Back in 2004, I had come to the conclusion that Christian marriage was all about dying to self. It sounded so noble and felt so true after 17 years of a less than storybook marriage at that point. We had no major problems, none of the big-time sins. But it was still tough. And I’m married to a pastor. And I was already reaching and counseling Christian women. Yeah, marriage had become a role of daily martyrdom for me.

But then, hallelujah!, God had me cross paths with a group of older Christian women who had a Bible study focused on what they called the “Titus 2 Principles” for wives, based on Titus 2:3-5:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (NASB)

I already knew the proper doctrine of submission, having a meek and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:1-6), and the other basics. But this was the first women’s study I had ever been to that gave practical tips for living out those principles in my daily life. Five-second kisses, regular verbal affirmations, don’t correct him in front of others, be his wife and lover, not his mother or “holy spirit,” the ministry of “shut up,” and so on.

I was a sponge for this information, I did my best to put the tips into daily practice, and sometimes I saw God move – even if sometimes the only thing He did was to bring peace to my heart and mind. Practical tips really helped me “get it” for my own marriage – no, it’s not just about dying to self but joyfully giving the best of yourself to God first by obeying His instructions on loving and respecting our husbands. God always deserves it even when our husbands sometimes don’t. (At least we think they don’t, and sometimes they really don’t. But sometimes – how often, ladies? – we really don’t either. Just saying.)

It’s those practical tips of John Trent’s 30 Ways a Wife Can Bless Her Husband” that made me connect with this book the most.

For one, many of the tips Trent gives are the same as what I learned starting with those wonderful ladies in 2004. Confirmation from an unrelated source is always an encouragement that you’ve been on the right track. And, of course, the tips that were new to me have been added to my “to do list” of specific actions that reflect that I love my husband.

In fact, the book brought me to tears a little bit before I even reached page 10! And I was quite convicted by some parts in the book, which I appreciate. I consider myself a good, yielding and supportive wife, and my husband says it often enough himself. I just still have a few things to work on.

But I also truly want to be a blessing to my husband every day. He has been through a lot, in business and in ministry as a pastor, for years now. I truly have a heart to be the bright spot in his tough life, every day if possible. And yet, I fall short, and I know it. Like the Apostle Paul, my spirit and my flesh are at regular war against each other so that I do what I don’t want to do and I don’t do what I know I should do.

But I digress.

I was given an advanced reader copy of 30 Ways a Wife Can Bless Her Husband in exchange for my review – good or bad. I would not do it if I couldn’t be honest about it. I don’t need a free book that bad. So, here’s my honest assessment.

I give John Trent’s 30 Ways a Wife Can Bless Her Husband a B grade. It provides invaluable practical information that a Christian wife can start trying in her marriage before she even finishes reading the whole book. Also, it is easy to read and follow. Its foundational principles and tips are simple to understand, are expressed in a friendly, caring voice, and are organized in an easy to follow flow.

Furthermore, the book’s topic is still very relevant for Christian couples today, especially in a time where there’s a heightened emphasis on women’s empowerment and self-determination, the false doctrine of mutual submission in marriage, and the resurgence of secular women’s liberation, all of which have found their way into the Christian church. Not to mention the changing social landscape that has challenged the institution of marriage, gender roles and gender identity. How refreshing 30 Ways a Wife Can Bless Her Husband is in the midst of that landscape!

Furthermore, Trent for the most part uses God’s Word, the Bible, as the basis for his overall principles. This is an absolute must, since 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all scripture is profitable for equipping for good works. Indeed, all of Chapter 3 (into Chapter 4) gives predictions for the last days that, in my opinion, are unfolding before our very eyes today, including verses 6 and 7 which talk about gullible women.

So, why not an A grade for 30 Ways a Wife Can Bless Her Husband? For one, it doesn’t adequately, if at all, mention the importance of wives blessing their husbands even when it’s very hard to. I’m not talking about situations of domestic abuse or unrepentant adultery. But there are plenty of Christian marriages where, no matter what the wife does to “set the temperature” in the home or respect him or love him, her husband remains indifferent, cold, oblivious, self-centered, hard to please, lazy, insensitive, impatient, non-supportive, sexually disinterested, or some other constant problematic disposition. No matter what she does to bless him, he remains difficult to live with. This problem is too common in Christian marriages for Trent, a marriage and family therapist, not to give it more attention here.

A bigger concern I have about 30 Ways a Wife Can Bless Her Husband is its somewhat liberal interpretations of some scriptures and/or biblical concepts. For example, he takes 1 Timothy 5:8 out of context when he uses it to support his otherwise accurate statement that our husband is our first calling as Christian wives. First Timothy 5:8 states, But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (NASB) The problem is that the context here is about widows, not marriage.

A similar error is made in reference to Ephesians 1:3, which says this: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (NASB). But Trent uses it to say this: “and you can enjoy all these blessings now.” However, the subsequent verses are talking about the spiritual blessings associated with eternal life in Christ, not temporal blessings for life here and now. Scripture is taken out of context unnecessarily, causing the reader to potentially miss the real truth of what God is saying in the passage.

Another example is when Trent claims, “In Scripture the word life means movement; things that are alive are moving towards someone or something. The word death means to step away.” I know this is not intended to be a theological book, and is certainly not an apologetic one either (that is, it’s not intended as a defense of the Gospel of sound biblical doctrine). But I try to be a stickler on proper biblical interpretation because I don’t want to be misled or, as in the important topic of marriage, given false hope. I wish Trent gave some sort of qualifier as to how he came up with these definitions of “life” and “death.” But he doesn’t.

Sure, living things move and interact. And I guess in some sense dead things “step away” from being alive. But Trent makes this claim as though no further qualification is needed even though, at least from what I can see, the Bible doesn’t say or imply these meanings. I think the same point could be made in the context of the book without attributing these meanings to the Scriptures.

The last concern is how Trent ends his book emphasizing how “revolutionary” the application of his principles and tips can be in a marriage. While I agree that they can certainly make a difference, I just wish Trent’s enthusiasm wasn’t bordering on presenting unmeasured and unrealistic hope.

I also personally cringe at the use of the word “crazy” to describe the work of God in any area of our lives. I hope I’m not straining at a gnat here, but nothing about our Christian faith and lives should be called crazy and neither should that be encouraged. Trent’s biblical principles and tips, as long as they are based solidly on the Word of God without embellishment, don’t need to be stated in such dramatic terms in order to be impactful. God’s Word doesn’t need the help.

So, would I recommend 30 Ways a Wife Can Bless Her Husband to anyone? Yes. Yes, I would. It’s intended to be easy to read and apply in your life, and I think it’s successful at it. But I also would caution the reader to have her Bible in hand, to check out all of the Scripture references in context, to see if what Trent says is true.

30 Ways a Wife Can Bless Her Husband is part of a four-part series by Trent, and I look forward to reading the remaining three books and sharing my thoughts as I go along.

Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts, and I will respond as soon as I can.