Recently a man in a struggling marriage asked me how to become a godly husband. My first thought was, “You’ve just taken the first step—knowing you need to be a godly husband and asking for help.”
Before I share part of my answer to his question, let me share some relevant thoughts. Too many men hear the biblical command to lead their wives and try to move from being a lousy husband to “taking over” their marriage. In many marriages the husband has an established history of ungodliness, sometimes through sexual immorality via adultery or pornography or the “milder”—but potentially still toxic—forms of it often found in movies and television shows and video games.
An ungodly husband has violated his wife’s trust, and he cannot effectively lead without rebuilding that trust. “Taking charge” when he has forfeited his wife’s trust isn’t the answer. In such cases the only sort of leadership called for, and it certainly is called for, is servant leadership. This is effective because of the “servant” part of it. When you love someone enough to set aside your old habits and preferences, only then can you serve them.
Scripture makes clear our first responsibility, which is not to merely “take charge” but to love and serve: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26).
Once a man learns to love and serve his wife, he will eventually build a track record of godliness. Then he doesn’t have to stand back passively and wish his wife were more godly. Rather, he can assume responsibility to step forward and lead his wife by lovingly sharing God’s Word with her as part of respecting her as a fellow heir of God’s grace (1 Peter 3:7).
No one bemoans that a houseplant has shriveled leaves; instead we take it upon ourselves to water the plant and expose it to the right light to help it thrive.
An unholy husband cannot lead his wife into holiness, which is exactly what God calls upon us to do in Ephesians 5:27-28. We are to follow the example of Jesus and do as He does, “to present her [his bride] to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.”
When I became a husband, I didn’t stand at an altar and vow to my teachers or church leaders or employer, “Till death do us part.” Husbands, you didn’t make your vows to your boss or your buddies, but to your wife. The best thing you can do for your wife is to become more like Jesus.
That’s why I so welcomed the request about how to become a godly husband. Here’s part of what I sent to my friend who asked me, with some recommended resources:
1. Biblical guidelines: What does it mean to be a godly husband?
5. Bible Truths about a husband’s role and calling (more Scripture, more depth)
6. From Gil Stieglitz, a short helpful outline of being a godly husband; includes mention of an online video course you could do, which would be good for you and would honor your wife’s wishes
7. A book I recommend you get and read is Becoming a Godly Husband; it looks good and is written by the same person above, Gil Stieglitz