God’s Serious Message to Husbands

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 ESV)

Sometimes Scripture blindsides me. Because Scripture agrees with itself and the grand narrative is consistent throughout, it is easy to fall into the trap of reading it like a book you have already read if you aren’t paying attention. The way to avoid this travesty is to look at each word as the intentional message from God that it is. The “therefore” and “and” and “so that” and every other word is an intentional word spoken to us by God through the pens of men.

While this tendency to miss details is certainly there, God has weaved shocking statements into the Bible that do not leave it possible to run through them quickly. They grab us and tell us something we could not have guessed, and we must grapple with these truths.

So it is with 1 Peter 3:7. You read along following Paul’s logic. Okay, he just established in the preceding verses that wives should submit in love to their husbands and that the conduct of a woman is deeply powerful to influence a man. (Amen?) And then he addresses husbands. Okay, as our wives submit we should honor them as fellow heirs of grace in Jesus. Beautiful truths, but nothing shocking as yet.

Then Paul throws an unexpected hook.

If we don’t honor our wives and bear with them, if we don’t love them with our entire heart, our prayers will be hindered. This is abrupt. It almost seems harsh. I mean come on, God. I am a fallible man and I’ll do my best to love my wife but you’re going to hinder my prayers if I don’t?

Yes.

Two things are at work here. First, I believe that God cares so deeply for his daughters that he will not have them treated as anything less than the masterpieces they are. A father does not give his daughter away to a reprobate with a blessing. He might sooner have the “I have a shovel and a .45” conversation with the man unfit for his wife. So it goes with my wife. She is a beloved daughter and God means for me to treat her as such. And he will help me do that (thankfully). The Spirit will move and convict and encourage me when I fail and the grace of Christ will cover me when I sin against her. We husbands aren’t required to be perfect, but we are required to be dependent upon God and devoted to our families.

Second, the man whose heart is given to Christ will naturally show the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). The believing husband has the Holy Spirit living within him and thus his heart should drip with the fruits of God’s presence. His wife should see this. And thus, the husband, though he is imperfect, will honor and love his wife as a natural outworking of his relationship with Jesus.

I have been married for almost 10 years now. And I can imagine given my track record that there are times that my prayers have been hindered. But God didn’t hand me his daughter and just say “good luck.” God goes with us as husbands and helps us to love and honor our wives, and we have a desperate need for his guidance and power if we are to play our part well.

If a domineering or passive husband has hindered prayers, I surmise that the loving and devoted husband will have effective prayers. The prayer of a righteous person has great power (James 5:16), so we husbands can trust that when we pray over our household and our marriage that God will respond. When we pray for protection, done. When we pray for our wives to flourish, done – but the answer will likely include some work for us to facilitate their spiritual health and wash them in the word of God. Answered prayers will often include some faithful work for us men.

The disposition of the heart is the point, not mere behavior. If a husband’s heart is toward his wife, by God’s grace he will find more tools in his arsenal to love her as he should. This is God’s design.

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When God Intervenes in Marriage

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him…(Matthew 1:24)

Picture Joseph coming home from a long day in the field. He’s sweaty, tired, and hungry. He smells something cooking and looks forward to catching up with Mary. Though they had yet physically consummated their marriage, they were a couple and Joseph longed to spend an evening with his girl. He walks into their home and sets his stuff down.

Mary looks up and sees Joseph. “Hey love. I need to talk to you.”

Joseph sits down. “Sure, what’s up?”

“I’m pregnant.”

Joseph looks at her, bewildered.

“It’s not what you think. I know you won’t believe this, but I had this encounter with an angel who said God was going to make me pregnant with the messiah. I thought I was crazy but now I’m pregnant and I wasn’t with anyone and – isn’t this wonderful?”

“Uh…”

“Joseph, I am being serious. I was not with anyone!”

“I need a minute to think.”

Joseph storms out of the house. He walks into the evening air. He keeps walking, hoping that covering distance will soothe the pit in his stomach. It doesn’t work. He is madly in love with Mary and now this whole story about miraculous pregnancy just crushed his world. He feels a deep sense of loss, embarrassment, and anger.

Now into the night, Joseph resolves to divorce Mary. He just can’t buy this Holy Spirit pregnancy bit. He figures he will divorce her quietly and try to keep Mary’s reputation intact. Joseph isn’t sure how he’ll pull that off exactly but he cannot stay with Mary due to her betrayal. He’ll figure it out tomorrow.

Footsore and tired, Joseph makes it home. Mary is asleep, her hair still damp from tears she shed as she cried herself to sleep. Joseph looks at her sleeping and his heart aches. He lays down on the other side of the room and after much thinking, he falls asleep.

That night, Joseph is visited in a lucid dream by an angel. The angel corroborates Mary’s story. At dawn, Joseph wakes up. He yawns and walks outside the house to get some air.

Then he remembers his dream.

“Mary! Mary!” He shakes her awake. “Mary, I get it. Sweetheart, I get it. I had a dream where an angel of the Lord told me your story is true. The angel told me we will call him Jesus, because he’ll save his people from their sins. And I just – “

Mary smiles and embraces Joseph.

I cannot imagine how Joseph felt when Mary told him that she was pregnant. I also cannot imagine how he felt when God intervened into his marriage via a dream and made it all make sense. Absent God’s intervention in that dream, Joseph and Mary would have parted ways and ended their marriage.

Marriage is beautiful. It is a picture of the Gospel, with sacrificial love and care and bearing with sins. Marriage is about forgiveness and joy and submission. And marriage is not merely a covenant between two people, it is a covenant between two people and the God who made them. God is a party to this covenant, not just a county clerk who stamps the certificate.

Too often we take God’s grace for granted. Like the air we breathe, it is all around us and in us but we just don’t think about it. God’s grace in sustaining a marriage is astounding. Two sinful people combining their sins and baggage with love is a recipe for a short union – absent God.

Jesus intervened in our world when our sin left us hopeless and rightly judged. He does the same in our marriages. How often do we notice?

When your spouse apologizes, that posture of the heart comes from the movement of the Spirit.

When your argument somehow turns to laughter, God has stepped in.

When you mourn the loss of a child and somehow end up feeling closer to God and your spouse, that’s grace upon grace.

When your ugliness is laid bare before your spouse and they love you anyway, that’s Christ’s love shining through.

Joseph was a solid dude. He was humble and gentle and listened to God. But if God didn’t intervene supernaturally, he would have walked out on Mary as she was pregnant with Jesus. But God did intervene, just as He does in my marriage every day.

May we see the Gospel more clearly in marriage. Not because marriage is perfect, but because it isn’t and the Lord enters the space of brokenness and brings His grace.

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