After a long interval, I am now able to return to my series on submitting in everything. This is the fourth and final part. If you have not seen the other posts, I recommend reading them. This post might stir up some questions that the others might answer.
This post puts forth suggestions for how a Christian wife might begin to submit to her husband in everything. In all the material I have read over the years about Christian marriage, I don’t ever remember reading about that. Sure, there were plenty of teachings that wives are called to submit to their husbands as to the Lord and that husbands are called to lead, but how to begin living those roles was not focused on. I would have benefited by some guidance in that area. Part of my motivation for writing about marriage and submission is that I remember what it was like looking for direction and having so many questions. I understand why Titus 2:3-5 exists. There’s a real need for ministry between older and younger women. (Actual age may not always determine what role we fill.) When I write, I often have my younger self in mind. I hope to provide some guidance to wives who might be in a similar position now. I want to serve as the older woman I always wished I could find.
Why the Emphasis on “Everything”?
“But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:24)
Before I continue, in case you’re wondering, let me explain why I have been emphasizing submitting “in everything”. It started because I wanted to address a troubling belief that I have seen that relies on these words from Ephesians 5:24 to say that husbands have absolute authority over their wives. I countered that belief in part one of my series.
While these words are sometimes stretched beyond their proper meaning, I continued to highlight them for the following posts because they are very helpful for explaining the biblical submission of wives as it relates to the complementary biblical headship of husbands. I’m talking about the same thing, only we don’t always hear an emphasis on “everything.” I am emphasizing them to hopefully increase understanding about our role when we are considering all the verses about submission, headship, and the relationship between Christ and the church. The word “everything” makes things clear and quite plainly shows the scope of our submission. I am not afraid to use it, and I believe it does a disservice to Christian women who wish to obey God’s word to intentionally leave it out of the conversation about submission in marriage in order to soften the message.
How to Begin Submitting in Everything
What follows is one way to proceed. It may or may not be right for you personally even if you are ready to move forward, but I present it with the hope that it might give encouragement and support to take that step forward that you believe God wants you to take.
First: Check Your Heart for Conviction
The beginning of submitting in everything for a Christian wife is not unlike the beginning of many things we do as Christians. God works in our hearts, and we become convicted by His word that we should do something different. With this conviction and His continued working in us, we change as we obey Him. His will becomes our ways.
So, I would like to ask a few questions before we go any further. If you are a Christian wife, do you have that conviction? Have the verses about submission anchored in your heart and left no doubt that you are called to yield to your husband’s leadership? Do you recognize his God given leadership? Do you see the serious and beautiful truth of the authority and subjection between Christ and His church as a model for your marriage? Do you believe you should and are you ready to mirror that in your marriage out of obedience to God to His glory? (If you are not convicted, have you examined why that is?)
Give Thanks, Repent, and Respond with Obedience
If you are convicted and believe you should take a role of submission to your husband or take it more fully and believe that it is God’s will, thank Him for bringing you to the place where you can honor His will! Also, if you have known about this but sinfully resisted, it would be correct to repent. Confess this to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. He is merciful and faithful to forgive. (1 John 1:9) And of course, respond to that conviction with obedience to God by submitting to your husband. More about that in a moment.
Talk with your Husband
All marriages handle communication differently, but the thing they all have in common is that communication is vital! Taking a role like submission requires good communication. Talking about it is so important especially if you or your husband have not seen biblical headship or submission modeled in your families. Unfortunately, there is not enough room here to go into depth about what these conversations might be about. I say conversations because depending on your situation, it could take weeks if not months to talk these things out. You both bring your own feelings, opinions, and beliefs to the table. Your husband may have questions or objections; or conversely, he may have been prayerfully waiting for this to happen and be very ready to move forward.
Use good communication practices as you talk with your husband about what change you would like to make and why. Discuss what that change might look like. What it looks like will be unique to your marriage. Together, you can figure that out including how you will continue to share your opinions and contribute to decision-making. You may also feel the need to confess not having submitted previously. Ask for his forgiveness, especially if you have been in the habit of being contentious or controlling.
End Any Control Tactics And Step Down
If you have been even the least bit contentious, controlling, nagging, manipulating, or have been fighting your husband at every turn, these things must stop. They are sinful and can derail your husband’s confidence and willingness to lead. If you have been leading in your relationship, step down. It might be hard to stop, especially if things have been like this for a while; but your husband cannot lead if you are in his way.
Make a Commitment to Living in Submission and Begin Living Your Role
Stepping into biblical submission requires, well, actually doing it. When you and your husband have talked and it is time, make a conscience decision to move into a place of subjection under your husband’s God ordained leadership. Additionally, commit to staying there. Really commit. You might even wish to mark the day. Since it is a role we are to take, we have to TAKE it, and we ought to be committed to living it.
You might think it unnecessary to commit to something we are called to do, but I believe a commitment helps because submission can be complicated and hard sometimes. For some wives, present company included, it can be one of the hardest things to obey God in even when we know it’s His will.
I made a commitment myself – actually two commitments. They came as a result of being fully convicted to submit in everything. It became clear that I had to lay all objections aside out of obedience to God’s word and begin doing it. So I committed to submission in my heart before God, and I made a commitment to my husband to follow his leadership in everything. These commitments have helped me a lot, but the best help come from God’s word and the work He continues to do in my heart.
When I made my commitments, my husband and I had already talked a lot about roles and expectations. Remember, talking is important! So at some point in your conversations with your husband, I recommend talking about making commitments to submission. These commitments could be both in your heart out of obedience to God, to His glory, and to your husband. Perhaps he will join you and make a commitment to living role as your head or taking it more fully, if need be. When you make your commitments, you might consider asking for your husband’s help to faithfully walk the talk.
Ask for Accountability
Making a change like this is not easy. Thankfully, we are far from alone as we seek to obey God. We have the continued help of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. The awesome thing is God works in us! (Philippians 2:13, Hebrews 13:20-21) Some of us may also be able to avail ourselves to another source of help, our husbands. I recommend being ready to hear from your husband as you seek to submit to him as to the Lord in everything.
Christians often talk about “accountability”, but how often does that appear in marriage, a relationship where the other person should certainly have your best interest at heart? Could not accountability between a husband and wife have great impact? It would require humility, honesty, and trust; but why not try it?
It can work both ways too, where you both turn to each other for feedback, encouragement from the Scriptures, confession, and forgiveness. I have found it very helpful to have my husband’s help in my submission. He has reminded me of relevant verses and been ready to forgive me when I fail. I know this may not seem like a good idea to some wives for lots of different reasons. I am sensitive to that and would love to go through them, but I request that we lay that aside for a while for the sake of the wives who can turn to this source. I do not want to fail to mention this for those who could benefit by it.
Don’t Expect to Be Perfect But Do Expect God’s Provision
Beginning to follow your husband’s leadership does not mean you will do it perfectly from now on. Trust me. I know. I have been walking in this life for many years, and I still struggle sometimes. Things have definitely gotten easier, and I have become more consistent over time. But my submission does still falter. It happens for different reasons including fear, selfishness, and contention due to those pesky hormones. When it happens, hopefully before too much discord, I inevitably return to what I have seen in God’s word. I am fully convicted and persuaded from the Bible that submitting in everything to my husband is God’s will for me. So, I confess my sinfulness to God and my husband and submit.
God has blessed my submission countless times with good outcomes, even in situations that were hard or scary to submit in. I submitted in those situations because I believe that the belief or fear that things won’t turn out favorably is never an acceptable excuse for me to disobey the commands of Scripture. I also believe that God is sovereign. I trust that He is working all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11) and for good (Romans 8:28) even in tough situations.
Beginning to Submit is Only the Beginning
If you do move in the direction of submitting in everything, remember that a change like this can be pretty major for a marriage. Be patient with your husband and with yourself. Keep talking!! Things might be challenging at first, but should get easier. Following God’s design for marriage can transform your relationship, bring more happiness and contentment, lead to increased sanctification, and bring glory to God. Pray for your marriage as you move forward in faith and obedience.
The Promised Suggestions
Here are some suggestions for the wives that may not have connected with this article. First, I encourage further prayer and study. Really dig into the word. There is a lot of information online too. You might find it helpful to read both complementarian (the belief that gender plays a part in certain leadership roles in the church and home) and egalitarian (the belief that gender does not play a part) viewpoints from many different sources. Don’t be afraid to look at them. Read as much as needed and measure everything carefully against the standard of the Bible. It is God’s word and not anyone else’s, even our own, that we must follow regardless of where it leads. Additionally, maybe you could talk with a pastor or older woman in your life.
Another option is to visit The Titus Cafe, an online community for women that I created a while back. I have not promoted it much as there were issues with some of its features and other things were taking my attention. But now things have changed (including the name – it use to be Daughters of Sarah), and I believe it can serve us well for connecting in the spirit of Titus 2:3-5. There are two threads for this topic in the board Married Life. One of the threads invites wives who may have already begun submitting to their husbands in everything out of a sincere conviction that it is the will of God, to share a bit about how that came to be. The other thread is for wives who have not submitted in everything or at all and have questions they would like to discuss. I invite you all to come over and check them out!
Also, you could simply leave a comment or question below; and I or maybe another reader could reply with some encouragement or suggestions. Lastly, my contact information is here. I’m happy to respond to specific, sincere questions about this topic.
Posts in this Series
Part One: Are Wives Really to Submit in Everything?
Part Two: What Does it Mean to Submit in Everything?
Part Three: Real Life Situations For Submitting in Everything
Part Four: How to Begin Submitting in Everything
See Also: Submission Verses: Quick Reference
Additional Resource: Domestic Abuse in Marriage
Excerpt: “Though I have consistently affirmed submission in my ministry work, I have also repeatedly stressed that wives should not submit to anything that is contrary to God’s word. The Bible does not teach that wives should submit to domestic abuse. I do not believe that wives default settings should be to suffer in silence even in small things, never mind serious abuse.”