One of the wife’s primary responsibilities in her marriage is to counsel her husband. She is the number one (human) sanctifying-agent in her husband’s life. Nobody knows more about her husband than she does.
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To disciple any person well you must know them well. Who knows your husband better than you do? You have seen him on his best days, and you have experienced him on his worst days.
The things he does to keep others from knowing the real him are more apparent to you. He may put his best foot forward in the public domain, but you are aware of both of his feet.
Though you may not know all there is to know about him, you are the most inside person in your husband’s world. One of the advantages the Lord has, which makes Him so practical in His care for us, is His knowledge of us (Psalm 139:1-4; Hebrews 4:12-13).
You do not know what the Lord knows about your husband, but apart from Him, you know more than anyone else. This insight gives you an advantage when it comes to discipling him.
Equal and Subordinate
Some people in our culture have confused biblical submission. The implication of their teaching is the wife is inferior to the husband. There is nothing in God’s Word that would support this notion.
A better view of a wife’s role in the marriage is like Christ in the Trinity. He is coequal with God as far as His “God-ness” is concerned, but He submits to the Father as a human.
This analogy works for the wife. She is equal to her husband as far as her ontology. He has nothing on her that would make him better than her, but when it comes to her role in the marriage, she is subordinate to him.
Equality and subordination is not an odd way to think about roles and relationships. It is similar to your employer if you have one. Your employer is no better than you are, but you are submitted to him/her.
It is the same for children. I am not better than or more superior than my children, though I am the leader of my children. I do not view them as inferior. They are children made in the image of God, and I respect them for this mercy (Genesis 1:27, 9:6; James 3:9).
This worldview is a core belief in the pro-life movement. Babies in the womb have the full dignity of humanness as well as image bearing. They are respected, loved, and honored just as much as any other human.
Make a Disciple
Roles and relationships do not negate each other, which makes the wife coequal with her husband, which is essential when it comes to a proper worldview of discipleship.
Assuming you and your husband are believers, it is your responsibility to bring biblical care to him. He is your brother. He needs your discipleship care because he, like you, struggles with sin. (See Romans 7:21-25; 1 John 1:7-10)
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. – Matthew 18:15
If he is not your brother, meaning he is not a believer, he needs your evangelistic care. Either way, he needs you speaking into his life because sin is not “uninterested” in him.
You are to go into all the world making disciples as you go (Matthew 28:19-20). The first and closest person within your sphere of influence is your spouse. Nobody is more natural to make contact with, and nobody has given you more insight into their life.
Leading From Behind
The first thing you will have to come to terms with is your responsibility to disciple him. Because you are subordinate to him, you will have to lead him from behind.
Leading while subordinate is an everyday context. In fact, it is more common than you might be aware. It is a typical discipleship approach to guide people without them being fully aware that you are leading them.
If you have to tell people that you are leading them or act like you are leading them, you already have a broken leadership framework. Leading others does not have to feel like being in front demanding they follow you. Yelling at, while waving people forward creates robot followers, not mature Christians.
It may be helpful for you to make a distinction between leading and leadership. Leading, narrowly defined, is an assigned task that expects followers to follow for the accomplishment of an expectation, e.g., a teacher might single out a child to lead the group to the cafeteria.
Leadership is more comprehensive and nuanced than this. It does not always mean being in front. Jesus led by washing people’s feet (John 13:1-17). He led by giving His life to others (Mark 10:45). He taught a counter-intuitive leadership model (Matthew 20:16).
Some people only see leading in a single-dimensioned kind of way. It is the painted faced squadron leader taking the hill with his loyal troops scrambling up behind him. This perspective is a myopic and potentially skewed view of leadership.
I cannot help but wonder how many Christian women realize the leadership power they possess. How many of them know how to leverage their leadership ability in the lives of their husbands?
It seems if they have any view of leadership at all, it is the either/or belief that our culture believes: I’m either in charge of you or I submit to you, which was Eve’s view of leadership—I will dominate or become a doormat.
This kind of illogicalness creates leadership competition within the marriage. The husband is fighting with his wife for the leadership (wrongly defined) of the home. If he does this poorly, which he will, his wife will fight back because she does not want his poor treatment of her.
As he feels his wife’s resistance, the husband ratchets up his efforts to dominate her. If he is less tenacious, he will quit leading by abdicating his leadership role. Either way, he will lose: his wife will fight him toe-to-toe, or she will disrespect him for being a wuss.
The Bible does not teach these unbiblical manifestations of leadership. That is our competitive culture speaking, not God’s Word. If you want to be a biblical leader for your husband, please consider these nine suggestions.
Nine Ways To Disciple Him
Get a Burden – (Galatians 6:1) You have a “caught husband.” What I mean is that he is not entirely sanctified. The Bible does not teach sinless perfection, which means your husband has sin struggles like you and me.
If you do not have a burden for your husband’s sanctification, you will miss out on the opportunities to help him in his sanctification. If your marriage is more about what you can get out of it rather than what you can put into it, you are not leading well.
- Are you willing to set aside what you want for what he needs?
Pray For Him – (1 Corinthians 1:4) I know; I know. I am a Christian so I am supposed to add prayer to the list of things a person should do to help someone. Yes, prayer is a great way to access the Trinity on behalf of the sanctification of your husband. Maybe the Lord will change him, and perhaps you should ask Him to transform him. So pray.
While I mean prayer for that reason, what I am thinking about is how Paul prayed for the Corinthians. Paul spent time thanking God for the Corinthians. I appeal to you to spend time thanking God for your husband.
If you do not have affection for the person you want to help, the help you offer may blow up on you. Paul had an extravagant love for the Corinthians, which paved the way for him to correct them.
- Do you have extravagant affection for your husband?
Model Your Goal – (Philippians 4:9) Write out on a piece of paper the things you would like for your husband to become. Here are a few examples: humble, servant, encourager, respectful, loving, kind, gentle, and passionate about God.
I am sure you can add to the list. If not, these few things will make your marriage sing. A core tenet of biblical leadership is to become the person you want others to be.
To think otherwise is hypocritical and destructive to any relationship. To expect or demand someone to be what you are not is wrong on many levels. To lead well is to show them what to become by your other-centered, God-honoring example (Ephesians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 11:1).
- Are you a practical biblical example of what you want him to become?
Win With Encouragement – (Ephesians 4:29) Make sure your words have a “building up effect” rather than a corrupting, tearing down effect. A word fitly spoken can transform your world, while the “unfitly spoken word” will destroy it (Proverbs 25:11).
You have power in your words. You can draw your husband to you and Christ by what you say, or you can push him farther away. One of the most effective assessment questions you can ask in this regard is, “What do you experience more from me: my encouragement or my displeasure?”
If you want to lead your husband well, be courageous and grace-filled enough to check your blind spots. Ask him about his experience with you.
- Are you an encourager?
Make It Easy – (Genesis 3:7) Your husband is a proud, self-reliant person, who does not want to show weakness. I know this because I am one. We men are wired to be strong and impenetrable. Throw in a little sin and what you get is a person who does not want to reveal his flaws to anyone, especially to his wife.
He wants to impress you, which makes your condemnation and criticism of him acuter. Perhaps he has given up on impressing you. This condition is not hopeless; it just means you have more leadership work to do.
One of the most effective things the Lord does to win us to Himself is by making it crystal clear that He is for us (Romans 8:31). The more your husband knows you are for him, the more you will be able to disciple him.
- Ask your husband if he thinks you are for him.
Pick Your Spots – (Proverbs 15:1) Be careful about confronting him head-on or when you are angry. This is unwise and unhelpful. Know your audience. Find non-fight times to talk to your husband.
The moment of your disappointment is not the best time to talk about what is wrong with him. You are more than likely going to say it the wrong way, which will only exacerbate an already negative situation.
Find a vulnerable time to talk to him. These are those moments when he’s not as defensive, and you’re not as disappointed. It could be when you are already talking civilly and you feel his receptivity to what you are saying.
- Do you have self-control, which governs the timing of your communication?
Don’t Be Manipulated – (John 2:24-25) Sometimes a husband can become defensive by resorting to manipulative tactics. He will do this to throw his wife off the scent of his destructive ways.
Rather than owning his sin when she confronts him, he may blame, justify, or make excuses for his actions. If the wife is “manipulate-able,” she will buy what he is selling, which will cause her to be double-minded, or unstable in her thinking (James 1:5-8).
When she is away from him, she will see his actions clearly. When she is within his manipulative orbit, she loses discernment. She gets lost in his noise, and her mind becomes muddled. Some women struggle more with this than others.
If you can be easily muddled, you need to fixate on what the problems are with your husband and your marriage. While you want to hold your assessments loosely (humbly), you do not want to carry them so loosely that you are double-minded about what is happening.
Seeking counsel about your marriage may be wise. Another perspective could clear up the fog while giving you someone you can go to when your mind becomes cloudy.
- Are you easily manipulated?
Be a Matchmaker – (1 Corinthians 15:33) You should not have to help your husband alone. Though you are his primary discipler, you are not his only discipler.
Begin praying for a male friend who can come alongside him to help him. Build community, which could also quicken the process of sanctification. The typical husband will open up more quickly to a third-party he does not know before he will open up to his wife.
- Who is a guy your husband may be willing to open up and share?
Find Community – (Proverbs 11:14) It is also imperative for you to have a community to help you as you help your husband. You do not want to be alone in this endeavor. Your local church should be the best place for you to find friends to come alongside you.
If you live in a place where that is not possible, I appeal to you to jump into our community. We have a network of friends who are more than willing to help you in this great adventure of husband discipleship. Helping others is what we do.
- Who is caring for your soul?
Also published on Medium.