Back in Junior High, I remember one of my friends making the bold statement that she never wanted to get married. Being one of the girls who always dreamed of Prince Charming, I couldn’t help but scrunch my nose up and ask, “Why?” She answered, “Statistically, women outlive their husbands. I don’t want to face that.” Sensing the confused and concerned stares on our faces, she quickly added, “Also, I just want to travel by myself wherever I want when I grow up.” That was proceeded by laughter and a conversation about future dream vacations.
That conversation stuck with me, even as I married my own Prince Charming. I don’t like to think about that particular statistic. I also don’t want to think of a day without my husband as I can’t fathom a future without him. While the death of a loved one is difficult for even the most mature Christ-follower, such a response in my own heart has provoked me to examine myself and see if I have made an idol out of my husband. Do I seek relief and fulfillment from God or my husband? Where do I run in times of need? What ultimately comforts my soul in difficult times—the return of my husband after work or my Perfect Father above? If all I had left was Christ, would He be enough?
A Personal Example
We can make our husband an idol when we expect him to take on the attributes only God possesses. I used to put unrealistic expectations on my husband to fix my anxiety and depression. When he failed to do so, I became angry or disappointed in him because he could not bring me the relief I so desired. I wanted to be able to look to him in those desperate times of pain and fear and find complete comfort and healing for my problems.
It’s not wrong to look to people like our husbands for biblical guidance. But if we only look to our husbands to bring us complete healing or to rescue us from life’s challenges, we will be sorely disappointed. Why? Because they are incapable of doing so. The Bible tells us this: “Thus says the Lord, cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant” (Jeremiah 17:5-6 NASB).
When I put my trust in my husband alone for healing and comfort, I felt like that bush in the desert—drained and without hope. For a time, he could provide some of the comfort I was seeking, but eventually, his flesh came through, and he disappointed me. Not because he is a terrible husband, but simply because he is human. Man is bound to disappoint us when we put all our hope in him, but the Lord never disappoints. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NASB).
When we place our trust in God alone to be our rock in difficult times, then we can find real hope and comfort. Even if the problem is not eliminated, we can look to Him for perfect peace. Though my depression continued, I found the hope I needed in God’s Word. The words my husband provided could in no way compare to the hope Scripture brought to my soul. The Holy Spirit took the Word and gave hope to my depressed spirit in a way my husband was incapable of doing. “But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the Lord with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me” (Psalm 3:3-4 NASB).
Signs that Your Husband Has Become an Idol
We must always be on guard against this sin of propping our husbands up as idols, knowing that, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9 NASB). Your heart will lie to you and try to convince you the opposite of what’s true—that your husband is genuinely trustworthy, that only he can bring relief to your pain, rather than God. We must fill ourselves with Scripture to guard ourselves against the deceit with the Word of God.
How can we know when we have made our husband into an idol? A few key signs I have noticed in my own life and heart are:
- An impossible standard of perfection. Whenever my husband messes up, sins, or does something wrong, if I have made him an idol, I show no grace in my reaction to him. Instead of coming alongside to show him his sin and help him through it, I am frustrated at the thought that he could do what he did. I choose to condemn and ridicule rather than consider the fact that we are both sinners in need of grace.
- An impossible expectation for him to fill my needs. The times when my husband has become an idol in my life, I noticed that I expected he constantly meet all my needs. In these moments, I become angry when he chooses to read, work on the house, or hang out with friends rather than spend time with me.
- An impossible desire to have him fix me. I set up the impossible expectation that my husband would fix my depression. Instead of turning to God for help and comfort, I sought my husband, who didn’t have that ability.
If this is something you struggle with (like me) it can be helpful to study God’s incommunicable attributes—the characteristics only He possesses. This is an excellent reminder to us of how much greater God is and why He is worthy of our trust in every situation.
A Note On True Love
By idolizing our husbands, we are not showing them true love. When we idolize something, our love usually only goes one way: to ourselves. We use idols to fill our needs and desires. But true love operates differently. True love is selfless and seeks what is best for the other (1 Corinthians 13:5; Philippians 2:4). True love doesn’t continually seek what it can get out of the relationship; instead it desires to serve others. When we are loving someone in a godly way, we are able to patiently wait for our turn to receive, all the while serving the other person. True love isn’t about getting what you want, but serving the other person. Though we don’t do this perfectly, by the grace of God, we should strive to grow in this continually, and every area of our lives.
With true love mourning still comes. It’s not my intent to give you the impression that by not idolizing someone you won’t mourn the day they are taken away from you. When we truly love someone, it is inevitable that we will mourn. But the difference between the mourning of the woman who idolizes her husband and the women who worships God is that the God-worshipping wife finds her joy and comfort in Christ—though she is extremely sad, she is able to find hope again in Christ who lives forever and will never leave her.
I come back to the question I had raised in the beginning: If all you had was Christ, would that be enough? If you lost your husband today, would you know how to run to God in your times of need? Would you know how to seek your perfect God for peace and comfort if you lost him today? While the questions we’ve explored in this article are not easy, they are still nevertheless important, since the Lord calls us to worship Him wholly. If today as you are examining your own heart in the light of God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit is convicting you, let me encourage you like I have to do in such times: We have a great need of Jesus, and a great Jesus for our need. We can turn to Him, and He will not despise us, but instead, will wholly accept the sweet fragrant offering of our repentance.