I’m not a mousy wife who can easily submit to my husband just because it’s what God commands. Sadly, I’ve struggled to let go of control in my marriage more times than I can count. It’s been one of the main reasons my marriage got so very messy back in the day. And still sometimes does! 😉
But over the years, and with the Lord’s guidance, I’ve learned many lessons on how to submit in marriage. And that’s what I’d like to share with you today—the lessons and/or “reasons” why I choose to submit to my husband!
By the way, I believe the Christ-following husband can apply these lessons as well. 😉 That’s because every Christ-follower—male or female—is ultimately called to submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).
As I get underway, I want to frame my thoughts in the context of four different situations.
How to be submissive when …
- It isn’t clear who might be right or what God’s will is.
- Your husband may be right and you may be wrong.
- Your husband is clearly wrong and/or resisting God.
- Your husband is being abusive.
1. It isn’t clear who might be right or what God’s will is.
My husband and I bump up against this situation more times than not. We might not know if it is right or God’s will because it’s not clear in Scripture. Or, more likely, it’s because God has not revealed what His will is for us in a morally neutral situation.
So, whenever we’re not sure, then I remember …
Reason Number 1: My submission reflects the church’s submission to Christ.
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” —Eph. 5:22-24 (NIV)
Wives—myself included—get the distinct privilege of representing the love story between Christ and the church. The world will stand up and take notice of such a divine, mysterious and deferential connection like that. So we need to be doing it a lot! 🙂
Moving on to the next situation …
2. Your husband may be right and you may be wrong.
This is probably the clearest, though not easiest, of the four situations.
Reason Number 2: God teaches me humility through my submission.
Unfortunately, I don’t always see this beautiful benefit when it arises. My initial reaction most of the time is to recoil from submitting because when I’m wrong, I typically falsely believe I’m right. 😉
But when I recognize that submission ushers in humility, I can more easily submit my way in favor of my husband’s better judgment.
This reflects Philippians 2:3-4
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (NIV)
Now on to the next situation …
3. Your husband is clearly wrong and/or resisting God.
This situation is often the one that gets a bad rap. Wives bemoan why the Lord would expect us to submit when our husbands are clearly in the wrong!
Thankfully, there are several reasons I’ve learned to submit here, and they are all based on various Scriptures. Isn’t it good to know that the Bible gives us so many reasons here than when it’s not as hard to submit (see situations #1 and #2 above)? Though, truthfully, these reasons are just as valid for #1 and #2 as well.
Reason Number 3: My submission reflects and honors Christ.
Christ laid down His rights when the ones He sought to save were clearly in the wrong. He loved and submitted to being crucified for the very ones crucifying Him! By the way, that’s all of us, not just some Roman guard two millennia ago!
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” —Philippians 2:8
Reason Number 4: When I submit, it removes division in my marriage.
James 4:1-2a reminds us of this logical equation …
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” (NIV)
When I submit to my husband, I surrender my desires for his. This calms the quarreling and ushers God’s peace into my marriage.
You might consider this to be peacekeeping, rather than peacemaking. And it can be if my motive for doing this is out of fear of conflict. But if it is to humbly surrender my rights by coming alongside my mate, it can be a good move. It also dovetails nicely with the next lesson I’ve learned and the reason why I submit …
Reason Number 5: Submission grows my faith in God’s ability to protect me.
Whenever my husband is not making a wise decision, I don’t need to worry. Furthermore, I shouldn’t try to convince him to do things “my” way. Instead, I need to trust in the Lord, since He is the One ultimately in control. And this is no matter how it might look to me!
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” —Psalm 55:22 (NIV)
So, whenever I activate my faith in the Lord in these risky situations, it naturally strengthens my faith.
If you want to know what the Bible says about all authority figures in our lives, see Romans 13:1-4. God clearly wants us to trust Him, even when it seems scary to trust other authority figures.
The next lesson I’ve learned dovetails with the previous two reasons because the focus is on God, not on my husband.
Reason Number 6: My submission to my husband is ultimately directed to the Lord.
When I struggle to submit to my husband because he might be making an unwise decision, I can find the strength to do so because of this truth … Every time I submit to him, I am ultimately submitting to Him. This gives me the motivation I need to stay the course.
I truly believe that …
But what if your husband is asking you to sin and not just follow a wrong decision?
In a situation like that, your submission should be to God and His law and desires. Submitting to God, as our ultimate authority, trumps submitting to your husband, hands down!
Look to a pastor, godly counselor, and God’s word for guidance on how to stay submissive to God, while resisting your husband’s wishes. And check out this post on How You Can Honor Your Spouse When He Asks You to Sin.
Now, to the most vexing of these situations. What if …
4. Your husband is being abusive.
Should you submit to him then?
My short answer is “no” … not to his abusive treatment, anyway!
But I also want to point you to John Piper’s well-written blog post on this subject for a more complete and biblical answer than I can provide. Also, if you are in an abusive situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the domestic abuse hotline for guidance and help! Don’t submit to being abused for another day!
What are some hesitancies or questions you have about submitting to your husband?
Which of the six reasons do you need to remember the most in your marriage?
Because this is such a common and challenging issue in marriage, I’d like to leave you with a prayer printable. You can click on the image below and it will load into a new tab. Simply click on the “…” in the upper-righthand corner to download to your computer!
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