Summary: If you want God’s grace to transform your marriage, then submit to your wife; understand her; and value her so you can keep talking to God, because you’re going to need all the help you can get.
Mrs. Foster, a teacher at the grade-school in Auburn, Washington, had a frustrating day with one of her first-grade boys. “You've been doing irritating things all day today. These things are some of my pet peeves,” she said sternly. “Do you know what a pet peeve is?” The young boy shook his head no.
“A pet peeve is the thing that irritates a person the most. Do you know what my pet peeve is?” she asked.
The boy paused. “Ummm… Mr. Foster?” (Anita Donihue, Auburn, Washington, “Lite Fare,” Christian Reader; www.PreachingToday.com)
We laugh at that, but sad to say, a husband can often be his wife’s greatest irritation. It happens in many marriages AND in many other relationships. People sometimes irritate each other, but that’s where God’s grace can make a big difference! In fact, God’s grace can transform any marriage. God’s grace can transform any relationship even if people sometimes irritate each other in those relationships.
The secret, as we saw two weeks ago, is a humble, submissive spirit. When you demand your own way, when you insist on your own rights in the relationship, then there is friction. But when you submit to each other, then God’s grace intervenes in a powerful way.
Two weeks ago, we saw how that grace works when a wife submits to her husband. Today, we’ll see how God’s grace works when a husband submits to his wife. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to 1 Peter 3, 1 Peter 3, where God speaks specifically to husbands.
1 Peter 3:7 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 (ESV).
Literally, the original text says, “Husbands, IN THE SAME WAY live with your wives according to knowledge…” In other words, God commands men to live with their wives in the same way He asks their wives to live with them in the previous six verses. There, He told the wives to “be submissive” to their husbands and so win him and woo him with an irresistible inner beauty. Well, men, if you are to “live with [your wife] in the same way,” then that means you too must…
Rank yourself under your wife. Put yourself under her authority.
Like I said before, when the Bible talks about the husband/wife relationship, it is always in the context of mutual submission. You see, when each puts the other first in the relationship, then you have harmony in the home. But when either one or both demand their own way, pursuing their own selfish ambition, then all you have is “disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16).
Guys, if you want God’s grace to permeate your home and transform your relationship with your wife, then learn to put your wife before yourself in the relationship. Make her agenda, not yours, the top priority in your day. Put her interests above your own in your daily pursuits.
Some time ago, after Philip Yancey and his wife reached their 25th wedding anniversary, he reflected on their experience. In a magazine called Marriage Partnership, he wrote:
“Before marriage, each by instinct strives to be what the other wants. The young woman desires to look sexy and takes up interest in sports. The young man notices plants and flowers and works at asking questions instead of just answering monosyllabically. After marriage, the process slows and somewhat reverses. Each insists on his or her rights. Each resist, bending to the other's will.
“After years, though, the process may subtly begin to reverse again,” Yancey wrote. “I sense a new willingness to bend back toward what the other wants – maturely, this time, not out of a desire to catch a mate but out of a desire to please [someone] who has shared a quarter-century of life. I grieve for those couples who give up before reaching this stage. (Philip Yancey, “A 25-Year Hike,” Marriage Partnership, Winter 1999, p.68; www.PreachingToday.com)
I think Philip Yancey captured the essence of what God is telling both husbands and wives here in 1 Peter 3: Stop insisting on your own rights and strive to be what the other wants. Bend towards the other’s will.
Dave Goetz, in a more recent edition of Marriage Partnership, described how this worked in his marriage. He said, “I've asked my wife through the years to support me in different ventures. When we were first married, I was a youth pastor and was taking classes at the University of Colorado at Denver. And I decided, “I'm going to be a writer.” So Jana and I moved to the Chicago suburbs so I could take a job as a writer and editor. About four years later, I became restless, so I began working on an MBA. I expected her again to sacrifice.