- Ben Steward
How can a husband show his wife love, care, and admiration in obedience to God and according to what she deserves as his covenanted mate? The answer to this question is surely the journey of a lifetime, but here are three fundamental perspectives that can help a man approach his wife for her good and God's glory.
She is a Gift
He who finds a wife has found what is good, and he has received favor from the Lord.
Meditate deeply on the kindness of God in giving you your wife. Consider all that is wholesome about her and all the ways that she actively and passively blesses you. Her beauty (Be detailed! Let your mind wander! God made you for this woman!), her capabilities, her companionship, the comforts of her presence, how she shares your burdens, the food she cooks, the provisions she furnishes for the household, and her love and dedication to God. All of this and more is ammunition in your war against your selfish nature, to incentivize you towards greater demonstrations of affection and admiration towards your wife.
You might find inspiration from the Song of Solomon or from hearing how other men have pondered the blessing of their wives, but it is imperative that you do it. If you do not, then you will slide deeper into your selfishness and myopic perspective. Your lack of gratitude will turn into judgment and condemnation, openly expressed toward the woman who longs for, and deserves, your compassion and love.
But you can save yourself from this deadly path by musing often on the many good things your wife brings into your life. Think deeply, muse long, write poetry, sing songs of her while you shower, gratuitously tell your friends how happy you are to be married to such a wonderful lady, and admire her. This isn't to say you should worship her as if she were God, though your adoration should be expressed through similar channels of the heart, but you ought to feel the sacred nature of this good gift, and praise it — and her.
What is so unique about this particular gift of God is that she also can receive praise and be adored, consciously, as God can. And this is by design. She is not your Lord, and as such must not become your idol, but God made you and her in this way on purpose, so you could see the smile on her face as you tell her just how thankful you are that she is who she is...in great detail. This is rewarding for the both of you, and if your heart-perspective is correct, will only enhance your worship of God as you see that none of this comes about because either of you are special in yourselves, but it is all a gift from your Maker. The whole process is a reflection of His abundant joy and goodness.
So admire your wife as a gift from God, and your love and care for her will flourish.
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious — not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.
Ephesians 5:25-27 (NET)
In all your admiring of your wife, it will likely occur to you that, well, she isn't entirely admirable. Indeed, you will surely run up against this reality sooner or later. You probably already have. In fact, you may have been reading the first part of this essay with a bit of trouble, because your mind couldn't help but think of so many ways in which you aren't impressed or in which you might even be disappointed in your wife.
And of course, you're not surprised at this. "For better or for worse, in sickness and in health," you said to each other. But let's be honest, it certainly isn't easy, is it? In fact, it can be downright hard. Sometimes it seems like the biggest obstacle to loving your wife is her unloveliness.
But there is mercy here, my friend. By God's grace, she can grow and change and conform to the Image of God's Son who is perfect in every way. And you have a vital role to play in this spectacular transformation. Indeed, it is your privilege to participate, your responsibility, your obligation. God has entrusted her growth as a person, specifically, to you.
And you are equipped for the task! God made you for this, carefully crafting this aspect of your humanity after the pattern of His Son's love for you (and all God's church)! And if you are a believer in Jesus, all the more are you qualified and capable of guiding your wife to the abundant life God has for her. As you receive kindness and grace and wisdom from God, prayerfully consider how you can replicate this kindness and wisdom towards your wife and how that will positively affect her. As the Lord wooed you to himself with his love, so you can woo your wife towards not mere romantic reciprocation, but towards actually being an all-around better person.
And it is critical that you recognize the tools God has given you for this. As Ephesians pointed out, you wash and cleanse your wife with the Word. Be careful reaching for your own wisdom — it is self-serving and treacherous. Be a channel for God to speak through, don't try to be the speech-writer for God.
If you're following where this is going, you may be realizing how critical it is that you be growing and changing in response to God's grace yourself. And so it is. How would you expect to lead your wife in being a better spouse, parent, and Christian, if you're putting in no effort to learn how to be those things yourself? God is surely not expecting that we be hypocrites while we execute this sacred duty. The implications are clear. Be a man. Be the best man you can possibly be. And from the fullness of your own growth, feed your wife. And the beauty of this is that we can focus on our wives' growth and let that incentivize us to take our own development more seriously. Neither her spiritual growth nor yours must necessarily detract attention from the other. The whole thing works beautifully when selflessness is at the center of our life together: our hearts fixed on God, our eyes directed by Him to our wives, and our hands busy taking advantage of opportunities to love, serve, and teach for her good and God's glory.
So go to the Word, hungrily, seeking life for yourself and sustenance for your wife and family. One Scripture, in particular, should be on your mind as you seek to cultivate the garden of your wife's heart day in and day out.
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.
I Peter 3:7 (ESV)
Inasmuch as you are capable and qualified, God didn't intend for this to be easy for you. Indeed, it wasn't easy for His Son, either. This Scripture teaches that your wife is equal in honor, but also very different. So take that into account. Live with her "according to knowledge," paying close attention to how she naturally perceives the world, what inspires her, and what troubles her. It's probably not how you perceive, and are inspired, and are troubled. And that's most likely OK. Do not be quick to correct her when her reactions are not what you expect. Evaluate everything slowly, carefully, with an open Bible and much prayer. Perhaps you've observed something that needs to change in her...but perhaps not.
Live with her in an understanding way. It could radically change your life.
Source of Grace
As you help your wife, and pour yourself into your wife, you will (hopefully) realize that you just simply aren't adequate. Much of what you would transfer to her is either lost in translation, hindered by your own sin, or rejected (she is a sinner too, after all). And much that you would not transfer is sadly picked up and amplified in your marriage. Your own sinful nature and shortcomings get in the way and leak into your relationships and come back in surprising and disappointingly reciprocal ways.
In this desperate situation, with the responsibility of your duty and the impulse of your God-given love weighing on your heart--cry out to God!
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Your marriage is an incredible gift, a sacred duty, but often it is also a powerful source of Grace. Not only are you re-enacting a live picture of the Gospel itself in your marriage, but you are personally being driven to the end of yourself, brought face to face with the ugliness and disruptiveness of your sin and hers, left with no recourse in yourself, falling short of God's glory, longing for spiritual life to come to the place closest to your own heart: your home. And salvation is on the way.
Yes, you may not be fully able to love your wife at all times, but God is and does. Your lack of faithfulness (or hers) may cast shadows over your love, but God's eternal commitment to you in Christ shines on: "Where sin abounds, grace abounds more!" Your foolishness and lack of wisdom are healed by the wisdom of Christ that shames the wise of this world. The character of God on display at the cross provides inspiration and true power through His Spirit to change your ways, set aside the old man, and be made new.
Embrace this unique source of God's grace! It is a powerful channel of God's love to you, which you have access to daily, in the very fabric of the closest human relationship you have on earth. Your marriage might not be perfect, but your opportunity to meet God regularly couldn't possibly get better.
The more you see your marriage in the light of the gospel this way, the more your wife will also be affected by God's grace in your relationship. Ultimately, the greatest love you'll ever show her is to point her to the glory of God in Jesus Christ. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever and ever.