As the spiritual leader of his home, a man has an awesome responsibility. Husbands are tasked, not only with providing for their families in practical ways, but also with leading their wives and children toward spiritual maturity and a lifelong pursuit of holiness.
As men think about how they can offer love to their wives by being spiritual leaders in the home, here are some things to consider.
A Beautiful Duet
God made a man and a woman for each other and for Him. That was the original, divine plan. But we also know from Genesis that Satan attacked the first marriage. The result was a severing of their bond with each other and with God.
It is the privilege and responsibility of a husband to offer his hand to his wife, and with her, move toward their Creator in a redeemed relationship.
Ever since, God has been reaching toward man and woman in a progression of his redemptive purpose. And ever since, it has been the privilege and responsibility of a husband to offer his hand to his wife, and with her, move toward their Creator in a redeemed relationship.
The sin of the first couple twisted the beauty of their relationship, bringing complexities to God’s ordained template. The design has been marred through the centuries.
But a woman still needs to be able to depend on the spiritual leadership of her husband. She needs to know that he will be there in the traumatic moments when her faith is tested. She needs his ongoing support and affirmation as she walks with Christ every day. She needs his love, counsel, and encouragement.
Erik Hammond has this to say about a husband’s sanctifying love for his wife:
The husband is given the privilege and charge to see his wife grow in godliness. There are other means God has provided (e.g., the local church), but it is the husband’s responsibility to ensure that it happens. He is to be concerned with his wife’s spiritual growth. He is to share Jesus’s burden for his wife’s holiness.
The Apostle Peter instructed husbands to be sensitive and thoughtful in the way they relate to their wives:
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
What Women Want And Need
Women want spiritual discipling. Women who are spiritually healthy should want to grow in biblical knowledge and Christian wisdom. As a young girl, I delighted in listening to the conversations around the Sunday dinner table when visiting preachers ate with us. I soaked up everything and asked questions when appropriate. Women cherish knowledge. As a wife, I find security in asking my husband a question and receiving his informed, confident, biblically-based answer.
Women need information. Husbands forget, at times, that women usually do not like to be blindly led. This may, in a man’s mind, be the ultimate statement of trust for his judgment. At times, it may be necessary for the good of the family. Most of the time, it will be a much better way to go if a husband can bring his wife along with him toward the spiritual goals he has for them.
Wives feel secure when they can ask their husbands a question and receive an informed, confident, biblically-based answer.
A wife loves for her husband to lay out his dreams for her. Can you imagine any other reason why pioneer wives trekked through mountains, buried children on the trail, set their mother’s china beside the path, and followed a man to the uncivilized West? It was because he laid out a dream in front of her and asked her to be part of it. A wife wants to be part of her husband’s adventure; he just needs to tell her about it. “Honey, this is what God is telling me. This is how I’d love to see us grow as a couple!”
Women need reassurance. Yes, wives are sometimes fearful to trust their husbands. It is not entirely on the husband to fix this; a wife must deal with her own fears and her willingness to follow the man she chose to marry. Of course, healthy boundaries must always be part of a marriage and when these are violated, the relationship will require a response appropriate to the situation.
Yet, even in flourishing marriages, a husband can sweeten the deal immeasurably with his reassurance. His words of purpose to her about his own spiritual goals are a source of great security for her. His public testimony in the congregation, both of need and of victory, make her confident that his integrity and his motives are ones on which she can depend.
Of course, his everyday life says the most about whether she can trust him. If the fruits of his daily activities at work and at home, in public and in private, prove that he values his commitment to Christ, she can rest in knowing he is genuine. If a woman comes from a background that was particularly spiritually confusing or harsh, she will need even more on-purpose reassurance. It is okay for a man to tell his wife that she is safe with him, that he takes their family’s spiritual progress as a sacred trust, that he will always try to lead her authentically and lovingly. I don’t know a believing woman anywhere who wouldn’t cherish that.
Women need strength. This is closely related to reassurance, but important in its own right. A wife needs to believe her husband is her ally and her defender. Few things open a woman’s heart like a man’s strength displayed for her good. God knew what He was saying when He said a man should love his wife as Christ loved the church and be willing to give himself (die) for her (Ephesians 5:25).
Women who have a biblical understanding of the Creator’s plan value the presence of a strong man (spiritual and relational strength) who stands in their corner against spiritual attacks. One way a husband can do this is by his prayers on her behalf against Satan who hates her and would destroy her. Like Jesus, he lays down his life and says “You can’t get her, Satan. By Christ’s authority, I’m in your way.”
Women need tenderness. A woman looking into her bridegroom’s eyes expects tenderness. Tenderness opens a woman’s heart in astounding ways. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “No weapon will breach the armor of a woman’s resentment like tenderness.” It will be very hard for a Christian wife to resist her husband’s spiritual leadership if he is looking at her with love, holding her hand as they talk and speaking to her with tender words.
Nothing can create a bond in a couple like praying together.
Women want couple prayer. Nothing can create a bond in a couple like praying together. Women long to be led into God’s presence by the man they love; it’s necessary if a man hopes to be an effective spiritual leader in his home. He should initiate the prayer, and he should lead the prayer, taking the responsibility for their marriage and their spiritual fellowship with their Creator. The rewards for the couple relationally, spiritually, emotionally, even sexually, will be amazing. When a man leads his wife to God, only good results.
What Women Do Not Want Or Need
Here are some things that a husband should keep in mind and guard against:
- Superiority. A man can give his wife the impression that he is spiritually elite. This is not so. The Bible says they are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).
- Scolding. A wife is not her husband’s child; she should not be treated in a patronizing way. Rather, he is to see her, not only as his wife, but as a “sister in the Lord” to whom he offers respect—even while he recognizes his spiritual responsibility.
- Silliness. A woman resents a simpering approach to spiritual leadership. A husband will not win her over with sentimental affectations or pretense.
A Circle Of Two
The old tactic of “divide and conquer” must have originated with the Serpent’s temptation to the first couple. He wants to separate us as husbands and wives, isolate and destroy us. But our Creator says that together, we are one in Him.
It was His perfect plan that a husband would stand up with and stand up for the woman he married, leading her as together they get to know the Father. We may not have a perfect Garden in which to talk to Him, but wherever two are gathered in His name, He is in the midst. As an old song says, that’s a “circle of two.”