Of course, as a wife, I want my husband to succeed. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman who doesn’t want her husband to succeed. But success is one of those terms that can mean a lot of different things, so I think it’s worth thinking about. What does it mean for our husband to succeed?
Does success apply only to our husband’s work or ministry? No, but it does include this. My late husband Chris spent his entire career serving the homeschooling community as an attorney at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). When I met him at Grove City College in 1981, he hadn’t even heard of homeschooling. As a strong Christian, however, he did have a passion to advance God’s kingdom. This fueled him to use his education and energy to promote constitutional liberty. God led him to HSLDA back in 1985, and Chris never once had a desire to be anywhere else. It was like he had come home.
As his wife, helping him succeed included several things. I supported his need to travel to speak at homeschooling conferences, or testify before congressional hearings, or address homeschoolers at legislative rallies. Being patient when he traveled a lot was challenging at times, especially the more kids we had. Yes, I missed his presence in the home, but my kids missed him just as much!
Part of helping him succeed in his work was sharing with our children what daddy was doing for the Lord to help other homeschooling families and bring Him glory. Thankfully, my Chris was a very engaged dad. He loved to be with his children as much as he loved to be with homeschoolers.
There were a few times in his career with HSLDA, however, where he had a hard time saying “no” to an invitation to speak. His increased absence had a negative impact on the quality of our marriage and family life. In those times, helping him succeed looked a little different. I wanted to honestly praise him for his hard work, faithfulness, and desire to please God. In my love for him, however, it sometimes meant I had to be willing to bring him truth that stings.
I honestly tried to do this graciously, in a spirit of humility (God helps us with this, women, when we seek him earnestly!), but I know it was still hard for him to hear; it was the same for me when he had to bring me hard truth about how my actions, or words, or attitude hurt our family. Don’t we have to fight the dragon of pride every day? I know I did.Raising Seven Kids for the Lord Together, 2005
Sharing the truth of how his busyness was hurting us, even when spoken in love made my husband understandably feel uncomfortable. Other times when I felt a need to speak into his life, he would react similarly. Sometimes Chris wanted to deny what I was saying, or avoid or run away from the truth. Sometimes he became angry or argumentative, and a few times he shut me out emotionally. Being connected to him on a spiritual and emotional level meant a great deal to me, so jeopardizing this was something I really tried to avoid.
As a result, I was content to live with weaknesses and differences and would try to focus on giving them to the Lord and pray for Chris. A few times, though, issues over which I felt so convicted, even after going to God with them first, made me restless until was able to share my heart and my concern with him. I admit I was often a bit timid, and Chris’s stubbornness could quite weary me at times!
The challenging reality is that, in our desire to help our husbands, when we feel God leading us to gently bring them hard truth, we must be ready for a response we don’t want. The only way we can be “wife strong” is to ground ourselves in His Word, in prayer, and in a spirit of submission, trusting in the Lord with all of our hearts. God will work in His way, in His holy wisdom and love. If our husband is walking with Christ, God wants his success far more than I ever could. So we pray, and wait, and trust the Lord.
And I saw God at work in Chris many times. Almost always after his initial resistant or defensive reaction, he would acknowledge my love for him and affirm his love for me. The commitment we shared to each other in our marriage, no matter how painful an issue or how difficult a circumstance made all the difference. It meant we could face anything together with God’s help.
Without both of us being committed to each other, it would have been only a matter of time before our marriage crashed. Raising seven children and homeschooling them for the Lord was hard work. The added stress of Chris’s 15 years of MS and my own health issues felt crushing at times. God was always there with His mercy, though, holding us up and reminding us He was there with His grace and power for the trial.Our Last Valentine’s Day Together, 2009
Looking back, I was blessed to have a husband who loved me, even with my weaknesses and sins. And I’m thankful that I was the one God chose to be his wife. I knew God had called Chris to his ministry and work at HSLDA helping homeschooling families for over 24 years. I know too, that he was a better man because I desired to be a godly helpmeet and was committed his success.
With God’s power at work in us, sticking together and loving each other – through all the good days and bad days, easy years and hard years – made our life together unbelievably rich. God’s Word and wisdom gave purpose and redemption in hardship. God’s loving presence provided sweetness in trial. It also helped us to press on, right up until the day God called my Chris home.