“I’m not going to church today.”
Dan’s wife, Julie, matter of factly stated as she passed the bathroom where Dan was getting ready for Sunday morning like usual.
Dan said as put down his razor and leaned out the bathroom door waiting for her answer.
“I’m kind of busy today.” She tersely responded.
“Uh, ya but what about church, I mean that’s important right?” Dan countered.
Dan could hear Julie let out a small sigh,
“I’m sure I’ll be fine, you make it sound like I’ve converted to Islam or something, it’s just one Sunday, no big deal.”
Note: You can read part 2 of this article here.
Dan stepped back into the bathroom and continued with shaving, he knew that if Julie had made up her mind there wasn’t much he could do now. Sure, one Sunday wasn’t going to hurt anything but this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened.
Over the past months Dan had begun to notice a gradual and trend in Julie’s life. 5 years ago when they married they were both brimming with spiritual interests. Julie was active in women’s bible study, she regularly taught in Sunday school, and often volunteered when the church had special outreach projects.
Some of that changed after they married. Now that she had a husband and a year later a little baby boy she had less time to give to the church. She had to drop women’s Bible study and later she turned over Sunday School responsibilities to someone else.
All this could be explained by the fact that she was a new mom who was still trying to hang on to her job. Yet, Dan had notice other things too. Before they married and as newlyweds they often talked about spiritual things, they even had a dream of maybe someday going on the mission field. At that time it seemed exciting to talk about things like that, there was a spark in both their eyes as they dreamed about what it would be like to serve God in a faraway land.
That time seemed like a faraway land to Dan now. Somehow, something had changed. Life had taken over, they were busy with the daily grind and a conversation about spiritual aspirations and dreams seemed quite unlikely.
Dan could see that this was more than just missing one Sunday. It was a culmination of many factors over time that caused him to believe that his wife was seriously losing interest in spiritual things.
The story of Dan and Julie is purely fictional but on the other hand it’s very true. It’s a typical story that, with some variants, could be told by many husbands. I’ve seen it over and again in churches, in ministry, and in missions.
This is part 1 of 2 and in this section I want to simply set a few things straight and correct some common misconceptions. In section 2 we will look at 7 specific steps that you can take to help bring your wife back to spiritual health.
Your problem is not unique
Too many husbands think that they are only ones who struggle with these kinds of issues in marriage. In counseling with men I have heard the comment, “Well, you don’t know what it’s like to be married to my wife.” While certainly every marriage has it’s unique problems, there are also many common denominators. Even in the best marriages at times both husband and wife can struggle with a loss of spiritual interest.
What I’m saying here is that there are probably far more husbands who struggle with this issue than you think. It may not look like it, it may not show on Sunday morning when everyone is nicely dressed, smiling as they go through the front doors of the church. To think that your problem is absolutely unique and that no one can sympathize with you or help you will only keep you from getting the help you need.
You didn’t marry the wrong woman
Another common sentiment that I run across is those men who think that they made a mistake and married the wrong woman. If you’re married then your wife is the right woman for you, end of story! Second guessing and doubting your choice for a bride will only damage your marriage further.
The fact that your wife has lost spiritual interests doesn’t mean you married the wrong woman. It could be that she once sincerely had deep spiritual interests and she simply drifted away from those. It may also mean that you have not been the right husband for her, that you have not provided her with the love and spiritual conditions she needed for continual spiritual growth. Either way you must stand solidly on the truth that she is your wife and that means she’s the one for you and you must do all you can to restore her to spiritual health because you have no other options!
Your wife isn’t holding you back
Finally, I often see husbands who think that the main problem in their marriage is their wife. They see their wife’s lack of spiritual interest as a weight that is holding them back from what God wants them to do. They blame their wife for their own discouragement and inability to serve God or obey him. They repeat phrases such as: “If only she didn’t complain so much.” or “if only she didn’t argue with me.” or “If only she supported me.”
Yes, it would be good if your wife was more supportive, if she had deeper spiritual interests, if she didn’t complain so much, and so on. However, her weaknesses, her struggles, and her problems are not holding you back from what God wants from you. In fact, if anything they are giving you greater opportunity!
How can I say that? Simply put, God has called you to love your wife (Eph 5:25) and to sacrifice for your wife (Eph 5:26). Your wife’s problems only give you greater opportunity to love her in a sacrificial Christ like way. Think about it this way, did your sin or my sin hold Jesus back from pursuing and fulfilling God’s will in his life. Absolutely not! Jesus pursued us, loved us, died for us, and called us to himself while we were still far away in rebellion and sin.
Marriage is a picture of Christ’s loving pursuit of us while we were completely unlovable. If you don’t understand this then you will easily fall under the false assumption that your wife’s behavior determines the level of love that you are able to give her. This assumption is generally not voiced but the thought goes something like this:
“As long as she is kind, helpful, agreeable, beautiful, and in general pleasing to me…. Then I can love her.”
“If she won’t listen to me, if she says mean things to me, if she doesn’t pay attention to me, if she lies to me, if she is trying to hurt me…. Then I can’t love her.”
This is a tragic and damaging assumption for you to make in your marriage. It fails to understand the basic nature of the type of love God has called you to. The truest and deepest love is always sacrificial love. What greater opportunity do you have to prove the richness of your love for your wife than when she is completely unlovable? It doesn’t take much effort, it doesn’t take much sacrifice, and it’s really not a struggle to love the perfect wife!
However, learning to love like Christ loved you means finding ways to love your wife when you don’t feel like it because her behavior might be anything but loving toward you. It is in these moments that God will stretch your faith, deepen your trust, and focus your attention in a new way on Jesus!
Yes, your wife’s lack of spiritual interest, her mistakes, and even her sins against you only provide you with the ultimate opportunity to love her. She’s not holding you back!
Note: In part 2 of this article we look at 7 things you can do to bring your wife back to spiritual health.