I was counseling a distraught father over the phone. His son was in the process of walking away from the Lord and emotionally walking away from his family. In the midst of this conversation he stopped and said, “The hardest part of this is . . . ” And then there was a long pause as he choked back the tears. Finally, regaining his composure, he finished: “The hardest part about this is that my wife and I are fighting all the time. This trial with our son is tearing up our relationship. “
What my friend was facing is common. In fact, it brought back memories of tensions my wife and I experienced during some our children’s teen years.
When faced with a crisis, parents are tempted to lash out at each other. The challenge with a child can intensify parenting differences. The strict parent really wants to enforce the rules and impose punishment. The more easy-going parent wants to give in. Positions are dug like trenches in war. Word grenades are launched at each other.
However, what we often overlook is a fundamental intensifier of the sharp disagreements: the influence of fear.
God’s Word often tells us not to fear. In fact, “fear not” and its variations are among the most common commands of the Bible. These commands to “be not afraid” are not thundered from Mount Zion but whispered from alongside us.
While every believer must wrestle with fear, there is one verse that seems to suggest this might be a special temptation for our wives. In 1 Peter 3, God urges wives to submit to their husbands, even winning over unbelieving husbands with their pure conduct. After citing Abraham’s wife, Sarah, he finishes with this statement:
And you are [Sarah’s] children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Fearing What is Frightening
I love the language of this verse. Peter admits there is much in life that is frightening. Think about teen rebellion, medical emergencies, husbands who walk out on their families, unemployment, and the list could keep going. For loving moms, there really is no end to the worries and fears. The world is a dangerous place.
But then Peter juxtaposes the admission of frightening things with the encouragement not to fear those things. In other words, ladies, yes we do live in a fearful world, but no, you don’t have to fear.
You should be encouraged at how God addresses you. While noting a prominent temptation, God says this is something you can address. You are not helpless. God does lead us into frightening places and your husband cannot instantly fix that. There is only one Savior, and your husband is not him.
Speaking Peace to Our Sisters
Which brings us to the way husbands can serve their wives in a frightening trial. How do brothers and sisters in the body of Christ help each other face the fears of life? Following are three principles I passed on to my friend and have tried to practice myself.
1. We admit that a situation is frightening.
Like a sensitive piece of equipment, our wives are often more attuned to situations that may cause problems. We do them no good to minimize those observations. We want our wives to be heard and to feel heard. Though not infallible, they are our partners to complete us. We show this by listening to those fears.
2. We speak peace to those fears.
But it is not enough just to listen. With compassion and gentleness, we remind each other of what we already know to be true and have just forgotten in the moment. Sunday’s God talk can seem very far away when we are in the middle of a teenage rebellion on Thursday.
But Romans 8:28 is still true: All things are working for good. 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 is as true for us as it was for Paul: These things are helping us learn to rely not on ourselves but on God, who will deliver us. And on and on the verses go. In fact, the Psalmist said, “ (Ps 119:71).
As men, we can be tempted to keep our faith quiet and compartmentalized. Trials in the home give us a chance to speak kind and gracious words to those closest to us. The promises of God are there for us to apply in our homes. Our wives need to hear the gracious Word of God from us in the midst of trials.
3. We speak to God together.
In addition, what better way to redirect our tension toward each other than to cry out to God? Have we never read the Psalms? These include David’s guttural cries for deliverance from very real trials. And others communicate his exultation in very real rescue from those same problems.
As a husband and wife pray together, we remind each other that we are not the enemy, the devil is. We don’t have all the resources, but God does. As we ask for his wisdom, handling this trial just might be our finest hour.
Teenage trials don’t have to drive a husband and wife apart. They can actually drive us together.