Called to Suffer

Called to Suffer

Many women don’t want to hear about having to suffer in a marriage. No, they believe no woman should suffer and if she’s suffering, she needs to get out of the marriage and divorce, but this isn’t scriptural. Yes, if she’s being physically abused, she needs to seek a safe place, but there’s all types of suffering other than this.

God has called us to suffer; for this is not our home. Suffering causes us to keep our eyes on Christ and lessens our affections for this world. It’s easy in our culture to escape suffering through medical advances, drugs, alcohol, materialism, and the many comforts we enjoy. Suffering is not popular in this day and age.

“For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:20, 21).

I have been told that no one listens to me and many enjoy mocking me because what I teach is “dangerous.” Don’t they know that being a Christ-follower is dangerous? Do they think that being a Christian is safe in this world ruled by the prince of darkness? We are promised that we will suffer and even suffer persecution as Christ followers! Yes, some wives suffer being married to difficult men. This is part of living in a sin-filled and wicked world.

There are women I know who are suffering in their marriages yet as their minds are being renewed with truth and they are being transformed, they are able to endure living with their husbands and sustain their joy. They understand that this life is short but eternity long. They pray daily for their husbands’ souls and show Jesus to them by their behavior. They are storing their treasures in heaven and their children are seeing what covenant keeping looks like even when it is difficult. They are learning that they are not to bail out on their vows when the going gets rough.

Since God’s kindness leads us to repentance, this is how we are to win others. No one has ever been able to win others through anger, quarreling, or contention. If you are married to a difficult man, find your strength in the Lord; for when you are weak, He is strong. Be in the Word daily and renew your mind with Truth. Remind yourself that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Remember how much Christ has forgiven you and forgive your husband in the same way. Forgive freely and love deeply. You will reap what you are sowing.

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husband; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word by won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation couple with fear.
1 Peter 3:1, 2

45 thoughts on “Called to Suffer

  1. No marriage is 100% perfect nor is any husband or wife. The idea of throwing away your marriage because it’s not as good as it once was is selfish and utterly immature!

  2. We live in a fallen world. Husbands will not always lead and love their wives like they should, wives will not always submit/obey like they should. We just have to do our parts and glorify God. God will judge our spouses we don’t worry about their role just focus on your role.

  3. Thanks for this post, Lori. The idea that marriage is all about personal happiness has done a lot of damage. If you marry a man because he makes you happy, and then that happiness lessens as time goes on, the logical action {flawed as it is} means you’ll divorce because it doesn’t feel as good as it once did. Living according to the flesh is contrary to the word of God. Denial of the self for the Lord’s sake is God’s will.

  4. The entire “soul-mate” theory has caused a lot of divorces. I love what our pastor said last week. “All Christian married couples are incompatible because of sin but compatible because of the cross!”

  5. I agree with this 100%, however I have a question. You say that in the case of physical abuse it is ok for woman to seek “a safe place.” While I agree, I have Christian friends (women) who believe that suffering means all suffering — we are not to pick and choose what we are to accept– and that the Bible does not address physical abuse as an exception or a reason to separate (not divorce, but separate) from a husband. For this reason they have silently accepted abuse as their lot in life (a suffering to be borne) just as with any other suffering (illnesses, financial issues, etc). Is there scripture to support this? I’m often given the argument that Christ suffered even to death and that we are to bear our faith even with threat of death or persecution. Could this be what we are called to as well as harsh as it is? I know if this were the case, I would find a safe place and not stay. (not saying get divorced, but just separating)

  6. Kevin,

    I am going to have to challenge you on your statement here. Yes, because of a woman’s subordinate role (Ephesians 5:22,24), she is limited in what she can (should try to) do to effect change in her husband. As Lori’s post yesterday explained, a wife is to win her husband without a word, by adorning herself with submissive, gentle, quite, and respectful behaviour toward him (1 Peter 3:1-6). That is God’s instruction to a wife.

    Because of the husbands role as head… of his wife (Ephesians 5:23), God gives different instruction to husbands. (Ephesians 5:25) tells husbands that they are to love (agape) their wives (see 1 Corinthians 13); they are also instructed to care for their wives as they care for themselves (verse 28) and to provide for her and protect her (verse 29); but it also explains (verses 26-27) how a husband is to sanctify his wife by washing her in the water of the Word… to help to remove her spots and blemishes…. just as Christ does all of these things for His bride the church.

    Paul explains in (verse 32) that marriage is designed to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church where the husband represents Christ and the wife represents the Church. It is part of a husbands role to be concerned (and take action) regarding his wife’s role. If a husband does not (worry about) concern himself with his wife’s role and just leaves her to herself… he is not loving her the way God instructs him to love her.

  7. Lori, I’ve been a long time reader. This is the first time I’ve commented. I’m a 35 year old male. Your posts are so full of LIFE. God’s Word and Spirit are life giving. Please keep up the Lord’s work and instilling this wisdom into the hearts and minds of women. It is so needed.

  8. I can’t imagine anyone telling a woman who is being physically abused by her husband to go home and endure it. “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” (1 Cor. 7:10, 11) I believe a woman who is being physically abused may depart from her husband.

  9. Yes but you can’t “force” your wife to change or submit so all you can do is be the best husband you can be. God is the only one that can change hearts. No matter how hard you try to correct/disciple some just won’t and its left up to God.

  10. This is a very hard teaching to share, especially since I am not suffering in this regard. It is very easy for me to tell another that they’re glorifying God by staying in a marriage where they suffer, but in so doing I am telling them to bear a burden I don’t.

  11. KAR, the scripture you seek is not a direction to the wife, but to the husband: Ep 5:29. Might explain the difficulty in finding it.

    Where it gets twisted is liberal interpretation to have it mean anything in the world. One way of framing the litmus in Ep 5:29 is ‘would the husband accept this if another man were doing it to him?’

  12. It’s biblical, Heidi, whether or not we share the burden of suffering or not. We base our lives on the Truth of God’s Word, not our experiences.

  13. I soooo needed this today! Thank you!!

    Marriage can be extremely tough sometimes and challenging circumstances can make it even tougher. But if we stick at it through the hard parts where we’re suffering (not being abused – those who tell women to stay in dangerous situations will have to answer to that on the judgement day) it does get better and we will be rewarded.

  14. KAR – Violent men often kill their wives. If you, or anyone you know, is being physically abused, please leave. Get help. Nowhere in the Bible does it tell a woman to stay with a man who can potentially kill her. Verbal abuse is one thing. It can be endured. But physical abuse – assault – is something else entirely. It’s illegal, potentially life-threatening, and should definitely not be endured.

  15. Reminds of the children’s catechism question my husband asks our children; “who can change a sinner’s heart?” Answer: “The Holy Spirit alone.”

    Truly, unless God transforms the heart of one’s spouse, no amount of behavioral modification exercises on the part of the other spouse or even both, will yield the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

    I know submissive wives who are married to wayward husbands as well as theologically astute husbands who are married to wayward wives. Life after the fall is difficult like that. Prayer is always the best place to start and dwell.

  16. It is sad that the availability and ease of divorce allows the break up of marriage, and remarriages which should not be an option.

  17. Brian — thanks for that response. I guess I’m still confused because I know a lot true Christians who sincerely and absolutely believe that a spouse (the wife in particular) must stay endure all suffering even if it comes in the form of physical abuse as terrible as that is. The thinking being there are so many verses that call us to suffer/turn the other cheek, Bear all things (not just some things). Again I don’t agree but this thinking /interpretation of scripture is more prevalent than you might suspect. I know good Christian women who have suffered mightily, but are conflicted that they are sinning by even separating afterall, the husband is the head and she is to submit to him. Honestly, it’s not talked about much, but it’s more common than you’d think.

  18. KAR — the reasoning I’ve heard and the scripture that implies no authority for separation would be Eph. 5:25. Marriage is supposed to mirror the relationship Christians have in Christ. How did He love the church and give Himself for it? Sometimes the illustration of a husband protecting his wife from someone wanting to kill her is used. But I think this is a faulty parallel as most any husband, Christian or not, would do that for his wife.

    Although Christ did show love to the church by providing for them through miracles and teaching, another facet of this love was permitting the church to put Him on the cross. He allowed Himself to be despitefully used by them so they might be saved from their sins.

    So the question is not how you would love your spouse if they were under threat of losing their life by a stranger, but what you would allow your spouse to do to you if they are the threat. This goes both ways — either a woman bearing false witness in a court of law to maliciously destroy her husband through divorce or a husband abusing his wife in some way.

    Although I do not judge and completely empathize with a woman wanting to leave an abusive husband, after reading Luke 6:27-36 ask yourself how much abuse is Christ wanting His disciples to bear for their spouses in the flesh when they’re acting like enemies or Pharisees? How much abuse did Christ take?

  19. Are medical advances wrong then in relieving suffering from clinical depression? I have suffered this for well over 30 years. Can you please clarify this for me, Lori? Yours in Christ, Emma

  20. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that there are many men or even men in the churches who would be willing to confront a physically abusive husband and hold him accountable. And there are some men who are angry and it’s not their wife who is causing their anger, but they will take their anger out on their wives. Some men are alcoholics and/or addicted to drugs, addicted to porn, raised in violent homes, etc. I do believe there are times when wives need to separate for physical safety.

  21. If it were me, Emma, it would be a last resort, not a first. I would work on diet, renewing my mind with Truth daily, seek wise counsel, get exercise and sunshine, and all of these types of things before taking drugs since many of the drugs have suicide as a potential side effect. One must always be very careful before taking them but I do know they have helped some but the studies prove it’s a minority.

  22. Just wanted to note that “having washed her in the water of the word” is referring to the work of Christ in his church and is not an instruction for husbands to clean their wives. That work is the Lord’s.

  23. What Lori said.

    But, also, I would add FELLOWSHIP! Be around…. PUT yourself around other women of faith. Older women who have been married longer than you. PUT yourself into church activities that have you working side by side with other women in the church. Immerse yourself in fellowship with other believing wives, and share your burdens with them, and help them by bearing THEIR burdens. Bearing the burdens and hardships of others is a great way to take your mind off your own burdens. “Being there” for someone is as good a medicine as someone being there for you.

    Fellowship with other believers is critical to a healthy and sound mind.

  24. Thank you Lori, you are so awesome. Because you just described my situation. I have been searching for an answer for so long, I think I’m getting it this morning and I’m reading your blog.

  25. KAR, God does not intend for us to suffer for suffering’s sake. That would make Him a cruel god. No, He is Love (1 Jn 4:8), and send His Son, Jesus, to suffer- pay the price for sin- on our behalf (Jn 3:17). When we are called to ‘take up our cross’ (Lk 14:27) and ‘turn the other cheek’ (Mt 5:39), the context is clear in these situations: it is about one’s faith, the comfort in one’s lifestyle, the pride in one’s heart. *It is not pertaining to physical or mental abuse*. We can be assured of this, as Jesus himself commanded His disciples to be alert (Mt 10:16), carry swords with them (Lk 22:38), and He Himself brandished weapons (Jn 2:15). Self-defense can *absolutely* be understood as a commandment (Lk 22:36).

    Turning one’s cheek or taking up one’s cross has to do with Obedience. We are promised that in being obedient to the Word, we will know hard times (Jn 16:33, Ja 1:12).

    But how is a woman- or man- Obedient? Understand one’s reason. Understand one’s purpose. Understand one’s role.

    Man was created to take dominion over Creation (Ge 2:15). His purpose to bring glory to his Father (Cl 3:23). He does this by performing the myriad of commandments that spring out of his place of headship: leadership (Ph 2:4), work (Pr 12:24), protection (Ep 5:25), provision (1 Tm 5:8), etc

    Woman was created to proliferate the human species (Ge 2:24, 1:28). Her purpose- also- to bring glory to the Father. She does this by performing the myriad of commandments that spring out of her place in Creation as the vessel for procreation: submission to her husband (Cl 3:18), childbearing (1 Tm 2:15), keeping her home (Pr 31:27), quiet and gentle (1 Pt 3:4), etc.

    Husband and wife have mutual responsibilities as well: sex (1 Co 7:3), honoring each others’ role (Ep 5:21), etc.

    This has been highlighted to illustrate that the way we live our lives, and the goals of a life well-lived, look completely different to a man and a woman.
    Just as a man’s job is to go out and tend to a job, to provide, protect etc, a woman’s job is to tend to a marriage, nurture, support etc.
    A man will receive physical reprimands in the military, verbal reprimands as a waitor, will cut himself splicing wires as an electrician. A woman who receives a spank in marriage, a harsh word in childrearing, a broken nail doing dishes does not get to run out and claim abuse or oppression in God’s design.
    (Also, a husband commanding his wife to cease contact with her mother as she repeatedly undermines his headship, cutting up his wife’s credit card after going over budget, telling his wife to hit the gym bc she’s 30lb overweight etc. are not acts of manipulation or control: they are leadership.)
    Does a man get to quit his job because his feelings were hurt? Nor does a wife get to quit her marriage because her feelings were hurt.

    God’s design is perfect, however the actors (us- humans- fallen children of the Father) are imperfect. In His infinite wisdom and grace, He has set about provisions for imperfect behavior.
    * If a man’s physical actions, for example, leave bruising, he is clearing not honoring his wife as his own body, for no man would self-inflict such violence on themselves (Ep 5:28).
    * If a man is denying his wife basic needs- shelter, clothing, food, water- then he is clearly not nourishing her body as his own body (Ep 5:29).
    * If a man’s words are such that there is systematic, psycological harm being done, he is clearly not handling his wife with tenderness (Cl 3:19).

    God’s design is *not* divorce (Mk 10:9). But, where there is clear abuse of behavior per His Word, there is open invitation to separate- for a limited time- until reconciliation can be performed (1 Co 7:10-11). A woman, per Jewish tradition, seeks protection and provision from, in order: husband, father, brother, other next-of-kin.

    This post is long enough. Without going into detail, reconciliation is not possible without both accountability (per God’s design, not man or woman’s expectations) and forgiveness (using Christ as the model). Reconciliation- not separation, not desertion and *not* divorce- is always the goal of the married couple.

    Additional reading:

  26. Robert, that being said and agreed, I don’t doubt for a second many marriages could do well with a husband and wife taking the odd shower or two together!

  27. I disagree with you 100% Robert. Paul would not have included that in that verse instructing husbands how to love their wives if it did not apply to… how husbands are supposed to love (and give themselves for) their wives… in the same way that Christ loves and gave Himself for (his bride) the church.

    I’m not sure if any of you are R.C. Sproul fans or not but look at this YouTube video starting at 5:45 thru 8:45 where R.C. Sproul Jr. comments on the question of “What is an example of how a husband might give of himself to his wife as Christ does to the church”. Also note that R.C. Sr. and Susan Hunt both agree with what Jr. said and listen to what Susan Hunt has to say about it.

  28. I’ve dealt with very severe depression. In my case, I did all those things — diet, prayer life, etc. — and it didn’t do a lot to alleviate it. I needed medication to take the edge off. Once that happened, I was able to detect some patterns and I figured out that I was lonely. So I’d heartily second what Mr. Zeurunkl says.

  29. Physical abuse is illegal. Wives are not called to submit to illegal behavior. Husbands are not required to enable physical abuse (yes, there are husbands who have been physically abused by their wives.) If you are more afraid of your spouse than you are of God, that is a form of idolatry. If you had a seizure, would your spouse not move objects away from you so you (and they and the children) did not get hurt? Would your spouse not call 911 to get help for you? This is why you take yourself to a place of physical safety and seek Godly counsel, professional help, and of course, prayer. Thank you Lori, as always, for a thought-provoking post.

  30. I would agree with you Kevin, but only after a husband tries to win his wife with his loving leadership. Every wife will respond differently to her husband and it is his job/role to lead whether she accepts his leadership or not, but by all means, always keeping how he leads and loves Christian at all times.

    We as husbands will stand before God someday and give an account for how we loved and led our wives, the onus is on us to make the marriage work, until such time as a wife refuses to follow. After we feel we have done all we can we must pray harder, love more, and still go back and never give up.

    I have a transformed wife in part because I took my role seriously to lead and when my wife refused my leadership I simply had to ask her to take that to God as she was in disobedience to Him. In time the Spirit worked in her heart and mind and transformed her. I cannot say that the same transformation would have happened apart from my consistent leadership. But to be consistent does not mean that we must win every argument, but instead, leave time and room for God to work by simply responding in kindness, yet making it clear that you believe her to be disobedient to God and the Word.

    Yes, God ultimately does the changes in the hearts of our spouse and our children, but He wants us to be faithful to what He has asked of us… to love and lead like Christ.

  31. It’s possible that there was a time that most churches, elders, fellow Christians could step in and make it clear to an abusive husband that he was to stop or he would be the one ending up with the beating from his friends. But those days are no longer, especially if one is to be lawful in all we do.

    Hence why Lori is exactly right to call Christian wives who are being physically abused to seek help from the elders, and from the State if necessary, with separation a sensible conclusion if a spouse will not stop the abuse or the abuse is significant and ongoing.

    You are correct that some men have suffered and been the victim in these cases, but most of the abusers I have known are bipolar or addicts. In these cases, they are not in their right mind and as such a wife is not being unsubmissive to disobey a husband under the influence or mentally ill, especially if it means her protection or his protection.

    I have also seen where wives accuse husbands of being abusers because it serves their agenda and they embellish the truth. So each circumstance should be carefully evaluated to try and determine the truth and to help the couple reconcile if at all possible while eliminating the abuse, or the false accusations of abuse. All this points to the facts that when abuse happens, others need to get involved and the spouse should not simply suffer silently but be in close contact with family, friends, elders, and counselors to determine by the Spirit and the Word what is the best course of action to protect and save the marriage.

  32. I agree with you, Lori, regarding physical abuse. But there are worse things … like sexual abuse, emotional & verbal abuse that can wear a woman down like nothing else. In fact, I have read quite a bit about this and it seems that the verbal & emotional beatings can be worse. I would really love your take on this. What do do if a man just will not stop beating you down no matter how long you pray. thanks.

  33. If a woman is enduring any type of real abuse (I say real since many women feel abused if their husbands aren’t acting like they want them to act), she needs to seek the counsel of an older, godly woman. I have seen women being able to endure much when they are being prayed over, counseled, and encouraged by godly women. Read 1 Peter 2 and 3 and you will gain a new perspective on suffering.

  34. LovingMother2Six,

    You express concern over “emotional & verbal abuse that can wear a woman down like nothing else”.

    Wear her down from what? Being a godly, submissive, loving, respectful, obedient, (with a gentle and quiet spirit) helper to her husband?

    Or wear her down because her husband is consistently challenging (or negatively responding to) her contentious, disrespectful, unloving, disobedient, sinful behavior?

    You ask, “What do do if a man just will not stop beating you down no matter how long you pray.”?

    It depends on why he is (verbally) “beating you down”.

    If he is (verbally) “beating you down” for doing what is right (being a godly, submissive, loving, respectful, obedient, pleasant helper), (1 Peter 2:20-21) says “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 21For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,”

    If this is her situation, I would recommend continued “patient endurance”. Personally, I can’t imagine that it is possible to find too much favor with God?

    But if he is (verbally) “beating you down” and you are suffering for doing what is wrong (unsubmissive, unloving, disobedient, disrespectful, unhelpful), (Hebrews 12:6) says “FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”
    SCOURGE, verb transitive skurj.
    1. To whip severely; to lash.
    2. To punish with severity; to chastise; to afflict for sins or faults, and with the purpose of correction.
    I think the vast number of wives who are married to Christian husbands (and many who are married to lost men as well) are suffering at their OWN hand for their OWN sinful attitudes and actions.

    If this is her situation, I would suggest repenting; confessing her sin to God and to her husband and then… go and sin no more.

  35. Thanks, I will definitely give it a watch. In my comment, though, I am simply pointing out that Paul is not saying that husbands are to wash their wives in the word. That is not what he is saying there. He is saying that Christ does that for his church.

    We might extend that by implication, and maybe that’s safe. Maybe it’s not. But that’s not what Paul is saying in that verse, and I would be careful of taking liberties.

  36. Trey,
    I don’t know if this will be allowed through, but I do have some things to contribute here.
    For many years, my husband nitpicked everything I did. I was never on time enough, I never cooked well enough, my bread wasn’t good enough, I didn’t get the mending done fast enough, I didn’t clean well enough, and later on, I didn’t educate the kids well enough. He could bring me to tears many times. I would apologize, get up earlier, keep trying harder, I could not please him. I started to go a little crazy, and began to wonder if I was losing my mind after a while. After a while I was sort of in a twilight zone. I was spinning my wheels and dazedly going from one thing to the other. I lost my focus. That’s when I ended up on antidepressants because I was starting to get weird. Then I ended up in therapy.
    That’s what I think she means by verbal and emotional “beating down”. It wears you down until your brain just starts doing weird things. You start questioning your every move and every word, wondering, “Could this start something? What are the risks?” and it’s even more upsetting when he starts to get upset because you have a sort of 1,000 mile stare and you feel rooted to the floor, and he says do such and such, and you can’t even take a step. Then he gets mad and you end up in a puddle of tears because you hear the words, but you are in a sort of mental stupor and can’t think anymore. Without therapy I probably would have ended up in a mental institution — the effect on me was that devastating.
    I am not trying to take away from the truth of your comment — but for some women, the damage that can be done from verbal and emotional stress is severe. Not for everyone, certainly, but for some it is devastating.

  37. I find this post incredibly sad. I wasn’t going to comment but I keep coming back to it, thinking about it, and it grieves me each time I read it. To perpetuate that suffering within marriage is normal, right, and something that God might be calling you to is not what the Bible teaches – God does not want our marriages to be hardships! Yes, there are plenty of marriages that are troubled and yes, there is scriptural backing for a wife in a troubled marriage to be gentle, loving, kind, and prayerful for her husband in hopes of winning him to the Lord. But to state that a marriage which is hard, lacking, loveless, troubled, etc is part of God’s plan is not right. God does not call us to suffer in our marriage, He has not ordained that marriage be a hardship. Rather, He gives marriage as a joyful illustration of His relationship with the church. He gave us marriage so that a husband and wife can serve Him together with joy, walk together in love, and be one flesh – a unified team, following after God, blessed to belong to each other and to Him.

    Yes, there are marriages – even Christian ones – that are troubled. Marriages are made up of two imperfect humans and when one, or both, of those people are not walking in the Spirit, things are going to be hard. Trials, tests, and temptations come. satan does his best to destroy Christian marriages and families because he knows their potential for furthering God’s kingdom. Rather than say a woman who is suffering in her marriage is being called by God to do so and tell her to simply, quietly endure it, we would be better to recognize it as the work of satan trying to destroy the marriage and encourage her to seek to restore the loving, God-honoring relationship her marriage is meant to be.

  38. Enelya is right in that marriage in scripture is never portrayed as persecution or suffering, but rather a reflection of Christ and His church. Rather than being shown as a place of suffering, marriage is an opportunity to grow spiritually as the couple learn to work things out for the good of the family.

  39. If this were the case, Lydia, then 1 Peter 2 and 1 Peter 3:1-6 wouldn’t have had to be written. “For even were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21) After explaining how Christ suffered for us, 1 Peter 3:1 begins with “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of their wives.”

    In a perfect world, there would be no suffering in marriages but this is far from a perfect world and I have mentored to many women who are suffering in their marriage to understand that this isn’t a fact of life. We are all sinners and there are women who suffer in marriage. Their prescription for God is found in 1 Peter 3:1-6.

    God doesn’t call them to divorce their husbands if they are married to disobedient men. No, He calls them to win them without a word by living in subjection to them with godly behavior. Look how much Christ has suffered for the Church!

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