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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

A Reader Asks: “How Can I Be Content While Longing For My Husband To Change?”

Anne’s crucial question (not her real name)

Last week I posted on how to be content — that no matter our circumstances Jesus promises to completely satisfy all our heart-hungers with His presence, when we come to Him and believe in Him (John 6:35).

So here’s the crucial question Anne raised (she gave me permission to include it) —

Hi Steve,

You said that being satisfied in Jesus does not mean we stop desiring other things, but that we can be satisfied in him in the meantime.

What about contentment with things that are NOT going to change. I.e. things you dislike about your spouse’s physical appearance so much that it consumes you and you wish this-and-that were different about him?

How do you deal with THOSE kind of desires — if being satisfied in Jesus doesn’t mean other desires will go away?

I’ve been crying out to the Lord to change my heart on this! Don’t know what else to do. I’ve already tried the willpower thing and it doesn’t work.

Thanks,

Anne

So here are my thoughts —

(I’d like to hear from others — leave your thoughts for Anne in the comments section below.)

Dear Anne,

My heart goes out to you in your struggle.

I am praying for you — and hope that my words (and the words of other readers) will encourage you.

Satisfaction in Christ — with other desires

When we are fully satisfied in Christ it doesn’t mean we lose all other desires.

Paul — who understood how to be content in Christ — desired his cloak and books (2Tim 4:13), and longed to see the Thessalonians (1Th 2:17).

So it’s possible to be fully satisfied in Christ — and at the same time desire other things.

You don’t need these other things to be fully satisfied — because you are fully satisfied in Christ.

But because you are satisfied in Christ — then for the sake of love, for the sake of His glory, for the sake of more joy in Him — that satisfaction can and will stir desire for other things.

But what you said sounds different

You said you were consumed by the desire for your husband’s appearance to change.

It sounds like this desire might be keeping you from being satisfied in Christ.

It sounds like you might feel you can’t be fully satisfied in Christ unless your husband changes.

If so — then it’s not that you are fully satisfied in Christ — and desiring other things.

It’s that your desire for other things is keeping you from being satisfied in Christ.

Does that sound right?

But there’s good news

This is where Jesus’ promise brings such good news —

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  John 6:35

Jesus promises to satisfy you so much in Himself that you no longer are consumed with desire for your husband to change.

Let me ask — have you had times when you have felt the beauty and love of Jesus so much that you were completely satisfied?  So that you were fully satisfied in Christ alone — regardless of whether your husband changes?

That’s what Jesus promises to do for you.

But how?

By doing what Jesus said in John 6:35 — by coming to Jesus and believing in Him.

Here’s what this means —

  • Turn to Jesus Christ just as you are, and trust Him to help you.
  • Confess that you are consumed by desire for something other than Him — and ask Him to forgive you.
  • Receive assurance that through the Cross you are fully forgiven and God welcomes and loves you.
  • Plead with Jesus to give you more of the heart-changing work of the Spirit.
  • Turn from trusting your husband’s appearance to satisfy you, and set your heart on Jesus Christ.  Trust His promise to fully satisfy you in Himself (John 4:13-14; John 6:35; John 7:37-38).
  • Prayerfully read over truth about Jesus — like His compassion (Luk 13:11-13), power (Mark 4:39), saving work (2Cor 8:9), deity (Heb 1:3).
  • Pray over truths like these until the Holy Spirit changes your heart so you feel that Jesus is infinitely more satisfying than your husband’s appearance.  This might take some time, so be patient.
  • Keep pursuing this until your heart feels so full that you don’t need anything else besides Jesus to satisfy you completely.

Based on Jesus’ promise in John 6:35 — I am confident that as you do this, He will completely satisfy your heart in Himself.

Changed desires

And when this happens — your desires will change.

No longer will you be consumed by desire for your husband to change — because you are fully satisfied in Christ.

But — you can still want him to change.

Not because you need it to be satisfied.  But maybe because it will bring him good, it will bring Jesus’ glory, or it will make your marriage easier.

And so you could pray and ask God to change him.  You could — in a loving and humble way — talk with him about this.

But you don’t need him to change to be fully satisfied — because as you continue to come to Jesus and believe in Him — He will continue to satisfy your every heart-hunger in Himself.

I hope that helps.

Please let me know your thoughts — and I’m praying for you.

Steve Fuller

Does anyone else have any suggestions?

I’m sure Anne would appreciate them — leave them below.  Thanks.

Do you know someone who would be helped by this?  Email it to them using the “share” button below.

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And here’s some related posts you might find helpful —

 

(Picture from everystockphoto by mrinkk.)

Category: How to Be Content, Stories about Other People

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12 Responses

  1. Paul Walton says:

    Steve,

    Since we don’t know exactly all the details of Anne’s struggle it’s hard to know exactly how to answer her question. But if it is a matter of hygiene and total lack of caring about one’s appearance then a loving conversation with her spouse is in order. The issues may be something much deeper than what blog comment can rectify, and counseling with a professional may need to take place. In either case, I think an honest dialogue with a trusted Christian friend so she could receive prayer and counseling would help her, because Anne sounds fairly desperate about the situation.

    I think you gave a great detailed answer already Steve, all our walk is about coming to Christ honestly and pleading for grace to overcome our weaknesses. I gave an answer in the original post about grace, and how we can approach the throne of grace in our weaknesses, because we often overlook the preserving effects of grace. But perhaps it is a matter of asking God to search our heart and show us where WE need to change, and then following Him in the way of everlasting.

    Psalm 139
    23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
    24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

  2. Natasha Kay says:

    Oh have I been through the ringer on this topic!! 😉

    I hope something I’ve experienced will speak to Anne’s heart.

    For us, it started as newlyweds. I went to bed alone every night because my new husband (unbeknownst to me at the time of getting married!) was a “gamer” and would be on his computer all hours of the day and night. I felt alone, unwanted, unloved, and longed for him to change! I pleaded, begged, cried, got angry, tried respectfully telling him how it made me feel to be alone all the time…I did it ALL! And yet nothing would get through to him and I found myself more and more dissatisfied with my young marriage.

    It was two years into this mess when I started reading The Power of a Praying Wife and it dawned on me that I could try *praying*. In typical human fashion, I had spent all that time, effort, and energy in trying to *convince* my husband to change…when what I should have been doing was pleading with God to reveal the truth to him.

    To my surprise, after trying every trick in the human book, within one week of praying, my husband announced (out of the blue!) that he was quitting gaming.

    I can look back on that answer to prayer early on in my marriage and I KNOW that God was trying to get my attention. In his mercy, He was saying “hey Tash! Pay attention! This is important! In a few years, things are going to get tough…but if you remember this lesson — that I answered your prayer when your heart was seeking me instead of trying to manipulate change in your husband — it will save you from a lot of heartache!”

    But sadly, I didn’t heed that warning. Within a few years, I quickly forgot about my past miracle and I got caught up with all the other areas that I wished my husband would change. I had an image in my head of what a husband should look like and he wasn’t fitting the bill. WIth each year that passed, I got more and more dissatisfied with him and the areas of our marriage that were completely broken. What started with a mild frustration of him not being a “good enough” Christian soon became a slippery slope of discontent in all areas of my life.

    Discontent is POISON.

    The next thing I knew, my marriage was over and I was a single mom of two toddlers. My husband was done trying to be “enough” and finally gave up completely.

    I’m so thankful to say that our story wasn’t over there. After a year of VERY hard lessons, God restored my marriage and two years after that, He restored my husband’s heart for me. (Praise God!). But it all started with God restoring MY attitude first. And restoring MY priorities. Not my husband’s.

    Being separated for a year and having your husband tell you that he wants nothing to do with you and to “get over it” is tough. Really tough. It was a long and hard road of being unwanted, rejected, and alone…but I soon began to see how I had done just that to my husband. I had slowly and consistently rejected him (either through my disrespectful comments, lack of affection, etc) simply because he wasn’t “good enough” for my standards. The discontent had then seeped deep into my bones…into my very soul. It began clouding my judgment and poisoning my decisions. I had been so consumed with all the things I wanted him to change that I had lost sight of all the AMAZING things this man had to offer.

    It’s not a bad thing that that wives are quick to see areas in our husband’s life/mind/soul that need to be improved upon. I believe that God gives us that insight with one intent — to be better helpmeets. That we would be on our knees praying for our husbands to change in those areas and support them fully, with grace and love. NOT so that we could try to manipulate them into changing or somehow “remind” them enough. The Devil wants to use this insight against us. He doesn’t want us to pray about the insights we have…he just wants us to stew on them. To dwell on them until they consume us and make us so discontent that we eventually reject our husbands. Then he’ll start the whole process over again when we remarry someone new. It’s a vicious and ugly cycle.

    So what does Anne do?

    Honestly…I think it starts with repenting. Repenting for getting so consumed with what needs to change in her husband instead of focusing on what could change in HER first. Is that an easy pill to swallow? Not at all! And I know first hand because I’ve walked that walk. I’ve had to daily forgive an adulterous husband while I remained faithful and in humility, let God strip me naked of all my pride and self when all the while I could have easily been “justified” in my demands of that work being done on my husband, not me! After all, I was the one being faithful! Why should I be the one to be humbled?! But God knew that it needed to start with me. With my heart changing. And boy am I glad He did!

    You see, the beauty of repentance is that it breeds humility. And when we have humble spirits, God LOVES to shower us with blessings and favor. If the “appearance” issue is a matter of health, then I’m confident that God wants to see her husband change for the better, too. I have every faith that when Anne’s heart and priorities are in the right place, God will do a miraculous thing in her husband’s life and well-being.

    If it’s not a matter of health and is simply cosmetic, then I’m confident that God will change her heart and her outlook. Even Brad Pitt could be disgusting to a woman that is full of discontent. But even the ugliest of men can be ridiculously attractive to a woman who’s heart is full of godly reverence and her eyes locked on Jesus.

    If she hasn’t already, my suggestion to Anne is that she devotes time each day to praying for her own heart and her husband. If it means getting up 30 minutes earlier each day, then so be it. Anne — get on your face before the Lord and plead with Him to change your heart and also give you wisdom to be the best wife you can be. Draw up a list of all the things you DO love about your husband. Read that list every day.

    When my husband first walked out on us, I actually didn’t love him. My heart had been cold to him for years. But within days of him leaving, God convicted me of how wrong I had been and one of the first things I did was start a list like that. And with every item I added to that list, fondness, love and desire for my husband grew exponentially. When I wrote up that first list of 100 or so things, I was quickly convicted of how negative I had been over the previous few years. I was shocked at how I had almost forgotten about all the amazing attributes that had me falling head over heels for this man! His warmth, his thoughtfulness, his love for life, his fearless personality…I had missed them all because I was just so consumed with the things that I thought needed to change.

    Anne, the payoff for humbling yourself and praying that God would change YOU, not your husband, will bring you something so much greater than seeing change in your man. It will bring you contentment that goes so deep that it brings you satisfaction like you’ve never known before. The rest, as they say, is gravy. 😉

    I am praying for you, dear sister.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Wow. Thank you, Natasha, for sharing your story and your heart.

      I hope many will read and be encouraged by it.

      I love your humility and your passion for God — and celebrate the ways God has worked in your heart and life.

      With gratitude,

      Steve

  3. Anonymous says:

    Natasha, This response is to you. First of all thank you so much for sharing your story. Your humility is inspiring and the wisdom you have shared is pure gold. I am 46 and I have never been married for fear of what you have lived through, even though falling in love and getting married has been my hearts desire since I was 9. Of the things that have kept me single has been: #1 my lack of maturity/responsibility. I feel I’m finally agressivly addresing this,but I know in my heart that my lack of responsibility would have created problems in a marrage had I gotten married. Another big reason that I am still single is, fear of marrying a woman that you once were! (I almost did) Sadly-I know in my heart that it would be better to not get married at all! Ironically, I don’t think that even with the love of God in my heart, that I will ever be completely content without finding and marrying a woman like you have become. Having someone in your life who helps you to grow, is a difficult concept that takes maturity. I still have lots of room for growth, but I don’t want someone picking at me, or disapointed in me because I am not who THEY think I should be.(even if they’re right:) I wonder if when all the dust settles that this is the reality of marraige, and not the vague picture I have in my mind of laughter,companionship,and affection. Soon I will be in a place where I will feel ready for marraige, as I am working hard for that goal. I know I will never “arrive” as a perfect man (because there is no marrage in heaven)So I will have to do the best that I can. I will however, remember your story, and strive to be the kind of husband that you are as a wife, by keeping my priorities in order, and being humble. As a college student, my focus is excellence! (pay no attention to my spelling:) After college and before and during my marraige,I plan on studying marraige! I plan on getting my honorary Masters in it! My hope is that this approach will lead to the quality of maraige that some have, who love being married. Anyway, thank you once again for the gut check and reminder to keep God first! God bless you, and your family! ~ Bill Schuler. P.S. Hi Steve! lol Bless you brother!

  4. Anne says:

    Steve, Thanks so much for your thoughtful post. I especially appreciate the bulleted list of ways to work towards being satisfied in Jesus. I am pretty much banking on Jesus to help love Jesus! And pleading with him to help me. Yes you’re right. This desire is getting in the way of that. Not really sure how to stop that other than asking for his help. I can keep saying no to my flesh, but it doesn’t seem like the flesh changes after being told no so many times! Thanks for distinguishing between a desire and a desire that clenches its fist.

  5. Anne says:

    Natasha, thank you so much for for _sobering_ post! That’s almost all I can say!

    Discontent with my husband is definitely permeated to all areas, but the primary area IS cosmetic. And that’s something I can’t wait on God to change. God doesn’t usually change peoples appearances or bodily build. (That’s why in my post I was asking about contentment despite things that are just NOT going to change…for LIFE.) So I know what HAS to change is my heart, not my husband’s height or body shape. But I’ve been crying out to the Lord–pleading with the Lord– to change me for almost a year now! And the growth is painfully slow. PAINfully. To where I think I’m never going to get there. But where else can I go? THANK YOU again for sharing your testimony!

    • Natasha Kay says:

      I feel your pain, Anne. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall and God just isn’t doing anything about it. That was the first five years of my marriage!

      But I will say that in my personal experience, all those times I felt like I was pleading with God and getting nothing — were times when my stubborn and hardened heart was the thing holding God back. All the other times, when I would plead with God and either A) receive my answer or B) receive AMAZING peace that my answer was coming, were times when God had stripped me completely and my heart was finally in the right place!

      So how do you ensure that your heart is in the right place? Well, for starters, you do what you just did! You emailed Steve for help and you acknowledged your feelings. Shedding light onto our negative feelings and thoughts is the first step to changing them.

      The next part (in my opinion) is a big one for women. It’s what I call “getting rid of the mind monsters”. You know, those awful thoughts that pop into your head and just make you stew with frustration and disappointment.

      “This is pointless. He’s NEVER going to change.”

      “Why do I even bother trying?”

      “I’m stuck in this marriage and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

      “He doesn’t care about me. If he did, he’d change.”

      These types of negative thoughts INVADE our minds…it’s the Enemy with one purpose — to destroy you, your husband, your marriage, and your future. Satan knows that when we experience defeat, we tend to give in to hopelessness. And when we are hopeless, we have essentially cut ourselves off from God. All the praying in the world will mean NOTHING if you have adopted an attitude of hopelessness — even if by accident. Without hope, we have no faith.

      But when you address those mind monsters — you really attack them head on — you will be amazed at the changes that come. First in your mind, then in your heart, and then in your actions. It brings hope where there was none before.

      When I would hear a negative “mind monster” enter my mind, I would repeat the very OPPOSITE thing *out loud*. Even if the opposite thing was completely untrue! For example, there were times during our separation where I would hear in my head, “he’s such a deadbeat dad”. And the truth is, he was doing things and acting in such a way that I could have justified that negative thinking. But instead, I would hear that thought enter and then OUT LOUD, say: “No, he is an amazing father.”

      Almost foolish, right?! But the truth is, I had NOTHING to gain by letting that negative thought, no matter how justified, seep into my mind and soul. But I had everything to LOSE. And in reality, there were LOTS of things my husband was doing that made him a great father, even despite the poor choices he was making in that time of our life. So had I given into those negative thoughts, I would have completely lost the ability to see my husband’s excellent father traits.

      Even if there was very little truth (or no truth at all) to saying the opposite statement, I was speaking in FAITH and viewing my husband with my spiritual eyes, not my human eyes. And in turn, God blessed me. I wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but by daily refusing to let Satan have that win over me — by rejecting his negativity and INSISTING on the positive — God was able to break through to my heart and reveal the areas that needed to change in me. And quickly!

      There will always be times in our life where we need to persevere. There will always be times where we are not freed from that “thorn in our side”. But even if we are meant to wait for the things we pray for, if we are praying in God’s will and we have safeguarded our hearts and minds (as in dealing with all those mind monsters), then I believe that the waiting will be even more sweet than the answer. It makes NO human sense at all but I know it to be absolutely true.

      Once I adopted this type of humility and servitude, the most difficult and tumultuous years of my marriage were actually the most rewarding. 🙂

  6. Natasha Kay says:

    Bill — sounds like you need to read Iron John and/or Wild at Heart! Have you? The lack of male initiation in our society (absent fathers, disengaged fathers, the wound we all receive from our fathers, etc) has left most men stunted in their own growth and ability to “grow up”…to put it bluntly. There are some great resources (those two books are some of my faves) that help men overcome the “father wound” and finally learn that they do “have what it takes” to be a man in this world. Crazy that we have 50 year olds who are just now realizing this but I’ve seen it be SO powerful in many men’s lives. I strongly believe that male initiation (at any age) equips a man to lead his family with strength, grace, and firm direction. But I’d be interested in knowing what Steve feels on that topic!!

    That said, I think it’s important that every single person, no matter what age, recognize that there is no perfect marriage or perfect spouse. It’s so easy to look at a couple like Steve and Jan, for example, and see a relationship based on mutual trust, respect, understanding, grace, etc — but then fail to see the less pretty parts that they have endured to achieve such a relationship. And not just in past tense — it’s something they choose to do each and every day. There is a lot of dying to self to have that kind of marriage!

    So although it’s totally possible (and God’s will) for us to have GREAT marriages, it comes at the cost of our own pride and ego. It’s counter-culture and counter-intuitive. We are constantly told that we need “feed ourselves” if we want to be the best partner. You open any women’s magazine and you’ll see experts telling us to “take care of yourself and then you can take care of others”. That’s just not biblical or truth! Marriage should be less about finding the perfect person and instead, becoming the best partner we can be. Sounds like you are trying your best to achieve just that and I have prayed that you would experience great things in the coming years. 🙂

  7. Anonymous says:

    Natasha, thanks for your reply and for your recommendations. I had a friend who read and highly recommended Wild at Heart, so I’ll probably get that one at some point.I heartily agree with you,that we must work on ourselves to become the best partner that we can be. Thanks again and God bless your ministry. ~ Bill

  8. Lorraine Kashdan says:

    I don’t know if my experience would help or not? I had a husband who was very discontent with every aspect of me and made sure I knew about it for our 11 year marriage. About the time I was planning to leave the marriage God started to reveal himself to me more fully and I started to know that I could be content in the Lord. I also resented the fact that I had put all the effort in the marriage and that he had not so when I started to feel that I could do this and that this could be a solution which would actually benefit him I found myself utterly rebelling at the idea. I left my husband and I left God. I stayed away from God for about 5 years until I became fully convicted of the ransom sacrifice and realise the full potential of being born-again. In the time I was away from God I had a second bad marriage, ended up as a single mum and had a patch of being immoral. I got engaged for a third time before my fiance left me for another woman. After all of this was finally finished I started to learn the art of being satisfied in him. I am not sure how this can help but if it can I will be so pleased. Hold on x

  9. Kevin says:

    Thanks for hearing others who are concerned about there partners. My wife came to know the lord for a short period of time but satan turned her back to alcohal. I was a alcoholic my self but the lord delivered me the same night that i accepted him as my lord and savior. God has been good to me i have had no desire to drink. I love my wife very much and i pray to god everyday more than twice a day to deliver my wife and to make my marriage grow strong in and pleasing to God.He is working My wife says I have changed and she thought that i wanted a devorce. I said to her yes I have changed to a better person than when we first met and that i will be a better husband than what I have ever been because The lord Jesus lives within me. Since I told her that she is a lot happier and does not think that i want adevorce anymore. I could carry with lots more. But god did say ask and he shall recieve as long as you believe Mark 11 v24

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