Her Heart Needs Your Spiritual Leadership

Her Heart Needs Your Spiritual Leadership

Let’s begin today’s episode by acknowledging that those whose loud voices shout that the Bible promotes oppressive patriarchy would be horrified to read its title: Her Heart Needs Your Spiritual Leadership. Tragically, feminist ideology and critical theory are rooted in the same evil rebellion against God’s perfect ordering of creation that was first found in the heart of Lucifer who said, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High (Is 14:12-14). He tempted Eve with his own egalitarian poison: “Eat the fruit Eve, then you’ll decide for yourself what good and evil are. THEN YOU WILL BE LIKE GOD.”

In sharp contrast, Christians trust the goodness of God’s order for the home. The two leading NT apostles, writing with the very authority of God, both made a point of commanding Christian wives to honor God’s creation design of their husband’s leadership in the home. Paul commanded: Wives, submit to your own husband, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body. (Eph 5:22-23). Peter commanded, Wives, be subject to your own husbands… for this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands (1 Peter 3:1, 5). Though these verses should never be quoted by husbands demanding submission, men today need to have the guts to embrace this pattern of responsibility as the best possible design for their wives. To doubt God’s design is unbelief. To be apologetic for it is arrogance. Our wife is designed to need our leadership. But it must be the right kind of leadership. Steve Farrar, in his book, Point Man, describes this leadership:

"It means that you take the lead in your submission to Christ to such an extent that you become a model for your wife. A man’s willingness to serve his wife and meet her needs provides an environment and stimulus for her to respond in submission to his leadership. If she sees that kind of attitude in you, and sense that you are seeking to follow hard after Christ, it will be much easier for her to relax in your leadership in the home. I have yet to meet a woman whose husband provides this kind of leadership who has trouble with the idea of biblical submission."

Barbara Rosberg, coauthor of The Five Love Needs of Men and Women summarizes what a wife needs in a spiritual leader: "At the heart of spiritual intimacy lies trust.  And from my own experience as well as the experience of countless women I’ve talked to, when it comes to spiritual matters, a woman needs to trust her husband in: his own walk with God, his support of her spiritual growth, his spiritual upbringing of the children, his decisions that affect the family, and his spiritual leadership in the home." She then shared her painful experience of life without her husband’s home leadership and how God got his attention about this failure:

“Gary was working and going to graduate school full time. He had very little time or energy left over for me or our two preschool daughters. I jumped in and provided the leadership—both emotional and spiritual—our family needed. But I sorely missed his presence in our lives. I longed for spiritual interaction with him, and I longed for him to be the spiritual leader in our home. One day, during the time that Gary was cramming for an exam, our five-year-old daughter, Sarah, burst into his study with a family portrait she had drawn. ‘Let me see your picture honey…ah that’s nice,’ he said absently. ‘I’ll hang it on the wall.’ Then he did a double-take. Sarah had drawn Mommy and Sarah and Missy and the dog, but there was no Daddy in the picture. ‘Honey, where’s your Daddy?’ Gary asked. ‘You’re at the library’ she replied nonchalantly. One picture drawn with green crayon was worth a thousand words I wanted to say to Gary about his absence. He finally found the courage to say, ‘Barb, is it too late for me to come home to take my place in this family?’ Gary finally recognized his self-absorbed focus.”

How easy it is for men to miss what our wives need as spiritual leaders who are engaged with them at home. Let’s look to Scripture for three components to the spiritual leadership that God has designed a wife’s heart to need.


No man in his own strength can obey God’s primary command to husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25). The love with which a Christian husband is to love his wife is not just EROS—romantic love, nor PHILEO—friendship love. It is not even STORGE—the love of family. It is AGAPE—sacrificing what we want to instead meet the needs of our wife. Not only that, but Paul issues the mind-boggling challenge to love our brides the way Jesus loved his. If you are anything like I am, your response is, “What? Are you kidding? Doesn’t Paul realize that the sinful nature I fight every day wants to make my life about ME.” The biggest obstacle to giving our wives the regular agape love their hearts require is our radical self-centeredness. Notice how opposite self-absorption is to Paul’s classic description of agape love. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful (1 Cor. 13:4-5). Any thoughtful marriage counselor will admit that at the root of marriage failure is self-centeredness. It may take the form of criticizing, selfishness, anger, resentment, verbal assault, insensitivity, withdrawal, or the simple failure to appreciate.

Masculine default selfishness is the reason my wife’s greatest need is for my relationship with Jesus to flourish. He is the vine. We are the branches. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, said Jesus, neither can you, unless you abide in me. Whoever abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5). A close walk with Jesus (i.e. abiding in him) is the only way that our natural self-centeredness can be replaced by the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness (i.e. giving up our rights), and self-control. Let’s consider three requirements for the thriving relationship with Jesus our wives need us to have.

1. Abide in his love. Jesus said, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. One of the most profound characteristics of masculinity is that we initiate love, and our bride responds. A woman seeks a man who will love her; a man seeks a woman to love. Jesus, our bridegroom left heaven to pursue us to draw us to himself with the cords of his love. Jesus loved us and gave himself for us when we were yet sinners; his love never depended upon what he got back from us. A careful look at Yahweh’s love for Israel reveals the same truth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD SET HIS LOVE on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is BECAUSE THE LORD LOVES YOU (Dt 7:6-8). He loved you because …he loved you. In other words, God is the source of his love, not what his covenant people give back to him. Guys, masculine love is not dependent upon our wife’s response—how great our wives make us feel or how well they love us. It is not God’s design for ME to depend upon MY WIFE to fill my love tank. Masculine love initiates: it is a choice. It is a decision to give her love whether she deserves it or not. The source of the love I need in order to give it away is Christ. Abiding in Christ’s love fills my tank. We love, said John, because he first loved us (1 Jn 4:19). My ability to fill my bride’s tank with agape love depends upon first drinking huge gulps of Jesus’ unconditional love for me. The Prophet, Zephaniah, reminds us that God’s delight in us (despite our sin!) is like that of a bridegroom for his bride. He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (Zeph. 3:17). Dwelling on how much God not only loves me but enjoys me while also finding delight in him is the powerful process that renews our hearts. Our mission always begins with our call TO CHRIST to enjoy a love relationship with him. Nowhere in life is that principle truer than in loving our wives well.

2. Walk daily in the Spirit. Paul urges us, Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other. Our sinful nature battles against the promptings of the Spirit, whose job it is to produce agape love. Walking in the Spirit requires time devoted to the Word of God. We all know we should read our Bibles, but this verse explains why. The tool, through which Jesus speaks to us by His Spirit, is the Word of God. That is one side of the communication that all vital, living relationships require. The other side is, of course, us speaking to Christ through prayer. If we would love our wives well, we are going to have to be intentional about 1) asking God, by his Spirit, to root out our self-centered nature and 2) asking for the help of the Holy Spirit to empower us to love her well. It is worth noting that Jesus singled out prayer for the help of the Holy Spirit as the kind of request the Father loves to answer. If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Lk 11:13).

3. Be connected to brothers in the Body of Christ. The third path to a thriving relationship with Christ, which empowers godly manhood is identified by Stu Weber, who asks,

"How can a man learn to be a man, a husband, a father, a provider and protector—a full-orbed king, warrior, mentor, and friend? By walking with other men who are doing it. You learn to play ball by playing ball. And masculinity is a team sport. You and I, as men living in a tragically disoriented culture, need to experience the life-building of what Paul called a “brother, fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier.”  It is time we heed the call of the High King to His High Communion. It is time God’s men come to his table in the round and, in the company of men, drink deeply of a fresh understanding of his kingdom and just what it takes to enjoy a man’s role in it." (Locking Arms).

A flourishing walk with Christ that keeps producing the agape love our wives need is only achieved, says Paul, by connection in the Body of Christ. Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). So, abiding in Jesus’ love, walking in the Spirit, and brotherhood connection build a thriving, fruitful relationship with Christ.


Created to be her husband’s vital partner, a mother, and an awesome homemaker (as we saw last week) a wife naturally defaults to concern for the homefront, even if she spends much of her time away in the work world. She usually feels the weight of these responsibilities more than we do. Her radar detects things that need attention in her home and children that we miss entirely. To make matters worse, most men are good at their jobs (or they wouldn’t hold them for long), but don’t consider “husbanding” to be one of their strengths. The logical world of work makes sense to them. If you plug in A, you get the result, B. But their wives are far more complicated. Husbands plug in A because last time they got B. But this time the result is Q. It is exasperating trying to figure out how to love our wives well. Engaging WITH them on issues takes more work than just leaving a lot of decisions up to them. Since our wives are usually right in their assessment of homefront issues, husbands can delegate too much to their wives. We need to remember that God gave our wives to us as ASSISTANTS, not REPLACEMENTS.

A wife is not made to carry the heavy weight of concern for her family alone. When she carries too much responsibility, she begins to wear out. She becomes very, very, tired. Yet, she is wired so that she cannot ignore her home; she will suffer exhaustion and burn out before she will let the needs of her family go unmet. Barbara Rosberg explains what it was like when her husband Gary was AWOL from his spiritual leadership responsibility at home.

“To be honest, when Gary finally recognized his self-absorbed focus and began to make a change, it was difficult for me to change gears. I was exhausted, but I had been putting out fires for so long that I had a hard time thinking he was up to handling the job. Deep down, however, I knew our home was out of order, and I didn’t like it. I wanted my husband to be a vibrant leader in our family” (Ibid).

The apostle, Peter, seemed to know both that husbands can be so absorbed with their careers that they neglect the homefront and how much their wives suffer when they do. He wrote, Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life (1 Pet. 3:7). As couples share life on the homefront, husbands are to shape this partnership in a way that reflects both the husband’s understanding of her weaknesses and respect for her strengths. Implied is that her husband is fully engaged with her at home so that he can pick up on home responsibilities for which he is better suited. Commentators agree that Peter’s description of the woman as the weaker vessel does not demean women. He recognizes that the vessel she dwells in, her outer physical body, doesn’t have the bulk physical strength that her husband’s body exhibits.

Peter observes that husbands and wives are heirs together of the grace of life. In other words, this is a full partnership. It is only as he is fully engaged as her partner at home that he can honor her by picking up on responsibilities that are harder for her than him. Being joint heirs of the grace of life also means stepping up and being the father that your kids need, involved with our kids. Being a full partner with her at home means being on the same page with your wife when it comes to disciplining the children, and not undermining her authority. It means demanding that your kids respect their mother.

The key to being fully engaged with your wife at home is the habit of asking questions like:

  • In what household tasks do you feel most alone?
  • What household projects would you most like me to complete?
  • In what other ways can I help you shoulder your load?
  • What family problems do you feel need to be addressed?
  • How are we doing in the discipline of the children? What needs to be improved?
  • What character training (discipleship) do you think needs to be our focus?


In Ephesians 5:25-27, God tells us that a husband has a vital role in and responsibility for his wife’s sanctification. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, SO THAT he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

In order to understand this command to husbands, we need to realize that our Lord’s sacrifice of himself on the cross HAD A PURPOSE—to make us holy, without blemish, genuinely beautiful in the eyes of our holy God. Similarly, WE are to seek to help our wives grow more inwardly beautiful in the eyes of God—to become spiritually mature, more holy, more sanctified. The parallel does not apply to HOW our brides are sanctified. Jesus cleanses wives from their sins—not their husbands. But the parallel does apply with regards to THE GOAL, the end point. We are to be radically committed to our wives’ growth into spiritual beauty, i.e. holiness. As Peter tells wives, the only beauty that will last forever is the inner beauty of godly character. Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious (1 Pet. 3:3). Every effort we make to help our wives overcome sin and become like Christ—i.e. grow in holiness—is an investment in her eternal beauty. What a staggering thought!  Doing what we can to help our wives flourish spiritually matters eternally. We are investing in her eternal beauty!!

I believe that one day in eternity husbands will point to our wives, whose radiant inner beauty will overpower the stage with its magnificence, if we are faithful in making two spiritual investments in her inner beauty. Returning to Adam’s creation calling in Genesis 2, Adam is to sacrifice himself to help Eve reach her full spiritual potential of holiness (Hebrew: AVAD). And he is to protect her from spiritual harm (Hebrew: SHAMAR). Both of these are fulfilled on our knees.

  1. On our prayer list should be the biblical characteristics of feminine beauty—asking God to produce this spiritual fruit through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is prayer for her to reach her full potential (AVAD). One such list is from Titus 2:3-5. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands.
  2. The other category is spiritual protection for her (SHAMAR) by praying for her spiritual battles. Your faithful prayer will cause her to win battles she would otherwise lose. James 5:16 promises, The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Know and pray for her specific battles.

One of the most distinctive marks of loving spiritual leadership is fervent intercessory prayer for those we love. As Andrew Murray points out, “It is the very nature of love to give up and forget itself for the sake of others. It takes their needs and makes them its own. It finds real joy in living and dying for others as Christ did…true love will become in us the spirit of intercession…true love MUST pray” (Wesley Duewel, Mighty Prevailing Prayer).  

For Further Prayerful Thought:

  1. In one sentence how would you design the spiritual leadership a Christian wife’s heart yearns for?
  2. How is the strength of your relationship with Christ related to the strength of your ability to love your wife and family well? What steps might you take to walk more closely with Jesus?
  3. In what ways might you more fully share the weight of your wife’s concerns on the home front?
  4. Is it overstating Paul’s teaching about your wife’s growth in holiness to say that in eternity a husband will celebrate how much he has enabled his wife to radiate eternal godly womanhood through his prayers for her character and for strength to resist her temptations?