Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under
the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:9
These were the words of a king with too many wives to count. I guess if he wasn’t enjoying life with one wife he could move on to another. But he wrote Ecclesiastes as an observer addressing the common man whose life, the king concluded, was meaningless. So if a working man—an average Joe—had a wife, he might as well enjoy her.
I’ve never known a man who works as hard as my husband. His toilsome labor never seems to end. My hope and prayer is that he might prosper and rest, but at times the prayer seems to go unanswered.
A few years ago the failing economy brought our small business to a standstill. One night we talked with friends about the struggle. Another couple knew from experience exactly what we’re going through, and they sympathized. Then a dear friend, meaning only to encourage us, gave a testimony of tithing in which a simple act of obedience caused everything to fall blessedly into place. She was not suggesting our giving was insufficient, or that God wasn’t blessing us because we were doing something wrong, or that He just didn’t love us enough. But that’s what I heard.
Another friend agreed, adding how many times he had been short of paying his bills on time, until the last minute. “The money always comes in,” he said. “God always takes care of me.”
At the time, our money coming in that month would not cover the bills. In fact, it wouldn’t even cover last month’s bills. Again my good friend, meaning only to encourage me, left me feeling like God cared more about him than He did me.
My husband spoke up. “You know, tithing doesn’t mean you’re not going to face hard times.”
“Oh no, of course it doesn’t!” Our friends backpedaled a bit, but the rest of the evening was uncomfortable.
It wasn’t the first time a friend had spoken of his own blessing without considering what a person enduring trouble might interpret. Once after I told of a terrible accident that left my children and me badly injured, a well-meaning friend told me he prayed every morning for God to protect his wife and children from accidents, and they’d never been in one. His proclamation made me wonder if my husband had forgotten to pray the day my car was struck head-on by a drunk driver. I know that’s not what my friend meant. He didn’t mean God picked somebody who hadn’t been prayed for to take the hit.
The hardness of life sometimes gives us cause to wonder about concepts of God’s protection and provision. Christian faith, even when grasped firmly so that there is no room for doubt, doesn’t mean life goes by like a song. A worse trouble may strike. The friend who gave the tithing witness had a child with cancer. The friend who paid his bills on time had serious health issues as well. The one who still prays each morning for protection is not guaranteed anything. Will he rest in God’s peace if the unthinkable happens?
God brought us through that season of instability with our business. And He not only healed my children and me, the experience grew me up as a believer and opened my mind to what marvelous things God can do.
Still, I have to wonder how a man can work so hard, take on so much physically, mentally and financially to find himself only near bottom at the end of the day. My husband is a jovial type, but stress turns even the most pleasant demeanor. And a wife is usually the first to know when that happens.
Over the years I’ve sometimes felt inadequate as a wife. I hear how so-and-so’s wife makes a lot of money—I think I’m not worth much. My husband tells me I’m beautiful—I wonder if he means it. I know he loves me but sometimes he’s so overwhelmed with the worries that enjoying life just seems like more work.
But from a king who considered it all meaningless comes a hint of meaning—a man should enjoy life with his wife. I’m sure a man cannot enjoy life with a sullen wife, or one who questions her worth, or one who can’t forgive her husband’s temporal despair. So I don’t want to be that kind.
I will cherish the moments my husband smiles and tells me it’s going to be okay. I’ll laugh when he jokes about how bad his day went. I’ll agree with him that it really is meaningless. Or I’ll agree that it means everything. And when he’s not enjoying life, I’ll be patient.
We know how the struggle ends—that it won’t last forever. I’ll partner in the struggle, because what a man needs is someone to stand beside him. As long as we’re here playing fools trying to make ends meet, I’ll be a blessing to my hard-working man. If he wants to live by the Word, and I know he does, he’ll enjoy his life with me. Whether he likes it or not.