Seven Ways a Wife Can Cultivate Her Marriage

Our guest contributor today is my dear wife Sarah J. Najapfour (BA in English Literature, University of the Fraser Valley). She is a stay-at-home mom. She taught at Cascade Christian School in Chilliwack, British Columbia, and Plymouth Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is co-author of Amazing Grace, the first part of the series called “Stories behind Favorite Hymns for Ages 3 to 6.” She and her husband Brian have four children.

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As a parallel piece to my husband’s article “Thirteen Ways a Husband Can Cultivate His Marriage,” which appeared in July/August 2019 issue of The Outlook, I would like to borrow his first paragraph, changing it slightly to fit my article’s context: “Marriage is like a garden. If you are a gardener and want to have a beautiful garden, you should work hard on your garden. Likewise, if you are a wife and do not invest time and energy in your marriage, you can’t expect to have a wonderful marriage. And as a garden needs constant care, so does marriage. Like a gardener, you as a wife should ‘water, fertilize, and weed’ your marriage regularly in order to have a healthy marriage.” The Outlook

Here are seven ways in which a wife can cultivate her marriage:

1. Pray daily for your husband. As a leader and provider of the family, your husband has weighty responsibilities. What a comfort it can be for your husband, if he knows that each day his wife is praying for him—that God will strengthen, direct, and protect him!  Personally, I find Lifting My Husband Through Prayer a helpful tool as I pray for my husband. This prayer card, produced by Family Life in 2014, uses Bible verses as a guide for a wife as she prays for her husband.

2. Encourage and support your husband’s leadership in your home. In today’s culture, the idea of a wife’s submitting to her husband seems absurd. However, when a wife obeys God’s command to submit willingly to her husband as unto the Lord, it is a beautiful picture of the relationship between Christ and His Bride (Eph. 5:21–24). And biblical submission does not mean that you become a doormat. On the contrary, God calls you as a wife to be a helper to your husband—to work alongside him for God’s glory. A godly husband will value his wife’s input, and will not abuse his authority and demean his wife. Just as a husband’s tender love increases his wife’s desire to honor him, so does a wife’s willing submission to her husband increase his desire to cherish more his wife.

3. Make an effort to show interest in your husband’s work, hobby, or passion. Continue to date your husband. Engaging in your husband’s hobby or passion can build sweet friendship in a marriage. My husband loves basketball. When we were first married, I knew little about that sport. Now, I’m not sure who enjoys watching a basketball game more, he or I.

4. Listen (really!) to your husband. Women are so used to multitasking; and sometimes, they continue to multitask even when their husbands are talking to them. Yes, generally they are listening, but their actions can show disinterest. Depending on your situation, putting down your grocery list, setting aside your cleaning cloth, or putting your cellphone down are some meaningful ways to show your husband that he matters to you. Now, if you really can’t listen well at the moment he is trying to share something with you, you may want to kindly say, for example, “Dear, what you have to say is important to me. Could we talk about it tonight after supper so I can really listen to you?”

5. Praise and compliment your husband, not only privately but also publicly (and if you have children, in front of them). Make sure he knows that you admire him, value his care for your family, and appreciate his leadership. A wife who intentionally esteems her husband will be surprised how her admiration can motivate her husband to lead and serve more their family.

6. (This point is especially for moms with young children.) Remember that before you became a mother, you were first a wife and are still a wife. Our precious little ones can consume so much of our time that we neglect to cultivate intimacy with our husbands. As a mom of four small children, I know how hard this can be! I also know how much my husband appreciates it when I make an effort to show him that he is still number one. A small love note sent in his lunch or placed on his desk, cooking his favorite meal, planning date nights away from the children are just some ways wives can communicate love to their husbands.

7. Treat your husband as God treats you. (I’ve borrowed this point from my husband’s article as it excellently applies to both husbands and wives.) “God does not deal with us according to the multitude of our sins but according to His rich mercy. Your husband is not perfect; he has flaws and weaknesses, but so do you. Therefore, as God is gracious to you, so be gracious to him. When you are wrong, be humble enough to admit your mistake. When you sin, ask for forgiveness. When your husband sins, forgive him as God has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32). Grow with him in God’s mercy and love.”

The above list is by no means exhaustive but meant to give some practical suggestions for cultivating our marriages. We need to realize, however, that ultimately apart from God’s grace in Christ we cannot be the kind of wife God calls us to be. Therefore, we need His grace for us to grow more selfless in our marriages. We need His forgiveness for the many ways in which we fail to respect and submit to our own husbands (Eph. 5:33). And we need His Spirit to enable us to nurture a happy and holy marriage.

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This post has originally appeared in The Outlook 69, no. 6 (2019): 22–23. Used by permission.

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13 Ways a Husband Can Cultivate His Marriage

Marriage is a like a garden. If you are a gardener and want to have a beautiful garden, you should work hard on your garden. Likewise, if you are a husband and do not invest time and energy in your marriage, you can’t expect to have a wonderful marriage. And as a garden needs constant care, so does marriage.  Like a gardener, you as a husband should “water, fertilize, and weed” your marriage regularly in order to have a healthy marriage. Of course, there are many ways by which you can cultivate your marriage. Here are some:  13 Ways a Husband Can Cultivate His Marriage

1. Pray for your wife regularly. Pray also with her. Despite your busy schedule, set aside time for you and your wife to pray together.

2. Be the spiritual leader in your home. Find ways to point your wife and family to Christ. Ensure that your wife has time for personal devotions. Your goal is to have a gospel-centered home.

3. Provide for your family. Depending on your circumstance, as God enables you, give your best to meet the physical and material needs of your family.

4. Spend quality time with your wife. You may see each other every day but feel like you miss each other because you don’t really spend time together. Show genuine interest in listening to her.

5. Support your wife’s passion. Your wife may have different interests than you do, but learn to appreciate what is important to her.

6. Continue to court your wife. Take her out (without your children, if you have children). Plan a date that will make your wife feel so special.

7. Give your wife time to hang out with her girlfriends. Your wife also needs to spend time with her close friends.

8. Write a love letter to her (not just on Valentine’s Day). Send a short but loving and encouraging text or email to her during the day while you are at work.

9. Tell her “I love you” everyday. Yes, it’s wonderful to show her your love, but your wife wants to hear those “I love you” words, too.

10. Buy her something she enjoys, like flowers, chocolate, or whatever might bring a smile to her face. You don’t have to spend much. She will already appreciate your thoughts of love.

11. Affirm your wife with words. Appreciate her beauty, her gifts, and the many ways she cares for you and your family. Tell her the she is the most wonderful woman on earth. Don’t forget to always thank her when she prepares a meal for your family.

12. Offer your help with the household chores. Help with the dishes. Sweep the floor. If you have small children, assisting with the bedtime routine can help your wife as her patience with the children may be severely tried by this point.

13 Treat your wife as God treats you. God does not deal with us according to the multitude of our sins but according to His rich mercy. Your wife is not perfect; she has flaws and weaknesses, but so do you. Therefore, as God is gracious to you, so be gracious to her. When you are wrong, be humble enough to admit your mistake. When you sin, ask for forgiveness. When your wife sins, forgive her as God has forgiven you. Grow with her in God’s mercy and love.

Of course this list is by no means exhaustive. And every spouse and every marriage is unique. That’s why it’s important that you become a student of your wife; study to know her better and learn to understand her more.

In summary, we husbands are to love our own wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). You may say, “I can’t do that!” Well, I’m glad you admit it. You’re right. We can’t love our own wives as Christ loved His Church, for He loved her with perfect love. However, our inability to love as such should not discourage us to love our own wives with the love with which Jesus loved His Bride. Rather, it should cause us to humbly cry out to God for His help and grace to do what He has commanded us to do. Therefore, marriage is a sanctifying means by which a husband and wife can grow in God’s grace—the grace that enables them to love each other till death parts them.

Note: This post is sponsored by Amazing Grace, the first part of the series called “Stories behind Favorite Hymns for Ages 3 to 6,” now available through Amazon.  Amazing Grace (front cover)

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How Are You? 

How Are You

Note: This week our guest contributor is Marie Sweezer, a wife and mother of two living children. She and her husband Jordan lost their daughter, Katherine (Katie) Grace, shortly after she was born on June 15, 2018 at 37 weeks. I recently visited them and was so blessed by this couple’s testimony, who, even as their newborn daughter was dying could say by God’s grace, “No matter what happens, God is good.” This is their version of Job’s confession: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

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Marie & Jordan Sweezer with thier baby Katie

Marie and Jordan Sweezer holding their baby Katie, who went to be with her Lord, 7 1/2 hours after she was born. 

How are you? That question can be at times so hard to answer right now. When someone asks me how I am, (and I can see in their eyes how much they care) I find myself just wanting to cry because, honestly, I’m overwhelmed with so many emotions.

Encountering mothers that are pregnant, or were pregnant with me and have babies now, looking at photos of new babies, hearing announced pregnancies, seeing my c-section scar, feeling the pain of my incision when I do too much, and having milk come down and leak thru my shirt are just some of the reminders that I don’t have my daughter.

I cry and hurt because I miss my baby girl. It’s hard and so very painful at times. And I believe there will always be a certain sadness about losing my baby as long as I live. However, I am putting my trust in the Lord, knowing that He is in complete control. But grief is still a real thing. To grieve doesn’t mean you aren’t a strong person, or not a believer. Even our Lord Jesus Christ wept (John 11:35). And contrary to popular opinion, there is no time limit on grief, or even really a “cycle” that every person goes through that loses a loved one. Everyone is different; and so, everyone will grieve differently.

I have found myself having such good days when honestly I can say my daughter’s name, or hear it. Doing this just puts a smile on my face. Then I have days where the mere thought of her, or just the sight of a newborn baby brings me to my knees, crying my eyes out. Everyday is different. Psalm 42 I think describes the feelings I have so well: the feeling of sadness but also the felling of joy which can only be found in Christ alone. This passage is such a beautiful chapter. I encourage you to read it; and read it in different translations to get the full grasp of what the psalmist is describing.

Marie & Jordan Sweezer with thier baby

Marie and Jordan Sweezer holding their precious baby

These past few weeks after losing Katie, many mothers, who have lost children shortly after birth, have connected with me. I encourage you, if you are one of those mothers, to continue to look to Christ. When you feel those tears coming on, when you get those feelings of anger and frustration, PRAY, PRAY, and PRAY. Prayer is such an amazing thing. Our loving God hears our cries to Him! We are to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) and to be constantly filling our minds with the things of God (Phil. 4:8). What I learned recently which I found to be so encouraging is that the word “comfort” actually means “strength” in Latin.

As a believer in Christ, what is your only comfort in life and in death, or what is your only strength in life and in death? The answer is: “that I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1).

I encourage you that no matter what you are facing in this life, look to Christ for strength. He is our strength. He loves and takes care of His people. It’s in Him only that true comfort lies.  “He heels the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Father-in-law’s Advice to Me

My Father-in-law_s Advice to Me (pic)

I’m blessed to have a godly and wise father-in-law, Rev. Bartel Elshout, who is known for his translation of Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service. I so much value his wisdom in that whenever I need to make an important decision I always seek his counsel. Recently, I asked him if there’s any advice that he could give to me as a father of now four children. He said (and I’m sharing his advice with his permission),

“Make sure you spend enough time with your children! Life is a one-way street, and you get to spend each day with your children only once. Time not spent with your children can never be relived. When I was a young father, I was a very busy man. I was the principal of a Christian school and also served as elder in the church. In hindsight, I should not have had this double commitment. Even though I did my utmost to spend time with my oldest son David (now 43), he still vividly remembers that often I was too busy for him. Once he called me in the not too distant past, and at that particular moment I could not talk to him. He responded, ‘Dad, are you too busy for me again?’ What a painful moment this was for me! My son still remembered that 30 plus years ago I was too busy for him. Therefore, young fathers, do not make the mistake I made by overcommitting yourself. Each day in the lives of your children is a day that cannot be relived!”

Indeed, one of the most common things that fathers regret before they die is this: “I worked too much and did not spend enough time with my family.” God wants us to work diligently to provide for our family. But when we work at the expense of our relationship with our family, our work becomes harmful rather than helpful. In his 2011 Father’s Day message, former President Barack Obama expressed his regret for not spending enough time with his children when they were younger. Listen to what he said:

“When Malia and Sasha were younger, work kept me away from home more than it should have. At times, the burden of raising our two daughters has fallen too heavily on Michelle. During the campaign, not a day went by that I didn’t wish I could spend more time with the family I love more than anything else in the world. But through my own experiences, and my continued efforts to be a better father, I have learned something over the years about what children need most from their parents. They need our time, measured not only in the number of hours we spend with them each day, but what we do with those hours.”

The late American evangelist Billy Graham expressed a similar regret. When interviewed by Christianity Today about anything he could have done differently, Billy Graham said:

“I’d spend more time at home with my family, and I’d study more and preach less. I wouldn’t have taken so many speaking engagements, including some of the things I did over the years that I probably didn’t really need to do—weddings and funerals and building dedications, things like that. Whenever I counsel someone who feels called to be an evangelist, I always urge them to guard their time and not feel like they have to do everything.”

Fathers, before it is too late, let’s spend quality time with our children. Some fathers think that their duty is only to provide for their children’s material and physical needs. That’s only part of our duty as fathers. We are also called to provide for our children’s spiritual and emotional needs. Interestingly, when our children develop sinful habits or patterns of life, we quickly ask, “Why is my son or daughter behaving this way? What’s wrong with my child?” But perhaps, we could also ask ourselves: “Am I taking time to also provide spiritually and emotionally for my children? Do I spend time with them? Do I play with them? Do I read God’s Word and pray with them? Do I discipline them when necessary? Do I encourage them? Do I assure them of my love?”

Fathers, our children need our presence not just our pockets. I remember this touching story: “A little boy who had been begging his father for favors all day came once into his daddy’s office. ‘What do you want this time?’ asked the weary parent. ‘I don’t want anything,’ was the astonishing reply, ‘I just want to be with you.’”

Fathers, if we are honest with ourselves, we all fail to spend time with our children as we should. That’s why we need to pray earnestly to God for his grace to be able to properly balance our work and family responsibilities. We also need to pray daily that we may be able to model God’s fatherly character to our children, always pointing them to him, who, for Christ’s sake, will never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). And when we do fail in our calling as fathers, let us not despair. There is always forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).

 

Note: To read the article in Spanish, click here.

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A Father’s Regret

One of the most common things that fathers regret before they die is this: “I worked too much and did not spend enough time with my family.” God wants us to work diligently to provide for our family. But when we work at the expense of our relationship with our family, our work becomes harmful rather than helpful. In his 2011 Father’s Day message, President Barack Obama expressed his regret for not spending enough time with his children when they were younger:hqdefault

When Malia and Sasha were younger, work kept me away from home more than it should have. At times, the burden of raising our two daughters has fallen too heavily on Michelle. During the campaign, not a day went by that I didn’t wish I could spend more time with the family I love more than anything else in the world. But through my own experiences, and my continued efforts to be a better father, I have learned something over the years about what children need most from their parents. They need our time, measured not only in the number of hours we spend with them each day, but what we do with those hours.

 

The American evangelist Billy Graham expressed a similar regret. When interviewed by Christianity Today about anything he could have done differently, Graham (who is now 96) said:

I’d spend more time at home with my family, and I’d study more and preach less. I wouldn’t have taken so many speaking engagements, including some of the things I did over the years that I probably didn’t really need to do—weddings and funerals and building dedications, things like that. Whenever I counsel someone who feels called to be an evangelist, I always urge them to guard their time and not feel like they have to do everything.

 

Fathers, before it is too late, let’s spend quality time with our children. Let’s provide not only for their physical needs but also for their spiritual and emotional needs. Let me end this post with this powerful story that I’ve read:

The story is told of a young man who stood at the bar of justice to be sentenced for forgery. The judge had known him from a child and had also known the family intimately. The boy’s father was a famous legal light, having written some of the best material on the subject of “Trusts.” “Do you remember your father?” asked the judge in a stern fashion, “that father whom you have disgraced?” “Yes,” said the boy. “I remember him perfectly. “When I went to him for advice and companionship, he often said to me, ‘Run away boy. I am too busy.’ My father gave all his time to his work, and had little time for me. So here I am.” The great lawyer had written much about trusts, but had missed the greatest trust of all—his own son.

God has laid definite responsibilities on parents. What a tragedy to make the mistake that the great lawyer made.

 

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