Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Steve McVey's new book, When Wives Walk In Grace: Resting in Christ While God Works in Your Marriage (Harvest House, 2013).
Do you wish your husband would change unhealthy attitudes or behaviors that persist in his life? Have the two of you hit a wall of frustration while trying to solve a problem related to your marriage or parenting
Difficult issues that linger in your marriage can cause great stress in your relationship over time. It’s tempting to work hard to try to bring about the changes you hope to see, but doing so is a futile effort. No matter how hard you try, you can’t change your husband or improve your marriage on your own. The good news, though, is that your marriage can change for the better when you entrust it to God and start relating to your husband as God relates to you: with grace.
When you base your marriage on grace, you can let go of the burden of trying to change it yourself and rest in the confidence that God will work through you to bring about change. Here’s how:
Entrust your husband to God. As long as you’re trying to change your husband on your own, you’re sabotaging your goal because you’re interfering with the work God wants to do in your husband’s life. Your husband may not be able to hear God’s voice if your own voice is drowning Him out. So give up working toward your own plans for your husband and instead focus your energy on praying for God to work in your husband’s life in whatever ways are best. Trust God to do what you can’t do to help your husband. By getting out of the way, you’ll invite God to work more in your husband’s life and help your husband notice God more.
Ask God to redeem your past mistakes. Don’t waste time or energy regretting bad decisions you’ve made in the past that you can’t do anything to change now – such as marrying an unbeliever. Move forward by praying for God to redeem your mistakes, despite the consequences you’ve suffered, so that good purposes will ultimately come out of the bad situations in your marriage. If your husband isn’t a Christian, realize that you lack the power to bring him to Christ on your own. But continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to give your husband greater faith as he seeks God.
Look to God – not your husband – to validate you. Don’t base your sense of self-worth on how your husband responds to you (which is bound to be unreliable) but on how God responds to you. As a sinful human being in a fallen world, your husband may fail to express himself to you in ways that affirm your value. But God will never let you down. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see yourself as God sees you. Keep in mind that your value doesn’t depend on your husband’s opinion of you, but on your Creator’s complete love for you. Derive confidence from God’s love; when your husband sees confidence in you, your confidence will command his respect.
Shift your focus from external behavior to internal transformation. Rather than focusing on how religiously your husband behaves (such as how often he attends church, reads his Bible or prays at home, or how much time and money he gives to others in need), focus your main concern on the state of his soul. While religious activities are noble in that they accomplish good purposes, a man doesn’t have to look religious to be a godly husband. Stop pressuring your husband to fit into a certain template of what you think a good Christian husband should look like. Accept your husband just as he is and decide to love him unconditionally, as God does. When your husband experiences your unconditional love, he will stop getting as defensive as he has been about spiritual matters with you, and will be inspired to draw closer to the source of unconditional love: God.
Let God heal your husband. If your husband is antagonistic toward faith, there are deep emotional reasons behind that antagonism. Rather than trying to solve the problem yourself (which you can’t), help your husband seek the healing that he needs from his past pain by supporting him in prayer and encouraging him to process his pain with a counselor or a support group.
Refuse to compromise your values if your husband pressures you to sin. If your husband wants you to do something that clearly contradicts biblical values, refuse to do so. Even though your husband will likely be upset, it’s the most loving way you can respond, because you’ll be saying “no” to destructive behavior that can harm him as well as you.
Confront your husband about mistreatment and abuse. Don’t tolerate cruel words or controlling behavior from your husband, and protect yourself (and your children) from abuse of any kind. Speak calmly and firmly to your husband about the problem, refusing to be drawn into an argument, and informing him of clear consequences you will enforce if he disrespects you in the future. Then be sure to follow through with those consequences – from leaving the room, to leaving the marriage temporarily through a separation if that’s what’s necessary for him to take you seriously and purse the healing he needs to truly change. Rely on the Holy Spirit to give you courage and empower you throughout the process.
Improve communication between you. Seek to understand your husband better by listening carefully to him when he talks and asking him to tell you what he thinks he hears you say in discussions so you can clarify if necessary. When you’re frustrated by an issue in your marriage, talk to your husband rather than about him to others. Address problems with your husband’s behavior, but don’t attack his character. Make your goal understanding each other better, rather than winning arguments.
Let go of unnecessary stress by simplifying your schedule. Keeping too busy can cause tension in your marriage, which you can avoid by eliminating some activities. Ask God to show you which of your activities aren’t truly important in light of what has eternal value. Then delete those activities from your schedule, so you can focus on what matters most.
Rely on Jesus to give you what your husband can’t. When your husband neglects you or fails you (as he’s bound to do sometimes, since he’s not perfect), forgive your husband and turn to Jesus to meet your needs. Whenever you feel lonely, ask Jesus to help you sense the reality of His constant, loving presence with you.
Adapted from When Wives Walk in Grace: Resting in Christ While God Works in Your Marriage, copyright 2013 by Steve McVey. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.
Steve McVey is the president of Grace Walk Ministries, a discipleship-training ministry based in the southeastern United States. He has authored the bestselling Grace Walk (more than 250,000 sold), The Grace Walk Devotional, Walking in the Will of God, and 52 Lies Heard in Church Every Sunday, and has also coauthored Helping Others Overcome Addictions. He and his wife reside in Georgia.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
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