This is a book review series of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.
I’m an extremely patient person, but honestly, this is the first time that I’ve wanted to say, “I’m done with this book!” By the time you finish reading this you may find yourself done with the book, too.
Chapter Nine is long and focuses on a wife choosing to love her husband. Due to the length of the chapter, I am not going to cover everything. I think it is important to continue the review of the chapter through the lens of domestic abuse because we have heard from women here and on the Facebook page that this book was instrumental in keeping them in an abusive relationship.
Peace offers five biblical principles of a wife’s love for her husband. For the sake of space, I would like to focus on points in her principle of “putting on” love. I am going to present them with little commentary (in italics) and leave it open to discussion.
“Love is patient”
It is common for a wife to get aggravated when things do not go her way, when something interferes with her plans, or when she does not feel well.
Feeling impatient or frustrated are the emotions a wife experiences when she thinks sinfully angry or selfish thoughts. She should confess this sin to God while it is at the mental attitude stage before it is outward sin.
It is not a sin to feel.
“Love is not jealous”
Another example of showing love instead of jealousy is being glad for him when he has the opportunity to visit with his family, looking forward to his coming home, and then expressing gladness to him. A wife who is not jealous shows love to her husband in that he need not dread coming home after working late.
If she has legitimate concerns of being displaced, she responds in a biblical manner instead of in hysterical fear and jealousy.
Should the wife expect to have equal opportunity to do things outside of the house without her husband getting jealous? And, exactly how does one respond biblically when concerned of being “displaced?”
“Love is not arrogant”
You will find it difficult to tell an arrogant wife anything. She is opinionated and defensive when disagreed with, reproved, or corrected.
Instead of arrogance, a wife should be a humble servant to her husband and others, listen carefully to his opinion, and consider the possibility that she may be wrong or misinformed.
You only need to admit you are wrong when you are wrong. Why must a wife doubt herself because her husband thinks differently?
“Love does not seek its own (way)”
Selfishness is a common problem that pastors and marriage counselors encounter. A wife can show love to her husband by giving in to his wishes as long as he is not asking her to sin.
A stubborn, selfish wife provokes her husband to frustration and discouragement.
A common emotionally abusive tactic by an abuser is to let the victim know that she caused him to behave a certain way. So, nope on this one.
“Love is not provoked”
Showing love means that a wife controls herself even under very difficult circumstances.
Instead of becoming provoked, she responds with patience and kindness.
Sometimes an abused wife might not exhibit behavior that appears controlled, but it is very controlled. It’s called survival.
“Love does not take into account a wrong suffered”
A wife shows love by not holding onto her bitterness, by forgiving, by not bringing up the past to her husband, and by not replaying bitter thought to herself in her mind.
Rehearsing the offense suffered is unloving as it is ‘taking into account a wrong suffered.’
Why must a wife take on suffering? Shouldn’t the conversation be directed toward the husband to not cause suffering?
“Love bears all things”
‘Bearing all things’ includes times when her husband is being selfish or when he is having a tough time at work. She is committed to him, and he knows it. Loving involves sacrifice of self, and it is important to remember that if she must suffer, it should be for ‘doing what is right.’ (1 Peter 3:17)
An abused wife should not be expected to sacrifice herself to save the marriage.
“Love believes all things”
Biblical love paints the other person in the best possible light. In other words, the wife shows love to her husband by believing the best instead of assuming the worst about what he says or does and his motives. When, at times, the ‘worst’ is a fact, then a wife is to order her life and her goals by faith and not by sight. In other words, no matter what her husband has done, a godly, loving wife trusts in God’s sovereign care over her marriage. She knows that God has a purpose in the circumstances for her.
This is the most disturbing part of this list.
“Love hopes all things”
An outgrowth of her hope in God that her husband will become more and more godly if he is a Christian and perhaps be saved if he is not.
She should tell herself things like, ‘My husband has disappointed me, but God never will. God can use what has happened to put pressure on my husband to repent.’
A husband’s spiritual state is not the wife’s responsibility.
“Love endures all things”
This wife sees trials and pressures coming into her life for a special opportunity to become more like the Lord Jesus. She does not usually enjoy those difficult times, but she does endure them with God’s help.
A wife can choose to show love to God and to her husband as she righteously endures trials and pressures in her marriage.
Does Peace think abuse is merely a “trial?” No where has Jesus ever said he expects wives to endure abuse.
While reading this chapter I tried placing myself back many years ago to when I was first introduced this book. It was a women’s group that met together to pray for our husbands. I thought it was a good way for me to focus on prayer because my husband was struggling with his job. Not only did we do that, but we read this book as a way to encourage us to support our husbands. I guess I wasn’t buying into it at the time because none of this stuck out as ways that I needed to improve myself.
Re-reading this list leaves my heart heavy for women who used this book with the intent in making their marriages better and only found things get worse. I feel for those who were beaten down, felt less than, thought that their opinion and feelings did not matter, and had to give more of themselves without offered anything in return.
I believe that all humans have a need and desire to feel valued, loved, respected, and appreciated. These needs and feelings are not selfish or sinful, it is part of being human. Teaching otherwise is opposite of God’s care and concern for the abused and oppressed. A Christian wife should not be led to believe that she is undeserving of living in a healthy, harm-free relationship.