The Man on the Run
With ever increasing divorce rates even in Christian circles, why does it seem so hard in today’s society to have a successful marriage? This article speaks to the men who may be running from their responsibilities.
Just over a year ago, Ann Landers (well known journalist and marriage guidance counsellor in the USA) greeted her regular readers with the sentence: "This is the most difficult column that I have ever had to write". She continued, "The woman who usually knows the answer to every question, has no answer this time". After 20 years of marriage she was divorced.
Richard Roberts, the son of the evangelist Oral Roberts, recently announced the breakdown of his marriage.
Last month, Anita Bryant, the singer and a leader of the anti-homosexual movement, announced her divorce from her husband to whom she had been married for 20 years. Her comment was: "It wasn't really so great."
Three exemplary marriages, two of them between Bible-believing Christians, were lost in the fight through which the families in our culture are being destroyed. The failure of these marriages doesn't say much about the character or goodwill of the above-mentioned individuals, however, it does say a lot about the overwhelming pressure under which marriage in our society stands.
Although this attack against marriage and family is coming from all sides at once, it is above all, the substantial vulnerability of the individual family in our present society which gives the enemy a strong advantage.
Derek Prince once made a comment with which I deeply agreed, although its direct manner is shocking: "The problem within the family is not the women who cry for emancipation; it is the men running from their responsibility". At that time much was being taught in various places about how women should find their right place and how they should get 'under shelter', or be in subjection. The things that were taught back then were very necessary and true, but the emphasis on the role of the woman seemed to come about from abnormal circumstances. With that I mean the following: In the early stages of the Pentecostal movement, the majority of listeners were women, and because of the fundamental need that the women fulfil their roles according to the Holy Scriptures, quite an unequal emphasis on the role of the woman developed. Who would have been more ready to teach this, than male Bible teachers!
Our diagnosis of the problem was correct - within the church, the order of the family had to be rebuilt, but the prescription was not totally suitable. The root of the problem in a family is not always a rebellious woman or a woman who does not submit herself. More often than not it is a disloyal husband, who flees from his responsibilities as husband and father and allows his wife to take over the family through his failure. When a man finally assumes his position in his family and starts to take up a Biblical leadership, the woman normally says: "It's about time he did!"
After 24 years of marriage, I have no doubt that the urge to avoid responsibility is a strong part of the male nature. A while ago I was sitting in a plane when the following scripture came into my mind:
"Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land" (PROVERBS 31:23).
A man's success or failure in life will be more strongly measured in the family than in his job. Success in any other field does not replace failure at home! When a pastor or elder leaves his ministry, it usually happens because of problems or difficulties in his family. Some of the leading companies in our nation (the USA) even invite the wives of future employees to the interview, because they have discovered that a happy and well-balanced wife is a sign of a successful man. A man who is successful at home will probably be as equally successful in his job. Therefore, when you speak with the man alone you in fact only talk with 'one half' of the man. The 'other half' will probably give you a more realistic picture of who a man really is. Through the wife you can see if the man has been successful in his life, or if he has failed.
The family is not a last-minute-idea which the Lord added to His plan, as a useful institution for the needs of the man and the woman.
The relationship between husband and wife and the family is at the centre of
God's plan for all mankind and especially for his chosen people.
Firstly, the relationship between husband and wife is the foundation of the church and society. The philosophy of modern society states that the individual is the basic unit of society. In ancient Israel, God had planned the family to be the basic unit, which would further the spiritual and cultural life within the nation. In the church the home was supposed to be the focus of spiritual life. Every home was to be a home church which created the necessary conditions for growth and salvation in our relationship with the Lord.
Secondly, marriage is likened to the relationship that Christ has with His church. A proper marriage should testify of God's love to the world, and of His protection and care for His people. It should be an image of a God who offered Himself, who entered into a bond to give His life for His people.
Thirdly, the marital relationship is the training ground for the personal development of our spiritual life in the Body of Christ. A lot of men are aware of the fact that the wife is the most precious source of their growth and maturity. In a very practical sense the man is married to a 'seminar'.
Fourthly, marriage and family are a natural part of the church in the middle of a worldly society. There is not a more natural and powerful way to spread the life of Christ in society than through the strong, Godly testimony of a Christian home. It is a small part of the church which has been planted into your neighbourhood.
Fifthly, the home and marriage are a place for healing and recuperation. The Lord wanted the marriage to be a source from which our basic and most important needs are filled. Without this source of encouragement, our fight becomes increasingly difficult and painful.
Once we understand that marriage is at the centre of God's eternal plan and the completion of His kingdom, then it is easy to understand why the powers of this age try to attack and destroy this fundamental calling for men and women.
The 'Storm' Attack
The attack against the family has not always been led loudly and openly. Rather, the enemy has preferred to make clever and far-reaching changes to the fundamental structures of our society, which has led to the destruction of home and family simply through their removal from the 'screen'. Allow me to list six fundamental powers which try to push marriage and family into a small corner of modern life.
1. Individuality: Our 'me'-centred society puts all emphasis on satisfying the individual. If the self is in the centre of life and fulfilment of self is the only goal, then it is impossible to make the sacrifices which are necessary for a family to exist. Personal career then becomes an easy justification for divorce, adultery, a bachelor life and a childless marriage. Today, many of these marriages are built upon the desire to gain personal prosperity, happiness and fulfilment.
2. Social activities: By that I mean activities outside the house. Only fifty years ago the most important social activities were centred around the family. The family organised activities and recreation for themselves. Modern social activities and unfortunately, many of those activities chosen by churches, tend to separate the family's members, rather than to unite them. The father goes to the bowling club, the mother goes to the women's guild, and the children have certain duties in school. In a modern family it often occurs that a few days go by without even having one meal together, or spending one evening together at home. This way of life estranges the family. Even though they live in the same house, they are not really a family.
3. Different sources of authority: Our society suffers from the 'plague of experts'. The schools, the government, the doctors and an immeasurable number of people who have to 'know' because of their profession, have replaced the father as the one who knows what is best for the family. Nowadays, if a child needs answers, he will not ask his father anymore, but rather his teacher - or he will read about it in a book.
The experts have made men believe that they do not know how to be fathers or husbands, and they have made the women believe that they do not know what it means to be wives or mothers. Nobody can do anything anymore without getting advice from an expert. Such a dispersion of authority does not create security and health, but rather more confusion.
4. Exchange of roles: The men lose their masculinity and the women their femininity. Not only are the fundamental characteristics of men and women being destroyed, but their associated roles are also being watered down and even eradicated. The entire legal and social structure destroys the husband's role as a leader, protector and provider for others! It also destroys the wife's role as 'helper' and as the one who runs the household. Men are becoming effeminate and passive, whereas women are becoming more and more masculine and aggressive. The result is that children are left without a clear understanding of their sex and do not have examples they can follow.
5. Non-biblical basis of morals and ethics: Situation ethics and relativism would lead us to believe that there are no absolute values with which one can judge what is normal and right. There are no 'rules' anymore on how a marriage should be established or how to bring up children. Everyone can do what they feel is right. The result is chaos.
6. The economic foundation of society has been removed from the home: One hundred years ago the economic foundation of society was still at home. The family business, agriculture or home-based work were the economic backbone of our society. This meant that the fathers were normally at home and trained their sons in their own work or trade.
The complex economic structure of our society normally demands that the father works away from home, often for a few days at a time. This means that economic independence is not ensured anymore within the family, but is guaranteed by a company, the government, or the unions. The inflation rate and the pressure to keep up a certain standard of living forces many families into a situation where both parents have to work. As a result, however, children have to go to nurseries and the mothers use a great deal of their energy outside the running of a household and family. Our complex economic structure also adds to the high mobility and instability of our society. Seldom does the family live close to the grandparents, uncles and aunts.
The lack of identity within a fixed family structure destroys the awareness of a certain inheritance, as well as for responsibility and respect towards elders. Slowly the basis of our society is being destroyed. The chaos and confusion of a society without healthy families is reflected in the rising crime and the growing divorce rates, and in the widely spread increase in homosexuality and the general decrease in morality. A great percentage of it can be traced back to the degeneration of our families and the fact that the husband has run away from his God-given responsibility.
How Do We Return?
I often feel rather envious when I stand in front of a young Christian couple who are about to become husband and wife. Two young people who start a marriage with a clear Christian understanding of maturity, loyalty and of the requirements of the God-given roles for the husband and wife, start on a solid foundation, which many of us, including those who were believers, were lacking. For those who have not started their married life on a biblical foundation, the way to a biblical renewal is often long and painful. Often, we only realise how far we, as human beings, have fallen from God's image when we start to return to it.
How to return to biblical reality in our marriage is often equally as important as the decision to return itself. In this way the husband is the key figure. It is up to him to grasp the fullness of possibilities God has provided for a marriage. It is not enough to only perceive a few basic problems in our marriage, and to make a few changes in the way we live, or to speak to a minister once or twice and then to expect that everything will be alright. Unfortunately many men have a very naive idea of what it means to get their marriage in order. When both of them come out of their pastor's house after a marriage counselling session, the husband will take a deep breath and say, "I'm glad that is over, now we can go on as usual". He believes he has already reached the goal as soon as he has recognised the problem - in reality this is only the beginning!
Obstacles Along the Way
Every husband who believes that the battle is won as soon as he leaves his pastor's house can prepare himself for an unbelievably rude awakening. Not only has the journey only just started - he will discover within himself the desire to run away! If a husband has ever considered himself to be a leader, his illusions will probably be destroyed when he starts to lead his marriage, if not before. Following, I will name seven common mistakes which husbands usually make on their way back.
1. Failure in the duty to be proper leaders
About ten years ago I started regular meetings with a group of men and their wives with the aim of discovering a few biblical basics for growth and discipleship. Before our first meeting, I fasted and sought the Lord to find the first step on the way. I expected the Lord to say we should read a few important passages from the Bible. Or maybe He would require a big sacrifice from us, or demand a high-sounding pledge. But on the third day of the fast the Lord gently put the following words into my spirit: "Strive to gain your wife's respect!"
Feeling somewhat annoyed towards the Lord about the instructions He had given, we gathered around the lounge room table that evening and asked our wives if they really respected us. Ten years later we are still trying to gain this respect! One of the most frequent complaints by our wives on this evening was the lack of consistent initiative and guidance in their lives by their husbands. When questioning Christian wives, Bill Gothard found out that their biggest problem with their husbands was their failure in real spiritual leadership. This especially concerns the wives of ministers! A wife really wants to be led. There are only a few wives who would never follow the leading of their husbands at all. Only too often, nothing fundamental changes in a marriage until the wife threatens to run away, has a nervous break-down or keeps her husband awake for three nights by her continuous crying. Then the husband usually asks her in a friendly way: "Is there anything wrong, darling?" He should have already asked this question six months before. A Christian husband can spend many hours serving his assembly, witnessing full of fire in the neighbourhood for a whole night, or comforting somebody all weekend who has lost someone close to them. However, where the nagging problems of his wife are concerned, he often does not have the time to speak to her, to listen to her and to pray with her.
"Darling, we have hardly spoken a word with each other in the past six weeks!" the wife is sighing. "You are right, darling", her husband lovingly says. "Tonight I will have five minutes - what do you want to tell me?"
The husband who is truly guiding his wife will provide an opportunity for her to tell him regularly and fully about her problems and feelings. It is the husband's job to get a spiritual perspective for his family and to lead his wife and children into everything the Lord has planned for them as a couple and family. This means, of course, that the marriage and family will require roughly as much time, strength and prayer as is needed for his worldly job.
2. Failure to judge reality correctly
The Holy Scriptures command the husband to
"dwell with" his wife
"according to knowledge" (1 PETER 3:7). The Word of God tells us that the woman is the weaker vessel, and that we have to learn to judge the condition of our wives and our children by their actual state of spirit, soul and body. The first time Judy told me that she did not want to go to the meetings anymore I thought she had fallen. We had been to 'only' forty-three meetings within two weeks.
If I had understood then how to judge reality by the state of my wife, I would have realised that we had been travelling around more than the Lord wanted us to. There is something within most men that pushes them to sacrifice seven days a week, eighteen hours a day for their job, be it worldly or spiritual - and even that is not enough. If resting had been natural for human beings, the Lord would not have given us the order to rest on one day of the week.
Most men, especially those in the ministry, wipe that commandment out of their Bibles. We tell our wives how hard we are working, how much we are suffering for Jesus and the family, and at the same time we know deep inside that we actually like doing it!
Men have the tendency to judge the state of their marriage by the number of arguments they have. If we haven't had any arguments in our marriage for three weeks, then we feel that we are getting on quite well with each other. We try to judge our marriage by how we would like it to be, instead of by how it actually is. Most men deceive themselves about the real state of their marriage. There are some hidden signs a husband will have to learn to detect: Is his wife open and warm? Is she showing initiative and joy in caring for the home and cooking meals? Is she happy about her relationship with the children? Is she easily stimulated in the sexual realm? Is she physically healthy and fit? Does she respect you as a man? Do you have the courage to ask her about that? Unless there are any other unusual circumstances that could influence these realms, a husband will have to learn to judge the true state of his own life and his ability to lead other people by the health and well-being of his wife.
3. Wrong reactions to past injuries
Every husband has sown some injuries or injustices in the life of his wife: through ignorance or by having a poor understanding of her feelings, through poor guidance or by habits from his past. Obviously it is an unchangeable spiritual law, that you will reap what you sow. Just suppose you are not sensitive enough to your wife's feelings and her financial needs in the first ten years of your marriage. Do you realise that handling money wrongly can cause problems? It is virtually unavoidable that bitterness, resentment and injuries will start growing in her life. After ten years of marriage you will attend a Bible conference for men and the speaker will say: "You have to consider the needs of your wives when you plan your finances for the family". Totally convinced, you return home and from now on you are unbiased and fair and you also give your wife some pocket money. You think that the problem has been solved, and from now on everything will be a bed of roses. However - you have not yet started to reap the harvest. We just love to believe that a little "Darling, please forgive me!" will solve all problems. But sometimes that will frustrate her even more. The bad seed you have sown during ten years of ignorance and coldness will come up, and surely you will have to reap the harvest according to God's law of sowing and reaping.
Every gardener can tell us that you will not get rid of the undesired weeds by pushing them back into the ground. If you do that, they return tenfold. After you have been convinced by the Lord about the right behaviour concerning money, you give your wife plenty of pocket money and send her to the shops to buy herself some new clothes. That same night, while you are admiring her new outfit in the bedroom, she breaks down and weeps: "You never give me enough money!" This is the lasting effect of an old wound! Full of bewilderment you will answer: "This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. You've just spent a whole lot of money on these clothes". By doing that you pushed the fruit, which was years old, back into the ground. No worries! It will come back in a few months time!
If we are wise we will be careful to recognise the fruit of old injuries and wounds, even if our behaviour has already changed. We will accept this fruit in a loving way by realising that it is the lasting result of old injuries. We will have to be prepared to reap this old fruit for quite some time, especially when the injuries and negligence towards our wives have been done over a period of time and were of a serious nature. The dimensions and extent of the harvest are directly related to the extent of what we have sown.
4. The inability to listen
Probably the greatest ability a husband can develop, who would like to bring his marriage back into order, is the ability to take time to listen to his wife. A woman possesses an unfailing instinct to find out if her husband really listens to her or not. Maybe she is talking about a problem with her handicraft class, or about why the oven is not working properly, or what the neighbour has done to her son. All of a sudden she says: "You aren't even listening to me". All the time you have been nodding your head and saying: "Yes, darling, sure". Somehow, she knew exactly that in your thoughts you were still with your accounts books in the office. My wife once told me about her daily routine and suddenly it dawned on me that I wasn't even listening at all, but was evangelising Eastern Europe.
Very often a woman does not need an answer or even a comment. Somewhere in a woman's heart lies the need to share with her husband what is happening in her world. Even when the neighbour's child, or the broken washing machine, seem trivial to us compared to the big problems we carry around in our daily lives, we have to realise that this means everything to her. A broken washing machine is as much of a catastrophe to her as a failure in our job is to us, and a small difficulty with the neighbour can be as important to her as an argument with the boss is to us. One of the greatest hindrances when listening to our wives is our inability to 'slacken the bow'. The husband's special liking for his work keeps him under continual tension and the slightest stimulation will put him back into his job. Clergymen and men in normal employment who do not have regular working hours have a tendency towards that 'illness'. However, men who have regular working hours, also come home from their work and are still tense and do not really want to stop working, even when they are in the garden, in the church, or amongst friends. With our body we are present, but with our thoughts we are absent. However, a bow which is under continuous tension, will finally lose its power and tautness. It is always tense and never slack. From a certain point onwards, every husband has to learn to put down all responsibilities and worries of his world, and to step into the world of his wife. Until he does that he will not be able to listen to his wife!
If we do not relax, we will not be able to recognise the invisible signs of a poor marriage. Our ambition and our work mania will keep us under high pressure until our wife collapses down, because the pressure has become too much for her.
5. Broken promises
In PROVERBS 13:12 it says:
"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick...".
Even if the tragedy of a marriage burdened with problems is not comparable with a dinner at home, when we have to deal with a lot of similar problems we will find that there are hundreds of Mrs. Browns, but only one Mrs. Mumford. Our feeling heart urges us to spend hour after hour with Mr. Brown that night and to forget that he had neglected his marriage for twenty-three years; that it might take ten years to heal it, and that it will not matter too much to the future of Mr. Brown's life if we spare one hour today, or tomorrow.
Some women will only be led to speak badly about the demands of their husband's profession, because they have experienced how they and their families have been continually disappointed by broken promises. The Scriptures warn us not to give promises like a fool. In ECCLESIASTES 5:5 it says:
"Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay". It is very easy to make a promise to our wife when we are under pressure due to a difficult situation; not because we really want to meet her needs, but because we want to stick another plaster on the wound and back out of an obligation. In the middle of a crisis we might say to our wife: "Darling, this summer we will go on holiday". However, when summer comes and our wife is a bit better, we forget about the holidays. But she will not forget the promise!
Our dear wife keeps us awake until three o'clock in the morning, and tells us how she and the children are suffering because we did not spend one day together as a family during the past two months. In our desperate longing for sleep we promise: "Darling, this weekend we will set one day aside to go on a trip together". However, when the weekend approaches, something else comes in between and again another bit of hope has been destroyed; her heart has been hurt a little more and our wife thinks about Mrs. Brown who left home with the children.
If you ever promised your wife something and she answered: "I will only believe you once it happens", you will know that you have broken a few promises which need to be healed.
6. Maturity of Character
A woman needs more than a husband; she needs a man. A woman has the need to admire the husband for his character. Most women do not demand a perfect husband. They only wish that he shows enough maturity to give them the security and protection they need. I would like to list ten basic areas wherein every man should grow and his character should mature.
Spiritually: A husband and father should know the Word of God well enough to give his family adequate advice and guidance. He should also be able to judge the state of affairs in his family as well as with other people, according to God's principles, and act accordingly. And he should be able to show the mercy, goodness and compassion of the Lord towards his family by his prayer and advice.
Socially: A man should be able to show an adequate level of manners and dignity in any situation, and should at the same time, be neither the centre of attention, nor be too shy and withdrawn.
Intellectually: A man will not have to gain a degree to be able to grow spiritually. However, he should spare neither pain nor time to gain understanding of the world around him and the people he lives with.
Financially: Financial growth means that a man can dispose of and control his money, instead of the money controlling him.
Confrontation: This does not mean that a man should be stubborn or awkward, but rather that he should, for example, have the courage to tell the waiter that his wife's steak has not been cooked properly.
Sexually: A man should be able to lead his wife to sexual fulfilment with an appropriate level of understanding and self-control.
Fatherhood: I believe, that no man will ever reach total maturity in this field. He will only learn to make less mistakes.
Manhood: This means that he is able to control his feelings, that he is honest and upright, and particularly that he has the ability to show initiative and to take the lead.
Beliefs: A man should know what he believes in and why, even when he is faced with the pressure and influence of others.
Outer appearance: A man does not have to look like the front page of 'Esquire', but he should not look like someone who has just been dragged in by the cat.
In all of these ten areas we should grow. Normally, we have reached our aim in six or seven of these areas, and in three or four of these we still make many mistakes. The assembly will see the seven areas which we are very good in, but there is also someone who sees the three other areas that we would rather cover up! When different levels of the husband's growth in these areas are not being understood by the wife, they can cause insecurity, instability and a lack of respect towards the husband.
7. Do not avoid the problems
Something within the character of most men tends to make them into "peacemakers". However, this is not the way of making peace which Jesus talked about in the 'Sermon on the mount'. This is rather a kind of softness. Most men quickly withdraw when they should face conflicts and problems. They will do almost everything to avoid an argument or a conflict at home. Therefore, we keep sticking more and more plasters onto the wound, and there are just enough to keep the symptoms under control, instead of taking care of the real cause of the problem. If the Holy Spirit was not so faithful in keeping some problems constantly in front of our eyes, we would probably leave most of them unresolved, until they would most likely destroy our marriage or damage it to an extent beyond remedy.
There are two basic reasons for conflicts in our marriages. Very often these seem to remain unresolved as the husband shows a lack of initiative and leadership.
Firstly, the marriage is built on an insufficient foundation. A widely spread and basic problem is the lack of assurance between partners that it is the complete will of God that they are married to each other. Lack of assurance about the will of God that they are together gives room to doubts like: "Maybe God has another partner for me", or: "It could be that this is not the perfect marriage partner for me". Doubts like these have to be silenced and clarified before the Lord, or they will never be able to give themselves to each other fully and be free for the joys of marriage.
Sexual relationships before marriage can burden the couple with feelings of guilt, or leave them without assurance about their own sexual reactions within their marriage.
When there is no parental approval and blessing, the husband, and more often the wife, will be driven by insecurity, fear and the incapability of devoting oneself fully to the other without reservations. A couple where, for one reason or another, the parental blessing had been held back, should cleanse their conscience by asking for forgiveness for any infringement of Biblical authority when they entered their marriage. The relationship to parents can also be a problem, when the 'invisible connection' between the parents and the new couple was not interrupted properly. Parents should never try to annex the new couple as part of their family, but should be willing to let them find their own identity as a family, especially during holiday periods and times of important decisions. A new family can only be established properly if they learn gently, but strictly, to find their own identity in order to have a proper relationship with their parents, which can then grow and mature, free from tension and inappropriate influence on him or her.
Secondly, there are certain differences in their understanding of life or other basic questions, which might never have been completely clarified. These differences can be things like the understanding of the different roles of husband and wife in the marriage, how to deal with money, the role the job will play at home, bringing up of children and others. In all these areas the husband should be the leader, by taking every problem gently, lovingly and with much prayer to a solution and healing. By facing difficult subjects the partners will have to learn to give up their rights and own opinions to the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. We have to realise that, in reality, none of the partners will have the full answer for any question, but that the will of God and the revelations in the Word will offer an appropriate and acceptable compromise.
A Few Practical Ideas
Try as we might, sometimes it seems as if we are just unable to make the necessary steps to ensure the right changes in our marriage and lives. Sometimes it gets too much for us to make these changes as we have not yet learned a few basic rules in life which would save us a lot of problems and pain. I want to give a few hints to help you take the right steps.
1. Learn to say "No"!
The catch phrase here is: Set your priorities right. Your wife knows exactly what you love best. When other activities or responsibilities continually push away the needs of her life and of the family, she will start to feel a lack of understanding and attention. There will always be more demands for us than we can afford as far as time is concerned. If we do not have the grace to say 'No' at the right time, our marriage will continually be in danger.
2. Organise your strength!
One of the greatest difficulties and disappointments a woman can experience is that when she can finally spend a few moments with her husband, he is physically and emotionally exhausted. We only have a certain amount of strength. Our job, our social activities, our responsibility in any ministry and even our spare-time extract energy and life from us.
If we are not careful to keep some energy and liveliness for our wives, we will be powerless and unable to give what we ought to give in what is the most important relationship (next to God) in our lives. If we look at it closely, we will realise that there are one or more 'black holes' in our environment which do nothing other than extract life and strength from us without any obvious blessing or result. If we do not have a clear call from God to work in these fields we should avoid them.
3. Learn to slacken your bow
A bow which is continually tense will eventually lose its tension and strength. When we return home in the evening we have to learn to relax, to switch off and to be 'at home'. A man who is always tense and excited, and whose level of adrenaline is always too high, will never be of value to his wife and family.
4. Give approval, recognition and honour
This does not mean that we should flatter and be hypocrites. Flattery is a non-truth, which is spoken with an untruthful motive. Honest compliments, encouragement and approval are the seasoning that will give your marriage a good taste.
When was the last time that you gave your wife a compliment for a big dinner she prepared, or about how she looks, or how nicely she keeps the flat? At least once every month, a man receives his wages for the work he does every day. However, many women spend day after day doing very hard housework and do not get approval for it, not even a "Thank you, darling".
Children should be brought up to honour and appreciate their mother, not only for what she does, but also for what she is. The deepest desire of a wife is to please her husband and to gain his approval. A husband who continually shows the wife's mistakes, her weaknesses and her failures, sows a seed which will one day destroy the marriage. A husband can be honest where necessary, and still give an abundance of approval and praise which will enable his wife to face the challenges and demands which come upon her as housewife and mother.
5. Keep the initiative
This can mean that even in complete confusion you will still have to act as if you had everything under control. A man can still take the initiative even if he does not know exactly what is to be done. The main question is whether or not he will keep up the control and leadership. Nothing will make the wife and family more insecure than a husband who, by avoiding a situation, lets the initiative and control slip. Sometimes the best way to manage a crisis is just to say to everybody: "Sit down and stay calm, until I find out what we should do next". Often wives and children challenge the initiative of the husband, hoping deep inside that they will hit a wall by doing that. Children and especially our wives need to know where their limits are, and where their husband's place is in their lives. Many women told me during a counselling talk: "I put my husband under pressure, because I want to know what his real beliefs are". Husbands will spare themselves a lot of unnecessary pain and tension in their marriage if they simply learn to express their convictions and to stand by them.
6. Learn to be somebody who "enables" others
A husband can either save or enable his wife. A rescuer pulls his wife out of the water every time she is almost drowned, however, an "enabler" teaches her to swim. Our wives very often experience that we go through awkward and difficult situations for them. However, we want to help them to master these situations by themselves. If we help our wives to learn how to handle difficult situations by supporting them with our prayer, our help and encouragement, they will grow themselves, become healthier and be a pillar to us in their role as wife and mother.
7. Learn to accept important corrections from a shepherd.
It is a principle in the kingdom of God that nobody can have authority if he does not stand under someone else's authority himself. A wife will find tremendous security through a husband who willingly and honestly opens his life to a pastor or shepherd. A husband will not only receive important corrections from someone who is more mature in the Lord; he will also find a place where he can open his heart and can speak about difficulties, injuries, frustrations and injustices in his marriage.
8. Recognise the problems of your partner as an opportunity for your personal growth.
When certain problems last longer or are extremely annoying, it is very easy to become critical, bitter and impatient with your wife's mistakes.
The simplest and most effective way of fighting this negative attitude is to start thanking the Lord for your wife's every weakness. This will give you the opportunity to develop more patience, love and mercy in your faith. Prayer and determination can work miracles in changing bad attitudes.
9. Be patient!
Problems which have developed over years cannot be healed overnight. Occasionally we will have to wait for some of the old harvest to be brought in, or for new behaviour patterns to develop and new fruit to grow. In a few marriages it can take ten years or longer until a change appears. Very often couples are discouraged when a seminary or a book often describes a wonderful relationship as something to be easily attained. We have to realise that many of the problems we want to solve are a result of experiences during childhood, from parental influence, or from attitudes which have been deeply rooted inside for years. These factors will not be changed quickly and easily; they will need many years of growth, prayer and God's mercy to be healed completely.
Success in any other field does not excuse failure at home.
Whether you are the president of GM, an evangelist, a pastor or a successful businessman, if you have won ten thousand people for Christ, but lose your wife and family, then, in reality, you have lost everything!
I believe that the church is heading towards the most exciting times that she has ever experienced. But she is also approaching the phase of the biggest trials and temptations in her history. It will be a wonderful and exciting day when we step into the front line in the battle for the Gospel. However, if we do not make the time now to cherish our marriage, it could be that we will be sent back when the trumpet sounds, because we failed in the basic requirements the Lord gave us.
by Bob Mumford
Translated from the German: "Der Mann auf der Flucht"
Source: 'Wiederherstellung', October 1982