Twenty years. That is a long time to be married. Yet, it feels as if I blinked and my husband and I were celebrating our twentieth anniversary. Others observed a couple who seems to be taking joy in the institute of marriage—but that was not always the case. We had ups and downs throughout our marriage.
I came to know Christ four years into our marriage. I remember vividly reading the Bible for the first time as it came alive with both personal conviction and the comfort of the one who forgives. I spent a great deal of time in prayer over my marriage. My husband and I seemed to be at odds on a regular basis, and although I would like to say it was always his fault, in truth, we were young, selfish, and trying to adjust to life with many children in a short time frame.
But there was something else. I couldn’t put my finger on it, and so, each morning I poured my heart out to God begging him to fix my marriage. Was it me? Was it him? What was missing? How could I ever be happy and fulfilled when we didn’t seem to be on the same page? Sometimes, I thought, we were writing completely different books!
Then, a few years later, it happened. Early one morning, reading through the Bible, I came across the story of Abigail and Nabal. It was through this story the Lord took the blinders off and gave me new direction.
Lessons I Learned from Abigail
If you are unfamiliar with the story from the book of 1 Samuel, Nabal was a wealthy and great man in Maon, yet his name meant fool, a part he played well. He was married to Abigail, who is described as a woman of good understanding and a beautiful countenance.
We are not privy to how the two of these got together, but I’m not sure that’s what we are suppose to focus on. The point is a good woman was married to a fool, but this does not define her; in wisdom, she used this understanding to respond properly.
To bring this into context, we are not talking about trivial marital matters. We are talking about a man the Bible calls churlish and evil in his doings. His servants described him as railing on visitors, a man who could not be reasoned with. I can only imagine the feelings of loneliness Abigail had to ward off as the relationship never deepened or blossomed because humility was lacking.
As the story continues, Nabal foolishly responded to a group of men sent by David to request provisions. Provisions his army had earned. Upon hearing this, David set out to slaughter Nabal’s entire household. A servant told Abigail, and in wisdom, this gal saved her entire household.
The Responsibility for My Marriage
While reading this story, I quickly grabbed my concordance and dictionary to do some more research…
From Webster’s 1828 dictionary: In Scripture, fool is often used for a wicked or depraved person; one who acts contrary to sound wisdom in his moral deportment; one who follows his own inclinations, who prefers trifling and temporary pleasures to the service of God and eternal happiness.
That morning I realized that the deepening divide in our marriage was not something I could fix, but that it had to be wisely navigated. My relationship with my husband would not be better until he made the decision to acknowledge God above his own inclinations.
That being said, the wisdom I learned from Abigail that morning helped the days become more peaceful as the Lord began to work for many, many years in my heart and the situation.
From tidbits in 1 Samuel we can conclude that Abigail was a woman who responded instead of reacting. Trust me, if I had heard from the servant, I would have marched over to my foolish husband’s tent and railed on him for putting us in danger! That’s called reacting. Instead, Abigail responded by quickly getting provisions together to resolve the matter.
Abigail was also a trusted woman. The members of the household felt safe informing her of the disastrous response of her husband. She acted as a buffering system. The household felt safe coming to her with their concerns, in which she had influence, and although the household did not respect Nabal, through Abigail peace was kept.
Abigail dealt in truth. She did not mince words. Once she had gathered provisions and loaded a donkey, she hastened towards David’s encampment. She met David and his army, on their way to kill her entire household, and jumped down and bowed to the ground. Saying of her husband: “Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not a license for us to begin walking around calling our husbands men of Belial, but it does tell me that she was not afraid to speak truth in the appropriate time.
A Proper Response
I often have the opportunity to share a dinner table with other couples. When the husband acts like a fool, the woman tends to try and brush it under the proverbial carpet by ignoring it, redirecting the conversation, or apologizing for her husband’s behavior. That’s not how Abigail handled it. She called a spade a spade.
I’m not advocating total mayhem at the dinner table, creating awkward moments for your guests, but there are ways to properly respond in situations where your husband is acting like that donkey Abigail rode on!
Abigail had good timing. The Bible says that Abigail did not tell her husband that she was off to save the household. She knew the right actions that had to take place and proceeded. It was pointless—and even dangerous—to try and reason with an unreasonable husband.
In my experience, the story of Abigail can be uncomfortable because her actions seem to fall outside the traditions of the complementarian roles we like to ascribe to. However, Nabal’s behavior required Abigail to go outside these bounds and use wisdom in responding.
I can say firsthand that life is never delivered in a neat package wrapped up in a pretty bow. We are all sinful creatures, battling the desire for self each day. This results in the need to work hard at the marriage relationship, having the wisdom at each turn to respond properly. This wisdom can only be obtained at the feet of Jesus, as he navigates each unique circumstance and situation.
The Rest of the Story
The beauty of growth is that God never stops teaching and developing us. It has been years since these first lessons from Abigail, and much has happened in my life and spiritual growth. See how God has continued to work in my life in “After Intermission.”