How A Wife Can Lead Her Husband

By on February 24, 2012

A wife can be a husband’s greatest asset or his greatest liability.

I think most of us know this, but I wonder how many wives have thought through how to be an asset to their husbands by humbly leading them from behind.

Though you are called to a particular role of submission in the marriage, it does not mean you can’t be a Christlike leadership example to him.

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May I ask you a couple of questions about how you humbly lead your husband by your example?

How are you using your gifts, strengths, skills, or talents to help your husband to be a better leader?

How are you using your God-given insight and wisdom to serve your husband?

I have asked these questions to wives many times and they don’t always respond the same. Here are three responses that I typically get:

Humble response: I didn’t know I could help him lead–tell me more.

Not so humble response: Why does he need me to help him to do what he is supposed to be doing?

Another not so humble response: Why are you putting the weight of his failures in my lap?

Let me tackle the third response first: If he has failures then they are between him and God.

Each of us have a moral responsibility before God not to sin.

My questions were not so much about you being culpable regarding what he is doing wrong as much as it is about you living out the Gospel. Though Christ was not responsible for our sin, He made a deliberate choice to come alongside us to help us while we were sinners.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 (ESV)

The Savior was not at fault. But who was at fault was not the issue with Him. He saw a need and knew He could meet it. Therefore, He humbled Himself in order to help us with a problem that we needed help with. This is what I am talking about. You may even recall the story in the Bible about the good Samaritan. It is similar in thought.

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”  – Luke 10:33-37 (ESV)

The point of this story is that when we see a need, we should seek to fill that need if we can. This man saw a need and decided to set aside his desires and plans in order to help a fellow struggler.

One of the most profound demonstrations and motivating examples of the Gospel in a marriage is when a wife is willing to set aside what she wants because she is motivated to serve her husband so he can become a better leader.

Isn’t this what the Savior did for us? Take a look at Philippians 2:5-11:

  1. Though he was in the form of God … [He] made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
  2. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
  3. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name

Jesus Christ set aside the life He enjoyed with His Father in order to come to earth to help us become what we couldn’t become on our own. Now we are being called to model what the Savior modeled. The Father is appealing to us to set aside our preferences for the greater good of others:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3 (ESV)

The Savior’s death was not the end of the story. Eventually He was highly exalted to His former position with the Father. However, there is a big difference: because of His sacrificial work on the cross there will be a day where He will be able to fully enjoy the fruit of His sacrifice with millions of people who have accepted His finished work.

It can be easy for a wife to lose this kind of Gospel focus because of the drudgery and the demands of her day. She can also lose this focus because her husband is being a jerk of some sort.

I think this latter problem is a more common problem in marriages. The dawning reality that a husband is not what she hoped for can be overwhelming to a wife. She may have spent a decade or more waiting for her prince to come and when he came he proved to be lacking in certain ways.

Her longings trumped Biblical clarity. Instead of working toward maturing the marriage through her humility and Christlike modeling, her own desires stood in the way of what God could have done through her. This is an easy trap to fall into.

You don’t know my husband

The common retort to the kind of appeal I am making typically runs along the line of, “You don’t know my husband.” That would be correct–I don’t know him and I don’t live with him on a day-to-day basis. But if he is like me, then he is selfish. He also sins. He can be insensitive and stubborn at times too–if he is like me.

You’re right, I do not know your husband, but let me ask you this: Do you sin in response to your some of your husband’s behavior? If you answered “Yes,” then that is where you need to begin leading him.

Nobody can righteously make a case for sinning against someone. And if you do sin against your husband because of his sin or general thick-headedness, then we have found a good place for you to begin leading him.

You can do that through humble confession of your sin and by seeking his forgiveness. How wonderful could that be for him? If he needs to repent, then lead him by your example of repentance.

Isn’t this how we parent too? You teach your children through your example. A picture is worth a thousand words. Imagine what a clear picture of the humble Christ would look like to someone who desperately needs to see Him.

Wife, are you more focused on what your marriage is not giving you, or are you regularly stepping up to the plate in order to help your husband to be a better leader? Do you know how to serve your husband this way?

God has used my wife’s strengths repeatedly through the years to help me to be a better husband. She has been a remarkable practical example of what I see Christ doing in Philippians chapter two.

He temporarily set aside His comfort for the betterment of others. She has on many occasions set aside her preferences in order to lead me to a greater understanding of Christ. In turn, this has simultaneously convicted me of sin, while motivating me to be a better leader in our home.

What if he won’t change?

Another common response is, “What if I do all of this and my husband does not change?” That is a very real possibility. However, that is not the first question you need to be asking. The first question that you need to ask yourself is, “Why am I doing this?”

Are you modeling Christ before your husband primarily because you want him to change. Or are you modeling Christ before your husband because you want to honor God regardless of what your husband does?

You are right: there is a possibility that your husband will never change. There are many situations where that is the case. There is a story in the Bible about a young rich man who would not change either. When he encountered the Savior, he was told to sell all he had and follow Christ. Here is how the young rich man responded to the Savior:

But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. – Luke 18:23 (ESV)

I do not know what happened to this man. The Bible does not tell us. We do know what happened to Jesus though. He kept being Jesus even when some of those around Him would not change. God gives grace to the humble and if you will walk in the humility of the Savior, even when you are not getting all you want, you will be repeatedly surprised by grace.

I wish I could tell you something different, but I can’t. I talk to people every week who want better marriages or better children or better parents. Sometimes it does not work out the way they want. That is the reality of the world we live in.

However, there are some things that you can do, even when others will not cooperate with your desires. I had a friend give me a piece of advice over 20 years ago and I have never forgotten it. He said,

“I can’t make you love me, but you can’t stop me from loving you.”

He told me this in a time when I desperately wanted someone to change their mind about our relationship. That person never changed and I fully felt the helplessness of an unchangeable situation.

My friend’s advice became invaluable in that situation and I have used it many times since then. He was communicating to me another aspect of the Gospel. You could say it this way:

God so loved the world that He was bound and determined to love the world even if the world did not reciprocate. His love was so profound that He gave His one and only Son in order to save a bunch of unlovable people.

And by doing this, He left the door open for anyone to accept His love. If they did, great. If they did not, their rejection would not alter His love for them at all. (John 3:16 paraphrase)

What is your real motive?

The first question you will have to ask is why do you want to lovingly lead your husband? Do you want to lovingly lead him so you can have a great marriage? Though that is a good desire and even a biblical desire, it is not the best reason.

Do you want to lovingly lead him because you want to make God’s name great most of all? This is the best reason. If it is not, then you will need to do some heart work before you go to the next step of working on your marriage.

You may need to spend some time before the Father to get your heart adjusted for the challenging task ahead. Do not skip this vital step. Ask God to give you the grace to love a unlovable person. He will give you the grace if you ask with the right motive.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. – James 4:3 (ESV)

Don’t think that God can’t see in the dark. He knows exactly what your intentions are. You can fool others, but you won’t fool Him.

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. – Hebrews 4:13 (ESV)

If you feel that what I am asking you to do is a struggle that is greater than you can possibly carry, let me suggest that you talk to someone in your local church. Don’t be afraid to seek help. You would not be dishonoring your husband to do so.

If you have humbly appealed to him to change and he has not changed, then let him know that you’re going to talk to a leader at your church about these matters. You would not be sinning if you choose this course of action.

However, let me reiterate: do not sin against your husband. This one piece of advice could be the only thing that you need to do. This has been my experience in all my relationships: no matter what anyone does to me, the situation is less complicated if I do not sin in return.


Originally posted on The Counseling Solutions Group, Inc.

About Rick Thomas

Rick Thomas has been training and counseling in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1997. After several years as a counselor and pastor he founded and launched his own Christian training organization in order to assist Christians around the world regarding a better understanding and practice of Christian discipleship. In the early ’90’s he earned a BA in Theology. Later he earned a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry and in 2000 he graduated with a MA in Counseling. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow with a nationally recognized counseling group. Today his organization represents clients in over 90 countries as well as all 50 states through his consulting, training, blogging, and coaching. Website:

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How A Wife Can Lead Her Husband