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25 Years of Evangelizing My Husband

Paula Hendricks

Paula Hendricks | 02.18.13
Twitter: @PaulaWrites678

13 comments

One of the best parts of working at Revive Our Hearts is the mail we get each day. Emails like this. Enjoy!

The nest would soon be empty. As was our marriage.

We had our roles down pat. I was the aggressor, bordering on a plate thrower; he was the passive aggressor, master of the silent treatment. We pressed each other’s buttons with heartbreaking regularity.

Over the years I constructed a compelling case of “he did’s”—stories I relayed to accommodating girlfriends. Mind you, I did this strategically. Prayer groups were preferred. There I got head nods—even a prayer on my behalf. Please change him.

My own prayer life was all about change (meaning, him). Clearly, God was sympathetic to my cause. I was David in the psalms unjustly treated by Saul. I was Joseph imprisoned for my faith. I was on my way to martyr status.

Why then, being so unjustly treated, so right, was I so miserable? And, for all my Bible verse quoting, why was my spiritual life so stagnant?

You see, my husband is not a believer . . . a fact I routinely brought before the Lord and prayer partners. During our twenty-five years of marriage, I had purchased countless books and CDs with titles such as Beloved Unbeliever. Yet, my daily prayer, Please change his heart, had gone unanswered.

Not, however, because of a lack of evangelism on my part. I left tracts on our coffee table and upped the volume on sermon CDs.

On Sunday mornings I would tear up. If only my husband was sitting next to me at church. If only he would thumb through a Bible. If only he could hear this sermon. From my balcony view, I would glare at the backs of other husbands, arms draped over their wives’ shoulders. Surely these husbands led nightly devotionals, volunteered at Vacation Bible School, and prayed before meals. If only . . .

Inevitably my mind would drift toward a vision, twenty-five years in the making. My husband and I would be called to the pulpit to share our story. I would smile through humble tears as he would credit me for my contagious Christianity. His testimony would highlight my years of faithfulness: attending Bible studies, teaching Sunday School, rising at 5 a.m. to seek the Lord. The applause would be deafening. Maybe we’d write a book. A video series perhaps.

Then reality would crash in. I sat alone in the pew. I taught Sunday School with strangers. My husband showed no sign of wanting to read anything remotely biblical or listen to anything remotely spiritual. Forget the book. My prayers were fruitless—my husband was not changing.

That’s when I approached Kate. She and her husband had been empty nesters for a while, and they seemed happy. Perhaps she could help. 

Sitting at Panera one Saturday, Kate began her counsel, but not with the sympathetic support I had anticipated. When I began to share my story of marital hardship and martyr-like behavior, Kate interrupted. She had no interest in hearing my compelling case of “rightness.” Instead, Kate gave me a challenge.

Just that week she had found a website featuring a 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge. For thirty days a wife was not supposed to say anything negative about her husband. In addition, each day she was to verbally compliment her husband. And when in public, she was to seek opportunities to praise her husband for specific things. All this was to be done with complete sincerity and not a hint of manipulation.

As Kate explained the terms of the challenge, she admitted hers was not always the beatific marriage it appeared to be—that she, too, struggled with negativity. She felt God wanted her to do the challenge with me and suggested we meet weekly over the summer to encourage one another.

This conversation took place three years ago. Turns out, the 30-Day “Challenge” is a misnomer. It has been a joy—not a challenge—and my thirty days have stretched across months and now years.  

You see, within a couple of weeks, my marriage was transformed. First, my husband, a longtime critic of my cooking, suddenly took up making gourmet meals for me. Then my husband, formally stingy with compliments, began to routinely greet me with, “Hi, Gorgeous.” Finally, my husband, a person who treasures automobiles, became my knight in shining armor when I dented—no, dismantled—our brand-new Toyota Camry in an accident directly related to my inept driving.

Here’s the secret. As I verbalized compliments, I began to notice what had gone unnoticed since our dating days. Namely, that my husband is a man of integrity, a hard worker, a gentleman, a comedian; that he is handsome, articulate, and humble. He is my technology expert, personal think-tank, dog trainer, interior decorator, problem-solver, confidante, and friend. And someone whose company I began to cherish.

Looking at the negative aspects of my marriage had only produced despair—twenty-five years of whining to God about my righteousness in journals that I have since destroyed. Even Christian therapy had been reinforcing my case of “he-did’s.”

The truth is, I was the one who needed to change.

So, if I ever get called to a pulpit to give a reason for my despair giving way to joy, I will take the microphone with a humble heart. After all, it was my negativity that impeded marital intimacy for all those years. No more. The joy I now feel at waking up next to this man rivals that of any newlywed.

Topics: Marriage

Comments

  1. The 30 day encouragement challenge has been a wonderful blessing to me for years. There still are moments where I do need attitude readjustments, but the blessing of this resource has greatly enriched my life and our marriage through the change God has brought. :)
    posted by Meta
    on Monday, February 18, 2013 at 10:58 am
  2. I have tried the 30 day challenge and I have to admit I was not faithful about it. I pray always for the Lord to change my heart(and save my husband). I felt my husband would feel my compliments everyday were not sincere. Believe me through this ministry God has changed my heart greatly towards marriage and my husband. I have tried the 30 day challenge twice and did not succeed in fulfilling it as I should. How do I sincerely compliment him so he doesn't think I am not sincere?
    posted by Robin
    on Monday, February 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm
  3. @Robin...I would encourage you to take a week and ask the Lord--diligently--to help you see things in your husband you can be grateful for. Then, begin to make a list. Find things that you can sincerely tell him you are grateful for in your marriage. Maybe for the 30-Days instead of "complimenting" him, you could express gratitude. Gratitude has a way of changing us like nothing else. Thank him for simple things -- like your wedding ring, working to provide gas in your car, picking up his towel...you may have to look, but trust God to help you as you seek Him for this ministry of grace. OR, as you see above--pray for the week, then start the Challenge again and see if the Lord might help you tweak each days assignment to accomplish the compliments with a sincere heart. Blessings to you; I have paused today to pray for you!
    posted by Sarah, with the TW Team
    on Monday, February 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm
  4. Thanks for posting this. I want to do this challenge.
    posted by Carissa
    on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 9:02 am
  5. Like Robin I have tried and failed at being sincere as well. It is so hard when my wounds and images burned into my memory are constantly with me. Yes I may speak negative things and I am hated for it. But how come when his office mate makes fun of him for forgetting to do this and than he can touch her face with the most gentle, loving touch right in front of me. But when I say something negative like you are forgetfull I get the evil eyes? How am I supposed to erase that image of that gentle touch of her face for mocking him?
    posted by Linda
    on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 9:50 am
  6. Like Robin I have tried and failed at being sincere as well. It is so hard when my wounds and images burned into my memory are constantly with me. Yes I may speak negative things and I am hated for it. But how come when his office mate makes fun of him for forgetting to do this and than he can touch her face with the most gentle, loving touch right in front of me. But when I say something negative like you are forgetfull I get the evil eyes? How am I supposed to erase that image of that gentle touch of her face for mocking him?
    posted by Linda
    on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm
  7. @Linda...Your husband's behavior is inappropriate. We are not asking you to look past offenses and things in your marriage that need to be changed. The actions and responses you have described indicate some serious problems in your relationship with your husband. We encourage you to talk with your church leaders and/or find a biblical counselor that can help you effect change in your marriage (www.nanc.org). Don't delay in finding the help needed. Do what is right in your responses. Look to the Lord to help you and guide you and give you strength to do the right thing. I'm sorry to hear of the pain you have experienced; my heart goes out to you indeed. I have prayed the Lord would give you His grace and peace this night.
    posted by Sarah, with the TW Team
    on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 10:16 pm
  8. Interesting, this sounds a lot like my mom and dad, which was why I read this in the first place. My mom faithfully got my sister and I ready for worship every Sunday twice and every Wednesday night when I was younger and up until my sister and I left the nest. Dad was an alcoholic and never showed any interest in God or worship with us. Year after year after year she went on silently setting the example of a Godly woman. I don't ever remember them fighting or arguing about worship and the only thing my mom ever said about my dad being "bad" was to talk about his drinking, I didn't even find out about the affair he had until I was about 32 years old. When my dad got in a wreck because of his drinking she was about ready to divorce him and I told her I thought she deserved some peace and happiness. (The way humans see things). God had a different plan, mom stayed and remained faithful to her promise to dad. Eventually her silent faithfulness won dad over and when I was 36 yrs old I was able to watch my dad give his life to Jesus. I remember mom telling me of a conversation that they had a few years later, where she told him that God wouldn't have chosen him for her because he wasn't a Christian, and dad's response was maybe God chose her for him. I hope that you can maintain your choice to praise your husband, but also remember that according to the bible " They will know we are Christians by the way we love one another". Remain strong in faith and led your mate to Jesus by an exemplary life. Blessings and peace to you. Lloyd
    posted by Lloyd McNutt
    on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 11:32 pm
  9. Thanks for sharing!
    posted by Sylvia Abuwi
    on Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm
  10. I have tried the 30 day husband thing and its been hard the days that i can i do. The hard part is i to think if God could just change him or if God could just renew his mind what a load off it would be for me . So i continue in the effort of trying to make deposits not knowing if i will make it a full 30 days but i will keep trying. I pray that the Lord would continue to change me the one he can get a word to the one who will obey him. this was good and i am moved to continue on though it is hard i want the Lord's will to be done not mine. So i pray that I will have less to say about it all and more to pray to the father as he decides to use me as he see fits in areas of my marriage.
    posted by Cecelia
    on Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 2:29 pm
  11. I love all the positive reviews but I have tried so many times and failed. The look in his eyes will not even allow me to voice a hello let alone a compliment so where does it begin. I feel it is more for people that are on a straight terrain in marriage. For me, i rarely speak to my husband, he is usually upset witheverything i do. i would love to have it work for me and change me too in the long run.
    posted by Lilly
    on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 10:08 am
  12. @Lilly…You are in a difficult place. But let me remind you it is not a place that is too difficult for God to work. "Oh, Lord GOD! You Yourself made the heavens and earth by Your great power and with Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You! " (Jer. 32:17)

    If you and your husband do not speak to each other, Lilly, I encourage you to talk with your church leaders or a biblical counselor who can help you with the deep issues of divide in your marriage.

    The Challenge certainly does not guarantee life will become easier, but it does give opportuinty for one's life to be a glory and honor to Him in the midst of the trial—and that brings joy to the maturing believer.

    What the Challenge will do, is help “you” do what "you" are called to do and help you act like Jesus in the situation. It will help you look up and dispel the darkness of feeling alone and enduring so much division. God will come alongside and you will know His presence.

    We agree that most of the time the Challenge is used to make good marriages better or stagnant marriages more rich; at the same time, we have heard testimony after testimony over the years of God’s miraculous work to bring hope and change to difficult marriages. I am praying for you now, Lilly, asking God to give you clear direction to find help and hope in your marriage. May His peace be yours as you look to Him.
    posted by
    on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 8:42 pm
  13. I am on my second marriage. I am strong willed and willing to step in when there is a void. I was a single mom for several years after my divorce and then I just happened onto my second one and I truly felt it was a God thing. My husband was 36 when we married. I was his first everything. I know that he loves me and desires me, there is no question about that...I don't think he had a great role model of how a Husband should treat his wife, kids...take care of the house...don't get me wrong...no abuse; He is just lazy and seems disinterested. I have done more to teach my boys, 6 total, on how it is to be men...ie, manners, sex talk, tying a tie, what is expected, love and God. We have 3 boys together...oldest is 13 and the youngest is 8. On the weekends, I have to rally the boys together to get chores done, do yard work, and fix things in the house. He goes to church and I believe that he is a mental christian...it is not in is heart yet. He will play computer games, and lie about it. (no in appropriate sites...I check) He will do the laundry, but hide out in the laundry room and read. He has lied about our finances to where we almost lost our house. I have threatened to leave but know the boys would suffer...and I would too. I try and compliment him, but then he would do something stupid...today, I was not feeling well and lying down. The boys were fighting and he just went and yelled at that from the office with out finding out what was going on...I was downstairs and I knew the boys needed to be separated but he did not and he got too cross with them...well feelings got hurt and one son hit the other and he did nothing. I called them downstairs, found out what happened sent them to do a separate chore away from each other...and when I called him down and asked him, he lied to me and told me he was not on the computer...of course the boys already told me he was so I knew he lied...70 percent of the time I feel like I am raising him too. He immediately went into this self pity thing... and I was not yelling but I said that he broke a promise once again about the computer and even bigger one...lying that at that moment I felt like packing his bag and sending him to his moms...I was serious. An hour later after pacing and trying to pray and eating a candy bar I went up to the office grabbed his computer.( it is only used by him for games...not work, or internet connected), and marched outside and smashed it...in front of him...Look I know I need to change as well and I at this moment don't know what changes to asked for...I have prayed for a revival in our marriage, I have prayed for his salvation. .. we have gone to the pastor...my husband agrees with everything he says...but no action. I don't want to raise my husband. I love him. I want to be the wife that God created me to be but I don't know how to do this...How do I start...it seems like when I give it to God my husbands comes and takes it away... and I think "it's you...you can't change him only God can...change you" and it feels like the closer I get to God the further away my husband and I get. Any suggestions??? Right now...today I mean...I just have this knot and it seems like even prayer can't untie it...I don't have girlfriends to talk to and if I did I would not...I know that this is between he and I and God and that my husband is the one I go to...I don't want to rob him of any blessings the Lord my have for him by giving him a chance first to fix things...but today is different...today was the first time I wanted to unload. I found this blog thru my church of a friend of a friend sort of thing...I read the challenge...How do I start??? Thank you God for finding me a place to vent...Thank you ladies for listening.
    posted by Suzanne
    on Monday, July 8, 2013 at 12:54 am

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