A rose bush without the roses defeats the purpose. A lamp without its shade looks odd; its unsoftened light can irritate the eyes. Adam without Eve was incomplete. She was his complement, the “helper suitable,” the “one who completes” (Gen. 2:18).
A purpose for marriage is completion.
Part of completing one another is working to build each other in Christlikeness. Proverbs 27:17 says that “iron sharpens iron; so one man sharpens another.” Marriage presents tests of character like no other relationship does. In the home is where selfishness, anger, fear, pride, and other nasty sins are most likely to show. Helping one another overcome these sins requires self-sacrifice in love, humility, forgiveness, wise communication, and patience. There would have been no Michelangelo’s David had the hammer not had its complementary chisel. In the hands of the Lord, hammer and chisel working together will sculpt a marriage into a Master’s-piece.
By working to be the best completer that she can be, a wife will grow in Christlikeness. Rather than seek to change her husband, she will support him in his endeavors. This may range from praying for him, to running errands for him, to speaking truth to him (in love, with wisely chosen words) to cheerfully moving with him when his career calls for it. She can be faithful in her duties. For example, one application in which I have been working to improve is ensuring that meals are not late because, for example, I got busy writing a blog post and forgot the time.
Completion requires fulfilling my God-given role.
Ephesians 5:22-24 says that it is God’s will that a wife submit to her husband, literally, to “rank [herself] under” his authority. There is much that could be said about what submission is and is not, but that is not the topic of this post. For my present point, this hierarchy of authority (not value) is God’s order. A person who resists a legitimate authority resists God. A wife who complains and argues or tries to be the neck that turns the head (sinful manipulation), does not complete; she divides. “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (Prov. 14:1).
Ephesians 5:25-27 says that husbands are to sanctify their wives, to build them in holiness. We wives can make that a pretty tough job. We pout or grumble or nag or brood in fear. How does that express Christlikeness? One way we hinder our husbands’ efforts to sanctify us is by rejecting their correction. Yet even unwarranted correction provides an opportunity to practice a godly response. If we refuse to let our husbands serve, help, guide, correct, or defend us, we are not allowing them to image Christ in the protecting, providing, sanctifying role.
Each is responsible for his/her own obedience.
Some husbands are not interested in loving their wives as Ephesians 5 commands. That is his responsibility, not hers. (Nor did God grant him a right to coerce obedience from his wife.) A wife in this situation may be tempted to anger, manipulation efforts, worry, or fear. If the situation is bad enough, she might lose heart and give up on the marriage. God’s Word holds the solutions that will lead to transformation of her life irrespective of her husband. As she chooses to desire God’s glory foremost, she will take full responsibility for her part and trust God with her husband. She can learn to handle emotions as the Bible says. She can learn to love her husband in word and deed, speaking the way God directs with the love He provides.
Ephesians 5:33 commands wives to respect their husbands. Does he always deserve it? Who does? What he deserves is not the issue. What God commands is the point. She can grow in Christlikeness by respecting her husband. Christ treated with respect the authorities over Himself who acted like petulant children (Matt. 11:17) and later mocked and maligned and sent Him to death. Hopefully, your husband lives in a way that makes it easy to respect and submit to him. In this, he would be like Christ. But if he does not, you must still respect him because your Lord commands it. His commands are right. Your marriage may not look like you want it to look, but the Lord, in His sovereign providence, is using it to conform you to the image of Christ, and that is a great goodness to you. Glorifying Him by obedience should be your greatest joy.
Consider these complementary (not complimentary :-)) goals for a wife:
- To make God’s glory my most motivating goal and joy (1 Cor. 10:31)
- To be a “helper suitable” to further my husband’s goals (Gen 2:18)
- To respect and submit to my husband (Eph. 5:22-33)
- To do what is right without fear, trusting the Lord (1 Pet. 1-6)
- To provide companionship to my husband (Prov. 2:17)
- To edify my husband (Phil. 2:3-4; Eph 4:15, 29)
What are you doing to be the best complement to your husband that you can be?
(Your obedience to the Lord will also make you a compliment to him [Prov. 12:4].)