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.


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.


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)

Father Wedding

Adam: His Wedding, Work, & Woe (Part 2 of 3)

Adam’s Work

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and kepictureep it” (Gen. 2:15). Adam’s work is two-fold as far as his role as a husband is concerned.

First, God has placed Adam in the garden in order for Adam to provide for his wife.

The word “work” in this verse is better to be translated as “cultivate.” Adam is to tend the garden. He needs to work for the provision of his wife and for God’s praise. Work was not a result of sin but a God-ordained instrument through which man can glorify his Creator by providing for his family. Husbands, as long as the Lord enables us, it is our obligation to provide for our family. Are you fulfilling your duty?


Second, God has also put Adam in the garden in order for Adam to protect his wife.

The Hebrew term translated “keep” in verse 15 also means “watch” or “guard.” God has appointed Adam to watch the Garden of Eden which is Adam’s home. Adam is to look after everything that is in this garden. And since Eve is in the garden, it is also his responsibility to look after Eve—to keep her away from the forbidden tree and to protect her from Satan, the great tempter.

Husbands, it is our holy occupation to protect our family from the Devil and to keep our home from temptations. Fathers, we are to guard our children from “the [sinful] desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16). Doing such an important responsibility requires time. It may be likened to gardening. If you want to have a good garden, then you must invest time in your garden. Fertilize, water, and weed it.

Some fathers think that their duty is only to provide for their family’s material and physical needs. That’s only part of our duty as fathers. We are also called to protect our family from spiritual dangers. You may work 80 hours a week, but yet you hardly see your children. You don’t have time to talk to them, read God’s Word with them, pray with them, play with them, and counsel them. Then, when your children don’t act according to God’s Word, you ask, “Why is my son or daughter acting this way? What’s wrong with my child?” Perhaps, we need to ask ourselves: “What’s wrong with me? Am I taking time to also provide spiritually and emotionally for my family?”

Husbands, we must also work on our marriage. A husband who desires to have a healthy relationship with his wife must work hard at his relationship with her. He should not expect to have a good relationship with his wife, if he does not cultivate his love for her. Husbands, do you still date your wife? When was the last time you took her out to spend quality time with each other? Remember, the condition of your marriage can affect your children. Someone has rightly observed, “A father’s first responsibility to his child is to love his wife. The most favored children in the world are those whose parents love each other.”


In the next post we will look at Adam’s woe.

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Adam: His Wedding, Work, & Woe (Part 1 of 3)

In this post we will briefly study Adam, the first husband and father in human history. As we examine his life, we will focus on the following three aspects of his life: (1) his wedding, (2) his work, and (3) his woe.Wedding


Adam’s Wedding

Genesis 2:21-22 records the account of the first wedding in the history of humankind: “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

God created Eve and brought her to Adam to be Adam’s wife. And God Himself officiated their wedding. From this event we learn three significant lessons.


First, Eve is God’s precious gift to Adam.

When I officiate a wedding, I ask the question, “Who gives this woman to this man?” The father of the bride is expected to answer, “Her mother and I.” If we were to ask the same question to God, “Who gives this first woman to this first man?” God would have said, “I do.”

Eve’s heavenly Father walked her down the aisle in the Garden of Eden and presented her to Adam and God was saying to Adam, as it were, “Here’s my special gift to you. I have given you life to live: I have ‘breathed into [your] nostrils the breath of life’ (v. 7); I have ‘planted a garden in Eden’ to be your dwelling place (v. 8); I have given you food to eat (v. 9), now receive another gift from me—a woman who is to be your wife.”

Husbands, let’s remind ourselves that our wives are God’s precious gifts to us. Husband, do you indeed regard your wife as a priceless gift from the Lord? Do you cherish her? Second to Jesus Christ, is she the most important person in your life?


Second, Eve is God’s gracious gift to Adam.

After God had put Adam in the garden, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (v. 18). God saw Adam’s need to have a wife. Thus, God took the initiative to meet that need. He created Eve and gave her to Adam. Adam did not ask for Eve yet God graciously gave this woman to him.

Husbands, our wives are God’s gracious gifts to us. We don’t deserve them. Yes, you might have prayed to have a wife but when God granted your request, you realized that He did so out of His mere grace, not because you deserved to have a wife. Husband, do you consider your wife an undeserved blessing from God? Do you humbly thank Him for that blessing?


Third, Eve is God’s suited gift to Adam.

Genesis 2:18 states, “I will make him a helper fit for him.” God knew what was best for Adam. He gave him Eve—a woman suitable for him—a woman who would complete, complement, and satisfy him socially, emotionally, & physically—a woman whom God would use for Adam’s good and God’s glory.

Husbands, our wives are not perfect, but God has given them to us because they are suitable for us—suitable to meet our needs, even our spiritual needs. Ultimately, our wives have been given to us for our sanctification. God can use both their strengths and weaknesses to conform us to the image of His Son. The grand goal of Christian marriage is Christlikeness! If you are not yet married and are looking for a wife, pursue a woman who will help you become more like Christ.



The wedding was done. And once Adam and Eve were married, they became one flesh: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24). In Ephesians 5:32 the Apostle Paul quotes this verse to illustrate the kind of relationship that exists between Jesus Christ and His church. Those who believe in Christ are united to Him. Husbands, our model is ultimately not the first Adam, but the second Adam. The first Adam was not perfect, but the second Adam was. Therefore, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).


In the next post we will look at Adam’s work.

Marriage Wedding

Wedding Homily: Remember Your Pledge

Note: Below is the message that my friend Dr. Jim Cowman delivered on the wedding day of his daughter Courtney.

By Dr. Jim Cowman

Wyandotte Alliance Church,

Wyandotte, Michigan

September 21, 2013


When asked how he felt about officiating his daughter’s wedding ceremony,

Dr. Jim Cowman remarked: “Being asked to perform Jake and Courtney’s

Wedding Ceremony was the highest honor of my life.“  



Courtney, Jim, Jake


Looking at you with a father’s eyes, in all your bridal beauty, I cannot help being reminded of the little girl with dark hair all made up in braids who used to jump on my lap for one of the many viewings of “Cinderella.” And how could I forget how you covered your eyes when you saw the wicked step-sisters. And how you happily jumped off my lap, and joyfully danced around when the prince placed the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot, and it fit perfectly convincing him he had found the girl he had fallen in love with.

At your reception, when you and I dance to the song, “Have I Told You Lately that I LOVE You?” – (something our family asked one another many times), we will close the circle of life on your days in your parents’ household.  Now you have found your own `real life’ prince!  And in Jake, you have found a godly man who has more than enough charm, and heart to lead you through any future hurt, or harm, without alarm.

Truly this is a day that is life-transforming for you both. You will celebrate it every September 21st. And over the coming years, there will be many aspects of this day that will make a special claim upon your hearts and minds: the beauty of decorations and garments; the love of relatives and friends; the bounty of gifts and toasts; the joy of great food, music, and dancing. So many memories, photographs, records and mementos!  But above all these good things there is one higher remembrance to which I would call you both:  “Remember Your Pledge.”

Jake and Courtney, in a few minutes you make a very important commitment: one that you have been preparing for, and anxiously anticipating, since your engagement.  Next to your commitment to Christ, this is the most important one that you will make in your life-time. God calls the relationship and agreement that secures the union of one man to one woman, a `covenant.

You may be thinking, “How does the idea of a `covenant’ differ from a `contract’ when it comes to one’s marriage relationship?”  I am certainly not a lawyer with legal expertise, but I can bring God’s perspective to bear on this. A `contract,’ you see, is a conditional agreement that is only as good as the parties’ wills and capacities to keep the conditions. When the stipulations of this kind of agreement are violated, the contract is null and void.  The end.  For example, if a builder contracts to build a mansion, but builds a dog house instead, no one is going to pay him the contract price.

A `covenant,’ on the other hand, is an unconditional agreement between two parties. The special and mutual obligations, to which husbands and wives are called, are not conditions qualifying the validity of the agreement, but positive reinforcements to make better what God has intended to be very good.  Thus, there are no conditions that must be kept to secure the continuity of the agreement.  Whether due to lapses of weakness or misjudgment, or common misfortune, or genetic predisposition—some difficulties are bound to come and they will tug at the fabric of our union.  But such shortcomings, disappointments and failures have an answer: they are absorbed by love and forgiveness: “Love one another as I have loved you,” said Jesus; “Forgive one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you,” said Paul. (Ephesians 4:32); “Love covers a multitude of sin,” said Peter (I Peter 4:8).  Jesus, the unfailing example of the Christian life, even forgave his enemies who condemned him to crucifixion, speaking from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).

To be sure, the rips in the fabric of our trust we may experience can be very painful, but, they generally fall far short of sending us to a cross.  In fact, no matter how strained, pained, or tempted we may become, we are still commanded by God “To keep faith with the wife your youth” (Malachi 2:13-16). The unconditional covenant protects all parties: husbands, wives, children, relatives, friends and society; and it assures them that in their own household they are always accepted and loved.

Remember that the pledge you make today lists no condition, or exceptions to your commitment.  You will say, “For better or for worse,” “for richer or for poorer,” “in sickness or in health.”  You might add wrinkles, pounds, senility, joblessness, irritability, and cancer. Come what may, covenant keepers you must be. If you are tempted to think otherwise, remember your pledge.

Your parents do not cease to love you because, by your marriage, you begin a new household.  The porch light will always be on and the door open. There will always be a place at our table and a bed in our home for both of you and what children may come – but we also realize that from now on, whenever you say, “there’s no place like home,” you will be referring to the home of Jacob Wesley Oosterhouse’s household, and not your father’s house!

May God crown your new home with a permanence, stability, and strength great enough to embrace all of its members in unbreakable unity!

So I say again, “Remember Your Pledge!”



Marriage Wedding