Can I Desire Personal & Spiritual Growth for My Husband?

I recently came across a question from a wife that was asking if it was ok to seek personal (and to me that also means spiritual) growth for her husband.  She wondered if maybe personal growth (desiring it) should only be for oneself, and if it was maybe wrong to desire it for someone else.

This is a great question, and something I believe God’s shown me even recently through the many lessons He’s taught me this past year of 2015. Not about my husband at all, but it centered around me desiring personal and spiritual growth for people I interacted with who were continually acting sinfully and in ways that dishonored God.  I’m so grateful and humbled that He’s done so much in my life in just this one year, and especially these last few months!

So without further ado, this is the answer I gave her:

Hey (Name Redacted), from what I’ve been taught and believe, I do think you can desire personal growth (spiritual growth as well) for your husband, it just has to be directed in a positive, respectful way, and probably not reminding him of his “goals” when he falls short constantly.

The best thing you can do is to pray for him in this area, but then don’t let it become what you focus on so much that this is what the majority of your time spent with God is about. If you are looking too much at the speck in his eye, and forget the “plank” in your own (not to say you have a plank-sized sin, just to remind you that we ALL sin), that focusing so much on someone else’s sin can be a distraction from our own spiritual and personal growth. Wanting him to grow more can become what you think about too much, instead of focusing on what God wants you to do, how God wants you to grow. I know it can be hard – even with people that aren’t your husband, we want them to change when we see them caught up in a stronghold that’s making them act sinful. It can be tempting to hear sermons and tidbits of wisdom and immediately apply it to them and think “Oh if only he/she was hearing that! Maybe then they’d stop their sinful behavior!!” It’s good to pray for others and trust God to work in their heart, but ultimately God wants you to grow in your own spirit and not be overly bothered by someone else’s lack of spiritual growth.

Satan wants to get you off focus of doing God’s will for your life, so he will use anything to achieve that goal, even good things like seeking personal/spiritual growth for your husband or someone else you wish was behaving differently.

Hope that helps you!


Some more thoughts:

When someone you love, or know and interact with, is acting in a sinful and hurtful way, it can be extremely tempting to want to go in and “fix” the situation and “fix” them, and if we really love and care about them, this comes naturally.  Loving others means you want the best for them, that you want to see them become all that God desires them to be.  Giving them a loving, life-giving rebuke in a kind and gentle way can be extremely beneficial if their heart is humble and open and their spirit is desiring to follow God’s will for their life.  But what if their heart is hard and calloused, what if they mock the wisdom from God in how to treat other people, or mock your attempt to help them change and use it as fuel to further attack you for wanting to help them?

  • You have to step back, and realize if you’re dealing with someone spiritually wounded.  If they are reacting in hate or with mocking behavior, something is very off within their spirit, and they will not be able to receive wisdom most likely at this time in their life.  A reaction like that means they are generally in rebellion to God and against the Holy Spirit (if they’re Christian), and are grieving the Holy Spirit with their words and actions.  This may be because they’ve experienced a dramatic event in their life, immense pain they are feeling, anger, or a loss of purpose and belief that God can use them and their life experiences to further His Kingdom.
  • If they are spiritually wounded, don’t take their harsh and angry reactions or rejections to heart.  Try to see where they’re at and feel compassion and love for them, even in the state they’re in.  When you minister to other people, and especially the wounded and broken, they will sometimes “spiritually vomit” all over you because they are so far from God and His will in how He desires them to act. We need to expect this, and not be surprised when it happens with people who are Christian.  The saved are still depraved creatures, and we all need God desperately.
  • Keep your mind from focusing on their sin too much, pray for them, but have a peaceful confidence that God will deal with their sin – because He will and always has.
  • Focus on God’s will for your life, and doing the important things that He’s already put in your path for you to accomplish.
  • Don’t let other people’s sins become a distraction for you, taking away from the time you need to spend doing God’s work in your life and in the lives of those He’s put in your path to minister to.  Time is our most precious commodity, and how we use it matters so much!  Satan can use another person’s stronghold, your focusing on it, in order to stunt your own spiritual growth and spend your time wasted.  It gives him great satisfaction when God’s children are off track and ineffective.
  • Don’t give in to despair, have good boundaries around how much you allow other people’s sins to affect you.  Acknowledge that you’re only responsible for your own life, and are called to live at peace as much as it depends on you.  You can’t control other people’s thoughts and actions, you can’t ultimately change their minds or hearts to desire to act and behave godly.


11 thoughts on “Can I Desire Personal & Spiritual Growth for My Husband?

  1. People should absolutely seek spiritual growth for their spouses. Nothing has brought me closer to my wife over the years than praying for her to grow in her relationship with God. Or course it goes both ways as I continously pray the same prayer for myself.

  2. Dragonnfly, I am writing to only elaborate on the first half of your post above. I think you gave your friend some very good advice and hopefully she takes it to heart. I would add one more word of caution for her, and this would fit under the old adage that the road to hell really is paved with good intentions. When you wish to have someone you love change (and that’s really what she means by “grow”) in ways that you think for the best, yet they resist, you really are coming at them from a place that is going to be perceived almost always as patronizing by them and unhealthy for you. If the good Christian can be made aware that their behavior is not having the desired effect (and likely pushing the loved one in the opposite direction) the response to this is usually along the lines that she is merely “speaking the truth in love”, which doesn’t do anything to make the receiver of her message anymore receptive to her perceived “truth”. When this fails then next the Christian “storms” the gates of heaven in prayer for the thick headed loved one who just cant see the “way” as she sees it. The end result when the prayers go unanswered is often resentment and bitterness formed in the heart of the pray-er at not just at their mule headed loved one but God as well. Thus the reward for her overzealous behavior is that both she and her loved one are left worse off spiritually than before.
    Knowing all this then I think it best for your friend to simply pray once and leave it in God’s hands. Whatever spiritual growth (if any) is in His hands and in His time. In the meantime let her own personal and spiritual growth serve as an example. If her path is authentic then she will be an example that her loved one will likely be very curious about, and then she perhaps has her opening. But if the desire to preach to the loved one is still strong, she should follow the sound teaching of St. Francis, “preach Jesus, if necessary use words”. Let her life, not her words, be her testimony.
    Just my 2 cents.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  3. It’s hard because the more you love someone, the more upsetting it is when you see them failing to live up to everything you know they could be.

    However, I think desiring personal growth for one’s husband can be a major motivator for personal growth for a wife herself — as long as she understand what makes for personal growth (NOT NAGGING!).

    If a wife understands that being respectful, sweet, vulnerable and submissive are the food and fuel for masculine growth, and genuinely tries to embody those things for her husband’s sake, she’s going to be growing right alongside of him.

  4. This is great advice Dash! Especially if it’s what you’re saying and she’s desiring him to **change**, then your advice to pray just once, and then trust God to act in his heart and move on, is difficult, but very wise and Scriptural! Wives are called to “win him over without a word,” so you are RIGHT on with your advising her to:

    “let her own personal and spiritual growth serve as an example. If her path is authentic then she will be an example that her loved one will likely be very curious about, and then she perhaps has her opening.”

    That is such great advice!

    I also love St. Francis’ admonition to believers – if our actions and the way we treat others goes against the gospel, then we lose our witness altogether. “Let her life, not her words, be her testimony.”

    Thank you!

  5. You are so right LeeLee, about the wife growing right alongside her husband and being able to inspire and encourage growth in him through her growing and becoming a more beautiful soul in Christ.

    I feel like this applies (albeit in a different, authorative role) to my kids as well, if I’m wanting my oldest to behave differently, the best way is to be a good example and teacher (master) of it myself. I desire spiritual and personal growth for them more than anything it seems! But harping on them constantly, nagging them, or shaming them when they mess up would create an atmosphere of strict legalism and suck all our joy out of life.

    Thank you for commenting your thoughts, and I liked your pointing out the analogy of Jesus and the Church on Dalrock’s concerning submission, too.

  6. That’s great that you have grown closer to her through praying for her – I think that means you’re doing it right! It’s mysterious how when we pray for someone, our heart changes toward them, and we can slowly begin to see them how God sees them.

  7. I have waited a while to respond here to sort out my thoughts. It is a very good thing when a wife wants to see her husband blessed with wisdom, knowledge, patience, and any other kind of spiritual/personal growth…. So why did I have this gnowing feeling in my gut?

    I think it is because we all fool ourselves so easy. When someone asks, “may I pray with you?” it has always struck me as strange. I can see that someone might want to encourage with words at the same time they pray. But in general, our prayers are supposed to be something we do in our closet. We don’t need anyone’s permission to ask God to bless a person. So I start to think there is a purpose that isn’t entirely acknowledged — because of anything from simple awkwardness and discomfort, all the way to intentionally concealed seething hatred.

    Just to field a wild guess, it seems like you want to know if it’s okay to be disappointed with your husband — to think that he is wrong or sinful on a large and/or continuing issue. Again, that is a wild guess, and I only put it out there to encourage you to look for what the answer really is. If there is a major issue it might require change of perspective from you, so be brave. Poking around in our deep places can hurt when you shine light on them. You can do this.

    One fact I have found is treated lightly in a lot of christian marriage resources is the idea of headship. Now, I’m not going to start talking about submission. Headship is its own thing. At some point you have to ask yourself if you are trying to bless your husband, or lead him from behind. Having your husband be your head isn’t another way of saying you’re a slave who should be seen and not heard. But, there is a difference between wanting to bless your husband as opposed to fix your husband. Men have plenty of opportunities where they can play this same kind of game in their own minds, too. Imagine in an army sargeant severely wants to get his lieutenant with little experience to do things the “right” way. Or similar situations at work can be thought of. It’s not only a problem women have.

    The solution is usually to remember who the head of that person really is. The head of the husband is Christ. You have to carefully examine to see if you are taking over what belongs to Him. If you have kids, and they take it upon themselves to correct you, it wouldn’t really matter if they were sweet when they usurped your husband’s authority. They may even be missing some important piece that pervents them understanding clearly. The example isn’t really very clear, but that is why it is good. It is a situation that requires self-restraint, wisdom, love, respect, extreme effort not to fool yourself. And all that effort that is fuzzy and hard to deal with happens inside boundaries that likely matter to God even more than they matter to all of us combined.

    Let’s say your husband needs some kind of direct help. If you have made sure you aren’t subtly redefining, reframing, etc…, it might be good to ask yourself if your husband would find it hard to trust you if you follow through. Would he be certain that you had the honor, dignity, and authority in mind when you do whatever it might be? This isn’t the bottom line, but I think it could be helpful.

    I’ll point out what may seem sinful or wrong… I didn’t say that *God* should be certain of those things. That matters, of course, but people regularly have discussions with their own emotions and assume they are hearing from God. God wants you to honor your husband. So you know what God wants, already. Now use wisdom and truth and grace to find the best way to do that.

    I’m sorry that was such an involved and complex “non-answer”. I just had this hunch that maybe it was the “wrong” question that was asked. If I got it all wrong, feel free to blow right past my comment! 🙂

  8. Your comment is so interesting Lover of Israel! There’s so much there that it’s actually taken me a long time to read and re-read lol!

    About praying with each other, I understand what you mean I think, that it can be awkward or even that the person may have ulterior motives. This “all the way to intentionally concealed seething hatred” is scary to me. I’ve known people like that who tried to befriend me, when all along, they were just looking for an opportunity to really hurt me with saying something yucky. I don’t think though, that most people have bad intentions when trying to offer to pray for you. There have been so many times when I’ve been personally blessed through another woman praying over me and with me :’) it can be so beautiful! God’s word seems to even encourage praying together with others – the Spirit of God is there when two or more gather in prayer!

    But as far as her question, it could be that she may be just honestly desiring him to have spiritual growth, or that she is leading him from behind like you said. When a wife leads from behind, she is constantly caught up with thinking that her husband isn’t leading “right” that he isn’t doing things the way she wishes he would do. I think it’s goes back to Eve’s curse in the garden, that her desire would be to control the will of her husband, but that he would rule over her (headship). So part of marriage, part of the wife learning spiritual growth for herself, is willing against herself in trying to control the will of her husband, in trying to control his spiritual growth.

    Thank you for your comment!

  9. Wow. I really should’ve done a double-take on that comment. I was trying to make a connection between the way we can offer to pray for reasons that are not exactly what we say, and the way we can fool ourselves if we want to change another. I left out an entire logical link :-p That really made it hard to understand. Sorry.

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