A friend gave me a copy of “The Fruitful Wife,” along with an enthusiastic recommendation. Unfortunately, that book sat on my shelf almost a year before I finally picked it up and opened its pages. I have to confess, I began to read it more out of duty than anything else, simply so I could tell my friend I had read it. Yet I wasn’t more than a few pages in before I broke out my highlighter, and my love affair with this book was born.
The book is well written and engaging. Hayley DiMarco herself writes honestly about her faults and struggles in applying Galatians 5:22-23 to her life. She is sympathetic and understanding of our struggles too, but she is no pushover. In typical Hayley DiMarco fashion, she zeroes in and gets to the heart of the issue time and time again. For example, she writes in her introduction, “People do things for lots of reasons, but whatever does not come from the Spirit, but from the flesh, is done out of pleasure seeking. In other words, when the flesh is our source of fruit, the motivation isn’t God’s glory but our own (page 15).” She uncompromisingly and unapologetically holds out the standard of God’s Word, while hunting down and pointing out our sin. Thankfully, she doesn’t leave us without help, but wisely and biblically provides counsel in how to put to death the deeds of the flesh and live a life for the glory of God.
Hayley DiMarco is wonderfully astute, possessing an uncanny ability to bring to light the motivations and attitudes that underscore our fleshly responses, like when she reveals that selfishness is tied to our lack of love or that our dearth of faith is why the Holy Spirit’s joy doesn’t reside in our lives. Time and again she presses on our sore spots to get us to take note, so healing can take place, like when she writes, “What ultimately our sense of justice is fighting for isn’t holiness but self-protection (page 108).” Or when she says, “We are so used to living by emotion that we oftentimes are closer to our feelings than we are to God (page 132).” Each chapter possesses fresh insights into the underlying reasons for the unfruitful of our lives.
This book was written for wives, but any woman would benefit from reading it. Hayley DiMarco has written a Bible study to go along with the book, available on her website, but I haven’t looked at it, so can’t comment on it. Below are just some of the spots I particularly enjoyed. I include them below to whet your appetite to read the book for yourself.
“Real love is content not to feel good all the time.” [page 22]
“It is, after all, only frustrating or difficult people that require patience. And with those who bring out our envy and competitiveness, love demands the opposite. When others want something we don’t want, when we are at odds, love doesn’t insist on its own way. When people push our buttons, love isn’t irritable. When they hurt us, it isn’t resentful.” [page 24]
“The love defined in God’s Word is not focused on self, but on denying self. …Love requires selflessness.” [page 24]
“The opposite of love isn’t hate, but selfishness.” [page 26]
“The fruit of the flesh always destroys and disappoints.” [page 37]
“I have found that my lack of joy firmly rests on my inability to consistently agree with God.” [page 41]
“The lack of fruit in our lives doesn’t speak to our sad state and our miserable or mediocre life, but to a failure to grasp our purpose here on earth. Many a wise man has said that God’s goal isn’t to make you happy but to make you holy, yet too often we put our feelings above our faith. We imagine that the fruit of the Spirit was meant to completely satisfy us, but the true purpose of the Spirit’s fruit, and therefore your life, isn’t happiness but holiness.” [page 49]
“What then is the sin in joylessness? The question is a good one. It can be easy to be content with our lack of joy, but that is dangerous to our souls, because oftentimes it betrays our doubt in the One in whom we claim to believe. …Doubt about God’s ability to forgive, protect, comfort, counsel, or fulfill His promises is a sin and a stealer of joy.” [page 51]
“Joy is the evidence of faith, because joy insists that God is good and that, no matter what the situation, all is well because of Him who will never forsake you or leave you (see Josh.1:5).” Pages 51-52
“The Holy Spirit is never pessimistic. So as we listen to His voice, as we heed His direction, our lives become optimistic in outlook. As the Spirit of God informs our hearts and minds, we learn not to call conspiracy all that others call conspiracy, and not to fear what others fear, or to dread the future (see Isaiah 8:12). When the news demands fear or worry, as in Isaiah’s time, the joyful wife refuses to capitulate. When the end is near, the woman who keeps her eyes on Christ sees hope in the destruction rather than gloom or doubt.” [page 58]
“I want to be careful not to lose my smile.” [page 58]
“When there is a lack of peace, when your heart worries, frets, fights, or fears, and peace is absent, your lack of peace points to doubt in God’s goodness, compassion, mercy, and love.” [page 74]
“Self-protection is the first peace-thief we encounter. This self-protective muscle is seen not only in our personal life but also in our relationships. It shows up in what the Bible calls “rivalries” (Gal. 5:20), which covers things like competition, contention, conflict, friction, and fighting. This sense of rivalry, or self-interest, steals the peace from both your life and the life of the one you feel compelled to beat. Standing up for ourselves promises safety and benefit, but what it brings is unrest, conflict, and dissension.” [page 75]
“The biggest peace thief of all is looking for peace in all the wrong places.” [page 77]
How to Live in Perfect Peace [heading is mine; list is Hayley’s]
1. Surrender to the vine.
2. Set your mind on the Spirit.
3. Be willing to lose.
4. Be willing to be ignored.
5. Don’t be easily offended.
6. Forgive the offender.
“Patience is more than the ability to wait. It involves a capacity to resist the temptation to play God, not only in your life but in the lives of others as well. …Patience tolerates delay because it sees the hand of God in every event, and patience can suffer pain without complaint because to complain is to accuse God of some wrongdoing.” [pages 86-87]
“Impatience essentially speaks to the distaste we all have for interruptions to our comfort.” [page 87]
“Patience is the enemy of self, and this is as it should be. Patience denies self, gives it no voice, subdues it and insists that it wait its turn, something self is never good at. But the fruit of patience teaches self its proper place, the grave. God never intended for your self-life to lead your redeemed life, but to die to it.” [page 93]
“In an effort to turn the tide from impatience to patience we must quit complaining.” [page 98]
“Kindness is merciful, which means it doesn’t give people what they really deserve—distrust, retaliation, or rejection—but what they don’t deserve—compassion, sympathy, and forgiveness.” [page 106]
“Kindness is meant to nourish those around us, regardless of how well they nourish us in return. Unfortunately, many of us struggle with a strong sense of justice with regard to how we are being treated.” [page 107]
“What ultimately our sense of justice is fighting for isn’t holiness but self-protection.” [page 108]
“But in the pursuit of self-protection, self becomes our object of affection, our idol that must be protected and cherished above all else. In this broken state, God takes a backseat to our wounds and our precious heart.” [page 109]
“In marriage there are moments of great testing, pain, and struggle—moments when he hurts us, when he fails us, and when he sins against us—but consider that without these moments, kindness wouldn’t be dependent on the Spirit; it could manage quite well in the power of the flesh.” [page 116]
“A big part of kindness is moving away from the concept of equity or fairness. The life of kindness was never meant to be fair; if it was then God couldn’t offer any of us grace, because we have nothing to offer in return.” [page 118]
“The desire for perfection is written into the fiber of our beings. We long for perfection in the world around us, in the people we love, and within ourselves. And when we fail to find that perfection we were made for, we often resort to sinful tactics to attempt to change our imperfect condition to something more palatable. But perfection is attainable in only one place, in the life lived in Christ.” [page 127]
“We are so used to living by emotion that we oftentimes are closer to our feelings than we are to God.” [page 132]
“Faithfulness requires truth telling, it requires that we be honest with ourselves about our motives and our actions. It requires that we be honest about our sin and our propensity to want life to be all about us.” [page 148]
“Idolatry happens when we go to something or someone for the things we should go to God for. When we look for comfort, peace, hope, counsel, control, joy, rest, faith, or acceptance in the arms of anything or anyone other than God, we become unfaithful, because we immediately stop serving the faithful One and start serving either sinful man or sinful self.” [page 152]
“Faithfulness is more than not cheating on your husband; it is about not cheating on God by letting sin or idols become acceptable in our lives.” [page 158]
“Humility is not bent on self-protection or self-assertion. It doesn’t lead us to self-indulgence or self-satisfaction. When we look out for self over God, when we consider our needs over His will, then gentleness turns to rebellion.” [page 164]
“This overwhelming drive to be the master of our own domains, to teach others in a spirit of disdain and judgment, to be quick to snap at their faults and weaknesses, and to disregard their feelings and deem our feelings as more important than theirs, rejects the gentleness of Christ and claims the pride of the world.” [page 164]
“The truth is that if God isn’t changing you, He hasn’t saved you (2 Cor. 3:18).” [page 167]
“The woman who sees God’s fingerprints on everything in the world, including insult and injury, cannot be destroyed, and doesn’t harbor or nurse wounds, for she knows that God’s hand is far greater and His will far more important and powerful than the hands, the will, and the power of man.” [page 168]
“Am I too weak for self-control? Fortunately, self-control requires weakness. There must be a natural tendency to sin and to self-promotion in order for self-control to be practiced. It is meant for the human being, not the heavenly being, because self-control is the act of refusing to listen to and obey your flesh with all its passions, lusts, and sinful desires; and God has no such temptations. Self-control is necessary in the life of faith because self-control denies self rather than handing over control to self.” [page 182]
“How many more times do we turn our lives over to our self-will, firmly rejecting God’s will, without even noticing it? How many times do we become so distracted by regret, doubt, bitterness, or discontentment that we give up all self-control and become completely consumed with these emotions and thought patterns, completely abandoning the mindfulness of the Spirit that accompanies abiding in Christ?” [page 182]
“When our thoughts are focused on ourselves, we have set our minds on the things of the flesh, and from this comes the fruit of the flesh.” [page 185]
“When there is a lack of temptation, there is no need for self-control.” [page 187]
“It isn’t by your own strength and will power that you gain self-control but by turning your mind to the things of God, looking to Him, thinking of Him, and learning of Him. As you redirect your thoughts to the things of the Spirit, self-control, the ability to live out God’s Word, is the supernatural outcome.” [page 190]
“The truth is that every problem in your life has sin as its root. It may not be your sin, but somewhere at the bottom of it there is sin, and the prescription for the sin that seems to have mastery over us in found in the life of Christ and what He has already done. In every case, addressing our own sinful reactions, thoughts, feelings, and actions; confessing them as sin; and repenting from them bring onto us the glorious grace of God, and with that the freedom of forgiveness. And then we are able to move forward in the knowledge that though we are not perfect, we are His, and if we are His, then we have living within us all that we need for every fruit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.” [page 202]