A question came in from a reader:
Hi Michael, I just read the post “An Open Letter to Brothers.” I was hoping to find some encouraging words there. But I didn’t. Not for all situations. What about the husband that attempts to lead, but his leadership is harsh? There are some men who, in their leadership, trample their wives and family. He forgets that his wife is his first line of counsel and his helpmate. He forgets the oneness, sacrificial servant leadership that he his to use and instead chooses and authoritarian rulership over the home and everyone in it. He demands obedience (which isn’t bad), but it’s an unquestioned obedience. Even to a point that a question for clarification is perceived as disobedience and punished harshly. What is the counsel for the husband who leads in such a way? What is the counsel to the wife when there is no longer a spirit of submission but subjugation?
There were some more details provided, but suffice to say: I think this is a very hard question, and also it is specific enough that it would be unwise for me to try to give too much general counsel. But, when you set yourself up as a Christian blogger (which we’ve done), don’t be shocked when people want you to answer questions on a topic they have in mind.
Here is my answer to a dear sister who seriously wants to minister to a hurting friend in her church. I think whether you agree with my response or not, praying for this situation would be appropriate!
Here is what we know:
- God desires that wives submit, even to wicked husbands.
- By faith, we must trust what God has said above man’s godless wisdom.
- God is sovereign, and has chosen that man for her, knowing His mandate to submit.
- God doesn’t make mistakes. His will is perfect. If you trust Him when His only Son was crushed for you, but not when you are suffering, there’s a disconnect you need to work out.
- God also had Paul flogged and put in prison, many of His saints murdered for the faith, and His only Son crucified. So no one ever suffers more unjustly than Jesus; and it’s clearly part of His will for some folks to experience extraordinary suffering.
- Be assured and be comforted (by God).
- There’s always a lesson for the sufferer. Whether it reveals their own sin, or it exposes their weakness, causing them to rely upon God more, or brings them to more earnest prayer — God is always sanctifying His people, and He uses affliction most frequently (it seems to me!).
- Look for the lesson.
- God can change husbands. Wives generally cannot. She ought to be praying like nothing else mattered, and she ought to recruit others without gossiping. Even if she asks people like you to ask others to pray without giving her name.
- Do not neglect earnest, humble prayer as God’s means by which He may act.
- Local churches are supposed to deal with these things. She needs to be able to go to elders and discuss this and get help. She needs to trust them to do the right thing for her. And, even if in her mind the result is predictable AND bad, going to her local church elders is best/most biblical.
- Do not neglect the primary way God provided for families to deal with sin and affliction – the local church.
- Her husband isn’t an animal. He has to have some feelings, some love for her. Somehow, maybe after periods of honest submission on her part, she needs to be able to communicate how she feels and what she wants from him in a way that appeals to his desire to be a good man and his feelings. Men, especially men like that, are not easily swayed by a logical argument. But a woman who can tell him she still loves him, but he’s hurting her, you have to hope it would go somewhere. But if he thinks of her as a nag or insubordinate, it won’t go far. She needs to learn to love him and submit from her heart, not just in outward appearances. (I’m not saying she isn’t already doing that; I just don’t know.)
- Do not let his own abasement of his humanity change how you see him. Treat him like you expect him to be a rational, empathetic human being by providing opportunities and responding in a godly way.
May God bless her and you as you minister to her.
A final thought. Yes, it is the husband’s job to love the wife. I am not at all saying that it is ever the wife’s expected duty to do what has been outlined above. But what I am saying is in a fallen world, this is the situation she finds herself in, and these are the best pieces of advice I have to give a person who is in such a circumstance.
Comment from FX Turk on Facebook:
1. Most churches do a terrible job of teaching and leading married couples to live as if Eph 5 is true.
2. A lot of allegedly-biblical men think they are Christ in Revelation, or YHVH in Exodus rather than Jesus at Gethsemane.
3. Even the best men forget 2 things: (A) Their wives are a weaker vessel, which means they need compassion, and (B) These men are themselves imperfect and seeking to be more like Christ rather than having already arrived.
4. Almost no man I know understands what it means that his wife is his helper, not his daughter, or his subordinate, or his slave.
That should be plenty to make everybody have a terrible day.