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Volume 13, Issue 2: Husbandry

Encouraging Mothers

Douglas Wilson

Every husband is called to be a Barnabas to his wife, a son of encouragement. This is because, as the preacher in Ecclesiastes taught us, God has consigned all that is under the sun to the vanity of an inscrutable repetition. The sun comes up and goes down again. The sink fills up with dishes, it empties, and then fills up again. The cupboards and refrigerator do the opposite—they empty out first, and then you have to fill them again. The laundry is finally done late Thursday and by early Friday it looks as though no one has washed anything.

This particular kind of futility is one that can be enjoyed by the wise, but only as that wisdom is bestowed as a gift from a sovereign God. Now when God shows His kindness to a wife and mother in this way, He frequently does it through the encouraging word of a man who is rejoicing, as the preacher urges, in the woman he loves.
A husband should take care to encourage his wife in her daily routine. He should do this, first, through thanking her for it. "Thanks for all you do" is to be far more than an annual greeting card sentiment. In the biblical household, it should be a way of life, with the motherís work recognized, honored, and verbally appreciated. This is not just something that the husband and father does; this is something which he requires of his children and he models for them what he requires them to do.
He can also encourage his wife this way by inquiring into her work, asking her about how it is going. He can ask if he is providing all the tools she needs. He can ask about her attitude toward her work. A husband who is concerned about his wifeís contentment in her work is much more likely to have a wife who is contented in her work. A wife who is abandoned to her work is left alone with her thoughts, which are not likely to be pleasant.
In this, he may have an opportunity to remind her of the nature of the work. It is very easy, when soiled diapers appear to be multiplying like the frogs of Egypt, to become discouraged, and assume that this is the way it is going to be for the next twenty years. But little children are labor intensive while older children are wisdom intensive. The labor required with little ones is not aimless but is intended by God to lead to children who are increasingly self-disciplined. Much discipline is required early on, and less discipline (and of a different nature) is required later. Consequently, a husband can encourage his wife in helping her in her discipline of the kids and by backing her up when she is challenged by any of the children.
When a woman knows that her husband cares about whether the children honor and obey her, she can discipline with confidence and consistency. Just as with the physical work she does, a husband should inquire—he should ask how it is going. He should not wait until all her accumulating problems get to an emotional critical mass and she melts down in front of him. In this area, as with so many others, a man who loves his wife loves himself.
The most important area where a husband can be an encouragement is in the realm of covenant succession. Because of the nature of the maternal bond, many mothers tend toward an anxiety about their childrenís spiritual future. Will they remain in the faith? Will they stand fast?
A woman who sees her husband taking responsibility for how the work of the household is going and who cares about her discipline and authority is a woman who will probably listen to him when he encourages her in the promises of Scripture.
The promises are glorious, but the sluggard canít get his hand from the dish to his mouth. The Word of God sets before us a covenant in which our children and grandchildren will follow us in our faith. But these promises are not seen, grasped, believed, or understood by the covenantally lazy.
When a man reassures his wife—"Of course our children will turn out!"—she knows that any such statement proceeds either from presumption or faith. Which of the two will be determined in her mind by whether or not the man making the statement is presumptuous or faithful. She will see this in his relationship to God, to Christ, the Scriptures, the Church, to her, and to the children. As with every other aspect of the Christian life, we are justified by faith, and we show our faith, demonstrating it to be true faith, by our works.
So if he makes the reassuring statement with his finger impatiently resting on the mute button of the remote, she knows her family is in presumptuous trouble. But there is another way to make the statement a true encouragement.

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