God saw a need and said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a help meet for him” (Gen 2:18). Notice, that is two words—a help meet, “meet” being the adjective of the word “help.” Our modern dictionaries put them together as helpmeet or helpmate and define it as “wife.” According to Mr. Webster, every married woman is a “helpmeet,” but the Bible usage involves a distinction, specifying what kind of help the woman is to be—a meet help, or as some versions read, “a helper suitable” to the man.
In one sense woman is suitable to man by her very natures, this is, because he “made them male and female” (Matt 19:4). God made man and woman to complement one another in an emotional way as well. Man is the idealist who sets the lofty goals; woman is the pragmatist who pulls them down to something within reach and organizes the process of getting there. Man is the strong one who goes out to deal with the world; woman is the softer one who soothes his wounds. Man is the cynic who, as such, is able to protect his family from those who might take advantage of them; woman is the more merciful one, who sometimes allows it to excuse faults or wrongs that need punishing. Together they temper one another and are more than they could ever be apart.
But in another real sense, not every woman is suitable to every man. We would do well to teach our children this fact. They grow up believing in “happily ever after” and “love conquers all,” but after years of picking up muddy boots and strewn clothes, listening to foul language or crude habits, and waking up at 2 am with no idea where he is, she begins to wonder if her love has enough ammunition left to conquer anything else. We must teach them to be more objective—more cold-blooded—about choosing a mate.
What about his chosen career? It takes a completely different kind of woman to be a doctor’s wife than to be a farmer’s wife; to be a policeman’s wife than to be a small business owner’s wife. Each job carries demands on the man that will affect his family. Sometimes he will be called away at a moment’s notice. Sometimes he will be in danger. Sometimes he will need to keep things confidential. Sometimes she may need to pitch in and work right next to him. Can you handle it? If you haven’t thought of these things before your marriage, if you haven’t discussed the problems that could arise, you have been short-sighted at best and foolish at worst.
But once a woman has taken the plunge, if she is not suited to him, it becomes her duty to make herself suitable to her man, even if it means changing lifelong habits and ideas. When I recognize a problem, it becomes my responsibility to try to solve it whether anyone else helps or not (Rom 2:6). If I see my marriage faltering because of our differences, I need to do everything I can to repair the situation. And most men are not as bad as some women would have us believe. When he sees such obvious efforts on his wife’s part, the husband usually works harder himself; but even if he doesn’t, shirking responsibilities will not be excused.
Changing will easier if she is optimistic and open-minded. If she goes into something dreading it, thinking she will hate it, griping at every little thing that does not suit her, then 99% of the time, she will hate it. And what’s more, so will he. He will come away dissatisfied, and she will wonder why because after all “we did just what he wanted.” For example, in choosing a vacation trip, where they went or what they did was less the point than having a good time—with her! Her dissatisfaction and complaining made them both miserable.
Try approaching things with a positive attitude, determined to find something in them you can enjoy, and equally determined not to gripe. Does it require physical exertion? Look at it as a way to improve your health. Is he much better at it than you? Look at it as a way to build his ego. Compliment him fervently and he will become a gallant knight right before your eyes. (When was the last time you gave him a real compliment anyway?) Is it “just not the way you are?” Then use it to improve your self-discipline (2 Pet 1:6). None of us have enough. Will it mess up your hairdo? (Yes, I have actually heard that one!) Really now, your companionship does a whole lot more for your marriage than your hairdo. “It is not good that the man should be alone.” Make yourself meet, suitable, for him.
There is another angle to this help business. The very word demands that the woman not be a hindrance. How many times have you heard it said of a man, “He’d be a good ________ if it weren’t for his wife?” Especially in regard to his spiritual duties, what could your husband be if you were a better person? A personal worker? A Bible class teacher? A full-time gospel preacher? A deacon? An elder? Perhaps he needs to develop himself more as well, but will he do so if he knows that all he will get from you is criticism of his efforts or complaints about the time his new duties take or, worse yet, if he knows your character does not fit the bill (1 Tim 3:11)? Won’t you feel ashamed if your husband has to tell the Lord, “I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come” (Luke 14:20)?
Be a help to the man you love, not a hindrance; a steppingstone on his way to Heaven, not a stumbling block over which he plunges straight into Hell. And make no mistake about it. If that’s what happens, you will be there too.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his (or her) own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4.