So many Christian women come to biblical counselors to learn
how to change a husband who is difficult, harsh, and unloving. The wife is
crying out for love and affection in her marriage and her husband is not
interested in providing it.
The last thing she wants to hear is, I'm sorry, you can't change him.
It is really hard to look the sorrowful wife in the eye and
confirm what she's suspected all along. She can do everything right, she can be
obedient, godly, sexy, submissive; really, be a great wife and mother and he
will still be who he is. This is deeply discouraging for a woman to hear. His
heart change does not depend on her behavior. He will only change as the Spirit
of God moves in his heart; as he is convicted by the word of God as to how he
is to live and then responds.
What I have observed about women in such marriages is her heart is also in danger. A natural
(but sinful) response to such hurt and sorrow is anger and bitterness. Even if
she doesn't recognize it as such, it is often present and is evidenced in her
words, demeanor, and actions around her husband. She sees everything in the
marriage as being to his advantage because the Bible commands her to respect
him, submit to him, and obey his wishes. This includes give him sex when he
wants it. When she has contemptible feelings toward him she wants to do none of
Sometimes such a woman comes for counseling looking for permission
to leave her husband. She is angry because she wants to escape the marriage and
it is common that she has already been told by her pastor or other church
authority that she has no biblical grounds for divorce. She feels trapped. She comes
to view her marriage as something to bear instead of as a one flesh
relationship. A woman in such a marriage often says she has no positive feelings
for her husband anymore. She views the rest of her life as misery to be endured
because she does not love him. Her life becomes performance out of obligation,
and she dreads it. The more she focuses on her circumstances and the negative
feelings she has, the more anxious and unhappy she becomes.
few pastors are trained to do any effective counseling (biblical or otherwise), they refer such couples to a marriage therapist who will use unbiblical methods with the couple. Since it is common for such counsel to be focused on feelings
and his needs/her needs and not on the heart issues or the necessity to change
for the glory of God, little change takes place. The other thing we hear in our
office is wives are blamed for the actions of the husband. One woman reported
her pastor saying to her, “Surely you
must have done something for him to turn away from you.” When this kind of “help”
is given it is common for one or both marital partners to become increasingly
frustrated and hopeless. It is at this point the marriage breaks up and very
often one or both people leave the church. They believe the church failed them,
and Jesus or His Word was not sufficient to address their problems.
believe it is extremely important for the church to be involved in reconciling these
relationships, either directly by providing biblical counseling or by referring
to a biblical counselor who has experience in these issues. The church must teach,
and train the couple in righteousness, and they must be correcting and rebuking
them for their individual sin. A wise, godly man should be actively confronting
the husband for his unbiblical actions in the marriage if he is willfully
withholding himself from his wife. A wise, godly older woman should be addressing
the sinful responses of the wife as well (Titus 2). In the best case scenario, this
will be taking place in tandem with weekly biblical counseling.