Husbands or engaged men – you may have heard the phrase “happy wife –happy life”. There are signs and plaques sold all over America, often bought for men to follow this advice as they enter marriage. Many churches have incorporated this idea into their marriage courses and counseling programs.
But the first question that any Christian man should ask is “what would God have me do?”
What does it mean to make your wife happy?
The first truth must understand is that you can’t “make your wife happy”. You can’t “make” anyone happy. People (including you), choose whether they will be happy or not. Some people choose to be happy in what most of us would consider the worst of conditions, while others are never able to be happy, no matter how much money or power or pleasures that may come their way.
Many who believe in the “happy wife-happy life” idea, would acknowledge the truth of what I just said. But they would clarify that what they mean is, “A husband should listen to his wife, and do what she asks. He should study what his wife likes and do those things for her to attempt to please her.”
So what’s wrong with trying to please your wife?
Nothing in and of itself. In fact most men have a natural desire to please their wives, especially in the dating period, engagement period and newlywed period. But for you as the Christian man, you have someone who you need to please more than your wife, and that person is God.
The Apostle Paul alludes to the choice every Christian husband must make in his first letter to Corinthian Church:
“I want you to be without concerns. An unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the things of the world—how he may please his wife— and his interests are divided…
Now I am saying this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but because of what is proper and so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.” I Corinthians 7:32-33 & 35(HCSB)
Paul recognized that while marriage has it benefits, it also places a burden on men. Sometimes your wife may be your greatest ally in doing what you believe is right for your family before God. But even the best of wives, can at times cause a man to have to choose between what he believes would please God, and what he knows will please his wife.
A husband who chose to please God rather than his wife
“His wife said to him, “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!”
“You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said.”
Job is an example of man whose devotion to God was truly undivided. Job proved that it was possible to please God, and yet be married. He simply had to choose the courage to displease his wife (whose advice was sinful) and to please God.
A foolish wife destroys her home, and so does the husband that seeks to please her
“Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands.” – Proverbs 14:1 (HCSB)
It is your responsibility as a husband to please God, and in the best interests of your family, to discern whether your wife’s advice, or her wants and desires are foolish or wise. The fate of your home and your family depends on your discernment.
How can a man know if pleasing his wife will displease God?
Every decision a Christian husband makes must always start with God’s purpose of marriage as defined in the Scriptures:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body.”
Marriage is meant to be a model of the relationship of Christ and the Church. A wife is to submit to her husband, as the Church submits to Christ. A husband is to sacrificially love his wife, as Christ loves the church.
An important point to remember though is, sacrificially loving your wife does not translate to “doing whatever she wants”. After you have been married many years, you will actually find that sacrificially loving your wife sometimes means sacrificing her happiness, to make her holy. It sometimes means confronting your wife as Job confronted his wife.
When Job called out his wife’s foolishness, he was attempting to “make her holy” as Ephesians 5 calls a husband to do. When a man’s confronts his wife’s sinful behavior, instead of overlooking it, or going along with her, he is sacrificing his own happiness, because let’s face it, no man likes to see his wife unhappy.
Holiness, not happiness, should be a husband’s first concern
The first way that you can know as a husband if pleasing your wife would displease God is by asking yourself this question – “If I do as she asks, or do this thing that would please her – would it break the model of marriage? Would it be unholy?”
But let’s face it, not every situation is spelled out specifically in God’s Word. We must look at the principles and commands of God’s Word, and if we are still not sure, pray and seek his wisdom.
“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.” – James 1:5(HCSB)
Sometimes God may reveal that you should in fact listen to your wife, or that your wife’s desire in a particular situation would not displease the Lord. But if God reveals that pleasing your wife in a certain situation would displease him, you must have the courage to displease your wife, and do what God has called you to do.
“Happy wife-Happy life” is neither wise, nor Biblical. In many ways “Happy wife-Happy life” is a form of idolatry, it makes a man’s wife’s desires the central focus of his life, taking his focus off God. Adam, the first man, listened to his wife when she asked him to eat from tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and we know that decision did not lead to a happy life for Adam. Samson listened to Delilah and it cost him his life. Solomon was led astray by his wives into idolatry.
Even if you do something for your wife, buy something for her, or make a decision that you believe will please your wife, it will only result in a temporary period of happiness. When the next time arrives that she needs something, or some life decision needs to be made (big or small), again her happiness will hinge on whether what you have done pleases her or not.
But if you instead base your decisions upon what you believe God would have your family do, then sometimes it might please your wife, and other times it won’t. But in the end, true joy comes from pleasing God, not from pleasing ourselves, or even from pleasing our wives.
Christian man, whether you are engaged to be married, or if you are already married, there is nothing wrong with trying to please your wife. Putting her needs before yours, is part of what is means to love her. But remember, pleasing your wife cannot be the central focus of your marriage if you want your marriage to honor God. If you want the true joy that only God can bring, then you must put his will first and foremost.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” – Matthew 6:33(HCSB)