect me? Do I trust that His plan for my life is the best? Do I fear that my circumstances have spiraled out of His control? Do I believe He is sovereign? Bottom line–what do I believe about the character, trustworthiness and effectiveness of God and His plan for my life?

Despite our fallen spiritual heritage as women, I find great hope in God’s ability to redeem sinners. Consider the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1.

Matthew 1

2Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar…
Tamar, who tricked Judah into sleeping with her in Genesis, is greatly honored by being one of only 3 women mentioned in the lineage of Christ. And Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, says of Sarah, that “11By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.” The last we heard of Sarah and Tamar in Genesis was pretty negative. And yet, in the New Testament, we see God honoring them as a result of His transforming power in their lives. In particular, Sarah goes from being the woman known for manipulating her husband into sleeping with her maid to being commended for her faith in God to fulfill His promises. That is redemption! And we too have the hope of God’s power to transform us from women who take matters into our own hands out of distrust of God’s plan into women who, in the image of God, help, strengthen, and support our husbands, trusting God in the role He has given us.