(This is the second of a two part series. In part 1, I talked about what it means for wives to submit to their husbands. In part 2, I will talk about what it means to be a submissive wife in a Christian marriage. )
Part 2: What Does It Mean to Be a Submissive Wife?
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. – Ephesians 5:22-24
This verse often gets a bad rap. And for good reason. It’s easy to interpret this verse to mean that a wife is to suppress her own thoughts and desires. That husbands are basically granted permission to be tyrants, to only care about their own needs.
However we know that is does align with the totality of scripture that actually honors women. It also does not align with God’s character that loves and protects women.
So what does this actually mean? And how does this translate into everyday practice? How should you submit to your husband in a way that honors your role as a wife and believer?
Here are some guidelines:
Women are to think for themselves.
God gave women intellectual capacities and gifts. We all have free will to think and believe as we choose. We have the ability to use our thoughts and ideas for God’s glory.
Your husband’s role as leader is not to dictate what you should do or think. His responsibility is to take the initiative in your relationship. This does not mean he can micromanage you, or make you ask permission at every turn. There is no room for controlling or abusive behavior in a marriage.
Submission looks like respecting your husband’s point of view. It means humbly sharing your opinion with him. It means not invalidating him, especially in front of others. It means trusting his decision as a leader, while feeling empowered to give your own point of view.
God has authority over you, before your husband. But tread lightly when you feel there is a conflict between God’s will and your husband’s wishes.
In a healthy marriage, respecting your husband’s wishes should align with God’s will. However, there may be a rare occasion where your husband’s wishes conflict with what God is calling you to do. Ultimately we are to follow Christ. The reason we even respect and follow our husband’s leads is because it is a command from God.
If your husband’s desires conflict with those of God, God’s call is to be given priority. Make it clear that you wish you could follow your husband’s lead, but you must ultimately follow God’s will for your life. Examples of this may be in the case where your spouse wants you to condone or participate in abuse, addiction or Infidelity.
On the other hand, please be careful to not use God’s will as an excuse because YOU don’t want to do something. Make sure you are getting godly counsel before you go against your spouse. (This is not just for wives, but for husbands, too. ). There are many steps to be taken and many different ways to navigate this. So going against your spouse should be a last resort. There are just too many bad consequences that can arise from doing this without proper counsel and prayer.
I see this tricky situation when there is a Christian wife with a non-Christian husband and the husband feels that his wife is spending too much time at church. This is an instance where prayer and much counsel should be exercised when making a decision.
You have a calling to speak into your husband’s life
We as wives are not to try to change our spouse’s beliefs or behaviors. However, as a wife, we have a unique calling by God to speak lovingly into his life. All for change and the glory of God. Wives see and know their husbands probably better than anyone else. They see their gifts, their shortcomings, their hidden sins.
There is a time to be silent and let the Lord speak to Him. However, there is also a time for a woman to be God’s mouthpiece. To show our husband their weak spots for growth, as well as their gifts for encouragement. Oftentimes the only person a man truly trusts and will hear feedback from is his wife. This will enable your husband to grow into the man of God he is created to be.
Again, the key is to speak the truth in love. Many times we either speak the truth in “frustration” or we give up and don’t say anything. Learn to speak up in a way that your husband will listen and you will feel good about.
You don’t have to live in fear.
Peter tells wives to “not fear anything that is frightening.” In other words, they should stand strong in the face of any intimidation. They should not worry about the trials of everyday life, but look to their faith in God for comfort. Christian women trust in God, and use that trust as a shield against fear. They also focus on inner beauty and spirituality rather than their looks.
You should not rely on your husband for all your spiritual support.
In an ideal marriage, the husband and wife would sharpen each other in their walk. However it is not healthy for a wife to rely on her husband for her faith. There is a difference between supporting someone’s walk with God and carrying it.
In a healthy relationship, both parties are working out their own faith. Each person is nurturing their own individual walks with the Lord while still supporting and spurring on their partner towards Christ.
Healthy Submission In Marriage Allows Both Partners To Thrive
The scriptures make it clear that men and women each have a unique role to play in marriage. A husband needs to embrace his role as a responsible leader who respects his wife, and a wife needs to honor his position in a loving, supportive way.
This does not mean that the husband is allowed total control over the family. Both husband and wife must admit they make mistakes and need guidance from the other. If a husband is on the verge of making a poor choice, his wife should gently bring it to his attention.
God’s word is our blueprint for life. Its words are meant to show us the best path to a healthy and joyful life. Its role in relationships is the same. Submission in its practical meaning – – respecting and honoring your husband– can be joyful and can bring much fruit to a relationship.
About the author: Lia Huynh, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist is a Christian Counselor specializing in Couples Therapy. If you liked this article, feel free to forward it to a friend. And if you are interested in working more on your marriage, find out more about couples counseling here.