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.”
27 thoughts on “Submission Requires Courage”
This is FANTASTIC Mrs. Wilson. Thank you.
Thank you for continuing your blog on submission, Nancy. It is so very misunderstood even among Christian women and Christian men. And yes, my husband and I find it very interesting that some of the folks who are big into authority and submission are the worst at displaying it themselves. My heart goes out to the wives and children of these kinds of men.
I thank the Lord for the women like you who have helped me embrace this beautiful duty and virtue. I was a much younger wife and mother the first time I began reading your stuff on respect and submission many years ago. I’m a little older now, and feeling it, and here you are still dishing out that “radical Christianity” stuff, aka, “basic Christianity” as I recall were your own words in The Fruit of Her Hands book. Keep on with this word. God is at work using it to adorn many a women with that “great price.”
Amen and amen!
I’m very grateful to you for your balanced approach. It really helps after coming out of discussions with women who feel that there is absolutely nothing a husband can require (good, bad, or sinful) that she can rightfully refuse to be part of.
This does remind me of a question I’ve had. We’re called to submit in all these other areas. How does that relate to what our husband says about us? Some women seem to think a husband is the last word on his wife’s behavior. I know that God is the one who judges, but do you have any thoughts on this?
Please do answer Natalie’s question as it is one that has been in my mind for some time now. My father believes that one of my sisters is rebellious while her conscience is clear on that particular matter. She would love some input on how to deal with this.
Great post! Thank you for continuing to encourage us with your writing.
“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.”
Mrs. Wilson, if a husband is to pursue his wife’s sanctification, and her submission to him is one way in which she needs to grow in Christlikeness, doesn’t that make him, to some degree, responsible for seeing that she is being submissive? Of course I am envisioning that he is to lead her, not drive her, in this direction, which involves modeling submission through his own attitude and behavior in regard to church and civil authorities. But may he never also direct her in this area?
Thank you for these reminders of what basic Christianity requires of wives.
Yes, once in a blue moon, if a husband has a lot of money in the account, and the wife has had a bad week, I can imagine a husband needing to encourage his wife in this area. But it ought to be very rare.
“Even if my husband is making a wrong decision, I realize that I am not making a wrong decision by following him in this.” The strength of this point and our peace regardless of circumstances, because of our submission being ultimately to the Lord, is so very powerful, and too often completely overlooked. Thank you.
As regards enforcing our own submission — I struggled with this a lot after I was married. I had thought I was a pretty obedient daughter, but I had a hard time submitting to my husband though I trusted him more than my dad. My husband asked me why I was having such a hard time when I would still reflexively obey my father, and I realized it was because I had never learned submission from my heart. My husband didn’t compel my obedience with punishment: I wasn’t afraid of him. I am still learning that love is the strongest motive for willing obedience, not fear. I adore my dad and esp since being married our relationship has grown very strong; but it wasn’t something I learned when I was under his authority.
Gee, even though it’s “basic Christianity,” marriage really seems to require a good deal of maturity…
Are there really two kinds of submission? Jesus was truly of one mind with His Father, and He submitted from that unity, whether it was easy to submit, or difficult and painful, as in the garden of Gethsemane. On the other hand, Jonathan submitted to his father Saul, but it was in spite of their different minds – his submission was more like “saluting the uniform.”
Maybe we idealistically want only that first kind of submission to our husbands. Knowing that our submission is really unto God helps so much.
I like your observation about the men who are “into” submission, I’ve met a few guys who would fit into that category. It is sad because often it hardens a wife’s heart to be married to such a fellow. When I see this I usually pray that God would give the fellow a softer head. While you want a man to be strong-minded enough to stand against the tide of whatever issues he might face, it’s also necessary that he not crush his charges with his unreasonable expectations.
Thanks for the explanation, Mrs. Wilson, and for the tie-in to the “money in the account” principle. That helps.
Could I ask for one more clarification? Could you help me understand Abigail’s case a little better? Why was it courageous and faithful (as you say here) and wise (as you said in a previous post) for her to call her husband a fool? I’m not disagreeing that it was, it’s just always puzzled me. What is the principle a wife should follow when deciding to express such a sentiment about her husband? Or for any person under authority to express such a thought about those over him?
And a perhaps unanswerable question: Why oh why did such a wise woman not have the sense to say no to marriage with a man who already had another wife or two? I know he was the king, but…ugh! 😉 I wish we knew more about Abigail after that. She bore David a son (Cheliab, according to 2 Samuel, Daniel according to 1 Chronicles) who seems to have been a completely unremarkable chap in light of the fact that Scripture doesn’t remark on him. Just one of those tantalizing side stories the Lord decided not to tell us!
Valerie, Abigail’s impressive courage and faith is seen in the whole episode, not just in her word choice describing her husband. She had tremendous courage to step out in such a way in front of an attacking army (400 armed men), lead by a man who had been justly offended by her husband.She knew that David was the Lord’s anointed, chosen to be king. She had faith that God would bless her and have mercy on her, which He did in a remarkable way.
As far as having the “sense” to say no to David…Consider the whole story. She was a widow, and the future king of Israel proposed to her. This was God’s promotion and provision for her in a glorious way. She would have been mighty foolish to turn him down, given the times. And the whole question of polygamy would not have occurred to her.
As far as when a wife should distance herself from her husband: I think from Abigail’s case we could draw the principle that whenever siding with your husband means opposing the Lord, then by all means, obey God and not man, even if that man is your husband.
Can you answer a question with regard to the “money in the account” thing? When is it within the bounds of submission right, for a wife to remind her husband that he hasn’t been putting money into the account? As a matter of fact is it part of the duty of the wife to tell her husband that there’s very little money in the account? Or should the wife stay silent and wait on the Holy Spirit to do the reminding?
And thank you for being that Titus 2 woman so faithfully and encouraging us all. 🙂
As a single girl I suppose typically it is my nature to skim over articles such as this with the assumption it doesn’t apply to me now. However, reading this meant a lot to me. I want to be the submissive wife you portrayed with such balance. I love this article. Thank you so much for sharing what you did. It is so refreshing for me to read!
This is something I have a hard time understanding. In my marriage, my husband and I have some different desires in life. He has a heart for the poor, and very much wants to live and minister umongst them. While I think it is important to minister to anyone in need, I do not feel the same intensity that he does. I in no way feel called to the mission field as a full-time job. My husband is very loving and patient with me, and agrees that God will change my heart. My question for you is, what if my heart never changes? Am I suppost to just follow my husband as he moves us all around the world? I’m not suggesting that I would ever refuse something if he demanded it of me. I just don’t know what to consider submission, and when to expect compromise. I would greatly appreciate any help you could give me. I want to do the right thing!
Here are a few things for you to consider. Did you know about his desire for the mission field when you married him? Or is this a new development? Or were you gung ho for the mission field back when you first met, but now you are having second thoughts? Do you have kids? Do you have objective concerns rather than just a “heart” preference? For example, are your concerns things like how you’ll educate the kids or where you will worship? If so, has he answered these things for you? None of these questions is intended to “get you off the hook” from submission. Just things for you to think about. And remember, your job is still the same, that of being a wife and helper, even if his calling changes.
This is answering Luma’s question.
It all depends. Have you been telling him this for years already with little to no result? Then don’t keep doing it.
If you have a good relationship and your communication is good, then you should be able to state it in a positive way so that he doesn’t hear it as criticism. Telling him you would love to spend some time with him is different than telling him he hasn’t made any deposits in a long time. Here’s where I can plug a book I’ve been reading. You’ve probably heard of it because it’s not new: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, by John Gray. It is not a Christian book, but it has a bunch of good old-fashioned wisdom. Very helpful on understanding the opposite sex.
When I married him, we never talked about these kinds of things. I knew he had a heart for reaching out to others, as do I, but he never said he wanted to do it as a vocation.
My main reasons for not wanting what he wants is the sacrifice it will take. And since I don’t have the same burning desires that he has, it would be moe of a burden to me than to him. I confess that I have some major issues with fear that play into this. I am praying and seeking counsel on how to overcome them. In the meantime, though, the thought of leaving the securities of home and entering a life I don’t desire is so scary. Thankfully, my husband is so patient and has promised not to drag me anywhere I don’t want to go. I just feel afraid that because I’m not able to trust my husband fully and go wherever he wants, that I might miss the will of God for my lfe. I have been told by several Godly woman that if God is calling us somewhere, He will definitely call me too or at least give me peace about it. My husband doesn’t really see how that is true. What do you think?
You not wanting to go is not a case of lack of submission. Submission says something like this: “Honey, you know I don’t want to go to the Congo. But if you decide to go, I will go too, and I will support you one hundred percent.”
In the meantime, you should be praying for like-mindedness.
The answer is “yes.” I have been saying it for years. However, I will say that as we have both matured in Christ our communication has gotten better and I hope will continue to grow as the Lord sanctifies us. And you’re right, I need to make sure that what I’m saying doesn’t sound like criticism.
Yes, I have heard of the book. I’ll put it on my to read list. With Athanasius only 7 weeks old I have a lot on my plate. I’m currently re-reading “Standing on the Promises.” How’s that for a book plug. 😉
Mrs. Wilson, thanks for your response. I really did know that it was perfectly sensible at the time for Abigail to have accepted David’s offer…I just can’t get over my modern sensibilities on the issue. Of course that’s probably a good thing in many ways!
As for the principle of when a woman should distance herself from her husband, I guess it’s the sort of thing that really does take a lot of wisdom to apply. I’m sure too often it’s a convenient excuse to be contrary on the fabricated pretext of taking the moral high ground.
Luma, I seem to need to tell my husband that I miss him and need more of him after weeks when he’s especially busy at work or I’m particularly hormonal! It’s not something that takes care of itself when you say it once. I used to get really frustrated about that (wasn’t he listening to me when we talked about this 4 months ago?!) but now I see it as just part of our cycle of living. So when I’m feeling that way, I get my good cry out before the Lord and then write my dear hubby a note for his lunch box or send a sweet e-mail at work. (I do better in writing!) Sometimes he’s just too busy to notice and needs me to keep him up on what’s going on with me just like other things around the house. (The kids need some new shoes, the propane company filled the tank today, oh, and speaking of tanks, mine could use a little filling, too.)
â€œWhen you are having a difficult time submitting on a particular pointâ€¦â€ you had best spend a good deal of time in self examination, earnest prayer, (and fasting if you are able). And remember that you are responsible to OBEY GOD, NOT your husband My experience is that my husband’s will for ME and God’s will for ME do not always correspond and I MUST OBEY GOD! Remember that biblically â€œsubmissionâ€ is NOT the same word or concept as â€œobedienceâ€. And note that there is a â€œno guileâ€ sandwich (1 Peter 2:22; 3:10) around the renowned Sarah role model of submission (see How to â€œlove life and see good daysâ€). For me, that meant I had to STOP passively going along with my husbands whims and thinking that was â€œsubmissionâ€. I had to STOP denying and stuffing my reservations about the direction he seemed bent upon. I had to start speaking up. God would not allow me to continue to be conflict avoidant and brush things under the rug in denial which I falsely and self-righteously referred to as â€œsubmissionâ€.