If being in a hard marriage gives a wife a “pass” on having a grateful attitude, Abigail qualified.
When it’s hard to be thankful
God’s word doesn’t tell the circumstances of their courtship, what the groom was like when they wed, or if they’d met before they were joined. By the time the ugly story unravels in 1 Samuel 25, the wealthy husband is called “Nabal,” meaning full of folly and worthless. “The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved” (1 Sam. 25:25), and her name was Abigail. Her presence in the narrative of scripture testifies that God sees and knows that sometimes it’s hard for wives to have a grateful spirit, but it’s not impossible.
God designed marriage to reflect the oneness He Himself displays, to be the tender blending of mutual protection and singular intimacy that produces a grateful spirit. But sometimes it falls far short. How can we be grateful in marriages marred by the folly of our flesh?
One woman’s example
Abigail’s grateful display took place on the stage of sheep shearing season, a major event for a businessman with 3,000 sheep and 1,00 goats. As David fled from King Saul, the would-be king sent a request for culturally-expected hospitality; the “worthless” one lived up to his name, inviting David’s vengeance. To have attacked Nabal and his people would’ve tarnished David with “bloodguilt” and spoiled his preparation as future king. Abigail knew David was God’s chosen, anointed king, and she acted boldly out of regard for God’s plans, as well as the honor of her home. Despite her imperfect circumstances and intolerable marriage, she displayed a godly spirit and presented herself in humility. Despite disappointment, she had nurtured a strong heart turned straight after God’s plans. Abigail was satisfied in God and determined to honor Him. The soil of her marriage was hard, but she cultivated an attitude of gratitude.
A God-filled wife is a grateful wife
Abigail found satisfaction, help, and purpose in her Husband-God, and she directed her gratitude to Him. As a God filled wife, Abigail was able to forgive her husband, act for his best, consider his reputation, and give unconditional love aside from his folly. Unable to trust him, she turned her eyes from her human husband and looked to the God she could trust. Sometimes it’s really hard to be grateful in marriage, but it’s possible.
She acted boldly, because she knew, “my lord<David> is fighting the battles of the Lord” (1 Sam. 25:28). Abigail’s story didn’t end with marriage counseling or reconciliation, but with judgment on her husband and a new beginning for her. Declared “Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you” (v. 33) by David, she answered, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord” (v.41). Humility revealed her grateful heart. In the harshest of marriages, she cultivated an attitude of gratitude.
Proverbs 31 gives a composite picture of the qualities of an excellent wife. Written by King Lemuel, this man was probably a contemporary of Solomon, a son of David. I have to think King Lemuel would’ve known of the woman Abigail and the story of her beautiful, grateful spirit that endured the folly of a drunkard husband and captured the heart of the shepherd-warrior David. Perhaps Abigail inspired the kind of woman described in King Lemuel’s proverb about a wife who does her husband good, “and not harm, all the days of her life” (Prov. 31:12).
To cultivate thanksgiving in a hard marriage
- First cultivate trust in God and His plans
- Grow your individual faith-roots deep
- Pray for your husband and act for his good
- Focus on God’s grace to you and give it in return to your mate
If your marriage resembles that of Abigail to Nabal, focus on gratitude in your relationship to God. If you are blessed with a husband who loves you well, don’t take it for granted; express thanks to God and to your man. Every wife can have an attitude of gratitude.
If Abigail was your friend, what would you tell her about God to encourage her?