Deadbeat Husband – Wife Left to Ponder Her Future

Member Question – I’m trying to help a wife figure out what to do with her future. She’s working on her marriage but wants to be used by God in ministry. And she desires to make money. What advice do you have for me?

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You’re asking three different questions that I would call marriage, ministry, and money. I’ll interact with them individually as well as the critical overlap. Afterward, I’ll give you a few more practical thoughts.

First of all, I recommend she put these categories in order of priority. The most important of these is the first one–her marriage. While she should not be passive about ministry or money, there is no doubt that her marriage is of primary importance.

Marriage

The covenantal union between a man and a woman is the most significant relationship a person can have, outside of their relationship with Christ. The Bible puts a high priority on marriage (Ephesians 5:21-31).

I have written extensively on marriage, as well as divorce. I recommend that you help this wife sharpen her perspective on their covenantal union. There must be an “all-hands-on-deck” mindset when it comes to their marriage.

This biblical response means the church must be involved in the restoration and ongoing maturing of her marriage. I’ll not interact more regarding her marriage because you can peruse our resources on this vital subject: husbands, wives, repentance.

Select one of these topics or go to our search box and type something that comes to mind. Also, consider providing these relevant articles as homework assignments for her and her husband.

Ministry

She is already in ministry. This call to ministry is part of every Christian’s life. She is a minister of the gospel. Make sure she understands this while guarding her heart against the modern thinking that ministry is only a program within a church, para-church construct, or mission field.

I say this because she may be limiting the options that God wants to offer her. She should be ministering to herself and to her husband daily. Taking care of herself and her marriage are her first two ministry opportunities.

Some individuals have a narrow understanding of ministry, as though it is a job “out there somewhere.” There are dangers in narrowing the idea of ministry to a vocation. Seeking the kingdom of God first begins in your life and closest relationships. If you’re not doing these things first, you’re at the wrong starting point.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33

Money

As for making money, the first thing to know is that the Lord will take care of her. He always does, though it may be in ways that she does not anticipate. If she is anxious about His sovereign provision, you’ll need to do some biblical exploring inside her heart.

There is a tendency within all of us to be self-reliant. This wife is not an exception. I suspect you can take a historical look at her life and see a large sample size of God’s faithful provision. He has provided, and He will do so in the future.

I’m not sure of her specific situation, especially the condition of her marriage and how it might play out practically, so let me suggest three possible scenarios that could approximate her life and marriage.

  • Her husband is not making enough money to cover their expenses.
  • Her husband is not trying to make enough money, hence the “deadbeat” label.
  • They are on the verge of divorce, and she is looking into a scary future.

Her specific situation will determine the course of action she needs to consider. Regarding the ones I’ve mentioned, there are two things to consider: financial counseling and church involvement.

Perhaps her husband is not interested in helping his wife walk through these issues. If not, you will need to guide her regarding financial counseling. And there can come a time when a husband functionally disqualifies himself from leading his wife. In such cases, the church must step up to help the family.

The church is a sanctification center for God’s children, and if the husband is not stepping up to his leadership responsibilities, the church should insert itself into the marriage.

Steward the Suffering

If they are willing to restore their marriage and the husband will lead in this process, you are left with finding her a place to serve outside their home.

It is possible that this wife is uncertain her marriage is going to make it, and she is fearful she will be left alone, without an ability to provide for her future. If this is the case, you must compassionately reorient her faith back to God.

Our innate tendency is not to trust God. It is easier to think like Adam rather than Christ. You’ll have to continue to reorient her mind back to God’s perseverance (Philippians 1:6). He will see her through this struggle.

As you talk to her, make sure she has a robust theology of God’s sovereignty as well as an understanding of how the Lord uses personal suffering to guide His children.

It is not beyond the scope of God’s plans to use suffering as a means to move His children to where He wants them to be. In 1988 my wife of nine years left me. That decision was the single most devastating event of my life.

I had no idea at the time that God was using that event to shape me into the person that I am today. Salvation is what made me His child, but it was His heavy hand upon me in the crucible of suffering that shaped my sanctification.

Make sure she does not miss the work of God in her life as He shapes her in the crucible of suffering. Sometimes over-anxiousness that motivates self-reliant efforts obscure the work of God in our lives.

The Pragmatic Present

Perhaps she needs to get a job, which is a straightforward, pragmatic response to her circumstances. If she is working on everything that I have said thus far, then help her find a job.

This real and practical need in her life is why I would not narrow her options to finding only a ministry job. She can “do ministry,” and she should be doing it now. Do not have a self-limiting perspective. Find work. Do what you have to do to bring income home.

During this terrible season of my life when I lost my family and my job, I went to several temporary agencies and put my name in their hats. I rarely knew until the night before if I would be working the next day.

I spent one summer picking up aluminum cans from ditches to sell them to make money. Though it was hard and I would never want to go back to those days, I can see how God ordered my steps and shaped my mind. Those were painfully redemptive days.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

The Future Ministry

Her “future ministry” is part of a journey that she is “currently living.” If she is pursuing God most of all, rest assured He is guiding her to the place where she will be able to spread His fame. I could not serve God the way I serve Him today without walking down that path of suffering so many years ago.

I suspect Joseph had similar thoughts. A Jewish family reared him in Israel, but God was calling him to another country, to live among a different kind of people. It’s essential she understands that stewarding today’s suffering well sets the stage for future ministry. Good wine takes time.

And make sure she is not thinking about a predetermined, final destination. It is way too early. She is not yet out of God’s school of hard knocks. James said that when we drive a stake down on what our future must be, it is arrogance.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:13-17

Assessing the Wife

Thus far I have talked about (1) restoring her marriage at all costs, (2) making sure there is church involvement, (3) finding a job if it is necessary, (4) learn and mature from the suffering.

If these four aspects of her life are biblically in process, she should be thinking about the special ministry passion she would like to do with her life. The first thing I would tell her is that it’s rare for a person to do the vocation that they are gifted to do.

Most people work a job to provide for their families, and they do the thing they love to do as a side hobby. I’m not sure how this will work out for her. Only God can answer that question. Nevertheless, she needs to give some thought to the thing she wants to do most of all.

She must hold her dreams loosely. God may or may not give her precisely what she wants, but He will give her exactly what He wants her to possess. If she forces the issue by exerting her self-will in spite of what God may desire for her, it will not go well.

This self-reliant reaction is a common mistake people make. For example, they err in their choice of marriage partners. They don’t listen to wisdom but charge ahead only to live a life of broken expectations. We can do this with our job choices too. With these things in mind, here are three considerations.

Gifting – What is the thing that she is good at doing? Let her not be the only judge of my question. What do other people say she is good at doing? Who are the people in her life who will shoot straight with her?

For example, there are a lot of people who want to become a counselor because they have gone through a traumatic experience and they want to help others. Though their desire is wonderful, they do not have the skill-set to become a formalized, biblical counselor.

They may be a good friend, but they don’t have the analytical ability, stamina, wisdom, courage, and other necessary elements to interact with top-level challenges.

Success – Where has she seen success in her life? Where have others seen success in her life? What things has she done well, and what are the measurable results?

You add the “success question” to the gifting question. I have trained a few people who wanted to be counselors, but they have no historical record of success as a counselor. There should be those who have already benefited from what you say you’re good at doing.

People who demand your gifting is one of the most explicit indicators of your ability to do something well. Are there people in her life who want what she has?

This critical juncture in her life is not the time for sentimentality or misguided sympathy. There should be precise, objective data from people who have been affected by her. Sometimes our friends can “pull for us” from a (weak) friendship perspective, rather than out of wisdom.

Game plan – With her gifting assessed competently and success measured objectively, it’s time to figure out a game plan. She needs to begin working toward doing that thing she does best.

Call to Action

  1. Is she focused on herself first of all? (If she is not spiritually fit, she will not be able to help anyone.)
  2. Is she working hard on fixing her marriage?
  3. Are they making more money than they are spending?
  4. Is her church coming alongside them to provide counsel?
  5. If all of these things are moving in the right direction, she should be free to think about how she wants to extend her ministry outside of her home.
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