The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace is just what its subtitle says: a biblical perspective on what wives should aspire to be. With so many competing voices telling us about marriage and the role of women, it’s refreshing to read what the Bible says about the subject.
It’s refreshing to see a design different from the dysfunction and failed experimentation of the world.
But make no mistake — this is a book that will upset you. It is not a book for those looking for quick fixes for difficult marriages, or commiseration over the sins of a husband, or feel-good encouragement and sentimentality.
This is a hard book… but it is a good book. Like Scripture, Peace reminds us repeatedly of our own responsibility to be godly, no matter what our husbands are like. Our marriages may be difficult, but that is no excuse for sin. It’s pretty black and white.
Peace, an ACBC biblical counselor, often includes charts that compare sinful responses and thoughts with godly perspectives to adopt instead (for example, “I can’t believe he did this to me again” would be replaced with something like, “He did this again. How can I love and help him?”). These charts are helpful tools to train our thinking. There is practical help for women in difficult marriages, especially women married to unbelievers.
The only criticism I would make is that Peace sometimes strains a little too hard to make a certain verse fit her point. She is so concerned with being biblical in all her statements that she interprets a couple of verses rather widely to encompass the meaning she wants to convey.
I don’t want to split hairs, but I do want to be careful with handling Scripture. I wish I had noted some as I read to cite as examples. There weren’t many, just a few that made me raise an eyebrow.
I read this book in two pieces — one large chunk all in one day, and then the last couple chapters exactly (quite by accident) a year later. I’m not sure why I didn’t finish it sooner.
Maybe it was less tempting than fiction. Maybe I felt I paid my dues with reading so much of it in one day, or that I already had all this stuff down. Or maybe it was that I began to see areas in my own life where my godliness as a wife was so far from the real standard of the Word.
I was convicted mostly on my own definition of submission and how it differs from God’s (yikes, that’s sin, to set up my own definition instead of following His). Biblically, I should be cultivating an attitude of submission that goes far beyond simply deferring to my husband’s leadership in the decision-making process.
For my own joy as well as that of my husband, I should be seeking to submit constantly and this includes the most mundane details of life. This does not preclude appeals or providential hindrances, of course. It is just a heart attitude that I am seeing is not consistently present in my life.
The doctrine and practice of submission is so open to attack by the secular world that cannot see its inherent beauty. All they see is how it has been misunderstood and abused by fallible people, and I’m sorry for it.
But as I work through it in my own life, I know that it is an act of obedience to God. Therefore, it is for His glory and my good and joy. And that is why I will continue to pursue it.
I will very likely revisit this book and use it to minister to women struggling to love their husbands in the way God designed. It’s a good resource. ( )