Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Encouraging Men to be Men

Leslie Basham: Barbara Rainey understands the temptation a lot of women face to mother their husbands.

Barbara Rainey: Because we love our husbands and we care about them, or we wouldn’t have married them in the first place, to not want to take care of them in the same way that we take care of our children. Yes, I need to take care of my husband, but I don’t need to treat him like a child.

 Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 28.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It’s a joy today to be talking with my friends Dennis and Barbara Rainey who are the co-founders of FamilyLife, which is the fruit of their lives together as a couple, their ministry that God has entrusted to them, now 37 years of marriage, 6 children, 14 grandchildren, and untold fruit around the world as a result of the ministry God led them to found.

Something that some of our listeners may not be aware of is that FamilyLife has been a ministry partner with Revive Our Hearts since our very inception. In fact, Dennis, do you remember as well as I do the phone call where you called my home and told me that you guys at FamilyLife loved me and had a wonderful plan for my life?

Dennis Rainey: I do. I do remember that.

Barbara: I remember it.

Nancy: It involves something called radio?

Dennis: I remember that, and I remember the hesitation on the other end of the line. It wasn’t a matter of it being like a prophetic word. It was just like, “This makes really good sense. Women really need to know what Nancy’s talking about.”

Barbara and I are just so proud of you and the job you have done communicating with women and remaining faithful to the Bible and calling them back to that. There are so many voices today screaming for attention with women, and I think to have a trusted voice that comes at life from the authoritative Word of the Scripture is so needed today.

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: You said on that call, “We’ve been talking as a team at FamilyLife, and we have a desire to see God raise up a radio program for women with a woman host, and we think that God might want to use you to do that.”

I remember thinking, “I’ve had this same idea that there ought to be such a program, but you’ve got the wrong person.” In fact, I was looking for such a person at the time, but you challenged me to pray about it, to think about it, and, long story short, God did use FamilyLife and the leadership team here to launch Revive Our Hearts. For the first eight years of our ministry, FamilyLife was producing Revive Our Hearts. In fact, we’re sitting in FamilyLife studios today having this conversation.

So I just want to say a huge “thank you.” When you get to heaven, you’ll have the chance of meeting a whole lot of women and their mates and their children whose hearts have been revived because God gave you and this ministry the vision to start this program, this daughter program. A lot of our listeners, if they could, would like to say “thank you” to you as well. You have served us beautifully and have been so kingdom minded, not just drawing attention to FamilyLife, but saying, “We want God to bless and use the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.”

I would just say, beyond that, that you have been as a couple dear friends to me personally. I think back to some critical junctures in my own walk with the Lord where you have been encouragers. You have given counsel. I still have a note, Dennis, that you wrote a number of years ago expressing your and Barbara’s encouragement to me in the ministry. You didn’t know that when I got that, I was just in a very low point, very much in need of encouragement. You all have been there, and you know that. So thank you for the investment not only in Revive Our Hearts, but in me personally.

Dennis: I think women are so powerful. Barbara has been used in my life as a friend and as my partner in life, my lover, in just so many profound ways. I think it’s so important for women today to understand their power as they follow God’s design. There are tremendous opportunities today for women to be used, and I’m just thrilled, Nancy, that you’re rallying them and giving them courage and calling them to action because, truthfully, I think they may be the key to seeing a spiritual awakening in our nation.

Nancy: That influence of women can really go one way or another.

Barbara: Absolutely.

Nancy: We’ve seen in our nation how it can be a very negative influence, and we’ve seen the power that women can wield for purposes that are not godly. But talk just a moment about how God can use women today to be instruments of blessing and hope and the impact a woman can have in a difficult marriage, in a community, in our culture. Give us a vision for that.

Dennis: Well, I tell you how Barbara’s been used. As you were talking about the power of women, I was thinking how there really are two kinds of women: Jezebel, who incited the king to do evil; or there’s the Barbara Rainey’s, who has incited her husband to do what’s right and to believe the truth about who I am, who God made me to be, to be obedient to Him. It’s not that Barbara’s perfect . . .

Barbara: . . .because I’m not.

Dennis: That’s right. When I finish speaking, when I finish writing something, when I’m getting ready to go do something, it’s her opinion that matters most because I know she can be trusted. She doesn’t hesitate to tell me the truth, even when it doesn’t feel good. I would say that’s a key for women, the whole concept in Ephesians 4, speaking the truth in love. Flattery is not what men need today. Men do need to be built up. They need to be encouraged. They need to be cheered on. But men need women who fiercely believe in them and who will speak the truth to them even when it is steaming, even when it hurts, and even when, perhaps, their husband’s reaction may not be pleasant at the moment.

Nancy: Help us out, Dennis. We don’t often on this program get a man to speak to us as women, and we welcome that. So you’re talking about a woman speaking the truth in love but saying things that can sting.

In your marriage how does Barbara does that in a way that affirms and encourages you as a man of God without tearing you down or discouraging you by speaking the truth that may be hard?

Dennis: I think that’s a great question, and I’ll let her answer as well because she has to have a kind of methodology to this because she’s done it so well.

Most communication is non-verbal. Ninety-three percent of all communication is not what is said but how it’s said, which means: When you deliver it, how you say it, your countenance, the timing, all those things matter in how you deliver a message to your husband.

I know on more than one occasion Barbara has had something she needed to say to me. She would begin by letting me know and affirming me as a man, as her friend, as her husband, letting me know and assuring me of her love, not setting me up for the negative, but nonetheless letting me know, “I’m committed. I’m here. I’m for you. I’m on your team, and there’s something you would benefit from.” She hasn’t always done that perfectly, but overall, that’s what insures the message being heard by your man.

If you’re a nag; if you’re constantly harping on issues, constantly mentioning things, griping, complaining—who enjoys coming home to that? Or who enjoys being married to that? But those positive comments—praise, appreciation—those are all really important.

Barbara: One of the things that I learned early on in our marriage . . . I’m not really sure how I picked this up because I don’t remember someone teaching on it—maybe the Lord just graciously showed me that this was the right thing to do. But I began asking Dennis’ permission to tell him things that were difficult.

I remember very, very early in our marriage—before we had kids, so this had to be in the first two years. When we would go places where he was speaking and I would be sitting in the audience, when he would finish, he wanted to know what I thought. He would ask me what I thought, and I would tell him I thought he did a great job and whatever, and then I would say, “But I have a couple of things I thought might make it better. Would you like to know?” He would always say, “Yes.”

Initially, in the early days, there were a few little grammar things, and since I was good in English and he wasn’t (I’m terrible at Math, and he’s good at Math), it was one of those things that I knew I could help him on. He would say, “Yes, I would love to know what that was.” I would tell him, and he would go, “Great.” He wanted to be good, too. He didn’t want to say something that was wrong.

So that sort of began a habit in our relationship. When there was something that I felt like he needed to learn that I knew, or something that he needed to improve, I always asked permission. If it was something that I thought might make him feel uncomfortable or might make him feel insecure, I would ask permission.

Dennis: When a man knows that his wife believes in him and is on his team and is cheering him on, he can hear a lot from her. But if he senses that she’s on a reformation project called, “Husband,” trying to change him . . . That really brings to mind a story early in our marriage how Barbara was on her own husband reformation project with me.

Barbara: Well this, again, was in our first year of our marriage. I was under the assumption that there was a right way to have a quiet time. My husband is much more spontaneous, much more of a free spirit, and he didn’t do it the way that I did it. I just assumed that he was wrong, and I was right.

So I began, literally, to make this prayer list on a piece of paper, which is how I kept my prayer list at the time. I would write them down. So I wrote down, “Pray that Dennis will start having quiet times. Pray that they’ll be regular. Pray that. . .” I had this list, and it began to grow. But I realized after praying through this list, repeatedly, every day, for two-three weeks, that all I was thinking about was all the things that were wrong with him, that God needed to change.

I came to this conclusion, which again was very pivotal in the early days of our marriage, where I decided, “I don’t like the way this makes me feel. I don’t like the way this makes me look at him negatively.” So I remember specifically telling the Lord one day, “Okay, Lord, You have given me this man, and these are the things that I think need to be fixed. But he’s Yours, not mine, so if You want to fix them, it’s Your business. I give You this list. I’m not going to pray about it anymore. If you want to change him, fine. If You don’t, that’s fine, too.”

I did begin to pray then for positive things that I knew God wanted to do anyway. I began to pray that God would make him the leader that He wanted him to be. I thanked God for the ways that Dennis provided and cared for me and loved me. I only prayed about the things that were positive and encouraging. In that way I was filling my mind with what was good and what was right, and literally I have not prayed for God to change anything about him since because it’s God’s business to change his life, not mine.

Dennis: I wouldn’t say absolutely that a woman shouldn’t pray for her husband that some things would change, because there are some women married to some men (and they know who they are right now), there’s some things about their husbands that do need to change. But in this area that Barbara was talking about, I think this was important for her to let go and to let God work. He has, and He continues to work.

I think what it does is it releases a husband from feeling like he’s being mothered or smothered or like he is a project to change and that he really does have a friend and a partner in life and someone who is, as I’ve said many times, on his team, not on his case, someone who’s a cheerleader, someone who is believing the best. I think in marriage we forget the power of words.

Barbara: I just want to say, too, that even though I made a couple of really good choices in the first year of our marriage, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t struggled with wanting to change my husband, because we are very, very different people. Just the other night at dinner Dennis asked me to get up and get the salt shaker. I brought it to him, handed it to him, and I said, “Just don’t use too much.” He salts too much, I think. And then I said to him, after he salted his food, “Oh well. It’s your body, and some day you’ll probably have to give it up, and it will be hard.” There have been certain things like that—I haven’t said anything about the salt in a long, long time.

I think it’s difficult for us as women because we love our husbands, and we care about them, or we wouldn’t have married them in the first place, to not want to take care of them in the same way that we take care of our children. Yes, I need to take care of my husband, but I don’t need to treat him like a child.

Nancy: So, Dennis, would you say that most men would feel they don’t want to be mothered by their wives? Is that pretty much across the board true?

Dennis: I think any man who wants to be mothered as a man is in need of growing up.

Barbara: Amen to that.

Dennis: I really do. I think we have a generation of some young men today who are not assuming their God-given responsibility, and as long as a woman mothers him, he’ll remain a boy. If you look at 1 Corinthians chapter 16, verses 13 and 14, Paul exhorts the men in Corinth, “act like men; let all you do be done in love.” I’m not talking about men being harsh or hard, but men being men.

There’s so many benefits to women, Nancy, when a man is a man.

Barbara: I’ll amen to that, too. It’s really true.

Nancy: But a lot of our listeners write us and say, “My husband isn’t a man. He isn’t grown up.” So the tendency then, or the temptation is to step into that gap, become his mother, and it really doesn’t work. They don’t grow up.

Barbara: It really doesn’t work.

Dennis: It creates a wound. I mean, a man who is sensing that a woman will do it for him loses, I think, all sense of self-respect as a man. He’s not a warrior. He’s not a courageous protector of his family if his wife is doing it for him. In my opinion, his dignity that God placed in him, where he was supposed to lay down his life for his wife, serve her, deny himself for her, to lead her spiritually, to love her sacrificially—those are all noble callings of a warrior. Those are not easy matters. These are difficult matters for men today, but if a man can get a woman to do it for him, some men will crawl back into boyhood, and they’ll just be an overgrown adolescent.

Barbara: For the rest of their lives, too, because unless a woman is willing to love him courageously and help him step up to be a man, he’s not going to be. So it takes both, but if she’s going to mother him, then that’s what she’s going to get—a boy or an adolescent. She’s got to be willing to step back, let him fail, let him fall flat on his face, let him make mistake after mistake after mistake until he figures out how to do it. That’s really hard for a lot of us.

Nancy: There is that fear of not being protected, of losing control.

Barbara: Yes. What if he doesn’t step up and grow up?

Nancy: But, in a sense, what you did in the first year of your marriage, in the issues that mattered to you at that point, you relinquished those to the Lord, and you realized that ultimately God was bigger than Dennis . . .

Barbara: . . .that’s right. . .

Nancy: . . . and that God could handle him. You stepped out of the way and gave God the chance to speak into your husband’s life, and then you also released those expectations because for Dennis to be a man of God, to be spiritual, might not look exactly the same as it did for you.

Barbara: That’s right.

Dennis: And, Nancy, I think you make a good point there. For a woman to realize, again, “male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:22). We are not two sexually interchangeable units. Men and women are different.

Barbara: Very different.

Dennis: Oh, man! Thirty-seven years of marriage, Nancy, has taught us over and over and over again how different we are. We’re still discovering how uniquely God made us for each other and how wonderful that is and how aggravating it can be at points. Regardless of that, the point is, I think there’s a sense of contentment when a woman can look at her husband and go, “He’s a man; I’m a woman. He’s got certain responsibilities; I’ve got certain responsibilities. I need to be careful not to moonlight and do his job and mine.”

Nancy: And give God room and time to work.

Dennis: Yes, and there’s where the passage over in 1 Peter 3, where women can win their husband without a word (see verses 1-7).

I love to tell this story: Early in our ministry, there was a woman who left Bibles open beside the bed next to where her husband would retire at night. She had CDs in the car . . .

Nancy: . . . tracts in the cereal bowl . . .

Dennis: . . . no doubt about it. She had everything cued up to get her husband’s attention. She came to me for advice and counsel, and she said, “It’s just not getting through. It’s not working.”

I said, “Well, if it’s not working for you, maybe we need to try another plan.”

So she said, “Okay, what should I do?” She pulled out a piece of paper.

Nancy: She was ready to make her list.

Dennis: Yes. She was ready to make her list of these three things, these twelve things, and I said, “I do not want you to say anything.”

She looked back at me—it was really kind of funny—and she goes, “Oh. Is there anything anymore? That can’t be it!”

I said, “No. For the next 30 days, I don’t want you to say a word to your husband about coming to faith in Christ, growing spiritually, reading the Bible, reading Christian books, whatever.”

At the end of 2½-3 weeks, the husband finally turned to her . . .

Nancy: “Who am I married to?”

Barbara: Yes. “Who is this?”

Dennis: It’s either driving down the road—I forget exactly the circumstances—and he goes, “Will you just say something? All these years you’ve been after me, would you just say something?”

It wasn’t long after that he came to faith in Christ.

Now that’s not a formula, but I tell you what, the Scriptures know what they’re talking about when they instruct a woman to measure her words carefully, make them few or maybe even be silent and model what the Scriptures teach. That model can be extremely powerful in your husband’s life. Don’t underestimate it.

Nancy: I want to encourage our listeners to take advantage of an opportunity that’s available to get more of this kind of helpful teaching and instruction through the marriage conferences that FamilyLife sponsors all across the country. There’s a whole spring season coming up shortly. The conferences are called Weekend to Remember. We’re going to talk more about those conferences on the next program, but go to and click on the link there. It will take you to the information about the conference. It really can be a transformational, life-changing weekend for you and your mate.

And then, not just the conference. Dennis and Barbara, I’m so thankful that you’ve produced a lot of resources to help men and women in their marriage.

Dennis: Yes.

Nancy: I’m holding one in my hand that’s a beautiful devotional book, 365 devotions called Moments with You. It’s just one page for each devotional, but an insight from God’s Word and getting to the place where, as a couple, you root your relationship in the Word of God and let it steer and set your course. Then there's a discussion question and something to pray about. It’s not heavy duty. It’s not threatening, but it’s rich.

This is a resource that we want to make available to you when you send a donation to Revive Our Hearts. 

Dennis: Can I tell you a quick story?

Nancy: Absolutely.

Dennis: I just received an email from a couple who have been doing this for a number of years. They started going through a daily devotional by us about a decade ago when they were just out of college. She wrote to tell me that those devotionals of her and her husband talking about the Scripture and how to apply it to their lives, where they’re living at that moment, have really changed the course of their Christian worldview. She said, “Everybody who knows us knows that we have a devotional life.”

These little vignettes don’t take any more than three or four minutes to read, and you can talk about them as long or as little as you like. You can take the discussion question, and you can answer it privately, or you can talk about it as a couple. It’s a great opportunity for a husband and a wife to be able to connect and talk about how the Bible applies to a circumstance or a situation that they’re facing at that time.

There’s not a woman listening to us who’s married who isn’t looking for a way to get her husband to talk to her.

Nancy: Yes.

Barbara: That’s right.

Dennis: I’m looking at my wife who’s nodding. She loves this. This book, I think, will help do that.

Nancy: It will help prime the pump and get some good discussions going.

Dennis: It will.

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: I’m thinking, Valentine’s Day is not too far off, and what a great gift for son or daughter who’s married, for their marriage, for somebody who’s getting married or having an anniversary. So you’ll want one for yourself. But then I’d also encourage you to order additional copies of this as gifts, as an investment in the marriages of those that you love, for the glory of God, so that our marriages can display the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been encouraging married couples today, talking with Dennis and Barbara Rainey.

I’ll tell you one more time how to get your copy of the book Nancy was telling you about. It’s called Moments with You by the Raineys. When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you the devotional book. Donate by visiting, or call us at 1-800-569-5959.

Every married couple needs to ask themselves: “What are we purposefully doing to grow closer together?” Dennis Rainey says this is important.

Dennis:  Unfortunately there’s not a lot even within the Christian community that encourages married couples to be one.

Leslie: He’ll explain further tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.