10 ways to discourage your husband in ministry

In the tradition of CS Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, here’s some advice from a senior ministry wife ‘demoness’ to a junior ministry wife.

My dearest Mara,1

Thank you so much for your last letter. I understand your quandary, but you must realize that if you want ‘out’ of your situation, it will take a bit of time. Let me give you some guidance.

As you know, never in my wildest dreams did I expect to end up the wife of a minister. In fact, when I was young, the idea of marrying anyone in ministry was far from appealing! The Enemy would have us think that there is no greater privilege than proclaiming ‘salvation’; I would beg to differ.

But I digress. Over the past 10 years, I’ve built up quite a bit of expertise—expertise in husband discouragement, and expertise that I’m more than happy to share with you. Let me give you my Top 10 tips.

10. Keep your home messy (or frighteningly neat!)

Make sure your home is a mess. Let clutter accumulate. Allow the dust mites to have their way. Never pick up after yourself or your children. Toys are meant to be played with; why disturb them in their natural habitats? Leave jobs like the washing undone or half-done—especially on Sundays when your husband raids his drawers for clean underwear before he gets up to preach.

But you must be thorough: disorganization must characterize every room. If even one of them is neat and tidy, your husband might think he can bring unplanned visitors over! Then you’ll be stuck for hours, serving cake, pouring endless cups of tea and making small talk. You don’t want that! Our Adversary wants older women to “train the young women … to be … working at home” (Titus 2:4-5); instead, let laziness be your primary occupation.

However, I do realize that sometimes a messy house can become more than you can bear. It might even start to interfere with your daily television marathons or backyard sunbathing! If you’re a neat freak, do the opposite: take on the persona of the Nazi domestic goddess. Ensure your house always looks like the feature piece of Better Homes and Gardens. Make a fuss about every bit of dirt and scrap of food that trespasses on your territory. Wash the bathroom floor 10 times a day, and moan endlessly about ‘germs’. Never allow your husband to relax. The moment he stands up from a chair, give its seat a clean. Complain every time Bible study is at your place. Whinge after the visitors leave—especially if they’ve done the dishes and placed everything in all the wrong cupboards. Let your obsessiveness know no bounds!

9. Gossip with him

Gossip is a very pleasurable way to discourage your husband and hinder his ministry. There’s nothing tastier than a piece of scandal! “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (Prov 18:8). When he’s upset about the way people have treated him, add fuel to the fire: tell him all the bad things people have said about him. It’s fine to embellish; half-truths are always more destructive than lies. Drop tantalizing hints about those terrible people in his congregation. Feed him ammunition so the next time he meets them, he’ll have a weapon primed for an attack. Coach him in ungodliness: his parishioners like to know he’s only human!

8. Don’t tell him how much you appreciate him. Instead, complain.

Our Chief Foe wants us to “Rejoice in the Lord always” and to be content in all circumstances (Phil 4:4, 11). Don’t fall into the trap of conviviality: don’t rejoice or give thanks. Be discontent. Frown. Moan.

Remember you have every right to. We made so many sacrifices when we married into this profession. Our homes are constantly invaded. Our children are continually criticized. If you’re not living in a fishbowl, the current state of your rectory may be more akin to a broom closet. If our husbands had different jobs, they’d be earning more money. Then we’d be able to fly to Europe on a whim or upgrade to a flatscreen TV.

Make every zone a ‘Woe is me!’ area. Maintain the constant aroma of a burning martyr. Let ungraciousness season your speech. Be querulous. Don’t express appreciation to your husband (especially appreciation for him!); stick to complaints. Above all, remember the goal—which is to make him feel that his being in ministry is the cause of your unhappiness.

7. Criticize him

The Enemy (that great misogynist!) wants wives to “respect” their husbands (Eph 5:33). Instead, disrespect him. Criticize him about anything and everything. There’s always room for improvement; your husband is no exception!

Maintain a constant level of criticism in private. Keep a careful eye out for anything he does wrong, or anything he doesn’t do that he should have done. Make sure you point it out, and be sure to raise the subject over subsequent days, weeks, and years. Use fresh transgressions as opportunities to remind him of past transgressions. He has so much to think about; how can he possibly remember? Lucky he’s got you!

Criticize him also to your children. This is even more effective. Children are such a joy: in most things, if you show them the way once, they imitate you eagerly. One hot summer’s day I came home to find that my darling husband had left the butter out. My eldest happened to be present when I discovered this, and I remarked to her, “Your dad’s lazy”. I hate to boast, but the girl’s quite a prodigy! As soon as he came home, she said to him, “Dadda, Mamma says you’re lazy. Go sit in the naughty corner!” It brought a tear to my eye!

Above all, you must be liberal and let your disparagement spill over in public. Show your disrespect openly. As I said earlier, your husband is only human, and it’s good for others to know. One night we had visitors, and I was in the kitchen cooking. My dear spouse was supposed to serve drinks, but because he was so caught up in conversation, he forgot. I saw the moment and seized it: I headed in with the refreshments and said, “Sorry you haven’t had a drink yet. Like all men, my husband is unable to multi-task!” It got me a great laugh. Me and my comedic timing!

You see, the beauty of public criticism is that it gives others the license to criticize your husband as well. They will think, “If his wife does it, so can I”. Even better, it models the practice to other wives. Remember, you are a role model of how a married woman ought to behave, so make every opportunity count!

6. Don’t forgive him

The Enemy wants his people to forgive each other “as the Lord has forgiven you” (Col 3:13). Instead, refuse to forgive. Not only is it discouraging to your husband, it’s a blow to his ministry. The Enemy wants ministers to be his “ambassadors” of the forgiveness and reconciliation won by his Son (2 Cor 5:20). But it’s hard for your husband to help people receive that forgiveness if he constantly faces an unforgiving, grudge-holding wife. He will carry that burden with him wherever he goes.

So smile at the extra visitors he’s invited for lunch, and say, “No, it’s no problem”. But slam the kitchen cupboards, sigh a lot and give your husband the cold shoulder. At the table, talk to everyone else, but avoid eye contact with him, and refuse to engage him in conversation. Make him feel his fault in every possible way while maintaining the veneer of a saint.

5. Don’t help him

The writings of our patriarchal oppressor say that he created woman to be the man’s helper (Gen 2:18). So refuse to help. Say things like, “It’s your ministry, not mine!” and “No-one’s paying me, so why should I do it?” Protest loudly if he asks you to provide morning tea, or to fill in for a sick Sunday School teacher. Refuse to take messages. You’re not his secretary! Above all, never ever pray for him.

4. Never submit without a fight

Nowhere is the Enemy’s low view of women better captured than in the words, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph 5:22, 24, Col 3:18, 1 Pet 3:1). Don’t submit; take charge: use every trick in the book to nag him until you get your way. Christian ministry can be a constant battlefield. So make your home the main front. Argue with him about every decision. Show him who really wears the pants.

I had an opportunity to do this just a few weeks ago. My darling husband was in need of a break, and his father offered to pay for us all to go to the snow. But the snow isn’t my idea of a great holiday; I prefer something warm. So I dropped hints and left Great Barrier Reef brochures around the house. When I realized he still wanted to go to the snow, I ignored his requests to check our availability. Even then, the booking went ahead. In the end, I decided to go. But I whinged loudly about packing for everyone. I said, “If we were going to Queensland, we wouldn’t need all these hats, scarves and mittens!” I repeated this hourly. When people at church said, “I hope you have a nice holiday”, I replied (my husband within earshot), “I’d rather be peeled and rolled in salt than go to the snow!” In the end, I wore him down, and he cancelled the trip at the last minute.

3. Keep him celibate

The Enemy has some rather odd ideas about sex. Take this one: “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does” (1 Cor 7:3-4a). He really thinks we have an obligation to give our husbands as much sex as he wants! Furthermore, his views on bodily ‘ownership’ are positively medieval. Instead, refuse your husband. Keep him more celibate than a Catholic priest. Generally, women have the lower libido; make sure you use it. This will open him up to frustration, temptation and misery.

Along with the tried and tested chestnut, “I’ve got a headache”, try the “Start a fight” approach. Store up all the things you’re angry about—everything your husband has done wrong. Then, when he gets that special glint in his eye, say to him, “There’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about”, and pull them all out. It’s a sure-fire way to spoil romance!

2. Commit adultery

I’m now down to my Top 2 tips. The first eight are just warm-ups; these last two are guaranteed to not only discourage your husband, but destroy him and his ministry.

The Enemy takes faithfulness in marriage very seriously: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Heb 13:4a). Instead, indulge yourself in a little fling. Everyone’s doing it and, with the internet, it’s easy to meet new and interesting people.

Once you’ve spotted someone, naturally, you’ll stop having sex with your husband, telling him how you feel and sharing your thoughts with him; you’ll become more and more detached; and you’ll enjoy the company and conversation of the new man more than him. Your husband’s busy with his ministry; you need someone to fill that void. You need someone to tell you you still look gorgeous—to shower you with gifts, and take you out to dinner and dancing.

Being unfaithful to your husband will do more than discourage him, it will destroy him. It will destroy your family. It will malign the word of the Enemy. Best of all, it will be (or should be!) the end of professional ministry for both of you.

But there’s one more thing he will find even more discouraging.

1. Fall away

Our Adversary also has some very antiquated ideas about leadership: “[I]f someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim 3:5). So if you fall away, you’ll not only discourage your husband, you’ll render him unqualified for ministry.

It starts with a subtle change in attitude. Whereas once you eagerly read the Enemy’s word, now your heart is hard. Whereas once you were quick to repent, now you take things less seriously. Whereas once you undertook that quaint practice known as the ‘Quiet Time’ regularly, now the activity rarely crosses your mind. Whereas once you submitted yourself humbly to the preacher, now you play the role of critic—especially when your husband speaks. Whereas once you rejoiced in Christian fellowship, now you retreat from it. Whereas once you relied on the Enemy in prayer, now you barely talk to him. Your bitterness in ministry and towards your husband will become bitterness towards the Enemy. Then the day will come when you wake up and realize you’re no longer a Christian.

Apostasy is devastating. Not only does it discourage your husband, it spells the end of his ministry. In addition, you will benefit: having seen the light, you will follow a different path—not to that mythical ‘prize’ (eternal life—that carrot the Enemy dangles before us!), but to freedom. Yes, my dear: freedom from housework, from nose-picking children, from pesky parishioners: freedom, blessed darkness and the warm, cosy fires of hell.

Do let me know how you get on, and whether I can be of any more assistance.

Your ever loving friend,

Jezebel. 2

Adapted from a talk given by Carmelina Read at the EQUIP ministry wives conference on 2 August 2008. DVDs of Carmelina’s talk and the two talks by Phillip Jensen are available from Matthias Media. The 2009 EQUIP ministry wives conference will be held on Saturday 29 August. For more details, go to www.equip.org.au.


1 Ruth 1:20.

2 1 Kings 18-19, 21, 2 Kings 9, Rev 2:20.

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