“But my God lives. And He has my heart.”
Sarah Edwards. Just the name invokes awe in me. The helper to one of the greatest theologians and thinkers who has ever lived. What was she like? What type of woman did God give to such a man? Could she have known the gift she was giving us as she freed him to fulfill his calling? Was she really even human?
Yes. I am certain she failed and sinned. Sarah Edwards was a sinner saved by grace. Historians tell us she struggled with managing lots of small children, financial stress, church opposition and controversies, jealousy over other the success of other ministers, as well as what most of us would complain of as a distant husband. Many of the same issues I myself face, hundred of years later.
But over 250 years after his death, Jonathan Edwards remains America’s greatest theologian and probably our greatest thinker. And although imperfect, it’s been well-documented that the union between Jonathan and Sarah produced hundreds of descendants that were outstanding citizens, including governors, college professors, lawyers, judges, physicians, senators, a controller of the U.S. treasury, a Vice President of the United States, authors, editors, and an untold number of missionaries and trustees of mission boards. She was undoubtedly one of the instruments that God used to bring about the salvation of these descendants. Maybe some of us as well.
Sarah Edwards was a beautiful example of faithfulness and humility, but we should never place her on such a high pedestal that we believe ourselves incapable of being wives with far reaching influence. We too may be the helpers to husbands that are greatly used of God.
If she were here today Sarah Edwards would most likely tell us she wasn’t great at all, but rather that she served a great God. And He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.
Her Honor of Him
Honor is a powerful tool God places in the hands of a woman. Because of Sarah, the Edwards home was shaped by Jonathan’s calling. Samuel Hopkins wrote:
While she uniformly paid a becoming deference to her husband and treated him with entire respect, she spared no pains in conforming to his inclination and rendering everything in the family agreeable and pleasant; accounting it her greatest glory and there wherein she could best serve God and her generation (and ours, we might add!), to be the means in this way of promoting his usefulness and happiness.
Sadly, I do not honor my husband to this degree. Sadly, many times my idea of honor is merely praying through a disagreement and holding my tongue--the same honor I would give to a common stranger. The honor I am to give my husband should be different. Honor that flows from a heart that beats with the heart of Christ himself. I believe if more of us understood the impact of honoring our husbands, the world would be a different place. Perhaps me or you could be married to a Jonathan Edwards who needs his wife to lose her life in his calling.
But Wasn’t He Easy to Honor?
- (Preferring another over yourself is never easy. Sarah and Jonathan had financial trials. Have you ever resented your husband over financial issues? At one time Sarah even had to itemize every single family expenditure for the church to approve. Talk about humbling.
- She could have grumbled over his lack of involvement as a family man. Instead she was grateful for the one hour he gave the family before returning to study. How many of us would complain if our husbands interacted with the children for one hour each day?
- She could have resented him for his lack of social grace. Jonathan Edwards was introverted, shy and uneasy with small talk. Has your husband ever embarrassed you? Maybe you even outwardly indicated it to him or others. Sarah covered for him and helped him in this area by being the one to put people at ease.
Sarah had ample opportunity to give in to dishonoring her husband, but she didn’t. Like all men, he had faults. It’s how she chose to deal with them that mattered and has had far reaching effects.
How Do We Get It?
Sincere honor from a wife comes only from a heart swept clean by the gospel. A supernatural devotion to her husband is made possible only by the Holy Spirit..walking in Him and His power.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5:25
Honoring husbands in this way is Spirit born and Spirit sustained. It’s difficult for most of us because we attempt to do it in our own strength, when it is actually a supernatural gift.
All husbands are sinners. They all fail. Even Jonathan Edwards had shortcomings and could have easily had a contentious wife, but he didn’t. Instead she poured out her short life for her husband and children and the gospel. I’m a recipient of her short 49 years of labor, are you? Her efforts have been long-lasting. I’m certainly thankful that Sarah Edwards didn’t cut her husband's time short in study or sermon preparation by not helping him in the areas he needed.
May God grant each of us the grace and humility to be this kind of helpmeet.
Originally published August 29, 2011