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Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)
Because this verse is poorly worded, it has opened the door to all kinds of guilt and anxiety for Christian men who really care about being in a right relationship with God. If that’s the kind of man you are, then this post is speaking to you.
When it comes to your marriage, God commands you to treat your wife with respect. He commands you to treat all humans with respect, so this is hardly news. But your wife should get an extra measure of good treatment from you—respect, consideration, kindness, patience—simply because she is your wife. A man should be treating his wife as a treasure that he cherishes. But in real life, this is easier said than done. After all, the people closest to us are the ones we take for granted. They are also the ones we feel the most relaxed around, which means we let our carnality show a lot more. You aren’t going to lip off to the CEO of your company, but you’re much more likely to fling some nasty crack at your wife when she’s getting on your nerves. And let’s be honest: you’re not Christ incarnate. You have your set of flaws and insecurities. Well, to hear Peter tell it, if you don’t maintain a certain level of righteous behavior towards your wife, God is going to start stonewalling you in your prayer time. Is this really true? No, it’s not.
As we said before, this verse is poorly worded. How you treat your wife is not what’s going to hinder your prayers. Your soul’s response to God is what’s going to hinder your prayers. Maybe you have a short fuse and you are quick to explode over minor details. No one enjoys being yelled at, and maybe you’re doing damage to your wife’s sensitive feelings. When God tells you that you’re acting like a jerk, He wants you to care. He wants you to agree with His assessment of your behavior and He wants you to want to improve. When He tells you that you need to apologize, He wants you to agree with Him that this is what you should do. All of these things are soul choices—ways that you choose to respond to the Holy Spirit’s convictions. Now you can have all of these right attitudes happening in your heart while your tongue is still out of control. Is God going to refuse to talk to you until you find some way to overcome your flesh? No, this isn’t how God operates. First of all, it’s impossible for you to overcome your flesh on your own. You can’t rein in your own temper—you need self-restraint from the Holy Spirit. You can’t just decide to get over yourself and apologize—you need God’s help and strength for these things. But now we’re talking about behaviors, and behaviors are different than soul choices. As long as you’re making the right soul choices, God is going to be very pleased with you and He is not going to be upset with you. He might take quite a while to help you correct your behaviors, but in the meantime, your heart is in the right place because you sincerely care about pleasing God.
Now suppose you make some nasty crack about your wife’s cooking because, well, it really is that bad. But when the Holy Spirit tells you that your comment was out of line, how will you respond? Will you agree with Him and regret what you did or will you tell Him to stuff it and ignore the hurt expression on your wife’s face? If you agree with the Holy Spirit, He will probably then tell you that you need to apologize. If you agree with that, He will probably give you the resources you need to apologize. Maybe it takes you a while. Maybe you don’t want to at first because you’re still steaming over some cheap shot your wife took at you the other day. It’s good to recognize this, because now you can talk to God about that, too.
It’s complicated living up close with another person. They learn where your vulnerabilities are and sometimes they intentionally take advantage of them. When your wife hurts you, your natural instinct is to attack back, so you wait for an opportunity and then pounce as soon as one comes into view. But what you really need is God to help you over the hurt of her stinging comment. We can’t forgive on our own. We can’t just decide to get over painful memories. We need God’s help, and as you go through life listening to the Holy Spirit, He will help you identify when anger is building up inside.
Let’s face it: sometimes your wife is going to be a pill. She’s got her flesh to contend with, too, and she’s going to be as much of a failure as you are in the “just be like Christ” department. But that’s okay, because as long as you’re looking to God to be your Resource and Guide in life, you can weather some storms at home. All of those human shortcomings will end up binding you and your wife closer together as you learn to sympathize with each other and be gracious. We all fail in countless ways. No one comes close to moral perfection down here. But God doesn’t expect perfection from you—on the contrary, He expects a whole lot of bumbling and stumbling. It just doesn’t bother Him that you’re not a perfect husband. What He cares about is your soul’s response to Him. As long as you sincerely care about pleasing God in your life, you’ll be a raving success in His eyes. Your wife might have a long list of areas she wants you to improve in, but God will say you’re doing great and that you’re right on track with Him. There’s just no way that you can mess up with God when you sincerely care about pleasing Him.
Your relationship with God is a personal thing. Other people’s opinions don’t factor in to how God views you. Maybe your marriage is going through a rocky time and your wife is accusing you of failing in many different areas. Maybe your wife is going through a rocky time and she’s taking it out on you. Remember that your wife is not the Holy Spirit, and her assessment of you is not the one that matters. God is your Guide in life, and you want to run all criticisms past Him before you decide how to respond to them. Of course it’s tempting for Christians to try and back up their complaints and demands with Bible verses—we all resort to such pettiness at one time or another. But the fact remains that your wife’s satisfaction with you is not going to affect your personal communication with God. God’s satisfaction is what matters, and He is very easy to please.
God is always listening to you, and as a Christian, you are His dearly loved son. God is never going to cut ties with you or side with your wife against you. Even when God agrees that your wife is right in an argument and you’re wrong, He will put it to you in a way that emphasizes He’s still on your side. God is for you and He is going to help you succeed with Him. He does not hold some impossibly high bar over your head and then punish you for failing to reach it.
So when do your prayers become hindered? When you start throwing up walls between you and God in your heart. When you start refusing to listen to Him or agree with His assessment of you. If God says you need to apologize to your wife and you tell Him to stuff it, there is going to be friction between you and God because you are willfully defying Him, not because you aren’t apologizing. Now let’s say you agree that you should apologize but you just can’t gag the words out. This is different. In your heart, you are respecting God and wanting to do as He asks but your flesh is refusing to cooperate. In this second scenario, God is pleased with your obedient spirit and He’ll help you with the flesh when He feels the time is right. His timing might surprise you—God often seems to drag His feet in matters that we feel are urgent. But regardless of how swiftly He comes across with the empowerment you need, when it comes to your own dynamic with God, it’s all about your soul’s attitude. Your flesh can be in a major huff, but if your soul longs to please God, then He will be pleased with you.
Are you currently having trouble in your personal prayer time? Does God feel distant and annoyed with you? Don’t go trying to dig through your life for unconfessed sins. Don’t start analyzing your marriage to death and stressing over all of your shortcomings. God doesn’t play “read My mind” games. When He has a problem with you, you will know it. You will be receiving clear conviction and you’ll know exactly what He wants you to do.
There are many reasons why God doesn’t communicate with us in the manner we would like. Before we leap to the worst possible conclusions, we need to be very clear about what God wants from us. He wants you to sincerely care about pleasing Him with your life. If this is where you are at today, then you can know that He is pleased with you, regardless of how silent He is being. If you know God isn’t as important as He should be to you, then there’s a simple remedy: ask Him to help you get there. Just by asking, you are stepping back into alignment with Him. We can’t love God on our own—we need His help. We’re selfish beings and the mindset of “not my will but Yours be done” does not come naturally to us at all. We need God to develop reverence, submission, and a love for Him within us. But no matter where you are at today, you can please Him simply by desiring for Him to have His way in your life and asking Him to make you all that He wants you to be. Don’t focus on what you’re not or on how far you still have to go. Focus on wanting God to have His way right now and then trust that He will grant your request because it is in alignment with His will. Remember that God wants you to succeed with Him, and succeeding with Him is very easy.
Escaping the Trap of Guilt
Confronting Your Convictions
What it Means to be Aligned with God