To the Christian Wife Who Berated Her Husband in Front of My Daughter

It ached my heart to see her try to process what she’d heard. I remember being in the same position when I was weeks away from my wedding day and visiting the home of a newly married Christian couple. I sat on the floor on the wall side of a bed in the guest room, in the farthest corner of the house, and talked to my husband-to-be on the phone, letting the conversation wander into absurd and irrelevant directions just to keep it going, in order to distract me from the raised voices and the bitter words.

For me, growing up without a dad in the home and a mom who worked overtime to maintain normalcy as much as possible, the walk out was the first sign that there was trouble in the marriage. I appreciate my mom’s attempt to mimc life as usual, but it wasn’t usual.

Here it was happening again to my daughter. She couldn’t reconcile in her head the words she heard spilling from your mouth, burning like poison as they consumed the air. You were berating your husband in front of her and she was wishing she could find a hole, make herself small, and crawl into it. 

You were bitter, illogical, and very, very confident in being the one in the right—everything she knew was not consistent with a person who confesses Christ, and certainly not a woman she looked up to as a faithful witness to the Lord’s redeeming work in a person’s life. 

I know you know this, but let me gently remind you that there are reasons you are commanded to hold your tongue when you are angry with your husband. I thought of these five: his trust in you, your own children’s view of marriage, my daughter’s (and any other witness’s) confusion and crushed spirit, your walk with the Lord, the damage to the witness of Christ.

You are to be the sweet honey to your husband’s day. The groom in Solomon’s songs says, “Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue.” (Song of Solomon 4:11) This man is “the other of you.” You are not independent any longer, but joined to him as one flesh before the Lord. You cannot rail at him without it affecting you. No matter how low life gets, no matter how “responsible” he is for the situation being so bad—you could be in poverty, under persecution, alienated from all—nothing, nothing, nothing excuses belittling your husband. Period. And let me add “in front of others”, though not as an afterthought, because it’s so important, but as a separate sin that can only be resolved if the first one gets the attention it requires.  

Your husband is your closest neighbor. You know the verse from Matthew that identifies the second greatest commandment, but do you know the Old Testament passage it comes from? “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18). And yet, the conversation with your husband has no parallel. It should not resemble your conversations with your parents, your friends, your siblings, and certainly not your children. For none of them does the Bible command you to revere, as the Lord instructs you in Ephesians.

Reverence cannot coexist with berating. There are reasons for proverbs about dripping faucets and corners of housetops. (Proverbs 19:13b; Proverbs 21:9

But I know quite well how the sin of anger can be perceived as so completely pervasive that it’s a part of your identity. I was an angry woman and I still battle that sin. But my identity has been taken over by Christ. I bear his name and am marked by his purchase of me. His Holy Spirit transforms lives and no sin, even those that seem “characteristic” of our personality, is too great for him to put to death. Go to him and do his bidding in this mortifying work.

I am reminded of a young man whose parents’ marriage is so bitter and who has heard so many raucous fights that he has vowed never to marry. My husband was once of that mindset but upon regeneration believed that a marriage under the Lord’s banner could be different. But this young man I’m thinking of hasn’t come to that conclusion, and sadly, he engages in dating relationships with girls, determined never to move into emotional intimacy with any of them, clearly creating a looming danger of sexual downfall.

And this daughter of mine now worries about your marriage, lies awake at night wondering if the next time she’s with you there will be a repeat session. The words cut like shards to her heart and, despite her loyalty to you, she can’t imagine how your husband still loves you. I am thankful for every opportunity to point her to the Lord, especially as it relates to sorrows and disappointments of this dark and unhappy world, so I am ready to dig in to the Scriptures to show her what they say about wives and husbands. But don’t pat yourself on the back for being the catalyst of this Bible study. I hope you have already repented and I pray you recognize the hurt you’ve done to her and come to her with your apologies.

Habits have formed in you and your success in overcoming them lies singularly in the strength you draw from the Lord and his word. Ryle says in his Thoughts for Young Men, “Habits of good or evil are strengthening in your hearts. Every day you are either getting nearer to God or further off.” Do your habits include daily devotion to the Lord?—not “daily devotions” of 15 minutes of Bible reading time, but daily devotion to the Lord. Do you seek him in prayer and thought, do you consider the wise counsel whom he has provided for you to go to to request support and prayer and accountability? Do you meditate on his word and ask for him to make you more like Jesus, putting to death the trappings of the old man, putting on Christ’s righteousness? Do you thank God for every good thing that you have—including a godly husband who may not be perfect, who may even have lost his way a bit, and who needs to trust in Christ’s strength as well—and could use the encouragement of your walk with the Lord on his darkest days?

Finally, just as you know that Ephesians 5 commands the husband to love his wife and the wife to revere her husband, you also know that that passage exists as a picture of the relationship between Christ and his bride the church. Reflect on the image you presented that day. I hope it’s not something you do so often that there are nonbelievers who witness it and draw from it conclusions about the Lord and his power to save.

I don’t mean this to be a scold because you and I don’t have that relationship. But I do pray that, as this blog began as an open space of encouragement and grace, you find the truth of the gospel able to transform your life, your marriage, and your testimony to the glory of God in Christ. I am praying for you.

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