The Temptation to Take Things Into Our Own Hands
If I were to recount all of the bad choices I’ve made in my marriage over the years, there’s one that would definitely rise to the top. It is the bad habit of manipulating my husband into doing what I think he should be doing spiritually.
It seems ideal for me to step in and redirect my husband’s choices. It’s as if God’s hands are somewhat tied behind His back, and He’s subtly gesturing for me to come to my husband’s aid, since He (God) can’t.
This foolish and oh-so-ungodly notion of mine is also reflected in the Bible story of Rebekah, the wife of Isaac.
Like me, Rebekah decided to take matters into her own hands, when she tried to ensure that the will of God would be done for her son, Jacob. You see, during her pregnancy with Jacob and his twin brother Esau, God had made it clear to Rebekah that Jacob would rule over his older brother (Gen. 25:23).
Rebekah surely realized that this meant Jacob would eventually be given the birthright of Esau. However, it seems like her husband Isaac wasn’t quite as agreeable to this unorthodox shift in their Jewish tradition—choosing to give the birthright to Esau, come what may.
Rebekah had a lot of years to mull over how to deal with this problem. On the plus side, she might have prayed for God’s guidance over these years. Prayer has certainly been in my arsenal as well.
On the negative side, Rebekah probably also nagged her husband to no end about this issue—making him dig his heels in all the more. Been there, sadly, done that!
The day finally arrived for Isaac to hand off the birthright, but his mindset still had not changed. So Rebekah stepped in, manipulating him into “getting it right.”
God allowed this messy moment to take place that eventually fulfilled His will for this young man. But I’m sure He was grieved by how both Rebekah and Isaac responded to His expressed will.
Because manipulating people, no matter how badly we want to impose our ideas and will, reveals our distrust in God.
So what are some of the lessons we can learn from Rebekah’s manipulation of Isaac?
Here are four ways to avoid spiritually manipulating our spouse:
- Pray for God’s guidance. I’ve now learned that whenever I’m tempted to guide my husband into a “more spiritual” direction, I must pray first before ever saying a word to him. When I ask the Lord to give me clarity and wisdom, I can rest assured He will answer that prayer one way or another (James 1:5)!
- Wait for God to confirm your next step. This one is really tough because I’m both impatient and a worrier! But if I haven’t gained clarity on what my part should be, then I simply wait until I do. That can mean years of waiting on God! But God blesses us all when we wait on Him!
- Listen to understand what your husband is thinking and feeling. It also helps to ask our husbands questions about their choices and hesitancies. When I do this, I let my spouse set the agenda for where these discussions go—focusing on understanding him, rather than instructing him. It’s amazing how much you’ll learn about your situation, simply by letting your husband air his concerns first.
- Remember God doesn’t need your help—surrender the job to Him! If all the other options fail, let this be where you land! Oftentimes what God really wants is for us to quit micromanaging our husbands’ spirituality and, instead, focus on our own. In my case, this means trusting my groom to the care and conviction of my “Bridegroom!” How about you?
Wife Step: The next time you’re tempted to manipulate your spouse’s spiritual choices, begin to pray for God’s wisdom for you both. Then leave the conviction up to Jesus!
Beth Steffaniak is an author, marriage blogger, life-coach, pastor’s wife, empty nester and proud grandma. She resides with her husband in southern Illinois, where they enjoy leading marriage workshops together, as well as investing in helping people grow closer to Christ, each other and the disconnected. You can find more of her writing at www.messymarriage.com.