Have you ever read a book specifically written for the opposite gender? I’ve just finished Lies Women Believe: and the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and boy, what a read!
As an elder in our local church, I have the opportunity to speak with sisters in Christ about various challenges, and I appreciate their willingness to share. I try to be careful with my words in all visits, and I pray for wisdom when pastoring to the specific needs of these beloved sisters. One of the books that I have encouraged some to read is DeMoss’s. While I’d previously perused it, I was making this recommendation based on my wife’s, and other’s, high praise. But as I started to recommend it, I became convinced that I really ought to read it myself. I’m glad I did.
Before I continue, I’m going to express a word of caution. If you think you are such a “good husband” with an “unappreciative wife,” this book is not for you. If your marriage is going through a rough patch, this might be a very good book for a wife, but not for the husband. DeMoss is honest in her assessment, and strives to be thoroughly biblical, but in the context of a challenging marriage, a bitter husband could use this book to point out the flaws and lies that his wife is perpetuating, even subconsciously. And he could then use this as ammunition against her, and this would be grossly inappropriate.
But if you are a husband who loves his wife, an elder who loves his sisters in Christ, or a dad who loves his growing and maturing daughter, then this is a good book for you to read to better understand how you can help, and not hinder, your sisters in seeing through these lies, and learn how you can stop feeding these lies yourself.
Lots of lies
Throughout the book, DeMoss addresses forty lies that women believe, and she addresses them under eight different areas. These include lies women believe about:
This list isn’t exclusive to women, of course, but DeMoss’s target audience is clearly women. She starts each chapter with ideas that Eve might have struggled with, and includes engaging real anecdotes from some women’s experiences, and discusses the lies specifically as women might grapple with them.
What made it so interesting to me, as a dad, husband, elder, and Christian man, is that it made me reflect on how I might perpetuate the lies to the women in my own life – how men might feed the lie, as it were. While I strongly recommend the book in its entirety, in this article, we’ll limit the focus to the lies women believe about marriage, and we’ll explore how men might believe similar lies, or even feed the lie.
1. He’ll complete me
The first lie is, “I have to have a husband to be happy.” As men, we might believe that “I have to have a wife to be happy.”
Of course, our happiness or blessedness has to be rooted in Christ. He taught that the blessed ones were the poor in spirit, peacemakers, those who mourn, etc. (cf. Matt. 5:1-12). James teaches us that, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (1:17). If we are married, that is a good gift for us, and if we are not married, what the Lord has given is also good for us – we are blessed because it comes from the Lord. This does not mean that it is easy to accept God’s plans over our own. Neither is it wrong to desire marriage in the Lord. But our happiness and contentment needs to be rooted in Christ and the blessings of belonging to him.
In this respect, I think of my daughter and other single sisters in the Lord. I wonder how we might perpetuate the lie to these women and young girls that marriage is needed for happiness.
- Do we repeatedly ask single women why they are single? We ought not.
- Do we repeatedly tell them of some single men who are really nice? If we thought two people would be a good match, we could carefully and prayerfully introduce them to each other and then wait to see what the Lord has in store. But it is important that we do not try to play matchmaker flippantly.
- Do we ever ask them what they would like, or how they feel about their current state of singleness? Perhaps they enjoy the freedom to serve the Lord and their neighbour in various capacities and places.
- Do we invite them to be a living member of our family so that they can experience the blessedness of being an integral part of a family? Belonging to the church family is not something single people, or anyone, should only experience on Sundays.
- Do we really believe and accept what we read in Proverbs 16:9, that we may make our plans, but that the Lord determines our steps? Our married state is not by chance but is under God’s fatherly providence and love. Whether we are in a hard marriage, great marriage, single, or dating, today is from the Lord, and He has determined our steps.
Instead of trying to “solve a problem” we should work hard at not perpetuating the lie that one has to be married to be happy.
2. I will change him
A second lie about marriage that we might believe is that “it is my responsibility to change my mate.” In her commentary on this lie, DeMoss writes, “I sometimes wonder how many husbands God would change if their wives were willing to let God take over the process” (p. 140). Interesting point, and such a crucial discussion to have before marriage. I wonder if we spend enough time with young dating couples, having serious conversations with them. Are moms and dads, elders, or other couples challenging the couple’s compatibility, especially when there is evidence that the couple is not a good fit? Or do we simply “mind our own business”? Are ministers the only ones who are having somewhat serious conversations with a couple, and only after they are engaged? This is a lie that needs to be addressed before a couple gets married, to be sure.
But what about when a couple is married? What happens when the initial euphoria of marriage has passed? Or what happens when our spouse doesn’t live up to our expectations? Can we just tell our spouse to change, tell them their faults, how to be better, and why we’re in the right? DeMoss suggests that “a godly life and prayer are a wife’s two greatest means of influencing her husband’s life” (cf. James 5:16; 1 Peter 3:1-4; p. 162).
That can, of course, be said of husbands, too. Do we regularly pray for our spouse? Do we thank the Lord for our spouse? Do we see our spouse as an image-bearer and fellow believer? Do we wonder if our marriage expectations are biblical, and if they are, do we have patience with our spouse’s weaknesses and recognize our own?
This second lie about marriage can be tied into the first one. If we keep repeating that we have to be married to be happy, then we might manipulate someone into getting married to an unsuitable spouse. That could lead to more grief and pain than we might ever anticipate. Have you ever told a young woman who doubted if she ought to get married to a particular man, that marriage would make things better? Have you told a man that if he didn’t marry a particular woman, that he could well end up single his entire life? We need to be careful that we do not perpetuate the lie.
3. He’s supposed to serve me
A third lie is that “my husband is supposed to serve me,” and in this case it might be more likely that a husband believes the lie that “my wife is supposed to serve me.”
A husband ought to be chivalrous towards his wife and daughters, and to teach his sons to be likewise. However, DeMoss points to Scripture in explaining how the woman is created to be a help-meet to her husband. But she makes the lynch-pin point for both spouses when she writes,
“The Truth is that we are never more like Jesus than when we are serving Him or others. There is no higher calling than to be servant.”
Indeed, that is what being Christ-like or being imitators of Christ looks like. Both spouses need to model Christ-like service as the normative act of love within the family, both the immediate and church families.
4. Submission is miserable
Connected with this is the fourth lie that “if I submit to my husband, I’ll be miserable.” This is a lie that is repeatedly echoed throughout the secular world in which we live. It reminds us of the desire for autonomy or self-rule. The world around us views marriage as a contract between two independent individuals who agree to cohabitate, share some responsibilities, but remain independent. And if things do not work out, then we can mutually agree to terminate the contract.
Of course, this independence is a lie right from the start. No one is truly independent or autonomous. We all serve God, or Satan and many other idols of the heart. It is possible that Christians have bought into the lie that submission implies inferiority, silence, or cowardice. We all need to submit to the Lordship of Christ as we seek to serve him in the various roles given to us.
This once again reminds me, as a husband and father, how I might perpetuate the lie. Do I make my wife miserable by being over-bearing, proud, and inflexible? Do I honor her, and do I love her as Christ loves his bride? Am I miserable when I don’t get my way? Do I say one thing with my words and something else with my actions? My daughter is quite young, but if she starts dating, I’ll be looking out for her and wondering if her boyfriend is treating her in a godly way. It reminds me, too, to train my sons to honor their wives, should they get married. I am setting an example in my home in how I love and honor my wife – the question is if it is a godly example.
5. I should take the reins
The fifth lie is “if my husband is passive, I’ve got to take the initiative or nothing will get done.” Immediately, as a husband, I reflect on if I am being too passive or becoming too dependent on my wife’s initiative and becoming lazy. A wife is not meant to take on the role of her husband because he is unfaithful in fulfilling his tasks, but we can understand why that might happen.
Now, it is possible that when a husband does make an effort to do something helpful, that his wife tells him it isn’t good enough, isn’t done rightly, or it would be better if he just left it to her to do. DeMoss writes:
“I can’t help but wonder to what extent we women have demotivated and emasculated the men around us by our quickness to take the reins rather than waiting on the Lord to move men to action. We can so easily strip men of the motivation to rise to the challenge and provide the necessary leadership. To make matters worse, when they do take the action, the women they look to for encouragement and affirmation correct them or tell them how they could have done it better.”
Once again, as a husband and father, do I model a sense of laziness in my family? Do I show proper initiative? Am I balanced, patient, kind, loving, and self-controlled? Do I come home, expect the beer or coffee to be served, expect supper to be ready, house to be cleaned, bills to be paid, children to be quiet, etc., all because I spent eight hours out of the home? Am I obedient to the Lord in how I lead my family, or have I given up because of a few hurtful comments in the past? Do I argue for peace instead of for what is right? My children need an honorable dad, a father figure and role model, not a deadbeat dad. My wife needs a leader who loves her rightly and serves as a head in our marriage and family – there’s no room for being passive or lazy.
6. Divorce is good
The last lie about marriage that I think both men and women might struggle with is that “sometimes divorce is a better option than staying in a bad marriage.” To be clear, DeMoss doesn’t delve into the permissible reasons given in Scripture for divorce. Her focus is more on other things that make marriage more challenging – bad situations, but not the sort which have been understood to be grounds for divorce for Christians.
I can’t help but wonder if this is becoming a harder situation today. The church has always echoed Scriptures teaching that “God hates divorce.” When Christ was asked by the Pharisees if it were lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause, he replied:
Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them make and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate… Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so…” (Matt. 19:1-9)
This article doesn’t have room to go through the challenges of divorce and remarriage. Nevertheless, as an elder in the church, I find myself struggling with giving sound counsel and wisdom in various circumstances. Strength comes from speaking the Word of God to married couples as they struggle through some challenges. But finding the wisdom to rightly apply God’s Word in every nuanced circumstance is hard and requires humility and love. I probably get it wrong a lot of the time because I would be relying too much on man’s wisdom.
Divorce is never a commandment, and in rare cases it is permitted. This is an important starting point in Christian marriage. We can’t just “give it a shot” and see what sticks. We can’t treat marriage as a contract between two people, but we must treat it as a vow that both spouses make, and to the Lord in the first place. It is not that I promised my wife that I would love, cherish, and care for her, as much as that I made those promises to the Lord. He is the Lord of my marriage, and if I strive to be faithful to him, I must be faithful to my wife.
My hope in writing this article was two-fold. First, I hope I demonstrated how DeMoss grapples with some real and challenging issues that women (and men) struggle with.
Secondly, I hope that I was able to show how this book has much to commend it to both women and men. While most men would probably skip over a book with this title, we do so to our detriment. As we love our wives, daughters, sisters-in-Christ, and even as we love our sons, we can make good use of this book as it draws us to Scripture’s teaching on how we ought to live as citizens of God’s kingdom.
Now that I’ve finished “Lies Women Believe,” I am looking forward to reading “Lies Men Believe: and the Truth that Sets Them Free” by Robert Wolgemuth (2018) who married Nancy Leigh DeMoss in 2015. Perhaps I’ll be able to recommend that book as strongly as I recommend DeMoss’ book.