Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Helping Your Husband Become a Leader

Leslie Basham: When men embrace their biblical responsibility to lead, what might that look like? Juli Slattery explained how her husband serves by leading.

Juli Slattery: He’ll just say, “I’m going to hide your computer. I don’t want you to have it this weekend because you need to rest.” When a wife can begin to see that her husband is wired to lead, how God uniquely wired him—not how I think he should lead—there is a new appreciation and new dynamic that comes out of that.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 24. Nancy’s picking back up with the series, “A Wife’s Powerful Influence.”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, I’m delighted to welcome back to Revive Our Hearts today our  guests Dr. Juli Slattery and Linda Dillow. Linda and Juli are both authors; they’re speakers; they’re part of a ministry called Authentic Intimacy. What I really like is that we’re friends, and we enjoy each other, and I’m just so thankful to have you with us on Revive Our Hearts today. Thanks for joining us.

Juli Slattery: Oh, we are so happy to be here.

Linda Dillow: It’s a joy.

Nancy: Linda, you wrote a book years ago on marriage called Creative Counterpart. It came out in the seventies. Am I right?

Linda: It did. It did. A long time ago.

Nancy: And it’s still in print.

Linda: It is.

Nancy: We were with a friend of mine yesterday for lunch who is the mother of eight children, and it was so sweet. She sat and looked across the table from you and said, “I read that book when I was a young wife, and it so impacted my life.” Now she’s a grandmother.  I know that family well, and I’ve seen the fruit of God’s ways in their marriage. It had to be fun for you to see the fruit of many years of discipling women and encouraging them especially in relation to their marriages.

Linda: It is, Nancy. I just stand in awe of God that He would take a simple book, and because it’s based on God’s Word, it’s timeless. So thirty-five years later, women are still reading it and doing the Bible study not just here, but really all over the world. So He’s an amazing God. His truth stands in every country, in every time because His Word is truth.

Nancy: Yes. Yes. It changes lives. It transforms lives.

Linda: It does.

Nancy: And now, Juli, you’ve written a book called Finding the Hero in Your Husband. You wrote that when you were a young married woman. Why did you write it?

Juli: Well, because I had it all figured out. (laughter)

Linda: We’re so glad, Juli!

Juli: When Linda and I first met and we realized that we had both written very similar books when we were kind of young brides, she looked at me and she said, “People who write books on marriage in young marriage usually don’t have it all together, or you’re trying to figure it out.”

That was exactly right. I was trying to figure out how do I honor the Lord in my marriage. In some ways that’s backwards. What I mean by that is that I was the driven person; I was getting my doctorate in psychology. I was married to a very laid-back, wonderful, relational man. I knew that the Word of God said that He was supposed to be the leader in our family. But I was the natural leader. I was the one who had goals and drive. He was the one who said, “Hey, let’s take a nap, and let’s enjoy life.”

I wanted to know how do I honor God and not compromise who the Lord made me—not just all of a sudden become someone who doesn’t have an opinion. So that book was borne out of my struggle with the Lord of what does this look like and also working with lots of other wives who were struggling with similar issues.

Nancy: I think this is a huge issue today. It’s why we’re talking about this whole concept of your power as a wife. You’ve talked about one of the needs of a husband being for respect. But culturally we have this whole issue today of so many very strong women, well-educated women. We’re hearing from them, and they’re saying, “It’s hard for me to respect my husband. He’s more laid back. He’s not as driven. He’s not as much a leader.” Just what you’ve expressed. Are you seeing this and hearing this from other women?

Juli: Oh, all over the place, and the research is showing it. If you look at the latest research that’s coming out, it will show that more women are getting college educated. Almost every advanced degree including law and medicine, more women are getting these degrees. So women are being encouraged to be all that they can be, and Christian women are as well, and that’s a good thing. But men are not being encouraged to develop their gifts and their leadership.

Nancy, if we look at culture and just what’s portrayed on TV, in commercials, in the movies, just try to look with an objective eye for a week and notice the dynamics that are portrayed by our culture. It’s the man who’s kind of the goofball and he can’t quite get things together, and the woman is always rolling her eyes at him and trying to keep him up with her. It’s constant, this message that women are the ones who have it together and guys are always a few steps behind.

Nancy: Now some women would say, I’m going to prod a little bit here, “Well, that’s the way it really is. My husband has never grown up. He’s a kid who’s still wanting to play video games and doesn’t take responsibility.” So for a lot of women they resort to putting them down, speaking of them in a derogatory way, men in general, their husband in particular. And certainly, that’s not producing good fruit in marriages or among women or men. But they’re saying it’s not just on TV, that’s reality.

Juli: Well, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does Hollywood lead us, or is it reflecting us? And it’s probably a little bit of both. The reality is that in most marriages, the woman, most likely, is going to be a little more mature than the man.

Nancy: When they first get married.

Juli: Yes. If we look at men and women in their twenties or early thirties, in most cases, a woman is more mature relationally and many cases she has more of a passion for things of God. She’s more zoned into those sort of things and the man is kind of trying to find himself and who he is.

I think a lot of the reason for that is because God created man in such a way that he really needs a good woman to bring out that hero in him. God has equipped a woman with the skills and the intuition if she understands it right to help her husband develop into a strong leader, to help him become a confident man, to help him with his deep need for competence and respect. 

Most women don’t understand that. So instead of helping develop this man that they’re married to, all they can do is lament that he’s not the kind of guy that they want to be married to. So they end up using that power that could build him, and they use it instead to tear him down.

Nancy: And yet, when we talk about help—a wife helping her husband—Linda, chime in here. For a lot of women that means making him something that he isn’t. And that’s not going to be effective either.

Linda: I think most women don’t like that word helper that we see in the Old Testament—that God was going to make a helper suitable for her husband. Helper sounds like a house frau who is just not intelligent, isn’t going to do anything but serve.

Nancy: Or it can sound like someone who is going to fix.

Linda: Somebody who’s going to fix everything. But that word helper is the Hebrew word ezer, and it’s used most often of God—God is our Help, God is our helper. It’s really a strong word. God really shared one of His names with us as wives when He called us a helper. We can use that strength when we respect and not tear down.

Nancy: So if a woman is wanting to help her husband there’s a fine line here on a lot of this, that could be manipulative. You talked in our last program, Linda, about asking your husband questions, “When are you going to do this? Are you going to do this?” And that was annoying to him. He felt mothered, smothered, whatever, I don’t know. But you probably thought you were trying to help him.

Linda: I felt like I was doing exactly what I should do, and yet it created a lot of anger in Jody. And that anger came out at me. My husband is “Mr. Flow-with-it,” but he’s not laid back. He’s a very intense man. So when he felt threatened, when he felt like I was attacking him, he would come back at me with anger, and I’d end up in tears. I’d think, “I’ve married someone just like my angry father. What have I done?” And in reality, he was responding to my criticism and my subtle ways of trying to change him. It just wasn’t working. It was creating anger and tears and that isn’t what God wants.

Nancy: So what turned the cycle around there?

Linda: Nancy, I would have to say the Word of God. I mediated a lot on Philippians 4:8. It says we’re to dwell, we’re to set our mind on the things that are good, lovely, a whole list of things. But then it says, “If there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”

So the Lord and I had a little talk. I said, “Okay, God. Today I really can’t see a lot I like about him. I love him, but I just don’t like him. I don’t like his anger. But You show me one thing that is praiseworthy, one thing that is excellent. I’m going to dwell on that, and I’m going to share with him what I see.” And having that attitude, taking God’s Word and applying it really turned everything around in our marriage.

Nancy: As you share, that I’m thinking about a challenge we’ve given many times on Revive Our Hearts over the years. We call it the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge. And you just set me up to share it again.

Linda: Good. And I’ve read that, and I like it.

Nancy: We’ve got to share it. I have hundreds and hundreds—maybe thousands of responses we’ve received from women telling what a difference this challenge made in just kind of changing the dance step in their marriage.

Here’s the challenge if you’ve not heard it before. Every day for thirty days there’s a negative side and a positive side. The negative side is you can’t say anything critical about your husband to him or to anyone else about him. Now I know for some people that’s going to require a personality transplant or something because you’ve gotten into a negative pattern—a critical pattern. But for thirty days, by God’s grace, you can’t criticize him, say anything negative about him to him or to your girlfriends or to your mom or anybody else. And I tell women, if you have to say it to somebody, tell the Lord. Ask the Lord to give you grace to deal with it.

But here’s the positive side. This is what really so makes a difference—it’s what you were just referring to, Linda. Every day for the next thirty days I challenge women to find something praiseworthy, something you appreciate, something you value in your husband. Say it to him, and say it to somebody else about him. So you’re talking to him, and you’re talking about him with words of honor and respect.

For some wives, they’re going to think, “There’s no way I could think of thirty things to appreciate and affirm in my husband.” And I say to them, “Okay, think of one thing, and say it every day for thirty days.” That may sound a little silly, but I’ve had women come back so many, many times and say, “This just changed my marriage.”

In fact, I’m looking at a response we got here recently from a woman who had just completed this challenge. She said,

I had been frustrated with not feeling appreciated, not seeing my husband read his Bible like he once did, and many other things. [So she’d gotten into that negative frame of reference about her husband.]

About two weeks into this challenge, my husband started saying things like, "I just don’t deserve having a wife like you. You do so much for me that I don’t deserve. Most days I deserve for you to punch me, and you just love me.” I also noticed a huge increase in him reading the Scripture, him helping me around the house without asking. Now I believe that complaining gets you nowhere as a wife and love is the best way. I hope I remember this always.

Just such a sweet expression of what God can do when a wife starts to live out Philippians 4:8—think about those positive things, dwell on them, and speak them.

Linda: Nancy, I have had to relearn a lot of these things. As we’ve already established, I’m old. I’ve been married forty-eight years. Five years ago I fell down an entire staircase and landed on my head and had a serious brain injury. One of the results of that, that just troubled me so much, it was like someone reached in and took out all of the thankfulness and gratitude that I had worked years and years putting in and put in griping and criticism.

Every day after my accident, living life was so hard. Focusing was so hard. I was griping at my husband; I was criticizing him. I didn’t like who I was. I said, “God, we’ve been through all of this before.”

And He said, “I guess we need to go through it again.”

So I got a bracelet that said, “Gripes Be Gone.” And every time I complained, I had to switch it from wrist to wrist so I realized what was coming out of my mouth.

Really, women don’t realize what’s coming out of their mouths. They don’t realize the lack of respect. It helps them realize it when you have to switch it from wrist to wrist ten times a day. One woman that I gave the bracelet to, Nancy, said, “Well, I’ve learned one thing. I’m just not very creative. I gripe about the same thing to my husband over and over and over. You would think I could be more creative!”

I did that, Nancy, to relearn. And then again I got out Philippians 4:8 that I’d worked on years and years. And God just said, “Okay, Linda. We’re doing this again.” I took every one of those, “He is true, lovely, gracious. Okay, what can I say about my husband about this?” I started a thankful journal about my husband. God again put in thankfulness and gratitude, which played itself out in respect toward my husband.

Nancy: Juli, you told a story on the last program about when you were a young married woman about cleaning your townhome. You and your husband had agreed to do this. You did your part upstairs and he dilly-dallied around all day and never got to his part and you ended up doing it for him with a crummy attitude.

I was listening to that, I’m thinking, “A lot of women can relate . . . if it’s not that detail, it’s another one.” But where you were, from your perspective, acting in a responsible way, and from your perspective, he was being irresponsible, not pulling his weight in the marriage. So you had to deal with your attitude. But help us here. If a husband is acting in a way that is immature or irresponsible—a lot of women listening here are thinking of their situation and things that their husbands do that really annoy them or are not wise or mature. How does a wife in that situation show respect to a husband who’s not acting respectable?

Juli: Well, Nancy, I think that there are two answers to that. One of them is the more superficial answer is that just kind of force yourself to. I think we can do that. We can say the right things for a short period of time. We can fake it. And yes, there are times you have to be obedient and just say, “Okay, Lord. I’m just going to take this step of obedience.” But God wants to do more than that. He wants to change our hearts. And that’s what He began to do in me.

I can tell you that that night I was on the couch mad at my husband because he hadn’t cleaned the town house. I was so self-righteous. I mean, my thoughts and my prayers even were, “Lord, why would you put me with this guy who is not carrying his weight. He’s so irresponsible. I’m such a great wife because I cleaned the apartment.” And you know there was all this pride and self-righteousness that the Lord was gracious enough to not show it all to me at once, or I would have probably been overwhelmed. But that’s the first step. Scripture shows us this when you have a problem with someone, the very first thing you’ve got to do is to take the plank out of your own eye. 

Nancy: You have to come to the place where you see that your self-righteous attitude is as great or greater a sin as whatever it is that he’s failing to do.

Juli: Absolutely. And I’m not just talking about irresponsibility. There have been other things in our marriage that we have struggled through that I could legitimately say, “He’s wrong in this. God needs to change him in this.”

But God wanted to first show me how He wanted to change me—how my pride, my arrogance, my self-righteousness, my complaining, my bitterness was just as much an offense to the Lord as whatever I was legitimately concerned about with my husband.

When God begins to do that—when He first says, “Let me humble your heart. Let me show you how much you need My grace every day.” That changes things because now I’m going to the Lord for strength. I’m going to the Lord in repentance and saying, “God help me to have the right attitude toward my husband. Help me to have an attitude of humility.”

Then He started to show me all these things that I wasn’t grateful for for Mike. Let me give you an example. I think a real deep need for a wife is to feel protected by her husband—to feel like he’s stepping up to the plate, he’s the leader. Even if you tend to be a controlling person, there’s a part of you that wants that as a woman to have this covering.

Early in my marriage, I really didn’t see that in Mike and I was more driven. But the Lord started to show me that Mike naturally led me and protected me in areas that I didn’t even know that I needed leadership. Mike taught me things like faith and rest and would confront me because I was so compulsive.

There was one time where I had a thyroid issue—a thyroid problem—and I had to get my thyroid radiated basically to solve it. While they were getting my thyroid regulated (your thyroid controls your metabolism), I was gaining weight just rapidly, even though I was running five miles a day and eating grapefruits because I was always so paranoid about gaining weight. Body image issues were just always something I struggled with.

I would get on the scale every day and find that I had gained another pound even though I had eaten like nothing. Mike saw me struggling with this. One day he just said, “I hid the scale and I’m not going to give it back to you until your thyroid is regulated. You don’t need to be weighing yourself. You need to just trust that you’re doing the right thing to take care of your body.”

Now, I could have had two responses to that as a wife. I could have said, “How dare you do that? You’re taking away my control.” But the Lord just showed me immediately how my husband was protecting me.

Mike has done that other times where he’ll just say, “I’m going to hide your computer. I don’t want you to have it this weekend because you need to rest.” Nancy, that’s a husband showing leadership. When a wife can begin to see that her husband is wired to lead, how God uniquely wired him—not how I think he should lead—there’s a new appreciation and a new dynamic that comes out of that.

Nancy: It was so sweet, Juli, to be in your home last night, to meet your husband for the first time. And knowing you as I do, and then meeting him, I could see what balance he brings to your life. You need him as much as he needs you. If I could say it this way, based on how you’re wired, you’d probably be one uptight, stressed out woman if you didn’t have the balance that Mike brings. I’ve watched as you’ve come to respect and value strengths in him that are different than your own strengths and to let those bring you together rather than becoming a wedge between you.

Juli: Yes, and that’s beautifully said. I would be a much different woman without my husband. I’d be a much different woman if I had not allowed God to show me how much He needed to change me. If I would have dug my heels in, our kids would be different. I would be paranoid about what grades they’re getting and every little thing has to be perfect. Mike brings a great balance. God brought us together to teach each other and challenge each other and sharpen each other.

When you first get married, you really do believe that your husband needs you more than you need him, because you think you’ve got it wired. But when you start to realize all the work that God wants to do in your heart, it becomes a beautiful thing. His yoke is easy and light when you really just fling it on the Lord and allow Him to teach you the deep lessons of the heart rather than control everything.

Nancy: I’m hearing two major takeaways here. We’re going to continue this conversation but . . .  As we bring this program to a close, one takeaway is the importance of humility—a humble heart. I need to recognize that my proud or negative or critical or self-righteous responses are as great or greater an issue as whatever the other person’s failures or flaws may be.

We have this scale when we look at other people—and particularly in the context of marriage—I have some faults, but his are much greater than mine. It’s pride that keeps me putting a greater focus on the other person’s faults and flaws than on the issues in my own heart. So I think God’s wanting to do a deep work of humility and brokenness and dealing with the pride and self-righteousness in the hearts of many women who are listening to this conversation.

I just want to take us back to that 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge. We have a great resource here at Revive Our Hearts. It’s called the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Journal. It gives you every day for thirty days just a little something to consider that will help prime the pump—things that you can be grateful for in your mate. Then there is a spot to journal your thoughts and some Scripture that will help encourage you in this journey.

We’ll be glad to send you that resource when you send a donation of any amount to us here at Revive Our Hearts. You can give us a call at 1-800-569-5959, or you can visit us online at Make a donation of any amount to the ministry here at Revive Our Hearts and we’ll be glad to send you that 30-Day Husband Encouragement Journal.

We’ll be back on the next program with Dr. Juli Slattery and Linda Dillow to talk more about understanding your power as a wife. I hope you’ll join us. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss 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.