Is My Husband Leading Me Spiritually?

When I first got married, I had a very particular idea of what spiritual leadership in a marriage looked like. I envisioned my husband and I having our separate personal quiet times each morning, frequent prayer times together, family devotions every night, and serving together in the youth group or some official ministry of the church. Soon after getting married I realized that my expectations of spiritual leadership were not going to be met. However, the truth is, my husband was and is a great spiritual leader and I have grown in Christ in significant ways as a result of his patient and humble leadership. Needless to say my perspective and beliefs on what spiritual leadership looks like in the home has shifted significantly and I would simply like to share some thoughts that have come out of my journey with this particular issue.

What’s wrong with the traditional picture of spiritual leadership?

What, you may ask, is wrong with the expectations of spiritual leadership that I had in my head at the beginning of my marriage? All of the things I mentioned are good things, not to be scorned, and they are legitimately a part of many husband’s spiritual leadership. However, I came to the realization that what was wrong with my conception of spiritual leadership was that those activities, as good as they may be, were not the heart of what spiritual leadership is. I realized that it is possible to not do many of the traditional spiritual leadership activities with ones family and still be leading them towards Christ and faith; which is spiritual life. Conversely, I realized that a husband can be doing all the traditionally “right” things a spiritual leader is supposed to do but still be spiritually dead and leading his family towards spiritual death. In the end I concluded that spiritual leadership is much more an attitude, an atmosphere, and a direction that one presses towards, rather than a set list of activities. There is a heart to spiritual leadership that fills the many different outward forms that spiritual leadership can take, but without the heart the forms themselves, are empty. (Matthew 23:25-28)

Four Marks

Having come to the above conclusions I started looking more at Michael’s heart than his specific actions, and as the years went by, I began to notice and develop an appreciation for how Michael was indeed leading me spiritually. Even though it didn’t take the forms I had originally expected I began to see more clearly Michael’s heart for Christ, faith, and the church and that those were the overall directions he was taking me.

These are 4 ways that Michael has led me over the years that I had at first overlooked but am now so very grateful for. I offer these as merely my thoughts and experience, but I am hopeful that as you read you can identify ways that your husband is leading you spiritually, that you may have overlooked in the past due to your own expectations of what spiritual leadership should look like.

  1. Pursuing Christ and Faith in His Spiritual Walk.

This is the foundation upon which the rest of spiritual leadership rests and therefore is a main part of what spiritual leadership looks like. If the general direction of your husband’s life is one of pursuit of Christ by faith, then be encouraged! He is heading in a direction that you and your children can and should follow him in. (I Cor. 3:10-15; Eph. 2:19-22; Eph. 5:22-33)

Before moving on I want to encourage you to not jump to the conclusion that your husband does not personally pursue God because he doesn’t have a daily morning quiet time as you do. This was the conclusion I almost came to, but then realized that what seeking Christ practically looked like in my life, was not what it looked like in my husband’s life. You might have long morning quiet times, he might have shorter more frequent times of reading Scripture that you may not always get to observe. You might have a long organized prayer list and a set time for prayer, he might pray on his way to work for whatever is on his heart and mind. You may write out application and meditation thoughts in a journal while his meditation on Scripture does not include journaling.

The Lord knocked me off this high horse of mine during a certain period in my life when my personal devotions and what they looked like changed drastically for me. During that time, I still pursued Christ and I still desired him and God was faithful to keep me close to himself, but what my practical devotional life looked like was much different than I ever would have thought it could look; my old self would have looked at me and judged. My point is, be humble and gracious, and allow for personal differences in this area.

  1. Leading in an attitude of humility through confession of areas of spiritual sin and weakness that the Spirit has brought conviction in.

Spiritual humility and open confession of sin is a cornerstone of Christian growth. If your husband shows an attitude of humility through being open with you, and when appropriate with your kids about his weaknesses and sin then he is leading you spiritually. In essence, when your husband does this, he is leading your family into a humility that leads to repentance. Follow him there. (II Cor. 7:9-11; James 5:16; I John 1:7-10)

  1. Showing interest in your spiritual walk and developing an atmosphere in your home of spiritual openness and regular genuine discussion about the things of God:

For my husband, this interest in my walk with God was expressed through conversations that were both planned and spontaneous and consisted of questions about what I was learning, how my devotions had been, how I may be discouraged spiritually etc. He regularly talks about the sermon’s we hear at church and shares with me how the Lord has been working in him, new things he is learning, questions or doubts he has and the spiritual discouragements he is experiencing. These conversations were not necessarily daily, but they were regular and common.

The point or goal of these conversations is not to have a huge spiritual break through every time. Many times, these conversations were simple and short and did not really lead anywhere particular, but I have come to see that in having these regular conversations he is working to develop an atmosphere of spiritual openness and comfortableness in speak about spiritual things, both positively and negatively. Another way of putting it would be that he is working to develop a way of life where speaking about our spiritual things is common and comfortable, even when what is being said consist of spiritual struggle, disappointment, disillusionment, doubt etc. and not just the positive spiritual growth or experiences we are having (since growth almost always grows out of spiritual struggle).

Working to develop this attitude and atmosphere in a home, I believe, will also naturally create a place where our children can feel free to speak about spiritual things as well; an atmosphere in which our children know and feel that their parents really care about their own personal walks with God and are often speaking openly and engagingly about those things. This is much more than just a household filled with right rules or set times for family devotions, or requirements to have a daily personal devotions, but a household in which the things of God and his work in our lives is often and naturally spoken of. (Deut. 6:4-9; I Thess. 5:14;Phil. 2:1-7)

For some husbands, having a regular family devotions serves as a springboard for developing this overall atmosphere. For others like Michael, they do this better in a more spontaneous conversational way. It took me some time to discern this but I am grateful I did not miss it altogether!

  1. Leading through being careful to bring his family to a church that is theologically sound and is faithful to teach the meat of God’s Word.

 Your husband might not be a natural theologian and teacher but if he has shown that he cares about leading his family to a theologically sound church that teaches the meat of God’s Word, then he is leading you spiritually in a very important way. Your husband cannot feed or lead your family all by himself and he was never meant too; thus the importance of finding a church that teaches the Bible. This might not feel like spiritual leadership to you because it feels like such a “given” but do not overlook or diminish this part of your husband’s leadership if he is indeed leading you in this way. (Hebrews 10:24-25; Titus 2:2-8; II Tim. 4:1-5)

Two Things to Consider:

I don’t know about you but I tend to be a naturally proud person especially when I find myself disappointed in another person’s behaviors towards me. It’s very easy to begin to think that somehow you are just naturally better than they are and that if you were they, you would act much more impressively. Knowing this tendency in myself, I want to encourage you before I begin this next section, to take a second or two to humble yourself before the Lord. I want to remind you that any level of spiritual maturity you may have is all due to God’s work in your life and not due to your natural spiritual awesomeness. God, for reasons based purely on his divine sovereignty and grace, chose to work in your life in ways he may not have chosen to work in many other lives around you. You did nothing to deserve this or earn this. Any obedience or steps towards God that you have taken was God’s initiation and work in your life without which; you would have rebelled and run from God. Don’t ever forget this glorious humbling truth. (Eph. 2:1-10; Eph. 1:4-6;Phil. 2:12-13; II Tim. 2:24-26; John 6:28-29, 43-44; John 15:16;19). This realization should lead you to get off any high horse you may be riding as you consider these next two possibilities.

Only God can take the heart of your husband and turn it towards himself. For this reason I want to encourage you to not put pressure on your husbands to perform any particular spiritual leadership activity, whatever those activities are to you. I think there is a place and time to share with your husband any particular desires you have for him and his spiritual leadership of you, but before you decide to speak to him about spiritual leadership in your marriage, take time to pray about and consider these two possibilities.

First, maybe your husband is leading spiritually, just not in the traditional way you think of spiritual leadership. Be willing to step outside your normal way of thinking, to consider something different. Look to the heart of your husband, and consider where he, as an individual, is heading. If his general direction is one that is towards Christ and the things of God, then there is something to follow and chances are, there are other ways he is leading you that you have not even noticed.

If this is the conclusion you come to then I am glad for you! Humbly thank God for the husband he has given you and for the ways he is succeeding in leading you spiritually and do not take this for granted. Thank your husband for the ways he is leading you, build him up in these areas, and let him know that he is doing a good job. If after doing these things you still feel that there are spiritual areas you would like to work on, or practical things that you desire to do with him, then I would encourage you to speak with him about those things. Be careful not to speak with a critical, why-haven’t-you-led-me-in-this-way tone, but rather in a conversational I-would-enjoy-this-what-do-you-think-about-trying-this-together? tone, and hold whatever it is you want with an open hand. I cannot tell you for sure how this conversation will go. If you feel your husband get defensive or discouraged in this conversation or if he expresses that those are things he is uncomfortable doing be willing to let it go and simply reiterate the ways in which he is doing well.

The second thing you must consider is the possibility that your husband is not at a place spiritually where acting out any amount of spiritual leadership “activities” will amount to the spiritual leadership you so deeply desire, leaving both you and your husband in an unhealthy place. If you get your husband to act these leadership activities out, without the heart of real spiritual leadership, it will simply be a hollow, legalistic, outward expression of his attempts to either please you, impress his spiritual leaders and fellow church mates, or deceive his own heart into thinking that he is spiritually mature and good with God because he is doing the things he is supposed to be doing.

If you find yourself coming to the conclusion that your husband is not in a spiritual place to lead your family at this time, then your desire for your husband to lead spiritually should be expressed primarily to God in the form of praying for your husband’s spiritual growth and not to your husband. Your husband cannot lead you to a place he is not going and you cannot make him go there. Rather in this case I would encourage you, dear sister, to

  • Cling by faith to God’s sovereignty and goodness
  • Accept where your husband is or is not spiritually
  • Humbly, and in an un-flaunting quiet manner, lead your children towards faith in Christ.
  • Pray that God would work in your husband’s life
  • Find for yourself a church with teaching that will lead you weekly to Christ and the things of God, with a leadership you can follow, and
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment on when to speak up to encourage your husband towards Christ and when to keep your peace.

The difficulty of being in this situation is not lost on me and I want you to know that God’s purposes are being worked out in your life and the glory waiting for you is beyond comprehension (Rom 8). Recall this to mind and be filled with hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.”

The Lord is good to those who wait for him

to the soul who seeks him. (Lam 3:21-26)

God is near and he knows your frame, he remembers that you are dust.  (Psalm 103:13-14) “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble and he knows them that trust in him” (Nahum 1:7) Keep your eyes on the glorious things above, on Christ, on his glory and his supremacy in all things (Col 1 and 3), and be encouraged; be strengthened.

Well, those are my thoughts. I would love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and how God has worked in your life in these areas of marriage. Feel free to comment in the comments below or on my facebook post!