The majority of time in my early years of marriage, I reacted rather than responding. My behavior, often cold and accusatory was rooted in fear. As I began to align my life with God’s, I recognized how much fear had controlled my actions. As I was nagging my husband about how he needed to change and lead his family, deep down it was really the fear that my circumstance might not ever change. I wasn’t trusting God to change my husband. I placed more leverage on my husband’s actions and attitude than God’s ability to change his heart.
A fearful heart has great difficulty being an obedient heart. God’s word speaks to His children to remain in obedience. In I Peter 3:6 he specifically instructs women to be like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and to not give way to fear.
I had a big issue with fear and I think we women, generally do. We don’t always recognize it or admit it. It may be masked with words like, “I feel trapped,” “I don’t think things will ever change,” or, “I’ll never see that desire fulfilled, I’ll never by happy.” When we fear what we cannot control, we attempt to control what we think we can. I spent a lot of time trying to control my husband and my environment. Because he didn’t respond the way I thought he should to my actions, I was going to do everything I could to keep anything else from hurting me.
I slammed the cabinet doors, huffed and puffed around the house, I made it known that I was disappointed. If he asked me what was wrong, my response was a cold, “Nothing!” I didn’t want to tell him that I was afraid. I’m not even sure that I recognized that was the root issue. I was worn-down and bitter. It was easy to keep an accusatory finger pointed at him – his sin was blatant, mine more subtle. I was crippled and paralyzed by sin and therefore, ineffective and the enemy loved every minute of it. My desires for my husband, for our marriage were good desires, but they didn’t remain desires, they moved seamlessly to demands. When my demands weren’t meet, I restored to reacting, often being cold and controlling towards him.
In Scripture, we read that Sarah (wife of Abraham) had longing and desires just as we do. Sarah’s empty arms and heart ached for a child, all those years as she hoped and waited for a child only to hope and wait again. Eventually, her time for child bearing came to an end. I am sure there were times she believed God had forgotten her. Yet, In the New Testament – long after her story in the Old Testament, we find her name as a direct example to obedience. We women can identify with her. Her want became a desire and then it spun into a full-fledged must-have and that’s when she took action upon herself and into her own hands. She gave her maidservant (Hagar) to her husband so that he might sleep with her in hopes that Hagar would conceive the child that Sarah couldn’t. At first, Sarah seems to have success with her plan (not God’s plan). But it doesn’t take long to see her miserable, mistreating Hagar. How many times have we manipulated a situation only to be discontented when it ends in a disaster? If we would only learn to wait upon the Lord and his best for us! If only we would trust God to speak to our husbands. If only we would trust God even if our husbands aren’t saved. Certainly, there are times when women are called to action for their own safety or their children’s well-being. God didn’t call wives to be a doormat but he does call them to trust Him.
Eventually, when Sarah’s arms are finally filled after the birth of Isaac she rejoices with these words, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears this will laugh with me”. This time, Sarah is laughing out of pure joy, and peace. There is no fear in this laugh. She also replies that she bore Abraham a child in his old age. We know that she is joyous beyond compare to finally hold a baby in her arms yet, she speaks of the delight she has brought to her man. We can identify with the earlier dealings of Sarah, but how beautiful if we can identify with her new character. A heart that is no longer full of fear but one full of trust and hope.
We fear that God will not allow us to do what it is we want to do and when we want to do it. We fear that life is passing by and the opportunities we long for will be missed. We fear our husband may never change – that our marriage will never be what we wanted. Our fear speaks of not yielding to God. We keep our trust at a distance. We remain unconvinced regarding God’s best for us and God’s timing for all areas of our lives, especially those areas that mean the most to us. If only we understood how God desires us to rest, trust and wait upon him.
I speak a lot about trusting God in my book and talk more about Sarah. God loved me enough to spend over two decades teaching me, calling me, causing me to have nowhere to look except for Him. Always, his question to me was, “Joy, do you trust me?”
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husband’s 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. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. I Peter 3:1-6