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.
“By that time, we'd had one child. I also had a book contract. So I was working full-time, going to graduate school two nights a week, and writing a book. I'm not the one sacrificing; she is. Then I decided to start my business. By this time, we had two children. And the week I told her I was leaving my secure job to start a business, she told me she was pregnant. And again, who sacrificed?
“So, recently,” Dave Goetz said, “Jana told me she wants to go back to school. And how did I respond? I became unsupportive and critical. I thought, We don't have the money. Or, You actually need to work more, because… It didn't matter that we didn't have the money for me to get my MBA or to start my business.”
Dave said, “I had a great opportunity to give up power, to sacrifice some of the things I wanted, so I could help my wife with her dreams. But I told Jana the other day, ‘I know in my head that I need to do this, and it's killing me because it's so difficult.’ Why?” Dave asks. “Because I think about what I have to give up. I want my goals.” (Dave Goetz, quoted by Ginger Kolbaba in “Marital Drift,” Marriage Partnership, Winter 2006; www. PreachingToday.com)
That’s the way it is with many people. They’re selfish at heart, so in order for this to work, you need GOD’S heart within; you must depend on Christ who made the ultimate sacrifice for you on the cross.
If you’re going to submit to your mate, you must submit to Christ first of all. Then He will give you not only the power, but also the desire, to do for your mate what He did for you. He will give you the power and the desire to “love [your wife], just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
Men, if you want to see God’s grace transform your marriage, then submit to your wife; put her interests above your own. But in order to do that, You have to know what she wants. That is, you have to...
Know her needs and fears. Appreciate her hopes and dreams. And yes, comprehend her moods.
1 Peter 3:7 says, “Likewise, Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way,” i.e., ACCORDING TO KNOWLEDGE. Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words says that word for “knowledge” is “primarily a seeking to know, an enquiry, an investigation.” In other words, men, you have to study your wife. You have to go to school on her, seeking a Ph.D. level of understanding.
The problem is a lot of guys don’t even have a grade-school understanding of their wives. Warren Wiersbe said, “In my premarital counseling as a pastor, I often gave the couple pads of paper and asked them to write down three things each one thinks the other enjoys doing the most. Usually, the prospective bride made her list immediately; the man would sit and ponder. And usually the girl was right but the man was wrong! What a beginning for a marriage!”
Guys, do you know what your wife enjoys doing the most? Do you know her favorite color or her favorite thing to eat? What does she like to do to relax? What kind of flowers does she appreciate the most? What is her favorite movie and why? Her favorite restaurant? Do you know these things about your wife?
I can assure you: she knows these things about you, but if you don’t know these things about her, then go to school. Let her become your teacher. Sit down with her and ask her about these things. Listen and take some notes.
Then put pleasing her at the top of your agenda this week. Bring her HER favorite flowers. Take her to HER favorite restaurant. Watch HER favorite movie with her. Do HER favorite thing together. That’s part of what it means to live with your wife “in an understanding way.”
But more than that, it means treat her gently “as the weaker vessel,” verse 7 says. Now, that doesn’t mean that she is a weaker person. That may be true physically, but mentally, morally, or spiritually, most women are stronger than men. When the Bible says, “Live with her…as a weaker vessel,” it pictures a delicate, fragile vase.
This is a plastic coffee mug worth about 25 cents (show plastic mug). I can bang it around, be rough with it and even drop it without doing any damage.
On the other hand, this is a beautiful, china teacup from Sandy’s china collection (show china teacup). It is the weaker of the two vessels. I cannot bang it around. I cannot be rough with it, and I certainly cannot drop it without doing serious damage to the cup. It is a lot more fragile, but it is worth a whole lot more.
We guys can be rough with each other: “Hey, gained a few pounds there, didn't you?” We just slough it off: “Yeah, man.”
But men, you say that to your wife and she’ll be devastated. She’s not made the same way as the guys, so you have to treat her with tenderness and understanding. (Robert L. Russell, “God's Design for Marriage,” Preaching Today, Tape No.166; www.PreachingToday.com)
Warren Wiersbe says, “The husband should treat his wife like an expensive, beautiful, fragile vase, in which is a precious treasure.”
Lane Severson recently wrote about his parents’ 62nd wedding anniversary. They got married when they were 19, but after 62 years, they face some hardships. Mrs. Severson struggles with Alzheimer's and becomes more confused in the evenings. Medical professionals call it Sundowners, which is common for people with Alzheimer’s. For Mrs. Severson, when evening comes, she gets disoriented and demands to be taken “home.” She and her husband live in an apartment facility for the elderly, so her family is never sure what mom means by “home.”
One night Lane was watching TV with his mom and dad in their apartment and mom started pleading, “I'm tired. Can someone help get my coat and take me home?” At first she addressed her questions generally to the room and then to her son and her husband. She gets frustrated and cries “ACK” with full German disgust. But she focuses on her husband: “Why won't he take me home?”
Two years previously her husband had his voice box removed so it's difficult for him to talk. He can't comfort his frightened, sick wife. But she can't remember the surgery, so she demands, “Why won't you talk to me?” He shakes his head back and forth, which makes her angrier. “He just shakes his head and never talks to me,” she shouts to the room. She calls him selfish, uncaring, and a host of hurtful words and names. Mr. Severson’s eyes are misting. He's a tough man. Strong language is not foreign to this old Norwegian painting contractor. But he understands what she is really saying: “I'm scared and confused.” That's what really breaks his heart.
Finally, Mrs. Severson decides that she could spend the night “here” (her apartment). She turns as sweet as she had been horrid. “You poor man,” she tells her husband. “Swede, you are a good man, we can stay here, can't we? We'll be fine for tonight.” She goes to her room and gets ready for bed. Coming to her husband one last time before retiring, she puts her hands on each arm of his chair, gets her face about a foot from his, and with the most endearing look asks, “Do you have something to say to me?”
“I love you,” he mouths.
“I love you too,” she replies. And then goes to bed.
They have a love that lasts a lifetime—so ingrained that even the loss of memory and voice cannot touch it. (Jill Severson with Lane Severson, “Love to Last a Lifetime,” The Guilty Conscience blog, 2-5-13; www.PreachingToday.com)
Mr. Swede Severson lives with his wife in an understanding way. He understands her fear and confusion, and he treats her gently. You do the same. If you want God’s grace to transform your marriage, then with God’s help, submit to your wife; understand her; and…
Honor her. Respect her as an equal heir.
1 Peter 3:7 says, “Show honor to the woman” – i.e., assign her value – “since [she is an] heir with you of the gracious gift of life.”
In Ephesians 3:6, the Bible says, “Gentiles are heirs together with Israel,” using the same terminology that’s used here. That means Jew and Gentile are EQUAL heirs before God. One is not more privileged or valued than the other. Well, that’s the way it is between a man and a woman. They are EQUAL heirs of God’s grace. God values women as much as He does men, and He asks men to value their women the same as He does.
I told a story seven years ago (2014) that I want to repeat again. It’s a story that Readers Digest carried in 1988 and has become one of my favorite stories. It was about a man on an island in the Pacific who paid eight cows for his wife. He was called Johnny Lingo, and he was the strongest, richest, and brightest young man around. He was the sharpest trader there ever was. That’s why no one could figure it out why he paid so much for his wife.
According to island custom, two or three cows might buy a fair to middling wife, and four or five cows could fetch a highly satisfactory wife. But to pay eight cows for a wife, she would have to be Miss Universe herself!
Well, Johnny’s wife, Sarita, was anything but beautiful in the eyes of the islanders. Before she married Johnny, she was a scrawny, homely looking girl who walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked. She was afraid of her own shadow, and her father would have felt lucky to get even one cow for this girl. Even so, Johnny came to him one day and said, “Father of Sarita, I offer eight cows for your daughter.”
That was unbelievable, and that’s what the islanders told Patricia McGerr, the reporter who wrote the story. After hearing their comments, she had to find Johnny and his wife. And when she did, Patricia McGerr writes, “I found the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.”
She told Johnnie what the islanders had said about his wife and he just smiled. Then he told his side of the story. “Do you ever think,” he asked, “what it must mean to a woman to know that her husband has settled on the lowest price for which she can be bought? And then later, when the women talk, they boast of what their husbands paid for them. One says four cows, another maybe six. How does she feel, the woman who was sold for one or two! This could not happen to my Sarita.”
“Many things can change a woman,” he said. “Things happen inside, things happen outside. But the thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. In Kinawata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now, she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands.”
Johnny said, “I wanted to marry Sarita. I loved her and no other woman. But I wanted an eight-cow wife.” And that’s what he got, because he valued her so highly (Reader’s Digest, February 1988).
Hey guys, does your wife know that you value her more than any other woman? How did you communicate that to her this last week? Here is another assignment for us men. Ask your wife what makes her feel the most valued by you? Then when she tells you, put it on your agenda and do it for her as often as you can.
Guys, if you want a truly beautiful wife, then grant her value, i.e., assign her honor every day. Do you want God’s grace to transform your marriage, then submit to your wife; understand her; and value her.
Do these things SO YOU CAN KEEP TALKING TO GOD.
So you can stay in communication with God. So you can keep the channel of blessing open between God and your family.
That’s what verse 7 says. 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) – so that your prayers will not be cut off.”
Men, if you don’t treat your wife with understanding and respect, then God will not listen to your prayers. They will be cut off before they ever reach heaven. That’s because there is a direct correlation between your relationship with God and your relationship with your spouse. The one directly affects the other, so you better treat your wife graciously if you want God to treat you with grace.
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.
Hannah Peterson was involved in a serious car accident just one month before her wedding in Ontario. She broke her pelvis in three places, punctured a kidney, broke some ribs, and suffered a concussion and partial hearing loss during the July 18 collision.
Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Hannah was determined not to let the accident affect her big day on August 25. So when it came time to walk down the aisle, Hannah's father wheeled her part of the way down, and then her fiancé;, Stuart, tenderly carried her the rest of the way.
Hannah, 23, who along with her now-husband is originally from Northern Ireland, said that despite her predicament, the only emotion she allowed herself to feel on the day was joy. “Obviously, being in the wheelchair and not able to walk was very upsetting for me on my wedding day,” she told reporters.
Because of her injuries, Hannah sat during most of her wedding, but wanted to stand for one very important part. "I was determined to stand for my vows," she said. "It was hard on me to stand for that long even with Stuart holding me up, but it doesn't seem obvious in the pictures and video the pain I was in."
Hannah has continued to heal in the two months since the wedding and was able to walk around the house using a cane. She added: “Stuart has never left my side during all of this … He was strong for both of us. He always made me see how blessed I was.” (Joel Christie, “Heartwarming moment a groom carries his bride down the aisle after horrific car crash one month before the wedding left her in a wheelchair,” Daily Mail, 10-14-16; www. PreachingToday.com)
That’s the way Christ loves His bride, the church, the community of believers. Sin had wounded them and rendered them helpless, but Christ came from heaven to carry them into a loving relationship with Himself. He is the model, guys, of the way to treat your wife. So if you need His grace to transform your marriage, look to Him!