In part one of this article we settle some possible problems in our thinking about this issue. Now let’s take a look at a 7 things you can do if your wife has lost interest in spiritual things.
1. Start with yourself
Blame is an invisible, silent, and deadly shadow that we often cast upon those nearest us. It’s easy to look at the shadow of blame on your wife and then say,
“Why are you that way? Why can’t you change? Why can’t you be more like me?”
I’m not saying that you’re some sort of evil despot, I hope you aren’t. What I am saying is that your wife’s problems aren’t really her problems. More accurately they’re your problems! They’re your problems because she’s your wife and you are “one flesh” (Gen 2:23-24). They’re your problems because they will probably affect you more than anyone. They’re your problems because you may have created them.
This is why the first piece of advice that I always give to husbands who come to me about their wife’s problems is to tell them to start with themselves. Self-sacrificial love must always start with self. It must look through the soiled window of your own heart as a starting point.
A husband who’s not more shocked and abhorred by his own sin rather than his wife’s sin is not equipped to lead his wife toward the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. His attempts to “correct” his wife’s behavior will look a lot more like condemnation and accusation than heartfelt affection and admiration.
As a husband you must start with the Apostle Paul’s bold and shocking statement:
“This is a trustworthy saying that deserves complete acceptance: To this world Messiah came, sinful people to reclaim. I am the worst of them. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the worst sinner, the Messiah Jesus might demonstrate all of his patience as an example for those who would believe in him for eternal life.” 1Ti 1:15-16
When we learn to say “I am the worst of them” it changes our perspective in marriage. David Harvey in his book “When Sinners Say ‘I do’” puts it this way:
“But once I find 1 Timothy 1:15–16 trustworthy—once I can embrace it with full acceptance—once I know that I am indeed the worst of sinners, then my spouse is no longer my biggest problem: I am. And when I find myself walking in the shoes of the worst of sinners, I will make every effort to grant my spouse the same lavish grace that God has granted me.”
What happens when you don’t start with yourself? The streams of grace which your wife and your marriage need dry up and the desolate sands of self-righteous criticism take over. If you want your marriage to work, if you want your wife to be sure of your love, if you want to give her and opportunity to grow in Christ then you need to give great grace in your marriage.
In order to give grace you must have received it. Your grasp of God’s grace toward you is directly related to your awareness of the wretched nature of your own heart. The better you understand your own sin, the more you loathe your particular flavor of sin, the greater you will see God’s grace in you and the more ready you’ll be to give that grace to your wife.
Ask yourself the following questions to get started:
- Do I feel like I’m “better” than my wife?
- Am I more bothered internally by her sin or mine?
- Do my actions and words clearly communicate to her my own sinfulness and humility?
- Could my wife’s lack of spiritual interest somehow be related to my failures as a husband?
- In what areas could I show my wife more grace?
2. Make your wife your first mission
Unfortunately men often go into marriage with little thought to how they will minister daily to their wife. I know I did! We put so much emphasis upon making sure that you marry a Christian in the first place that we can forget the vital importance of cultivating spiritual growth in the heart of your wife after you are married.
Many husbands do well in taking care of the physical needs of their wife, they take pride in being the “bread winner” and rightly so. They realize that they need to work now in order to provide for future needs. They plan and save to purchase a car or a house. They don’t wait until there’s no money left in the bank before going out to look for a job.
However, when it comes to the spiritual well-being of their wife they often take no notice until her spiritual condition becomes so severe that it starts to inconvenience them. This is a foolish and dangerous road for your marriage and a sure way to provide endless struggle and strife between you and your wife.
Notice how the Apostle Paul talks about the husband’s responsibility in marriage.
Husbands, love your wives as the Messiah loved the church and gave himself for it, so that he might make it holy by cleansing it, washing it with water and the word.
Jesus first mission was the church, his bride! He gave himself up for her. Friend, your first mission must also be your bride! You must learn to give yourself up for her daily, deeply, and devotedly. Without this primary commitment of surrender for her you can not expect any real spiritual progress to be made. Sacrifice is the soil and substance of all spiritual growth.
To make your wife your first mission doesn’t mean forcing her to please you, do what you want, or meet your needs. Rather, it means forfeiting your own comforts and affections for hers, it means surrendering your desires to met hers. The mission calls for you to abandon your “rights” to give up on your demands and to sacrificially serve her!
Take careful note that your sacrifice isn’t done with an unsaid expectation that now “she owes me” or “I’m really gaining some points with her” or “after all I’ve done she wouldn’t dare treat me like that any more.” True selfless sacrifice carries with it none of these expectations. In the context of Christian marriage sacrifice always has a worthy goal and it is directed by a guiding principle.
Notice Paul’s further description of the Messiah’s sacrifice,
“So that he might make her holy”
Oh how I wish I understood this early on in married life! How I wish you would take this one simple statement and make it true in your marriage. What was Christ’s mission? Why did he allow soldiers to drive the nails through his hands and remain upon the cross in agony as people hurled insults upon him? He had one reason, to make you and me holy!
Friend your greatest mission in marriage is to make your wife holy. The greatest reason to sacrifice you time, money, and even your very life for your wife is so that she would be holy! You can not allow any other task, duty, or desire become greater than this! You must not think that it’s enough to provide a roof over her head and food on the table, it’s not enough to produce children for her, it’s not enough to be a kind and be helpful man for her. These are all well and good but they are not your ultimate mission.
Holiness is your wife’s greatest need and it must be your greatest mission for her! That being said we must recognize that there is a difference between Christ and us. You can not make your wife holy through your own effort as good as it may be. Christ, however could make us holy because he was the perfect sacrifice he was able to provide the righteousness we needed. Your job therefore is to point her to Christ, the only one who can truly make her holy.
How can you point her to Christ? Allow her to see Christ through you, through your love and sacrifice for her. Be keenly aware and concerned for her spiritual condition. Pray regularly, deeply, and passionately for her soul. Communicate often your heartfelt desire for her spiritual success. Allow her to see that you place her spiritual growth and relationship with God far above her physical beauty, and far far above your own ambitions, comforts, and pleasures.
Take time to read God’s Word with her. Pray with her every day. Ask her where she’s struggling, ask her how you can help, tell her she’s loved, remind her of God’s promises. Give her time alone with God. Ensure that she has a daily time when she is free of distractions, free of kids, and able to personally focus on Bible reading and prayer. Do what you have to in order to make these things happen, it will not be easy, it will require significant sacrifice but remember her holiness is your most important mission!
3. Practice gospel in your marriage.
Marriage is a microcosm of the gospel. Nowhere better do we see the inner workings of gospel truth than in marriage. I believe God intended it that way. He gave us a living, breathing, and intimately personal example of gospel within which we can live and experience it’s principles.
We see this gospel parallel in Ephesians 5:25 when Paul says, “Husbands love your wives as the Messiah loved the church and gave himself for it.” We see it more graphically in the Old Testament story of Hosea. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer as an illustration of God’s love for Israel (Hosea 1:2). Gomer didn’t stay with Hosea for long. After bearing two children she left him and continued in her prostitution.
This would have been more than sufficient grounds for divorce. Any priest in that day would have told Hosea that he had every right to divorce Gomer and probably would have advised him to do just that! Nevertheless God gave Hosea different instructions, he told him:
“Then the LORD told me: “Go love your wife again, even though she is being loved by another and is committing adultery. Love her the same way the LORD loves the people of Israel, even though they look to other gods and love raisin cakes.” Hosea 3:1
Do you see the gospel truths at work here? God is calling Hosea to love his wife who betrayed him and left him for other men, he’s calling him to offer forgiveness while she is still in her sin, he’s calling Hosea to make reconciliation through unearned loved, undeserved forgiveness, and unfailing commitment.
These are gospel truths that must run deep in your relationship to your wife. You must consciously and consistently cultivate them. Make your marriage an oasis of grace, forgiveness, and truth. Be the first to seek forgiveness and to give it! Practice patient mercy. Let you marriage marinate long in the rich flavors of charity, devotion, and faithfulness.
Learn to practice the gospel truths of grace, forgiveness, and unfailing love and you’ll have a much better chance of reaching her heart and bringing her back to spiritual health.
4. Find the support of a godly brother
We’re men and we like to do things on our own. It can be embarrassing to admit that we have a problem whether it’s at home, in our marriage, or at work. If you’re like me you’d much rather just tough it out, buck it up, and try to make it through. Sometimes we do make it through but that doesn’t mean we did the right thing by not seeking the support and advice of others.
The Bible is clear about the importance of good friends.
Ointments and perfume encourage the heart; in a similar way, a friend’s advice is sweet to the soul. Pro 27:9
If you don’t have a godly brother in Christ with whom you can share some of your struggles in marriage, I encourage you to start by looking in your own church. Look for someone who has a successful Christian marriage, look for someone who has more years of experience than you, and look for someone is willing to listen and give practical advice.
The support of a friend is important not only because it will be a relief and encouragement to your spirit but also because it will give you a more objective view into your marriage. Often when we are in the midst of the problem it can be hard to see beyond it, it can be easy to second guess our actions, and tempting to give up too soon. A good friend is one who can either confirm that what you are doing is right and should be continued or correct you.
Correction can be painful to listen to but it is often needed and you will be able to reach your wife’s heart much quicker if you are humble enough to receive correction from a more seasoned and godly friend.
An open rebuke is better than unspoken love. Wounds from someone who loves are trustworthy. Prov 27:5-6a
Too often we go to a friend because we want them to listen to our sob story, and respond with “poor you!” While it’s an important to listen carefully, a really good friend will stop you when he senses you are just looking for sympathy and he will not be afraid to tell you truths that could hurt.
Finally, I encourage you to find a friend who is not too far away.
Never abandon your friend nor your father’s friend, and don’t go to your brother’s house in times of trouble. A neighbor who is near is better than a brother who lives far away. Pro 27:10
Why does the author of this proverb tell us it’s better to go to a neighbor near than a brother far away? Sometimes it’s easier to turn to someone far away in our problems, it’s less shameful for us than to have to admit our problem to a neighbor or a friend nearby. Unfortunately the brother who is far away is less likely to give us the help we need. He’s not seen all that possibly led up to your current problem. He can only give you advice based upon the situation as you describe it. Thus, he’s terribly limited because there’s a good chance that you aren’t telling it exactly like it is.
On the other hand a neighbor or a friend who is near is more able to help because he has closer and more frequent contact with you. He’s probably going to have a pretty good idea about the situation even before you come to him. It will be harder to hide certain facts from him, he’s observed mistakes you’ve made along the way and he’s going to tell you about them.
So find a godly brother in Christ who is near enough that he can accurately assess your situation. Share with him your marriage difficulties then stop and listen to his advice. Be ready to hear something that may be unpleasant and when you do instead of trying to justifying yourself choose humility.
5. Choose to grow through it
When things are difficult in marriage it tends to make the rest of life difficult. It can be discouraging, depressing, and altogether disheartening. Yet there is a simple choice that we must make, we must choose to grow through it.
It’s easy to look at the circumstances and blame your lack of spiritual growth, personal Bible study, and prayer time with God on your wife’s behavior. I talked about this earlier in the section “Your wife isn’t holding you back.” In reality your wife’s spiritual problems provide you with opportunity. It’s either an opportunity to grow or to backslide, you choose!
If your attitude is one of excuses, self-pity, and bitterness then you can be sure that you will rot rather than grow! We tend to have the false notion that the roots of our faith will deepen and we will produce the most spiritual fruit when the weather conditions around us are fair and pleasant. The Bible tells otherwise.
Not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Rom 5:3-4
Dear friend you must learn to view every trial and difficulty in your marriage as an opportunity of greater grace in your life. After all, nothing of worth, of true beauty, of strength and honor is created without a process that includes some hardship, some adversity, some discomfort. So stop trying to avoid that which has the means to strengthen your faith. Instead turn into the wind and ask God to guide your course. In the end you will be stronger, closer to your God, and better able to lead your wife towards Christ.
6. Pray hard
There may be a thousand reasons given for why your wife doesn’t want to go to church, bad preaching, unkind people, uncomfortable pews, the service starts too early, the service goes too late… etc. In a similar way loss of interest in spiritual things and even marriage conflict could be excused as simply a lack of time, differences in personalities, or stress.
Unfortunately often Christian marriage counselors are quick to give you all kinds of tips, tricks, and fixes to correct external symptoms of internal problems. Better communication skills, learning the art of compromise, and even speaking your wife’s love language are all for not if we forget that ultimately the problem is an internal sin problem. It is a spiritual problem and it must be dealt with in a spiritual way.
There is no more powerful way to deal with a spiritual problem than to pray. Pray hard, pray regularly, and pray passionately for your wife. Whether or not your currently have big problems in your marriage you ought to be praying for your wife. Make it a habit that is so ingrained that you couldn’t imagine a day to go by without a time of speaking to God and pleading for his mercy and grace in the life of your wife.
Be careful however, that you don’t pray for your wife as the self-righteous Pharisee prayed:
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed, ‘O God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—thieves, dishonest people, adulterers, or even this tax collector. Luk 18:11
Your prayer for your wife ought to be preceded by humble confession of your own sin. Confess your sins to God and if they were sins against your wife, confess them to her as well.
James tells us that prayer and confession go together.
Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Jas 5:16
It’s important to pray privately for your wife and to pray together with your wife. I also make it a practice of telling her that I am praying for her. I tell her not because I want her praise but because I want her to know how seriously I take my responsibility as spiritual leader. I tell her because I want her to know that I truly care for her spiritual health. I tell her because I want her to know that I can not provide for all her spiritual needs alone, I need God’s help as does she! I tell her because I want to encourage her to turn to the Lord in prayer regularly for herself and for me.
Here are a few ways you can pray for your wife:
- Pray that she would find her greatest joy and treasure in Christ
- Pray that she would resist sin through the power of the Holy Spirit
- Pray that she would be quick to seek forgiveness and quick to forgive
- Pray that she would grow in her knowledge of God
- Pray that she would love her family
- Pray that she would be faithful in all her tasks
- Pray that her love for God and family would grow.
7. Promise her your faithfulness no matter what
Faithfulness is far underrated as a primary quality of a good husband. Your faithfulness day in and day out in the simple yet important tasks of loving and caring for your wife are vital to her emotional and spiritual health. Faithfulness provides a spiritually stable platform upon which your marriage can be built. Where faithfulness lacks you will find a lack of security, a lack of trust, and a lack of endurance.
The real key to faithfulness is understand the nature of God’s faithfulness to us. Throughout Scripture we see glimpses of God’s faithfulness. God’s covenants with Noah, Abraham, David and others are all promises of his faithfulness. He often reminds his people that he is faithful, especially if they are about to go through difficult times or if they are in the midst of troubles.
God reminded his people of his faithfulness during the difficult times of Babylonian captivity through the prophet Jeremiah who through his tears wrote:
Because of the LORD’s gracious love we are not consumed, since his compassions never end. They are new every morning—great is your faithfulness! “The LORD is all I have,” says my soul, “Therefore I will trust in him.” Lam 3:22-24
God is faithful to his promises, he is faithful to his people, even when everything seems to have gone wrong we can turn to him, we can trust in him because his faithfulness never fails. God, however, isn’t just faithful when things go bad around us, he’s faithful when things go bad in us! Even when we turn from him, rebel against him, and try to walk away from him, even then he is faithful!
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful because he cannot be untrue to himself. 2 Tim 2:13
Again the story of Hosea and Gomer shed light on God’s faithfulness and give us as husbands an example to follow. In Hosea chapter two God speaks of how he as a husband will bring his people back to himself.
And I will betroth you to Me forever. Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in mercy, and in compassions. I will even betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know Jehovah. Hos 2:19-20
God’s promise to betroth his people to him in faithfulness is important and it is shocking. His people were not faithful, yet God promises faithfulness, his people turned their backs on him yet God promises loyalty, his people strayed from him yet God promises devotion.
Dear friend, God is faithful to you in every circumstance. He is faithful to you as a Savior, he’s faithful to provide for your needs, he’s faithful to give you grace, he’s faithful in your home, he’s faithful in your marriage. God’s faithfulness to you does not depend upon how well you serve him, what you say about him to others, how you treat him, or how you feel about him. He is faithful simply for one reason; he promised and he always does what he says!
God’s example of faithfulness must be mirrored in your marriage. Just as Hosea brought back his straying wife through loyal love, so you must promise your wife that you will be faithful no matter the circumstances. But be careful my friend, promises of faithfulness must be backed with a rock solid commitment to follow through on your words! Any romantic lover can utter words of faithfulness in a passionate moment. The test of the integrity of those words comes later. It comes when your wife isn’t acting very lovable, it comes when you’re not feeling the emotions of love. Will you be faithful then? If you have a proper understanding of God’s faithfulness to you and if you ask for God’s help then you can be sure that our faithful God will strengthen you for the task.
Let your wife hear your commitment to be faithful to her all the time, in all places, and through every circumstance. Back up your faithfulness with unwavering, enduring, and abiding allegiance and you will be much more likely to awaken within her true spiritual interest. You will give her a stable and secure shelter to return to when the storms of life blow hard. You will provide her with a deep sense of peace that will serve her spirit well. You will illustrate for her God’s faithfulness and in doing so point her to the faithful lover of her soul!
Dear friend God has given you the high calling of leading your wife to the foot of the cross. This is no easy task, in fact it is impossible if we were left to our own strength. For this task you and I desperately need God’s help. I hope you will take the advice that I have given in this article properly. I in no way mean for this to be “7 steps to lead your wife to spiritual victory” or “7 secrets on how to get your wife to come to church.” There are no secrets here and there are no formulas that guarantee success.
There are, however, I believe solid Biblical principles that you and I must turn to which help inform us as to how we should behave has husbands. There are Biblical examples of God’s relationship with his people and some specific examples of people like Hosea. These serve us well when we study them, take them to our heart, and apply them to our marriage but they are not guarantees.
Ultimately, we must commit ourselves to the task of being a loving, faithful, and praying husband. Continue in these things always with a humble attitude and a sincere desire to please God and your wife and you will do well. As for the outcome, you must put that in the hands of God Almighty. He can do what we can’t because he can work from the inside out. Trust him in his task and remain faithful in yours.