When Your Husband Struggles

By Lori McDaniel

No matter how great of a minister, husband, leader or father he is, he’s not immune to adversity.

Church dilemmas erupt, leaving his leadership landscape shaken. Sin happens, either committed by him or against him. A friend that was life-giving awkwardly leaves the church. Exhaustion eventually affects his emotional stamina. The list continues.

Whether his struggle is private or public, as his wife you feel a version of his pain and walk in the aftershocks of his struggle.

How do we walk wisely with our husband in the landscape of his suffering?

Resist reacting with emotional solutions that bring temporary relief.

When he hurts, you hurt. Any path to relief, even if temporary, seems right in the moment. Job’s wife could only think of one thing to relieve her husband from his suffering – quit! “Curse God and die.” Let’s not rush to be too harsh on her. I’ve entertained saying, “quit” to my husband, too. Everything they had built together was gone! She had been the wife to the “greatest man of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). They both lost children, financial security and reputation in the community. And now she’s watching her suffering husband and probably thinking, “ENOUGH!” Yet, temporary relief doesn’t change reality.

Cling to the reality that God is sovereign in our suffering.

Pain in the present distorts our ability to comprehend anything beyond our present circumstances. Job and his wife didn’t have a clue that a conversation had occurred between God and Satan. While their circumstances were incredibly painful, there was another reality they weren’t privy to. And no amount of logic attempting to answer the question, “Why is this happening?” would have unveiled the real reason. God’s sovereignty shadows our suffering.

Recognize his vulnerability and the value of your strength.

In suffering our husband is more vulnerable than he may admit. He may flirt with quitting or react by isolating. Chuck Swindoll confessed, “Men are weakened when times of affliction hit…In our weakened condition we lose our objectivity, sometimes our stability. We become vulnerable and most men don’t know how to handle themselves in a vulnerable state of mind. We become – hard as it is to admit this – afraid. So in light of all this­ hear me – we need your clear perspective, wisdom, and spiritual strength. We need your words of confidence and encouragement. We even find it hard to say, ‘I need you right now.’”

Be present, but don’t always talk.

A loving presence that is courageously resolute and unconditionally available speaks loudly. Sometimes, there are just no words that need to be said. Give him a safe place and space to process. At times he needs be alone. Other times, he needs you near without words. If he speaks, listen. A safe space is comfort to a hurting soul. Your presence in pain creates a deep, unspoken intimacy.

Initiate praying.

In the shadow of our leader-husband, we often default to his initiation in spiritual intimacy. However, we are in partnership on this journey. When my husband was in his own pit of despair I asked him, “What do you need from me?” His first answer was, “I need you to initiate praying because I just have no words.” Don’t ask if he wants to pray, just start praying out loud with him. Initiate ushering both of your hearts before the throne of God.

Discipline yourself to build-up strength reserve, now.

Adversity will come. You can’t fake strength. Those who possess it have built it from a disciplined conditioning of the heart. Build up strength and you will walk wisely beside him in his pain.

How have you walked alongside your husband as  he struggles?

Published April 15, 2016

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Lori McDaniel

Lori and her husband, Mike McDaniel, and their 3 children were missionaries in Africa before returning to plant Grace Point Church in Bentonville, AR where Mike is Lead Pastor. Lori serves as a Global Mission Catalyst with the IMB, mobilizing churches and leading women to participate in God’s global mission. Lori shares how everyday life can be a life on mission at lorimcdaniel.org.