One of the things I appreciate about the Scriptures’ requirement for wives to submit to their husbands is the wording of the command. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord” (Col. 3:18; Eph. 5:22).; “and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph. 5:33).
In these verses, the duty is given to the wives to see that they are doing this submission/reverence thing. It is not given to the husband to see that the wife is being submissive. And the other thing I must mention is that wives are to submit to their own husbands, not anyone else’s. In other words, this is a duty rendered strictly from wife to husband, not women to men, and it is a duty a wife is to oversee herself.
Often, and sadly, my husband and I have noticed that the men who are “into” authority and submission, are often themselves the most unsubmissive members of the church. They claim to understand submission when it comes to those who are under their authority (their wives, children, or employees), but they fail to submit themselves to the authority of the elders or the civil authorities. If the elders make a decision, these are the men who refuse to comply. They are the men who make a stink. But woe to their own wives or children if they disagree with dad.
When a woman marries a man, she is agreeing to freely submit to him. She is not being coerced. She is not being tied and gagged and dragged down the aisle. I sometimes ask women the question, “Why did you marry him if he is such a bad guy? Did anyone force you to marry him or did you do it of your own free will?” Of course I’ve never met a woman yet who was forced into marriage against her will, though some will acknowledge that it was a foolish thing to do, or that they were warned that it was unwise.
Submission is something a wife renders freely, not because her husband is standing over her requiring it. Husbands are required by Scripture to love their wives, but wives should not demand this of their husbands. It is something that husbands are to see that they are doing themselves. We are to be busy with our own duties, not the duties given to our husbands.
Now submission is not something that can be isolated. It has to be accompanied by courage and faith and humility. And humility is not possible without the courage and faith. A wife’s submission is rendered unto God, by faith. We are to to submit “as unto the Lord.” When you are submitting to your husband, you are submitting to God. You can be thinking something like this: “Lord, I don’t want to move to Texas. This is not my idea. But you have told me to submit to my husband in this, so I am obeying You by submitting to Him. Even if my husband is making a wrong decision, I realize that I am not making a wrong decision by following him in this. Please protect me as I do this. Give me faith to believe You are with me in this. Please honor my obedience to You and bless me as I do this thing.”
One of the things God loves and prizes is a gentle and quiet spirit. This is a spirit that is trusting Him, like a baby in his mother’s arms. A baby who is fussing and fighting and agitated is difficult. But a baby at rest is a joy. God wants us to trust Him this way when we are following a fallen man, our own husband. Sarah obeyed Abraham, and we are her daughters if we do what is right and do not give way to fear. Fear disrupts the gentle and quiet spirit. Fear is antithetical to courage and faith. Sarah had courage and faith, and so did Abigail when she called her husband a fool.
When you are having a difficult time submitting on a particular point, assuming it is a lawful thing your husband is asking, remember you are rendering submission to God in this. Look past your husband to the the Lord Jesus, and give Him your obedience. This is how we have faith. Christ Himself laid out His requests to God in the Garden of Gethsemane. In submitting Himself to evil men, He was submitting to His Father. And His Father raised Him up. That pattern of submission is given to us in the Godhead. So submission is really a holy thing, not anything to be taken lightly. We are following Christ in it, and we are serving and pleasing God in it. And it is, to quote 1 Peter, “is in the sight of God of great price.”