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Capture His Heart
Becoming the Godly Wife Your Husband Desires
By Lysa TerKeurst
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2002 Lysa TerKeurst
All rights reserved.
EVEN A GREAT HUSBAND MAKES A POOR GOD
I got in my car and started down our winding driveway. Tears fell in a steady flow. My chest was tight, my eyes puffy, and every muscle tight with stress. Why does it have to be so difficult? Why can't he just love me the way I am? Why does everything have to be such an issue? What am I doing wrong?
Can you relate? If you've been married for any time at all, I'm sure you can. At times I've gotten so consumed trying to figure out how to make my husband love me and how to make everything all right between us that he in some strange way became my God. If we were doing well, I was doing well. If we weren't doing so well, I wasn't doing so well either.
Now, understandably, because my husband and I have come together as one, we are close enough that when he hurts, I hurt. But, my spirit should not vacillate between joy and sorrow based on how Art and I are getting along. Instead, my soul should always rest in the safety of Jesus' unconditional love and acceptance.
Jesus laid this principle out clearly in John 15:5–6, which says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers." Jesus is our life-giving vine; our husbands are not. If we remain in Christ and let Christ be the only one who holds our souls and determines our identity, then we can bear much fruit. We know from Galatians 5 that the fruit of God's Spirit in us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Can you see why it is so important to get your every deep, spiritual need met by God alone? My husband can't give me this type of consistent love, joy, peace, etc. And I can't give him love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control apart from Christ. Apart from Christ I can do no good thing, because apart from Christ I wither as I try to make my husband fill me. When I do this I drain my husband and my marriage.
John 15:9 continues, "As the father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." Now, my sweet friend, I know what it is like to walk the rocky paths of a difficult marriage. I understand the loneliness, the desperation, the frustrations. But I also know what it's like to have a wonderful, fulfilling, romantic, awesome marriage.
My husband is basically the same man today as he was when things were not so good. God has worked on his heart and made some changes in him but nothing I've ever done had the power to change him. The main thing that has transformed my marriage is my letting God be my God. Instead of focusing on all the things my husband didn't do right or letting his approval and disapproval consume me, I learned to go to God and say, "Lord, I know You love me and You love my husband. So please either change him or change my heart toward this issue we are facing." Sometimes He'll soften my husband but more times than not God will change me.
I often share at conferences and retreats that God has taught me what it means to live for an audience of one. Instead of trying to be a good wife to win my husband's approval, trying to be good mom to win my kids' approval, and trying to be a good friend to win my friends' approval, I now simply try to please God. I seek only His favor and follow His precepts. In doing this I am a good wife, a good mom, and a good friend.
Faithfully spending time with God every day and asking Him to fill me and give me my identity and security has transformed my marriage. It has freed me to take the focus off of my needs, my wants, and my desires and turn more attention to giving of myself to my husband's needs, wants, and desires. It is only through God's strength working in me that I can give to my husband in this way and feel more fulfilled in giving than receiving.
Survey after survey that I received from men had a common thread: husbands said their wives were missing something in their life that the husbands had no idea how to fulfill. "I wish my wife knew that I love her," or "I want to give her what she needs but I'm not sure even she knows what that is," or "I wish so much my wife could see my inner feelings—how much I do love her—I just don't know how to make her see and believe that," and "I'm doing everything I know how to do to make her feel loved and it doesn't seem to be enough."
These husbands want their wives' hearts to be secure enough to freely receive the love they were already offering. The only way this can happen is when a wife's heart rests safely in the Lord's hands and she's at peace with who her God is. Then and only then can a woman of tender strength emerge with the capacity to be the wife she was created to be.
Relationship Builder—Spend time in prayer today asking God to change any wrong attitudes in your heart. Ask Him to make your marriage all He intends for it to be.
Thought for the Day—As the father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. —[John 15:9]CHAPTER 2
THE SUBMISSION MISSION
I know, I know, there's that word again: submission. Upon hearing it some women scowl, some smile, and others look puzzled. No matter what your initial reaction, I think you'll like the following article, condensed from one written by Curt Whalen, husband of a wife who learned a valuable lesson about submission. I think his words will touch your heart and possibly give you a new perspective on this subject.
Many women today desire a Christ-centered home. They keep their family involved in church, have regular family devotions, and spend time praying with their children. Yet while many women have hearts that long for the Lord, their husbands seem remote and distant. It was true for my wife, Marybeth. To an outsider looking into our lives, it would appear that I was as devoted to Christ as she was. Sadly, that wasn't true.
There was a time when God, the church, and my walk with Christ weren't important. I was a churchgoer (sometimes) and we had (she had) Christian friends, but I wasn't interested in getting closer to God than that. Daily prayer, Bible study, and intimate Christian fellowship were not part of my plan. My wife was the one trying to get our family to church. She scheduled our Christian activities. She reached out to others in need. But I was not her partner in these activities. In fact, I resented her love of God.
Looking back, I can see the pain I caused in her life. I remember looking into her eyes and seeing the hurt, sadness, and anger I caused. Now as I'm trying to grow closer to the Lord, I wonder how many other women have these same feelings. How many have husbands so devoted to their jobs that they check out of family life? How many wives have husbands who spend time absorbed in everything but their children? How many have husbands who have left home to pursue an adulterous relationship? How many women try to build a strong Christian family, yet feel defeated by the person who's supposed to be their spiritual partner?
I've got a long way to go in developing my relationship with Christ and with my wife, but slowly, with time, I've felt the hardness that surrounded my heart beginning to melt away. You might wonder how something like that could happen. The change in my life began simply. It began with a prayer.
In May 1996 my wife and I took our two kids to the beach for a week's vacation. She was pregnant, I due in late July, and I was trying to give her that time to relax and enjoy herself before the baby came. While we were there, she was reading through a woman's devotional that led her to pray for three specific things. She prayed that my heart would turn towards the Lord, that our family would become Christ-centered, and that God would break her heart with the things that break His.
Our family has experienced tremendous pain since that summer prayer. But through these times of hardship, I began to feel changes within myself. I felt a new desire to learn about the Lord. I began to reach out to God and wanted to learn everything I could about Him. I longed for Christ to not only fill my heart, but to change it. It seems so obvious now, but I began to understand that nothing is more important in this life than my personal relationship with the Lord, loving my wife, being a father to my children, and helping others in our church.
And it all started with the prayer of a woman whose heart longed for her family to follow Christ.
"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives" (1 Peter 3:1–2).
I can see how true this verse was in Marybeth's everyday living. She didn't try to talk me into following Christ. She lived it. And she prayed for me. She taught me of God's love and His grace during times when I'd terribly wounded her. She stood by me during times when people told her our marriage should end. Most importantly, she continued to pray for me during both the good and bad times.
To the wives who read this message and understand the pain I discussed, please find words of encouragement. God loves you deeply and understands the pain in your heart. He loves your husband. He loves him for who he is, regardless of mistakes or sins. Our God is the loving father who every day scans the horizon searching for the prodigal son to appear so He can rush to him and embrace him and carry him home. God will hear your prayers. He longs to chip away at your husband's heart, just like He's been chipping away at mine.
When I read his words my heart melted. When we follow God's pattern of submission, we draw our husbands' hearts to God. Let's reread that verse: "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives" (1 Peter 3:1–2). To be submissive does not mean to be a doormat and allow your husband to take advantage of you.
Cynthia Heald's definition is most vivid: "ducking low enough so God can touch your husband." When asked about submission, Cynthia said, "I went through a time when I was trying to get Jack to be more spiritual and do what I thought he should do as the leader in our home, and I was really frustrated because he wasn't doing those things. One day the Lord asked me if I was ready to give up with Jack and release him? And I said, 'No, I'm not. There are a couple more things I need to do yet.'" She went on to say, "It was a while before I was willing to say, 'Okay, God, he's yours.' Once I got out of the way God began to do incredible things in Jack's life—but not in my way or on my timetable."
Marybeth learned that nagging Curt or rebelling against him would never help. So she, like Cynthia, turned her pleas over to the Lord. Slowly, the Lord changed Curt's heart and transformed a broken marriage. Though Marybeth would be quick to tell you her behavior was not always pure and reverent and her prayers were sometimes nothing more than heartbroken, tear-filled cries, she knew only God could change her husband. And eventually God did.
Relationship Builder—Submit to your husband today. Practice ducking low enough so God can touch your husband.
Thought for the Day—A woman will do whatever she can to control a man, but if she succeeds, she won't be happy.—[Susan Yates]CHAPTER 3
PRAYING FOR YOUR HUSBAND
In the last chapter we learned the mission of submission and how closely it ties into prayer. I know the power of prayer in a marriage. When my husband and I first married, we went through a terrible and hurtful adjustment period. We both brought lots of baggage from our pasts and expected the other to meet our needs and fix our hurts. Quickly, we both became overwhelmed and tired of not measuring up. We decided it was time to see a counselor. When that counselor couldn't help, we saw another and then another.
Finally, we wound up sitting across the desk from an older pastor who folded his hands, leaned back in his chair, and let out a deep sigh. He told us God was going to have to fix our individual hearts and then knit our hearts back together. I was stunned. I was looking for a quick and easy solution. I thought, Come on, pastor, give us a three-step method to happiness. He had no easy answers, and I left feeling hopeless.
That night I kept thinking about what he'd told us: "Let God fix your hearts individually and then God will knit your hearts back together." How could God do this? Our marriage was a mess. Love had been replaced with cold silence. Romance had been replaced with awkward coexistence. Bitterness and resentment had made both of us numb. Wouldn't it be better to call it quits? Surely another man out there would treat me better, understand my feelings, and meet my needs.
That's when God pierced my heart with a simple command, "Pray for Art." Pray? I had been praying. Hadn't God heard my cries of all that needed to be fixed with my husband? I had long lists that I presented to God and to Art on a regular basis. I kept waiting for a lightning bolt from heaven to hit him and show him the error of his ways. I'm sure he was waiting for the same for me. I thought God would "fix" him but instead God changed my heart. Now, when I'm praying for my marriage, more times than not I'm praying for God to give me the right heart attitude and the ability to respect my husband no matter what.
Stormie Omartian shares her experiences with how transforming prayer can be in a marriage in her best-selling book, The Power of a Praying Wife. She wrote:
I began to pray every day for Michael (her husband), like I had never prayed before. Each time, though, I had to confess my own hardness of heart. I saw how deeply hurt and unforgiving of him I was. I don't want to pray for him. I don't want to ask God to bless him. I only want God to strike him with lightning (sound familiar?) and convict him of how cruel he has been, I thought. I had to say over and over, "God, I confess my unforgiveness toward my husband. Deliver me from all of it."
Little by little, I began to see changes occur in both of us. When Michael became angry, instead of reacting negatively, I prayed for him. I asked Him what I could do to make things better. He showed me. My husband's anger became less frequent and more quickly soothed. Every day, prayer built something positive. We're still not perfected, but we've come a long way. It hasn't been easy, yet I'm convinced that God's way is worth the effort it takes to walk in it.
I believe in the power of praying scripturally for myself as a wife and for my husband. If you are not sure where to get started in praying for your marriage, let me encourage you to start with the prayers Stormie prayed.
Let me offer one last word of encouragement about the power of prayer in a marriage. I have never met a couple who prayed together on a regular basis who didn't have a healthy marriage. I'm not talking memorized ritual prayers. No, I'm talking about a couple who will kneel together before heaven's throne and pour out their hearts before the God of the universe. Praying together in this way will knit two hearts together like nothing else. If you've never prayed with your husband, start with short, simple prayers and ask God to show you both how to grow in this area of your oneness. If your husband does not feel comfortable praying out loud, then start by asking if the two of you could kneel together and pray silently. Then you pray fervently for God to give him the courage and you the wisdom to know how to encourage him in this area.
Everyone seems to be looking for a soulmate. I've heard many couples splitting up because they've decided to go out and find their real soulmate. My friend, praying together as a couple will transform your relationship and make the two of you true "soulmates." I won't make many promises in this book, but this one I make without reservation: a couple that prays together, stays together!
Relationship Builder—Write personalized scriptural prayers for your husband today. Use the ones from this chapter to help get you started. Pray these for him often.
Thought for the Day—I have never met a couple who prayed together on a regular basis who didn't have a healthy marriage.—[Lysa TerKeurst]
Excerpted from Capture His Heart by Lysa TerKeurst. Copyright © 2002 Lysa TerKeurst. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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