How can I help my husband take on spiritual leadership?
In Scripture we find a model for the complementary roles of a husband and wife. The man provides servant leadership and the woman responds with reverent submission and assistance:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. . . . Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it . . . . Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband (Ephesians 5:22–33).
Along with the provision, protection, and direction that a husband offers to his wife and family, he is also called to provide spiritual leadership. Many men feel inadequate and unqualified to fulfill this role and hesitate to initiate activities such as praying before meals, reading Scripture together, having family devotions, or setting guidelines for the attitudes and activities allowed in the home.
The Role of a Wife’s Response
The wife’s response to her husband’s leadership is very important. Often the slightest resistance or displeasure from her is enough to discourage a husband and cause him to give up on his efforts in this area. However, a man’s fulfillment, goals, finances, priorities, and relationships are profoundly impacted by his spiritual leadership, and therefore a wife’s role in encouraging her husband is one of her highest callings.
Let the following insights equip you to encourage your husband to lead your family:
- A Willing Follower Encourages a Spiritual Leader
The greatest man in the world cannot be a leader if he has no follower. And yet, the humblest husband in the world is a leader if his wife follows him. A wife is called to wisely use her gifts and abilities as she follows the leadership of her husband. God designed her to be “a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18, ESV).
- A Respectful Follower Strengthens a Spiritual Leader
Scripture instructs a wife to reverence her husband. The respect and affirmation she gives often motivate him to fulfill his God-given role of loving leadership.
When a husband’s weaknesses surface, his wife must decide if she will remain respectful or if she will react with dishonoring attitudes, words, and actions. She needs to remember that her husband’s God-given position of authority and her God-given duty to reverence him are not negotiable, i.e., dependent on his deficiencies or weaknesses. Regardless of his mistakes, he is still her God-given authority. She is still called to respect his position.
If a wife needs to make an appeal about something she feels is wrong, she should do so with reverence and honor. When a wife demonstrates her confidence that God is working through her husband, he will become more aware of his position and will most likely be more careful about his decisions.
- A Follower With Needs Motivates a Spiritual Leader
Most men will more readily take on leadership when a need is identified and brought to them for a solution. Even if they are not qualified to meet the need, they will be motivated to go to others for help in order to see that the issue is addressed.
One of the most important things a wife can do to encourage her husband to take on spiritual leadership is to look to him to help her grow spiritually and gain more understanding about God and His Word. The Apostle Paul told the women of the church in Corinth to ask questions of their husbands: “If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home” (I Corinthians 14:35, ESV).
Wives should not assume that their husbands are not interested in helping them in this area. A humble request will motivate a husband in his own walk of faith. Although a husband might not be a pastor or Bible teacher, his wife’s reverence and honest inquiries will challenge him to study diligently and seek the help of others in order to find the answers. In this way, couples can mature spiritually together.
Understanding Why Wives React
Many wives battle with competing desires regarding a husband’s leadership. On one hand, a wife wants her husband to be a leader, yet on the other hand, she wants to be in control of her husband. This struggle often leads a wife to react, i.e., respond negatively, to her husband’s leadership and attempt to manipulate him.
A woman’s desire to dominate her husband began in the Garden of Eden, when the first man and first woman chose to rebel against God and were punished for their sin. Part of God’s judgment on their sin was brokenness in the relationship between a husband and his wife. God said to Eve, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16).
The same sentence structure and vocabulary is found in Genesis 4:7 when God told Cain that sin would “desire” to control him but that he must “rule over” sin. Therefore, the translation of Genesis 3:16 could certainly read as follows: “. . . Thy desire shall be to [control] thy husband and he shall rule [desire to dominate] thee.”
In God’s original design, He established Adam’s position of authority over Eve. (Adam was created first, and Eve was created to help Adam.) However, Adam and Eve’s sin undermined the willing submission of the wife and the loving leadership of the husband. Therefore, as long as sin reigns in the lives of men and women, there will be a struggle for control instead of a gracious, complementary relationship: women will resist submitting to men, and men will resist being good leaders.
When Jesus Christ came into the world, He broke the power of sin for those who believe on His name and receive His gift of salvation. Only in Christ can the wife’s willing submission and the husband’s loving leadership be restored.
Jesus’ life and leadership offer an example to both husbands and wives. The Church’s willing submission to Christ Jesus is an example of how a wife should submit to her husband. Jesus’ sacrificial giving of His life demonstrates to husbands how they should love their wives. (See Ephesians 5:22–33.)
Take time to honestly answer the following questions:
- Have I purposed to be a follower of my husband?
- Would my husband and my children say that I respect my husband?
- Have I sincerely communicated to my husband that I want him to be my spiritual leader?
- Have I entered into Christ’s victory over the conflicting desire to control my husband?
Think about what you can do to support your husband’s spiritual leadership in your home and family. Put your ideas into practice today!
This material is adapted from pages 57–60 of the Training Faithful Women Resource Manual.