This is written for the use of Christian women who desire to be godly wives.
Both desire and godly are key words here. The desire to be godly is fundamental. It is something that no pastor, friend, writer, nor even a husband can impart to a woman. She must herself desire to be a godly woman. If that desire grips her heart, I think that more than half of the battle is won for the glory of God. If it does not, the "game" will stall until this defect is addressed.
And by godly I do not mean "religious," nor even "praying." I have seen more than enough religious, praying, ungodly wives and husbands to leave me with a lifelong heartache. Godliness is a matter of having a Godward orientation, of living life with the living God of the Bible consciously in mind. It is a life gripped and motivated by genuine love for this God, which necessarily involves the keeping of His commandments (1 John 5:3). It is trusting God enough to believe, study, digest, treasure and do His word.
And so I commend this list of questions to you, godly sister in Christ, for your consideration. This is meant for your private use. If you find that any or all of these apply, then praise God for counseling you through His word, and do take them to heart. If they do not apply in your situation, then learn from whatever Scriptural content is there, keep them in case God gives you opportunity to offer wise counsel to another (Rom. 15:14), and move on. Whether they apply can best be determined between you, the God of the Bible, and your husband.
- What matters most to you as a wife: to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9), or to please yourself and assume that God concurs? This is the foundational question for your growth as a godly wife. If pleasing God is not your paramount goal, then absolutely any excuse will deter you from doing His will (cf. Jer. 18:12). In that case, God Himself could not persuade you, by words alone, to bow the knee before His word (cf. Jer. 25:3-7, among many others) — let alone a mere mortal. Again, in that case, I can save you a lot of time: do not bother reading any of the following questions. They will only serve to provoke you to bitter anger, because some or all will show God's will as being opposed to your will. You will be angry at God (Exod. 5:2a), at me (cf. 1 Kings 18:17), and at anyone who directed you to this tool.
On the other hand, if it is your will to do God's will, no obstacle will defeat your efforts. You will either cast all obstacles aside (Heb. 12:1), or tear them all down (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). In that case, you will find these questions of some use. You will learn from them all. Those which apply you will take to heart, grateful for God's good counsel (Ps. 119:24, 164, 165); those which do not immediately apply, you may use in encouraging other women to godliness (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Titus 2:4, 5). If you find anything to be un-Biblical, you will reject it; if it is Biblical, you will embrace it (1 Thess. 5:21).
- Are you being your husband's helper (Gen. 2:18) — or his obstacle? What might your husband's candid answer be, were he asked? If his response were negative, would he have a valid point?
- Have you cut the cord (Gen. 2:24)? Parents can be of great help, or they can tilt one the wrong way in a weak moment, blind to our faults. Issues of marriage often best kept between husband and wife.
- Are you on guard against your desire to dominate your husband (Gen. 3:16; cf. Prov. 19:3; 21:9, 19; 27:15)? When we know we have a particular "sin which so easily entangles us" (Hebrews 12:1), we stay alert in opposition to that particular avenue. For instance, a man who knows that he has a weakness for pornography or liquor is always on guard against temptations. Now, the Bible shows that women are tempted to dominate their husbands. Are you on guard, then, against temptations to overwhelm and overcome your husband, either by your superior ability to use your tongue, or your more intense emotions? Or can such drives lure you easily, as you assume that anything you feel intensely must be pure and right?
- Are you remembering and keeping your wedding vows, which you took before God, your husband, and the assembled witnesses (Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5; Num. 30:2-5; Ps. 15:4b; 50:14; 76:11; Prov. 20:25; contrast Prov. 2:17)? Whether the classic vows to love, honor and obey, or a self-written vow, the vows are binding in God's eyes as long as you are married. Each day of the week, each moment of the day, you are either working to fulfill those vows, or you are breaking your commitment to them. Failure to keep the vows must be remedied by repentance, not excuses.
- Are you consistently and openly appreciative of your husband (cf. Song 1:16; 5:10-16)? Even a half-decent man will redouble his efforts when he knows his wife is cheering him on. By contrast, most men find that trying to please a woman who registers little appreciation is a rough row to hoe.
- Are you more genuinely encouraging and appreciative of your husband than a temptress might be (Prov. 2:16; 5:3; 7:5)? Proverbs reveals that men are susceptible to flattery. They want to hear that they are doing a good job, that they matter, that what they are and what they do is significant. There is never an excuse for adultery, but a man whose wife does not show appreciation is more vulnerable to a flattering temptress than he might otherwise be.
- Are you helping your husband (Gen. 2:18) to attempt more and greater God-honoring feats (cf. Prov. 31:23)? As he considers striving for higher goals, and weighs his assets against his liabilities, which are you? Can he say, "The whole world may be against me, but I know I can count on God and my wife to be with me all the way?" Or must he sigh, "This will be challenging, and all the more so because I can never predict from hour to hour whether my wife will be my best friend or my worst and cruelest enemy" (cf. Prov. 25:19)? Or worse still, must he groan, "I don't see how I can even try this, since my wife will be cutting and tearing at me every step of the way" (Prov. 12:4b)?
- Are you helping your husband resist temptation by showing him that he can count on being able to delight in your love (cf. Prov. 5:19; 1 Cor. 7:3b)? Does he have reason to find lovemaking with you heavenly, or is it sometimes a hassle?
- Are you more likely to make your husband feel like a king, as no other human being on earth can do — or to demoralize and undo him, as no other human being on earth can do (Prov. 12:4)? The zest for living that animates a man — or its lack — can reflect his wife's impact on him.
- Do you support, complement, and enhance your husband in his training of the children (Prov. 13:24; 1 Pet. 3:1, 2), or do you try to subvert and counter him (Prov. 10:1b; 29:15)? The husband is meant to lead in the home. Do you help him in his leadership?
- If your husband grows spiritually, is it in whatever measure because of you (Prov. 31:26), or in spite of you (cf. Job 2:9, 10; Prov. 12:4b)?
- Does your use of your tongue draw your husband closer to you under God (Song 4:16; 7:11), or do you repel him (Prov. 19:13b [Hebrew = something like "striking," or "assaulting dripping"; 27:15]? Do you use your tongue to build him up (Prov. 12:4; 14:1), or to tear him down (ibid.)? To attract, or to repel? And if by ungodly tongue-lashings and/or cutting remarks you have driven him away, do you shoulder the responsibility and seek to remedy the situation (Song. 5:2-6)?
- How wise are you in accepting your husband's correction, whether mild or intense? Do you welcome it, as a wise man would (Ps. 141:5; Prov. 9:8b, 9)? Do you listen closely, carefully, and respectfully (ibid.; Prov. 12:1; Eph. 5:22-24, 33b; 1 Pet. 3:2, 5)? Do you thank your husband for being faithful in helping you grow in holiness (cf. Eph. 5:26, 27), in loving you with Christian (Lk. 17:3) and Christlike (Rev. 3:19) love? Or do you make it a misery for him, so that only by the greatest, most selfless devotion to Christ (and you) will he force himself to perform this service for you (Prov. 9:7, 8a)? One woman expressed a very godly sentiment in her vows, when she said something like this: "Calling upon God's enabling grace and your patience, understanding, and husbandly exhortations in all that I vow...." Does that describe the attitude with which you greet your husband?
- Do you handle disagreements in a respectful, God-honoring way? Do you respect your husband in your heart, in how you think of him (Prov. 4:23; cf. 1 Pet. 3:2, 5, 6 with Gen. 18:12 [i.e. Sarah thought of Abraham as "my lord" in her heart])? Do you imagine that a feigned outward formal respect, thinly veiling a bitter, resentful, belittling heart, is pleasing to God? Or can you dream that such an attitude will bear other than bitter fruit in your marriage (cf. Prov. 4:23; Matt. 15:18-20)? That being the case, do you duly respect your husband and his thinking? Do you approach differences with him cautiously and humbly in your thinking, or brashly and arrogantly? Do you give any prominence in your thinking to the possibility that you might be mistaken? Do you magnify your husband's strengths and godly traits — or do you exaggerate even tiny flaws and affronts (contra 1 Cor. 13:5b)? Do you give him the benefit of a doubt (1 Cor. 13:7), or do you "shoot first and ask questions later," or never? Do you "declare war" easily (contra 1 Cor. 13:5), or seldom or never (Eph. 4:2; Jas. 3:17)?
- When you are forced, however reluctantly, to conclude that your husband is mistaken about something significant, how do you handle it? Do you focus on winning him, by means of godly and respectful behavior (1 Peter 3:1, 2)? Or do you focus on winning the argument and bludgeoning him, by any means possible, however brutal (Prov. 21:9, 19; 25:24; 27:15)? Do you take the way of the foolish woman, tearing down your own house by tearing down its God-ordained head (Prov. 14:1b; Eph. 5:23)? Or do you take the way of the wise woman, loving and building her husband up regardless (Prov. 14:1a)? Do you feel that a sharp tongue is your best "weapon against" him, even if it destroys your relationship (Prov. 14:1b; 21:9, 19)? Have you yet realized that a soft tongue is more effective, and more pleasing to God, in dealing with a God-ordained authority (Prov. 25:15; Rom. 13:2, 5)?
Again, assuming that your husband is indeed mistaken or in the wrong, how do you think about him? Do you refuse to judge his motives, or do you allow yourself to judge him, concluding that his motivation is evil (Matt. 7:1)? Do you think the worst of him, or the best (1 Cor. 13:7)? Do you let yourself be lured into thinking of and treating him as a despised enemy, or do you love and desire to help him as a dear friend — as you would want to be treated, were you in error (ibid.; Matt. 7:12)? Are you building a case against him in your heart, and devising strategies to defeat him, or are you nurturing love and respect for him, and conceiving ways to help, bless, serve, adorn, and win him (Gen. 2:18; Prov. 12:4; 31:12; Rom. 13:10; 1 Pet. 3:1)? Have you realized yet that these God-given ministries and duties are not conditional on your approval of your husband's actions? Have you learned yet to love your husband in spite of his sins and failures, even as you wish to be loved in spite of yours (Matt. 7:12; 22:39; Lk. 6:31)?
- Have you given your husband grounds so that his heart can trust in you, and that he can be confident that you will do him good and not evil all the days of your life (Prov. 31:11, 12)? Does he have reason to be sure of your love, your support, your friendliness, your companionship, your help — all those things you promised him when you married him (Gen. 2:18, 24, 25; Prov. 2:17)? Or must he always be on guard, fearful of the next conflict? Can he concentrate on moving forward, of must he ever guard his flank, fearing your next assault? Can his heart trust you as one of life's blessed certainties, or must he number you among potential dangers and threats?
I commend this list to you for searching your heart before God. In doing so, I leave you with one last challenging question. After you have reflected on and prayed over this list, would you consider asking your husband to read over it, and inviting him to evaluate you with its aid? I would not say that this is a "must," certainly. But I would feel some assurance about a woman who would willingly and open-heartedly do this, that I would not feel concerning a wife who would not (cf. Prov. 28:1).
May God use this paper, in spite of its flaws, to His glory and to the blessing of distinctly Christian marriages across the world.