Using 4 Actions Found in Proverbs 27 to Improve Friendship in Your Marriage
The marriage relationship should be the closest, most intimate relationship on earth, reflecting the intimacy of the spiritual relationship each believer has with Jesus and His bride, the Church. The relationship between a husband and his wife is a reflection of several components of this spiritual relationship, including lovers, coworkers, joint-heirs, and friends.
While reading through the book of Proverbs, I noticed that while Proverbs repeats many of the same lessons, about anger, wisdom, speech, parenting, money, and relationships, chapter 27 mentions friendship more than any other chapter.
While Proverbs 27 talks about friendship in general, I want to apply these principles specifically to marriage relationships with four actions we can take, because our husbands should be our best friends.
1. Heartfelt Counsel: How to Wisely Advise your Husband
Proverbs 27:9 (NLT): “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.”
“Heartfelt” is also translated as “earnest” (ESV) or “hearty” (KJV), and it has the idea of being passionate and fervent about your advice.
So don't give half-hearted or doubtful advice.
Be sure or be quiet.
2. Avoid Abandonment: How to Persevere with your Husband in Hard Times
Proverbs 27:10 (NLT): “Never abandon a friend…”
I'm reading a Christian nonfiction book right now, called the Lost Art of Relationship (stay tuned next week for the full review), and it's been eye-opening and convicting.
One of my favorite quotes in the book so far talks about persevering in dark seasons:
“Think of a time when you were going through an extremely dark moment in your life. Who was there with you? Who stuck with you even though it was difficult? When you are pressed down and surrounded on all sides,who still sits with you, cries with you, and helps you? These are friends.” (p.60)
I don’t remember doing this for any of my friends, except my family and husband. Maybe I'm not the good friend I thought I was. All of my friendships except with my family and my husband have come and gone. Maybe I haven’t persevered with them enough. I’m going to reflect on this more and begin to work on this.
Perseverance gives hope, and hope helps us to persevere.
Persevering is what spouses are supposed to do. Don’t give up on each other. Work it out, stick it out, share the loads.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, ESV).
3. Sharpening Friends: How to Bring out the Best in your Husband
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT): “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”
What does it mean when someone says iron sharpens iron? To me, this is a summary statement of all the other actions. When we give heartfelt counsel, persevere through the hard times, and lovingly rebuke our husbands, we are sharpening them. You are helping him to become a better version of himself.
And this is reciprocal. In every relationship, the influence should be two-sided, even if not entirely equal. Trying to be the best wife to him should also be making you into a better version of yourself.
My husband is great at this. Without him, my life would be so boring and serious and narrow.
He has helped me to think about things in ways I’d never imagined before, especially about things I just accepted like theological matters. Now I truly know not only what I believe but why I believe it, something I could not have explained before he came into my life.
He also has helped me to learn to laugh more and enjoy the silly side of life. We only have one life, and while we should live with purpose, we should also enjoy the many gifts God has given to us, because every giver wants the receiver to get joy out of the gifts. (See Jason Gray’s song, “Good to be Alive.”)
He has also helped introduce me to new things and work past my fear of trying new foods and experiences. I doubt anyone would call me adventurous, yet, but I have learned that I won’t know if I like something until I try it. He has introduced me to Duke’s mayonnaise and Bojangles. He introduced me to what is now my favorite food. I had always been too scared to try “raw fish,” but now sushi is my favorite treat.
In return, I have introduced him to different ways of thinking about life. I’ve helped him learn how to “stop and smell the roses,” he says. I’ve helped him learn to appreciate music more, which he said he never really paid attention to. I’ve helped him learn how to be more diplomatic and to think more figuratively. And I’m especially proud to have introduced him to eating mustard on his sandwiches. ;)
In all seriousness, though, we do sharpen each other. We grow both individually and together when we treat each other as true friends.
4. Open Rebuke: How to Lovingly Wound your Husband
Proverbs 27:5-6 (NLT): “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”
Real friends can tell each other anything, even hard things. Rebukes are hard, because you're pointing out something they're doing wrong or what they need to change.
Pointing out wrong-doing presupposes several things that I don't have time to go into here, such as trust, respect, and humility.
But true love has to be tough some times. I know this is unpopular, but it is not loving to let someone walk off a cliff without warning them at all. It is loving to warn people that they're heading into danger.
How do we warn a loved one, though? “Open rebuke” needs to come from the right motive of love, and it needs to use the right method of working with the Holy Spirit.
The reason we decide to say something will tell if our heart is right. If we want to get something for ourselves or be proven right, rebuking will only make things worse.
Humility is absolutely essential in communication with the potential for conflict (or any communication, for that matter). And we must of course examine ourselves first to see if we're being hypocritical.
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
Notice that Jesus doesn't say, 'Don't ever pluck the speck in your friend's eye.' He just gives the correct order to do it. Judge (discern, distinguish, evaluate) myself first, then my loved ones.
When we really have our husband's interests at heart, and we believe that warning him of this issue will be the best thing for him, we need to proceed carefully and not plunge tongue first into a one-sided “discussion.” I'm really guilty of this; once I've finally made up my mind that I need to “say my peace,” I want to get it done.
But we need to take some time to reflect and respond with grace and truth. “...Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17,ESV).
Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you if you are supposed to be the tool He wants to use to bring this issue to your husband. Sometimes, especially if it's really a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, it's better for me to just keep my mouth shut and keep praying that my husband will come to his senses on his own. Sometimes I need to wait for him to listen to the Holy Spirit's conviction himself. But as his wife, I also have an unique influence with him, and the Holy Spirit may use me to speak truth into his life in a way he'll listen to that nobody else can.
Prepare your heart and mind by finding some qualities about your husband that you can be thankful for. This is something I rarely remember. I'm still learning to concentrate on gratitude. I could have gotten married to men much worse than my husband. This attitude helps me to remember that he is a gift to me as I am a gift to him. I don't want to take him for granted, and I want to keep the lines of honest communication open between us to be the best steward of this gift that I can.
Once we're sure the Holy Spirit is really telling me to talking to him in rebuke, we need to pray for the right words and the right time to speak. Trust me; don't pounce on him the second he comes home from work. Wait until he's been fed, had a chance to rest, and is in a relatively receptive mood. If that's not possible, try to at least wait until he's filled his stomach.
Approach with humility and a gentle tone. “A gentle answer turns away wrath...” (Proverbs 15:1, NIV).
Affirm his good attributes as much as honestly possible. For example, if the issue is financial, you could say something like, “Honey, you're a wonderful provider, and you're good at taking care of our family, but I don't know if this business venture is the best investment for our family at this time.” Don't attack him. Present the issue as a problem that needs resolving. Don't name call or criticize. Remain calm, kind, and as logical as you can possibly be.
Refrain from using the Holy Spirit as your excuse for why. Don't ever say, “I'm right and you're wrong, because God told me so.” Or even the more diplomatic, “I know you don't want to hear this, but the Holy Spirit told me I needed to tell you.” Let the Holy Spirit speak for Himself.
Expect resistance and defensiveness. No one likes to be told they're wrong. You don't like it, so don't expect him to. Give grace and expect to need to explain in different ways or at different times. It may lead to an ongoing conversation. If you feel that you need to go on the defensive or that he is refusing to listen, take a pause. Ask for a break to calm down and then return to step one. If possible, ask your husband to pray about the situation, too. Repeat as often as the Holy Spirit tells you to.
Caution: If the issue is life-threatening or includes major physical or psychological abuse, please get help immediately! Ask a pastor or a Christian counselor or even law enforcement to step in if the situation requires.
The main idea of this verse is to lovingly warn your husband with the sincere intention of helping him avoid danger. It requires selflessness and humility.
Proverbs 27 gives four actions we should take in all friendships, but especially in our marriages. Because our husbands should be our best friends, we should help them become the best they can be, sharpening each other by giving heartfelt counsel, persevering through the hard times, and lovingly rebuking our husbands.
Of course, these are a lot easier said than done. I’m working on the persevering through the hard times. Which one are you going to work on next?