I don’t claim to be the authority on the Bible’s instruction for wives to submit to their husbands, but after spending considerable time studying God’s Word, here’s what I have come to believe on this controversial subject. God definitely plans for all of us to live under authority. I would imagine He knows this prevents chaos from breaking loose! So, in a family unit, God has placed the man as the authority, and the wife and children are under his authority. If we used a business analogy, it’s rather like your husband is the general manager who must make the major decisions on the policy and ground rules for how the business will operate.
So what does this look like for a wife? This means choosing to treat your husband respectfully and allowing your husband to lead you and your family. Instead of you jumping into to take over leadership, and instead of you deciding how everything should go, you allow your husband to lead. However, just as in a business, a wise husband will value the input and sage counsel of the wife who is usually more intimately involved with handling family matters each day.
Now, where “submitting” to your husband can go haywire is when the husband veers off course morally or Biblically. When the husband starts leading the family (or requesting the family) to engage or support wrong behavior, then the wife need not submit to such decisions. Her first allegiance is to God and His commands. God is the ultimate authority. I believe that is why the Bible includes a “qualifier” in one of the instructions for the wife to submit to her husband. It is found in Colossians 3:18, which says “the wife must submit to her husband, as is fitting in the Lord“. If your husband is asking you to do something that is not “fitting in the Lord”, I don’t believe you must submit to such leadership. I believe a wife can respectfully draw the line. In addition, it’s my belief, from studying all of God’s Word, that “submission” does not mean the wife must be a doormat who tolerates disrespectful or even abusive behavior by her husband. Such behavior by the husband is not “fitting in the Lord” either. Submission is not being a doormat.
Are you in a season within your marriage where you’re feeling battle-weary? Do you feel like you’ve done everything you can, you’ve prayed with everything you’ve got…and still, your husband is making choices that are extremely disappointing? First, I want to say my heart goes out to you. You are definitely in a desert place. But I want to encourage you to take a different perspective.
You see, awhile back, my husband and I were talking about the ripple effect of our lives. We may work and work to make a difference with a specific person (such as your husband), and feel greatly discouraged if we see no change. But here’s the thing, OTHER people are watching how you’re handling this challenge in your marriage. Perhaps you have children, and they are watching. Maybe your mother-in-law is watching. It could be that one of your friends is being affected by how you are dealing with this situation. As you strive to reflect Jesus in your marriage, others are drawn to Christ. This is the essence of Matthew 5:16 which says “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
I know it’s tempting to feel defeated, but please realize that you ARE making a difference in the lives around you. If you are respectfully, but firmly, drawing a line on immoral behavior in your marriage, you are blessing your children by providing a great role model for how a wife should act. If your mother-in-law is an unbeliever, she may be attracted to the “Jesus” she sees in you. Your efforts to be a shining light for Jesus do have a ripple effect….and that’s worth it!
In your marriage and in all your relationships, you will face challenges. In response to those challenges, we often wring our hands in despair, get mad at God, sink into depression, lash out at people around us, get really grouchy, and on and on. We act as if we’re surprised that we’ve encountered heartache and trials. Well, here’s a news flash for you. Trouble is normal and to be expected. After all, Jesus says in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble“. Drat.
However, God has a plan to do something wonderful in the middle of our challenges…if we decide to move out of despair and self-pity. God wants to teach us something. He doesn’t waste any opportunities for our personal growth! In the middle of our suffering, God gives us the choice to either wallow in depression or contemplate what He might be trying to teach us. Romans 5:3-5 sums this up well: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
The choice is yours. You can stay mired in despair if you want to, or you can anticipate a time of great personal growth and shaping of your character. Could God be teaching you patience, or perhaps teaching you to be courageous in confronting abuse, or maybe teaching you to help and comfort others who share a similar heartache? Maybe the Lord simply wants to teach you to draw even closer to Him and to trust in Him completely.
Maybe the Lord is planning to answer your prayers in a way that will blow your mind! When I’m in a time of discouragement or challenge, I like to give my concern to God in prayer and then encourage myself by saying this…”I can’t wait to see what God is going to do!!!”