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DON’T LET YOUR BIBLE STUDY HURT YOUR MARRIAGE
“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Marge knocked on my counseling door. She was in tears. She just finished her weekly women’s Bible study. The deep dive into God’s Word was exhilarating, and the fellowship with her friends was refreshing. But Marge was in tears.
Quizzically, I could not connect her tears with her “time with God” and friends. Then she asked, “Would you talk to my husband?” Seven syllables. It spoke volumes.
Marge spent a few hours each Tuesday at their church building watching a video from a famous woman speaker on random Bible topics. At some point during her Bible study, Marge started thinking that something was missing in her life. What she perceived as good–her Bible study–was becoming an unpleasant reminder of something unsatisfying about her marriage. In a moment of clarity, she realized her Bible study and friends had subtly become her surrogate husband, mentor, friend, confidant.
Marge was not saying her Bible study was unbiblical. No, not at all. However, it was becoming clear to her that this “fantastic weekly event” had morphed into a sub-biblical context that caused her to forget about the leadership role of her husband and the complementarian responsibilities that he has to help them pursue God together.
Biff was not leading Marge spiritually, particularly in the most important way a man should serve his wife: in her pursuit of God. Though Marge had no plans or biblical mandate to stop her Bible study, the Lord was gently pressing her consciousness to change the spiritual dearth in their marriage.
Studying the Bible with friends is not wrong. The problem that Marge was perceiving was how the study of the Bible and the context that was spurring her toward holiness was happening within the context of her secondary relationships rather than her primary human relationship.
She was benefiting from participating in the Bible study, but her good times with close friends highlighted her marital loneliness. Her spiritual maturation in secondary relationships exacerbated the dysfunction of her primary relationship.
Thus, Marge stood in my office crying.
The Bible makes a clear case for a husband to love his wife the way he loves himself and that the wife should respect her husband. These are not either/or callings, but both/and. What better way can a man love his wife than by spiritually leading her? Why motivate her to pursue secondary relationships for primary care, or make it difficult for her to respect her husband?
Seeking supplemental discipleship contexts is smart and wise, but nothing should replace conjugal koinonia. Bible studies can complement a person’s spiritual growth just like a book, a weblog, or a good “secondary” friend, but the issue for Marge was not her supplemental contexts.
Marge’s problem was her husband’s disconnectedness from what the LORD was doing in her life. Her struggle is similar to parents who delegate the spiritual guidance of their children to the local church.
Marge’s friends were more intimate with and knowledgeable of her than Biff was. Marge had a clearly torn one flesh union. Half of her one flesh was spiritually alive, while the other part was spiritually disconnected. If this were her physical body, she would be on her death bed.
Perhaps your “go to” secondary relationship that refreshes your soul is not a Bible study with friends like it was for Marge. Maybe your closest camaraderie is with your buddies from work or your favorite social media outlet. Maybe it’s your children, a passionate hobby, or sports.
Secondary relationships that make you feel better do not have to be wrong. They can be a mistake if they keep the husband from loving his wife and the wife from respecting her husband.
Is your spouse your best spiritual friend? If not, will you start asking God to change you and your spouse? Do not let anything tear away at your one flesh union.