Lifeline Christian Counseling Center
It is a common scenario for a married woman to come to counseling because of her despair and hopelessness about her absent, ungodly husband. He is not there with her in the counseling office because he is too prideful, angry, alcoholic, addicted to porn, blameful, verbally abusive or just plain a jerk to be there. She is there alone - alone with her misery and pain – and feeling hopeless because for years he has shown no inclination toward getting help or on working on their marriage. Because she is a devoted Christian woman who takes God’s Word seriously, she feels utterly trapped because, for her (out of devotion to obedience to His Word), divorce is not an option in her mind. That obedience, in effect, leaves her no option but to stay married to an ungodly man and to try and endure the misery of their marriage, one day, one hour, sometimes one minute at a time. She tries, but most days sees no hope for the future.
What is a woman in this situation to do? Where can she find hope, peace and joy?
In counseling the many women who have come to our Center in such a situation, I have found great wisdom and solace for these women in 1Peter 3:1-6:
"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the Word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."
Within these wonderful verses are three essential truths for the woman struggling with this difficult and challenging situation.
The first is “win over your husband’s ungodliness with your inner beauty and undeniable Godliness”. I often counsel women in this situation that their best and only Godly option is “to become a great missionary within your own home”. Just as a good missionary would patiently join the culture and environment that they hope to convert, forming warm and trusting relationships with people before preaching the Gospel – so the wife in this situation would “evangelize” her husband’s hardened heart with her Godly beauty and the Spirit of Christ. Her Godliness and the resulting beauty that emanates from her being (“The Fruit of the Spirit”) will serve as a mirror to his hardened heart and ungodliness, just as the Law serves as a mirror to us and reveals our desperate need for a Savior.
The second is “you are to be of ‘gentle and quiet Spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight’”. In other words, don’t be a nag! Above it was said that such women are called by God to be a lovely mirror. She is to be a mirror – not a hammer that aims to nag or beat him into Godliness! I have observed many women, filled with fear and desperation, who try and coerce their husbands into spiritual growth. This approach never works, as they are literally “getting in God’s way” when they do this. Such women need to rest in God’s desire, and much greater ability, to deal with their husband’s hardened hearts. He is ALWAYS much better at changing people than we are! By turning people over to His care and discipline, we are always much better served in the end than getting in the middle of God’s work and trying to do it for Him out of impatience driven by fear. His ways are always much better, and far more effective than ours!
Third, she is to be “submissive, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear”. This is an important truth when carefully considered. What does this really mean? Well, as we study the Scriptures we find that Abraham, although a great man and the “Father of our faith”, was also in many ways a struggling, sinful human being just like the rest of us. After being obedient and faithful to God’s command to “head West and I’ll tell you when to stop”, he finds nothing but famine and desolation when he finally gets to Canaan. This almost seems unfair of God to test Abram this way after he was so initially faithful (kind of like Joseph going to the dungeon for doing the exact right thing with Potiphar’s wife!). Being human, Abram panics and fails this test. He takes Sarah and heads South to Egypt. Acting on his own apart from God’s instruction, he quickly finds trouble for both of them (I’m sure this has never happened to you! ;). Afraid for his life due to Sarah’s beauty and the hostile environment he finds himself, he not so gallantly tells Sarah to pass herself off as his sister so his hide would be spared. He doesn’t even stop at doing this once, but twice! The second time he allows her to taken into a local King’s harem and the Lord immediately starts to curse this King’s estate.
Now think about this from Sarah’s perspective. Your husband is scared and so he, in essence, throws you to the wolves so he can escape with his life. How would THAT make you feel? And amazingly, both times she OBEYS without a word of protest!!
What is going on with Sarah? Is she a doormat? Is she crazy? Is she codependent?
No, she is amazingly submissive. Even when her husband tells her to do something clearly wrong, she goes along with it.
Why would she do this?
Because she understood something important. Sarah understood God’s order: that Abraham reports to God, and she reports to Abraham. She understood that her husband stood between herself and God, and in that sense he served as a shield or protection. As long as she stood firm in her appointed position according to God’s established line of order, God would deal and with and discipline Abraham. Her job was to be obedient and submissive, and be a mirror of Godliness as she yielded to his (very poor) leadership with a “gentle and quiet spirit”.
Not surprisingly, it works. God disciplines Abraham through this and other mishaps he experiences in Egypt. Eventually he figures it out and returns to Canaan. The first thing he does when he sets foot on Canaan soil is to build and altar to the Lord, sacrificing and worshiping. This is Abraham’s way of saying “Lord, I messed up and have learned an important lesson. I will never again go anywhere and do anything that You have not instructed me to do”. He tends to get the credit in this story, but Sarah was an important while “quiet” influence and factor in him becoming the great man of God he eventually became.
Now before you scream “yes, but does that mean….” - let me save you the trouble by stating that I am not promoting that women put up with physical abuse or terrible unrepentant alcoholism/drug addiction or adultery, and other heinous offenses against women and children that are sometimes seen in marriages. As a Biblical Counselor and Clinical Social Worker of 27 years, I have sadly seen many such cases and they must be dealt with case-by-case according to the wisdom and instruction of God’s Word and the leading of His Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, however, I have also seen many women who are far too quick to take over for God and try to manage their own way out of difficult situation instead of obeying and relying upon the Lord, as Sarah did, to deliver them from what might appear to be a hopeless circumstance and marriage.
Remember, we are all sinners saved by Grace, and some of us come to the banquet table more reluctantly than others. While such a situation is indeed difficult and challenging, God promises us that He will never give us more than we can bear. Do we believe that?
If you are a women in such a dilemma, try your best to “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37).
Be beautiful in your Godliness.
Be a lovely mirror to your husband’s ungodliness.
Be a great missionary in your own home.
Be of gentle and quiet Spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
Be submissive, like Sarah.
Be delivered, as you trust and rest in Jesus!
How Is A Godly Woman To Deal Victoriously With Being Married To An Ungodly Man?