Since the inception of time, men have been expected to be the providers for the domestic family, and were, in fact, created to do so. However, in today's age, things have changed, and some men have taken that divine responsibility and transformed it into a sort of dilapidated chore. Some have slighted their children of a father figure, and others have slighted themselves of the true joy a family can be.
Although this is the case throughout many communities, many men still carry an innate desire to brandish a large, embossed "S" on their chests and take care of everything. And while transforming from Clark Kent to Superman is a highly admirable feat, it also is, unfortunately, unrealistic. Often, the dreaded "intangibles" in life prove to be a loving husband's kryptonite.
Just as Jesus would do anything for His bride, there is absolutely nothing a husband directed by the principles of God would not do for his wife. I speak about this personally. My beloved wife and I have been through many different trials and tribulations, but the one indisputable fact is that we have been through them together.
The Bible declares that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. Husbands do whatever they can to follow that holy example. Nevertheless, after they take off their glasses and dash out of the phone booth, these loving men need to realize--as I have--that they are mere mortals and cannot eradicate all of the issues their wives will deal with.
Abraham had much of that same problem. He loved his wife; he worshiped his God; and he was positively challenged by the agenda he received from the Lord. He was God's chosen man. So it would be easy to assume he could grasp hold of every intangible issue that entered his own marriage, correct? Not so.
One year removed from a century, Abraham, lying prostrate on a holy hill, was just finding out he was going to be a father of many nations (see Gen. 17). God was preparing His servant's heart and mind for a vision of being the catalyst for God's Word touching all future generations succeeding him. This anointed man took all of those promises in stride. He believed with every fiber of his being that God would provide the tools necessary to perform His Word.
In all the years I have studied the Scripture, however, I find it amazing how many men in the Bible could muster insurmountable faith to overcome obstacles with which they were not directly related--but when it came to a personal issue, their faith seemed to be left by the wayside.
Take Elijah, for example. He called down fire from heaven but let a bitter woman hurt his feelings, which kept him captive in a cave. Consider Noah. He built an enormous ark when there was not even an ocean around, but his own personal troubles caused him to seek solace in a bottle rather than the promises of God. The seed of all men, Adam, had dominion over every bird in the sky and beast on the field but lacked the discipline to obey one single command his wife urged him to break.
Abraham could not envision himself as the father of many nations until God told him he could. Suddenly, faith arose and vision was achieved. Then, God brought his covenant closer to home, and our "Superman of faith" discovered his kryptonite.
"Then God said to Abraham, 'As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.'
"Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, 'Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?' And Abraham said to God, 'Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!'
"Then God said, 'No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him'" (Gen. 17:15-19, NKJV, emphasis added).
I can just imagine the thoughts racing through Abraham's head--not just how this would affect him directly, but also how this would affect Sarah and how he could possibly shield her from the pain of this impossible task. From what I know about my God and how He deals with His children, I have come to one single irrefutable truth: that is not Abraham's problem. Of course, this loving husband could intercede for his bride, but he could not possibly take this upon himself. This was Sarah's walk of faith, and hers alone. As we read later, she had her own doubts and disbeliefs.
"Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, 'After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'
"And the Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh, saying, "Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?" Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son'" (Gen. 18:11-14).
Men, I implore you: When you see your wife having struggles with her faith--wait. It is our natural instinct to safeguard her from the pain and bear the burden. Then we assume that a night on the town will be the ultimate way to heal those wounds left gaping as she is riddled with questions. Believe me, a date with you is not always the quick fix you would like it to be.
I realize that is a hard pill to swallow; it was for me. But often the medication your wife needs is a solvent you cannot supply. It is vital to know that although you are one of the most important aspects in your wife's life, you are not God. Trying to do more and to be more in her life than humanly possible will do nothing but discourage you and add to her problems because she will become perplexed with you feeling incompetent while her own faith is being tried.
When tree or vegetable seeds are planted, they need a lot more than just water. They need cultivation and nurturing. Sarah could cry in her prayer closet until her tear ducts were dry, but then what? She needed to get alone with God and cultivate her faith to nurture this seed.
Abraham needed to let Sarah spend time with her God about her problem. God desires an intimate and personal relationship with each one of His children. He doesn't require a conduit, nor did He plan for one. When Jesus Christ gave up His life for us, He declared that was the gateway to heaven for every person who would follow that sacrificial gift.
God allows each of us the comfort zones we require to deal with the mysteries of our faith. Many have prayer closets, hideaways they can run to for solace and restoration. Often, that space may not be large enough for that person, his or her trials and a spouse. Other times, that space may include some fun and leisure with friends.
What I am attempting to carefully say to the men is that Sarah needed time away from Abraham. She did not need to go on another vacation, the destination of which would be a spiritual conference. She did not need to fill her head with a concert or a movie. She didn't need to go out with friends, who just happened to be Abraham's friends who had wives.
We "supermen" need to let our wives don capes of their own. I have frequently been amazed at the overwhelming strength my own bride has assembled without my aid. Often, all she needs is a listening ear. Instead of a spiritual retreat, time out on the town or a vacation, give your wife space--and when she comes to you, give her that ear.
Instead of your face being the cure-all for your wife, let it be your faith. Intercede for her as she takes her own voyage through the valley--she will always come back to you--and with your prayerful undergirding, she will come back stronger and more focused on her relationship with God and you.
This is the woman God gave you. She is not a porcelain doll. She is a living, breathing, vibrant woman with her own intangible issues that are sometimes beyond your control. She has a relationship with God, so allow her to develop that relationship instead of feeling as if you have to go to the mountaintop on her behalf every time you turn around.
Time should not be about the quantity we use up, but rather the quality we spend. We live for today, and that is a gift--that is why it is called the "present." Use it wisely, with each other and your Savior.
In closing, it is with a heavy heart that I inform all the valued readers and subscribers of Ministries Today that this is my last column. With all of the preparations required in my ministry for national outreach and international travel, I regretfully am not able to focus my efforts in so many areas at the same time. But I wanted each of you to know it has been a pleasure and an honor to write for you. Prayerfully, something God has had me write has been an impartation of God's rich blessings for your life.
Thank you for your prayerful support and continued prayers as I follow the cloud over my life and seek His purpose and timing for all things. God bless you!
T.D. Jakes bases his ministry in Dallas, where he pastors The Potter's House church. He is a prolific author and speaker. His most recent book is God's Leading Lady (Putnam).