Like Peter in Gethsemane, many of us are prone to pull our swords and swing before we ask pertinent questions. We hear of a problem with our children, our neighbors, our home, or our marriages and we immediately unsheathe our swords and start looking for a dragon to slay. For others, they reach for their toolboxes and power saws with the aim of gutting and remodeling instead of studying the blueprints.
Sometimes this is appropriate. If our wives come to us in need of help, it is fitting that we act quickly. However, there are times in marriage when the best and most helpful thing we can do is unplug our power tools, grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit down, and listen.
Job knew the value of a listening ear (and a closed mouth) when someone is in distress or pain. To his well-intentioned friend, Job said: “Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind?” (Job 6: 26).
What Job meant was that his pain was moving him to say things that he did not really mean. In a moment of despair or hopelessness, even the most stalwart Christians may utter things that are hurtful, untrue, or bleak. Perhaps your wife is grieving, anxious, depressed, or ill. If so, she may say things that provoke you.
Before you grab your drill or sabre, stop and listen to her. Let her process her feelings with you. If you feel that her situation needs to be fixed, make a mental note and save it for a more peaceful time. For now, let her words flow out naturally. If you feel the need to say anything in these moments, take the wise counsel of Ed Welch and collaborate with your wife:
In order to understand what is most important, you must collaborate. The evidence of humble collaboration will be questions such as these: Are we talking about the things on your heart? What am I missing? When we talk, what seems to be most helpful for you? What seems to be least helpful?
This is sage advice for husbands who like to fix things rather than listen. There may be a time to grab your tools and get to work. But there are many times when the most loving thing we can do for our dear wives is to fight the urge to fix something and listen to them.
Excerpted from Man Up, Kneel Down: Shepherding Your Wife Toward Greater Joy in Jesus by J. Aaron White, now available for pre-order.