Many of you know the story of Job. I’ve briefly mentioned his response to struggle in a previous post, but today I want to look at his story from a little different angle. Job’s story is both tragedy and encouragement. It contains great heartache, but also redemption through faith. It’s a story I’ve read countless times and have overlooked one (kind of major) detail: Satan did not take away Job’s wife.
For those unfamiliar with Job, here’s the rundown: Satan approaches God and God begins to brag on Job. He’s proud of him and speaks of his faithfulness; that Job reverences Him and avoids evil. Satan responds by saying that of course he is faithful, because he has been very blessed. He’s got land and riches, a big, happy family, and good health.
Satan challenges God by saying that if he took all that away, he would curse God to his face! So God tells Satan to try him out: he gives Satan the power to do anything to Job that he wants, with the condition that he does not do anything to Job’s person.
So Satan attacks and Job loses just about everything. Servants are murdered, cattle and livestock are stolen or destroyed, and his children are killed. Job responds in praise through mourning in Job 1:21,22. “And [Job] said, ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”
In chapter two, God points out Job’s faithfulness once again, and Satan responds that he would certainly be able to break him if he could attack him more directly. God once again allows this, with the condition that he not kill Job. Satan then strikes Job with boils from head to toe, but despite all this, Job maintains his faith in God’s goodness.
But this isn’t about Job. While he is an excellent model for dealing with heartache and trials in life, today I want to focus on his wife. She is only mentioned in one verse of the entire story, just after Job begins his battle with the boils. In Job 2:9 we read, “Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.”
Now don’t get me wrong, while she was certainly in the wrong, Job’s wife definitely gets a bad rap. This could have been a rare weak moment; after all, she had just lost her children, her financial status, and watched her husband struggle with enormous pain. But this one statement is the only glimpse we have of her.
I’ve read the story of Job many times and never really thought much about it. But if Satan were attacking me, James would certainly have been taken away (and vice-versa). But Satan allowed her to remain. The only explanation I can think of for that is that Satan expected this reaction.
He did not expect her to comfort and encourage Job. He anticipated the fact that she might actually be a discouragement in his life. At a time when the two of them really needed each other the most, her response was to tell her husband to curse God and die.
I want to defend her. To justify her response. To say that it is to be expected. But as I’ve said before, we are called to something better than that, something higher. And I don’t want my legacy to end up being that in the face of hardship I would suggest cursing God and dying.
If Satan were to attack James tomorrow, I would want to be the first target. Because what does that say about my testimony as a wife? It says that I am essential to James’ success, that I am crucial to his spiritual and emotional well-being.
I am his first line of defense (after God, of course). Because marriage should be a picture of the unconditional bond of love between Christ and His church, I want to maintain that kind of loyalty and faithfulness to God and my husband.
So what can I do to encourage, instead of discouraging, my husband?
First and foremost, pray for him. I’ll be doing a later post on keeping a prayer journal, but if you already have one, put your husband’s section right at the top of that list. Pray for him frequently and specifically. There are lots of amazing ideas for different areas to pray over your husband on Pinterest. I have quite a few pinned to my “Marriage” board.
This is absolutely essential in marriage; you just can’t do it enough: pray for your spouse!
Secondly, instead of perusing lists of ways to encourage your spouse (which I used to try and do all the time), remember that every single person is different. What is an encouragement to one person will go completely unnoticed by another. So here is my only tip for being an encouragement to your husband: go ask him what you can do to encourage him.
I know this isn’t exactly a revolutionary idea, but it is a good one. Go find out what your husband appreciates that you do. Find out what your husband needs and wants.
When I asked James this, there were only two things he mentioned: my optimism and the fact that I am honest with my assessments of whatever he asks me about.
Y’all, I am a raging optimist. James’ exact words were “well you always expect good. Even if it’s absolutely ridiculous” (sounds a little like a back-handed compliment to me, but I’ll take it). But I desire for that to be a part of who I am. I want to be able to see the bright side of any situation. I don’t want bitterness and resentment to win.
And then there’s honesty. Sometimes, I can be brutally honest. It’s actually something I’ve had to scale back (not the “honest” part, but the “brutally” part). But with James, he doesn’t have to worry that I am going to sugarcoat something or tell him what he wants to hear. He knows that I will give my
unbridled, unfiltered, absolute honest opinion, even if it is contrary to his own.
Those are the things I can focus on to help out James. I can try to always find the silver lining and to be honest with him in everything. But your husband is not my husband, and what he needs and appreciates from you will be different, so go find out what it is!
Then, if you’re really brave, go ask your husband if there is anything you do that discourages him. This will be much harder to take. It’s fun to hear what things you do that are uplifting but not quite as fun to hear the constructive criticism. But if you listen and follow through, it can be so helpful in your relationship!
Thankfully, (for now) James only told me one thing: I can’t take a compliment. Part of that is my natural inclination to shy away from a spotlight, even if my husband is the one holding it. But when I refuse to hear the good about myself from my husband, it is like me telling him I don’t care what he thinks. Or that I think he’s lying, which is insulting. And, if I continue to bat away compliments, he’s eventually going to stop giving them. I certainly don’t want that!
My goal in this post is to encourage you to evaluate yourself and your relationship with your spouse. I’ve specifically mentioned wives encouraging husbands, but this is a two-way street! Husbands reading this: go ask your wife how you can encourage her!
Find out how you can be the best spouse possible and then follow through with it. Sometimes, you’ll fall flat. Sometimes you might feel like the worst spouse in the world. But seek God in your struggle. When you fail, go ask for help from the One who never does. And try your best not to be Job’s wife.
Do you pray for your spouse daily? What are some other things you do to be an encouragement to your spouse?