Our early years here in Italy were tough. Besides the usual struggles with culture shock and language, we barely had money for rent. Let alone food and other necessities! We worried over our children getting enough nutrition on our meager diet.
And the villagers where we lived didn’t want anything to do with us. Except for the down-and-outers, drug addicts, and those on the fringes of society. Perhaps they viewed us as one of them. But when we invited them to our home, they came. And usually at lunchtime! Many a day the soup was even more watery than usual.
I was often afraid, and worried.
Our kids needed bigger shoes, without holes, and winter coats that fit. But worst of all, was the nagging feeling of failure. Failure as a parent that my kids had to go without so much. Failure as a child of God, and missionary. We must have heard wrong, and shouldn’t have come here at all. We couldn’t even hear God’s voice clearly. What kind of missionaries were we?
All this filled our marriage with tension and arguing. Yet Mario remained as convinced as ever that we’d heard from God. And intent on staying.
And then, a thought came to me. “You can make him a failure so he’ll have to move back to the USA.”
I knew that voice, and knew it didn’t come from above. But even knowing the source, I stubbornly grabbed it as a source of hope, and started fighting my husband tooth and nail.
We did end eventually go back for a time. But to finishing paying unpaid debt. Not because of my stubbornness. I do love the Lord, and he did finally get through this thick head of mine. And I stopped fighting against my husband. I wasn’t happy. But I wasn’t going to fight against the one I love, or try to make him fail.
While back in the States, as we worked at paying off debt, Mario planned our return to Italy. I loved my husband too much to want to hurt him. And though I’d vowed to never again fight against him, I was dragging my feet. Hoping the door would somehow close!
Yet I truly wanted to become a good and godly wife. It’s just that no one had ever really taken the time to show me how.
In church we were just told to submit, whatever that meant. I hadn’t a clue! Did it mean I couldn’t voice my opinion? Had to stop thinking for myself? Or what if I was sure my husband was wrong? And then at a conference, I learned the best principle I’d ever heard for becoming a good helpmate.
“Believe in your man, and stand by him. No matter what.”
God has given the hardest part of marriage to the man.
- He has to make the decisions, and sometimes extremely hard ones.
- God expects him to hear his voice and lead the family according to his Word.
- And the Lord would question him, not me, if we strayed, or our kids grew up wanting nothing to do with God. What a huge responsibility!
The conference speaker that day told us that no man feels up to the task.
And is it any wonder? I sure wouldn’t feel capable of it! Mario later told me that he didn’t, either. And I’ve thought about this a lot through the years, and even taught on it.
There are lots of critics, just waiting to chop the legs out from under us. And Mario already had plenty of people who doubted what we were doing. How he was leading our family. Lots of criticism, along with more than enough internal doubt of his own!
The fact was plain and simple. HE NEEDED ME TO BELIEVE IN HIM.
He’s since told me that at times the only thing that kept him going was knowing that I believed him! By believing in him, even though I didn’t (and probably never will) always understand, I helped him believe in himself!
And through the years, I’ve come to see that this is the crucial element of being a submissive wife and help-mate. Believe in your man, and tell him so. Tell him “You can do it! And I’ll help you! Together we’re invincible!”
This doesn’t mean becoming a simpering, mindless doormat. But it does mean leaving the final decision to him.
Has he made wrong decisions? Yes, he is human. Have some of them gotten us into messes, or made things hard? Yes, but he’s always worked extra hard at taking care of us, anyway. Things have been hard, but I knew he would do whatever it took to put food on our table and a roof over our heads. And he has.
Sometimes, because I’ve voiced a contrary opinion, it has kept Mario from making wrong decisions — and sometimes not.
But many of our best lessons have been because of those ‘wrong decisions’. And the Lord has always seen us through.
In looking back, I would only change one thing. Being foolish and carnal enough to ever have listened that voice. But overall, I’m grateful. Because God used even that great mistake to show me how to become a true helpmate to my husband.
I learned to offer that one voice of encouragement that keeps him going when he wonders if he can go on. And to believe him when he doesn’t even believe in himself.
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain, (Proverbs 31:10-11).
A good helpmate makes her man invincible! And by doing so, also comes out victorious!
Disclaimer: Although I hold a counseling certificate, the information in this article is offered as personal advice and testimony, not professional counseling. Please don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling or pastoral care if you are experiencing marital difficulties.