I remember clearly the day my thoughts about my husband changed. And I remember how those new thoughts improved my marriage and gave me the man I had always wanted.
Jim and I had been married for 20 years. Throughout that time we’d struggled with one thing in particular: Jim’s financial irresponsibility. He had made some poor choices in the early years of our marriage that set the stage for ongoing problems, and I didn’t handle the situation well at all. I constantly nagged and questioned him about how he managed our money. My words met with either stony silence, or a brusque “I’ll take care of it.”
I regularly prayed and asked God to change Jim, but my prayers went unanswered. We were so happy together in every other way; I just couldn’t understand why God didn’t correct this major flaw in my husband.
One day as I was studying the Bible, Philippians 4:8 jumped out at me: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” At that moment I understood why God hadn’t answered my prayers regarding my husband’s behavior. I wasn’t following God’s instructions. Instead of focusing on the good things about Jim – thinking about what was lovely and admirable about him – I was fixated on the one thing about him that I didn’t like. In that moment I asked God to forgive me for my bitter spirit, and change my heart. I wanted to build up my husband, not tear him down. And I wanted to leave the matter of how he handled our finances to God. I realized that Jim’s maturity was in the Lord’s hands, not mine. By trying to transform Jim with my pestering and complaining, I was only making matters worse.
Immediately I made a mental list of all the things about Jim that were excellent or praiseworthy. Here are just a few that I came up with:
- He was a loving, attentive husband. A day never went by that he didn’t say “I love you.” Whenever we were walking together, he held my hand. He often complimented me, and extolled my virtues.
- He was a great dad. Never too busy to play catch with our son, or share in his other interests.
- He was a true family man. Home every night; not one to go out with the boys.
- He had a great sense of humor and made life fun.
My new thinking didn’t change Jim. It changed me. It freed my mind so I could live peacefully, and put me in a better position to really hear the Lord and pray properly for my husband. Instead of asking God to work on Jim, I asked God to continue to work on me.
I can’t tell you when I noticed Jim was different, but I know that he did change. He became financially responsible and more conservative with our money. When the Lord called Jim home 18 years later, we were out of debt. He had arranged for extra life insurance coverage through his employer, which helped carry me financially while I adjusted to living on my single income.
Four years ago I remarried. What I learned in my first marriage has helped me adjust to my second union. Whatever is excellent and praiseworthy about my husband, that’s what I think on.
Could changing how you think about your husband improve your marriage?