My husband doesn’t have a lot of ambition. I’m working hard to keep things running smoothly at home along with putting in hours at work to make sure our ends meet. I know God has given him to me, but sometimes it’s hard to respect and honor him. Got any advice for me?

My dad has a saying when counseling: “Separate the issues.” 

In your case, “separating the issues” likely involves discerning between sin that requires repentance and disjointed expectations that require unity.

For example, one person may not climb a corporate ladder because a promotion would involve too much time away from home, or because they feel called to a particular position as a way of service. Meanwhile, another person may not seek a promotion because they’re lazy, complacent, and fearful. Both may appear to lack ambition, but one person is actually exercising godliness, while the other is giving into sin.

Since I don’t know all the details of your situation, here are a few actions to consider. 

Examine Your Own Heart

It’s easy to see where those around us—especially our spouses!—are falling short. But it’s important to start by looking at your own heart. Are you expecting your husband to make a certain amount of money to support a lifestyle you thought you’d have? Are you waiting for him to pick up tasks at home that he doesn’t know you need help with? Are your expectations for his productivity realistic? Is it possible his ambition just looks different from yours?

A prayerful, clear-eyed examination of your own motives and frustrations will help you begin to address the situation with truth and love.

Address the Situation with Gentleness

God created us to love and obey him. And all of mankind—men and women—were given the task of subduing the earth (Gen. 1:28). Though thorns and thistles are a result of the fall, work isn’t. Rather, it’s a good and precious gift, a way in which we are intended to imitate and worship God. When someone stops focusing on God’s glory in their work, it means their hearts have drifted too.

Further, God has specifically called husbands to provide for their families (1 Tim. 5:8) and to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). These weighty callings require faithfulness and sacrifice—and help.

One way wives can honor their husbands is by helping them turn from sin and toward holiness. Sin is deceitful, destructive, and hell-bent on drawing us away from God. So, in love, wives must boldly and graciously call their husbands to repentance when they see sin. 

If it’s clear your husband is guilty of laziness, begin by praying about it. Ask the Spirit to work in your husband, to let you know if you should speak up, and to give you the words to say at the right time. 

Second, approach him gently. Start with open-ended questions that help you understand your husband’s heart. Is something bothering him? Is he struggling at work? Is he discouraged about something? It’s possible that instead of exhortation, he needs encouragement and support.

Encourage Your Husband to Steward His Gifts

The parable of the talents is helpful when thinking about stewardship. Sometimes, the recognition that God gives different gifts causes us to neglect investing our gifts at all. Other times, it can lead us to judge others for not having the gifts we’ve been given.

It’s never a bad idea to encourage your husband to use his gifts to God’s glory.

It’s possible your husband is leaving some of his talents—his mental faculties, natural abilities, or learned skills—on the table, putting in minimum effort to get through his days. It’s also possible your husband’s gifts are simply less “efficient” than yours—maybe he moves at a slower pace, or he values different things (rest? play?) more highly than you do. And it’s entirely possible both of those things are true simultaneously.

It’s never a bad idea to encourage your husband to use his gifts to God’s glory. In the morning, consider asking him how you might pray for him that day. When you know he’s going to have a tough meeting or boring stretch, pray for him—and then let him know. If he struggles with long hours, break it up by bringing him lunch or, if you’re both at home, see if he’d like to take an afternoon walk. When he’s done for the day, ask how things went. 

Express Gratitude for Your Husband’s Strengths

When we see sin or weakness in someone’s life—particularly those closest to us—it sometimes becomes the only thing we see. Slowly, we grow discontent with those we love most, disillusioned by the ways they fail to meet our expectations. During the times we’re most tempted toward bitterness or resentment, we must actively seek to put on love.

During the times we’re most tempted toward bitterness or resentment, we must actively seek to put on love.

You can honor your husband by pointing out where you see God at work at him. Even if there’s a long way to go, consider how to fan embers of grace into flames. Is he dependable? Trustworthy? Punctual? Does he prioritize time with you? Many times, there’s a flip-side to weaknesses that actually reveals our strengths—glimmers of what we could be when we let the Spirit transform us. Actively encouraging your husband’s strengths will help you view him in a gracious light. Perhaps some of the weaknesses that most concern you now will grow into the strengths that most bless you later. 

In all of this, pray. Pray for humility, for wisdom, for the boldness to speak truth and the gentleness to speak grace. Keep having honest conversations with your husband. Ask lots of questions, don’t assume his motives, listen humbly, and remember that just as God gave your husband to you, he gave you to your husband.

Editors’ note: 

TGC’s “Thorns & Thistles” column seeks to apply wisdom with practical advice about faith, work, and economics. If you have a question on how to think about and practice your work in a way that honors God, let us know at [email protected].

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