by Amy Simon
I never thought I would have a hard time submitting to my husband’s leadership in our marriage. He’s a mature, godly man who isn’t afraid to lead and I’m a compliant, submissive person—until I disagree with my husband’s decisions! Over the years, through some fighting and some learning, I’ve grown in my understanding of what submission is, what it isn’t, and how it can look in marriage.
What Submission Is Not
Submission is not about refusing to share an opinion or to disagree. If my husband is making a decision I believe is wrong, I’m not helping him by staying silent. He and I are partners and my input is equally valuable and necessary. Often I have a different perspective on an issue than he does. God put us together with our different backgrounds and opinions. If I’m not honest with him about my thoughts, we’re not acting as partners.
Wives are not called to submit to decisions or behaviors that are clearly unbiblical. If your husband is asking you to participate in something God expressly forbids, you should not submit to him.
Submission is not a matter of saying yes but failing to follow through. Sometimes my husband feels strongly about something and I don’t. For example, in the summertime he doesn’t want kids going in and out of the house multiple times an hour because they let bugs in and the cool air out. I thought he was being too sensitive about it. When he wasn’t around, I wouldn’t enforce it. I didn’t argue with him about it, but I didn’t submit to him, either.
What Submission Is
The apostle Paul wrote, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). The dictionary defines submit as “to yield to the authority of another.” It’s placing yourself under someone else’s authority. For husbands and wives, it means (among other things) that wives willingly and without bitterness or resentment allow their husbands to provide spiritual leadership.
What does that look like? When my husband and I have a decision to make, whether it’s how to spend our money, how to raise our children, where to go to church, or anything else, we discuss the options as a couple, pray, share our thoughts, and then he makes the final decision. I may agree with his decision or disagree, but I submit to it, knowing God has placed him in authority. I don’t grumble or complain, accepting that God has given my husband the final say.
That’s the way it’s supposed to go. Will he always make the right decision? Of course not, but God is capable of dealing with that. My job is to submit to him and trust God for the results. My husband is responsible before God for his decisions as head of our house. I’m responsible before God for my submission to his decisions.
Reasons for Submission
Why does God call wives to submit to their husbands? When two people disagree, someone has to make the final decision. There’s no third person to break a tie. Submission allows conclusive decisions to be made.
Submission also creates unity. In relationships where there is no submission, each person tends to do his or her own thing and there’s no spirit of unity and togetherness. We’ve witnessed marriages where the wife’s refusal to submit to her husband drives them apart. He thinks the kids should be disciplined one way and she thinks it should be a different way. Each disciplines differently and the kids feel confused or play one parent against the other. Sometimes one parent reluctantly agrees not to fight and lets the other win, but hidden resentment and bitterness remain unresolved. The marriage suffers for it.
Submission between husband and wife provides an example to children of how to submit to God. We are called to submit to God’s authority in our lives even if we don’t like what he’s asking of us. When our children see their mother submitting to their father and trusting the results to God, it provides a picture of how they are to submit to God’s authority.
Submitting When You Disagree
For a wife to submit to her husband even when she disagrees requires her to trust that God put her husband in charge. God is still able to take care of her, even if her husband makes the wrong choice. I’ve had a hard time with this one, especially when it has involved raising our children. We have a strong-willed daughter. Our older son is more compliant, so dealing with our daughter’s strong will was new territory for us. Being a compliant person myself, I assumed the best about her behavior. My husband, who is more like her in personality, usually has a different perspective.
So at age three, when she refused to go to bed, claiming she had a stomachache, I believed her and coddled her accordingly. My husband insisted that she showed no signs of illness and that she was trying to manipulate us into staying up late. After talking (and arguing) about it, he insisted that we treat it as disobedience. I found it difficult to set aside my nurturing instinct and discipline her. We’ve always tried to present a united front to our children so that one parent doesn’t end up being the bad guy. Submitting to my husband meant that I had to choose to deal with my daughter as he suggested, even though I disagreed. Needless to say, it became clear over time that my husband had been right—she wasn’t sick at all.
Although my nurturing nature and his insight into her personality sometimes clash, I learned over time to trust his instincts. He has learned to trust mine as well. God put us together as a team, and sometimes that means I must yield to him.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). My husband reminded me recently that there are also situations where he submits to me. When he gets spam “friend requests” on Facebook from scantily dressed young ladies he doesn’t know, he submits to my deleting those for him. In everyday financial decisions, we submit to each other and don’t make purchases (other than basics like food and gas) without talking with each other first. Submission isn’t an ugly word that encourages men to dominate their wives. Husbands and wives are partners in this life with equal value but different roles. When wives submit to their husbands and we work together as a team, we are most effective in raising our children and building godly homes that will be lights in our dark world.
Amy Simon is a freelance writer in Jackson, Wisconsin.
Submit to One Another . . .
Consider this verse to all Christians: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
Memorize it. Apply it.
• In what situations do you find it difficult to submit?
• Have you been thinking about the concept of submission correctly? If not, try to reframe the process of submission through the lens of God’s will. Pray for the desire to submit to others in ways that honor God.