Hi Helen,

I can see why you are feeling exasperated, stressed and depressed. Your life seems physically and emotionally exhausting, and with little apparent success in finding how to move forward. To me, the first and best place to go for help is God, both in prayer and in His word. I hope and pray that the passages from the bible following might at least give you a sense of direction, but I can’t say that there are any quick or easy solutions. I wish I could.

God did create a very good world and he did give men their role of working and caring for creation and women their role of being a helper and companion to their husband (Gen 2), so it is really hard when we see our spouse not living how we understand they ought to. Remember, though, that since sin has come into the world, the relationship that God created men and women to have has been broken, along with the rest of creation (Gen 3). Your husband is broken, as we all are, but in his own particular way. Trust that God is in charge of your husband’s spiritual growth, not you. You can pray for him, and facilitate by trying to be the wife that God created you to be, but you can’t determine his choices.

The best thing a wife can do is to love her husband unconditionally. As Christian wives we are to submit to and respect our husbands (Eph 5:21-33) even if they don’t seem to deserve it, out of reverence for Christ. We can be motivated to do this by constantly remembering that Jesus loved us first, even when we didn’t deserve it (1John 4:19-21 and Rom 5:8). Prayer is a start. We can pray that our husband will grow in his love and knowledge of God and have a desire to serve Him for His honour. We can pray that while God is doing His work in our husband, He will strengthen us and uphold us to be the wife that best helps our husband. We can pray that we will demonstrate the qualities of love that are described in 1Cor 13:4-7 and try to live as described in 1Peter 3:8-18.

In Titus 2:4 Paul speaks of the older women training the younger women to love their husbands. Love is not something that just happens- it requires work and understanding. I tend to think that if we try to understand someone, where they are at and why, it makes it easier to love them. From what you’ve said about your husband, a few things come to mind. The first is that I suspect, as you do, that he does have depression, but the cause will make it unlikely that he will ever admit to it. Your husband lost his job over 4 years ago, and with a new baby. Men are naturally wired to be the provider protectors of their families and when this ability is taken away from them, in this case by retrenchment, a major upheaval in their sense of self-worth and even their masculinity is caused, despite their show of bravado. This will be felt even more strongly in the situation where there is a new baby and more again the longer they are without work. Admitting to depression will just be an extra to their sense of failure.

To add to the distress, a new baby will often mean that the wife is now understandably so exhausted and ‘touched out’ that she won’t have the energy to meet her husband’s needs or desire his attentions. This is also a stage where many men are left feeling redundant and confused about how they can be involved.

I suspect these experiences may have contributed to where your husband is at now. The situation seems to have spiraled down to depression, which will be a hindrance to his motivation in the search for employment, in his desire to relate to you and your son in a way that is supportive and in his relationship with God. As obnoxious as the expression of his lack of emotional well-being may be, considering him with compassion might lessen your resentment.  

While I don’t know where your husband is in his relationship with God, I think that 1Peter 3:1-4 still teaches us how we can love our husbands in times of difficulty. We are to win our husbands over without words, but with the purity and reverence of our lives. I would suggest that pushing him more, putting the foot down or separating are not the most loving solutions. It seems to me that the best thing you can do for your husband is to try and quietly prioritise the work that needs to be done and try to get through it, trying not to get stressed by what fails to get done and not mentioning these to your husband. It will probably feel in some ways like being a single mum, but with the knowledge that it is Christ you are serving, and with the hope that your relationship with your husband will grow in time. This doesn’t mean that you don’t ever ask for your husband’s help, but the way you ask and your response when he fails to help would be guided by the bigger picture of trying to win him back into a closer relationship with God (and thereby also with you).

If possible, learn what his ‘love language’ is (‘The Five Love Languages’ is an excellent book by Gary Chapman). What tells him the loudest that you love him? Could it be spending time with him, verbal affirmation, acts of service, physical affection or gifts? Each of these are important, but each of us has a different priority in these, and it would be really helpful to work out what ‘speaks’ loudest to your husband and find opportunities to show him love. It might also be really helpful to find opportunities to compliment and thank your husband, or encourage him with a kind word, especially in things that could be considered of a masculine nature (for example, when your son is happy from wrestling with his dad, or perhaps even, as exasperating as it might be, when he gets up to the electrical wizardry). The idea is to give your husband a reason to feel his strength in positive ways, and to let him know that you love and support him.

But what about you? Who will love and support you as you love and support your husband? How is this God working for the good of you who love Him (Rom 8:28) as you give and give for your husband and your son but seem to get nothing in return?

As Christians we are all broken, sinful people serving a holy, compassionate, merciful, forgiving and loving God who is working to restore us and His creation over time- mostly by the death and resurrection of His Son, but also by His Holy Spirit, who works in and by us, and in and by the people around us. Suffering is a part of this, drawing us closer to God as we learn to depend more on Him, and making us more like Jesus. 1Peter 5:6-7 says"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." It’s great that you and your bible study group are praying about this situation. It would be great if their prayers support you in your attempts to be a godly wife and are for your husband’s relationships with God, you and your son. Also, if you know you’re in for a busy time (for example with a sick child), you might be able to ask your Christian sisters for practical help, perhaps with a meal, or a couple of hours help with house cleaning when your husband is out. 

I realise you’ve seen many counselors, so I don’t know if recommending another attempt at counseling is helpful, but the basic care of yourself is necessary, which would include trying to manage your own depression somehow. Depression is exhausting, and it’s hard to have the physical and emotional energy to serve others when we can hardly do the basics for ourselves. Perhaps you could also work out other solutions to meet your basic needs?- ensuring time to pray and read the bible, enough sleep, good eating habits and exercise, all of which contribute to mental health.

Trust that God will provide all your needs (Phil 4:19), but not necessarily wants, and that it’s God who provides these needs in various ways (and primarily in Christ), not your husband.

The Christian life will involve falling down (because we are broken), picking ourselves up (because we know we are forgiven as we repent), and constantly trying to persevere (because we know it’s God’s kingdom we’re looking forward to and God we’re working for). God does love you, and your husband, and is listening to your prayers, working out His good purposes in His perfect time according to His perfect wisdom. I think you will need to keep waiting and praying for patience and perseverance. I hope and pray that with your growing love for your husband, God will work in him, and that he may in time come round and start to live more for Jesus.

Leigh