Hands Off My Husband
by Joette Hudberg
My husband recently “hit a wall.” He had not been himself for months, but this was beyond being out of sorts. Inability to resolve a four-year conflict with a member of our church had left him emotionally empty and physically worn out. He had sought the Lord, moved in obedience to everything He asked; yet the situation remained unresolved.
Consequently, he found himself questioning God’s delay in bringing reconciliation to what had once been a very supportive friendship. The opinion voiced by a man in leadership, “You’re the pastor, so you should expect this sort of thing,” echoed in his heart, adding to feelings of guilt and inadequacy from not being able to “buck up” and keep going. I watched helplessly as he began a weekly battle to find the strength to go to the pulpit, knowing he would look into faces of indifference and animosity. His heart was weakened and he needed help. He longed for reconciliation that eluded him (Prov. 13:12). Dutch Sheets in his book, Tell Your Heart to Beat Again talks about hope deferred as being a heart disease in which confidence in ourselves, our dreams, and even God, erodes.
Knowing my husband was questioning his call to ministry brought great conflict to my heart; I was angry because the leadership seemed uninterested in or ignorant of the toll this struggle was taking on him. I was disappointed that after more than twenty years in ministry, the prickly people God places in our paths could still cause such a great battle in our hearts. It’s difficult to walk into the refiner’s fire with joy, even though we believe and know that we will look more like Jesus when the fire subsides!
My prideful pain
In the beginning, my battle was to love those whom I considered responsible for his pain. In this, I experienced victory through the Holy Spirit. Yet, my husband’s emotional wounds opened my eyes to another battle with the ugly serpent of pride. Out of my heart pride hissed, “After all I’ve done to help him deal with this, how could he do this to me?” Scripture clearly teaches that God hates pride (Prov. 16:5) so it stands to reason that He would desire to expose and root it out of the hearts of His children.
It was my pride that fostered my initial anger at my husband for falling apart. It was my pride that said I didn’t deserve the disrespect that spilled out of his hope-depleted heart. It was my pride that determined even though I had failed at getting him over this mountain, I would work harder, find different tactics. It was my pride that demanded my husband deserved to be given more respect and support by church leaders and members.
In the Purpose Driven Life, author Rick Warren says, “It’s not about you.” I believe that. However, there are situations in which the converse is true as well. I had no inclination that the situation my husband faced had anything to do with me. I didn’t see God using the refining struggle in his life to shape my own as well. Someone has said that life must be lived forward; unfortunately, it can only be understood backward. My husband’s journey to healing and wholeness sent me running into the presence of God, and there, in that sanctuary, He began a refining work on me as well.
Alas, at 51 years old, I find myself still attending the school of hard knocks. I’ve heard popular speaker Patsy Clairmont say there are two ways to learn: the black and white method, which is to read and obey God’s Word, and the less desirable (but unfortunately more frequent in my life) black and blue method, which involves trips to the woodshed of His discipline. I emerged this time from the woodshed with the following life lessons:
Listen twice as much as you speak (Jas. 1:19)
This is diffcult for the fixer! There are times your spouse doesn’t need or want to hear the answers they already know. Learn the difference between his need to sound off and his need to find a sounding board. Some days my husband came home just needing to sound off. He needed me to listen to the noise of his heart so he could release it, often finding balance just hearing his thoughts out loud. The only response he needed was a reassuring hug and the knowledge that I loved him enough to stay for the “burning of the chaff.” Other days he needed a sounding board. He wanted to bounce ideas and responses off of me. He desired dialogue, suggestions, and feedback. After 31 years, I’ve learned it’s safer to assume he wants to sound off; he’ll ask if he wants a sounding board!
Pour out your heart to God (Psa. 62:8)
Let Him amaze you with the power of prayer! When our own words failed us, we prayed David’s words, using the Psalms to seek correction, comfort, and courage in our lives. We saw God’s grace and power as we found our hearts hurting and anxious for the parishioners on several occasions when they were faced with illness or accidents in their families.
Be sure of your responsibility in the battle
The fact is you may not need to fight at all. Joshua didn’t (Joshua 6). While He may choose to use you in some way, God is big enough to do the job without your help. For years I had said and done everything I could to help my husband over this mountain only to watch him slide further into the valley.
One day in frustration my heart screamed out to the Lord, “Why isn’t he getting better? What more do you want me to do?” His quiet response was, “Who said it is your job to fix him?” It was my job to be obedient and encourage my husband. How and when he was healed was God’s job.
Find his love language
There are small things you can do for your husband that may make a big difference. While you can’t change the situation he is facing, you can help by not adding to it! Pay attention to the details that bring peace to his heart. When my children were young, I learned that having dishes done brought a sense of order that my husband needed, especially when ministry was “messy.” If it frustrates him to have to hunt for clean socks in the morning, make sure he has them in his drawer. If he is a man that needs verbal affirmation, lavish him with praises. In other words, find his love language and speak it loud and clear!
Not my job
Psalm 5:3 says, “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” I’m learning to pour my heart out before the Lord, and then wait and watch for His work. I strive to glance at the problem and gaze at the Lord. Gazing keeps my perspective proper on how best to be the helpmate I was designed to be. I was never intended to fight the battles for my husband. Far better to come along beside him as Aaron did for Moses in holding up his arms that grew weary in battle.
When congregation members fuss about and criticize my husband, I remember that the religious leaders gnashed their teeth at Stephen. If you read his story in Acts 6 and 7 you will find that in the middle of false accusations and stone throwing, Stephen gazed (NKJV) into heaven and while fixing his eyes on the face of Jesus was able to pray for those who were stoning him! My husband ultimately experienced healing through the power of God’s Word, and in the process, I learned God could do so with very little assistance from me. I just needed to help him hold his arms up!