I have pondered a great deal on what it means to be a submissive wife. Ever since I gave my life to the Lord and began preparing my heart for my husband, I wondered at the concept. Now I’m well into the thick of marriage (over one year!) and God told me it’s time to stop wondering and start doing the work.
My husband and I have finally started learning afresh what God’s design is for the dynamic between a husband & wife, why He designed it that way, and how to live it out. I have relied on revelations from the Lord to show me how to take on this challenge of renewing my mind on these roles day by day. Both of our mothers grew up in broken, abusive homes, where their mothers lead out of necessity more than anything, so neither me, nor my husband, grew up seeing an example what this looks like.
Keep in mind as you embark on this journey – sometimes revelations come before mistakes are made, sometimes after. Be patient and keep one ear up to the Lord through it all and be sure to deal out plenty of grace!
Let’s start with scripture.
I had heard this one at least one million times, but it only sank in very recently:
“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
Yeah, yeah. Read it before, give me something new... Right? That’s what I would’ve thought!
But let me rephrase and begin with the first strategy:
ONE: Submit your life daily to the Lord and you will be a submissive wife.
God designed marriage, therefore He wants you to be a submissive wife. If you seek the Lord first, He will prompt you on HOW to be a submissive wife. Let the creator coach you! Consider asking Him some questions throughout your day. Like: “What can I do to make my husband feel honored today?” “What can I do to show respect to my husband?” “How can I serve my husband right now?” “What does my husband need from me right now?”
It was also extremely helpful for me to think of it in these terms because it gives me something more tangible to go off of, something that I do have experience with, having been a believer for years now. I have been practicing submitting my life to the Lord since that first day I surrendered! So I ask myself, “What does my submission to the Lord look like?”
- I ask Him what He wants me to do. After He tells me, obedience is the submissive way.
- I trust Him with scary decisions, that He knows my heart’s desires, and that He knows what is best. Then, once again, obedience to His will is the submissive way.
- I trust Him with small decisions and trust that He cares when I ask.
- I lean on Him when I feel drained, confused, or too weak to continue on my own.
- I am honest with Him about my mistakes and ask for forgiveness. Then I seek wisdom from Him on how I can fix it.
- I try to bring Him honor and glory with my actions and words.
- I try to honor him with my body and my sexuality.
Now, just as the scripture says, let’s apply these things to my husband.
- I ask him what he needs from me – that day or bigger picture. “Is there anything you would like me to get done around the house today?” “How can I be a better wife for you?” “How are we doing?” “What would you like to do today?”
- I trust him with big-decision situations. If I disagree with him, I will lovingly and respectfully share my concerns, trust that he hears them, and trust that he is taking them into consideration because of his love for me and our family. After he decides what is best, I respect his decision by supporting him in it. If it goes wrong, I will not gloat or belittle him, but continue to show him respect and give him encouragement and, most importantly, grace.
- If he is asks me, “How are you?” or “What’s the matter?” I will answer honestly in a respectful way. If he has upset me, I will answer without casting blame or condemnation for something he has done wrong, but share openly how I feel. I will confide in him so that our conversations can be real, authentic, and relationship building.
- I will let him know when I need him. I will ask him for help and swallow my pride. Men need to feel needed. I will honor my husband by asking him to step in and be my knight in shining armor.
- I will admit my mistakes and genuinely ask him for his forgiveness. I will honor him by accepting it and promising him that I will work on that part of my flesh.
- When I speak of my husband to others, it will be words of respect and admiration. My words will honor my husband in that they will speak life over him to others so that they have no reason to look at him in a negative light. I will speak of his good qualities or hold my tongue. I will not give into temptation when surrounded by other women complaining about their husbands. I have realized this is incredibly important, but not a commonly shared belief in the world. As a wife, you will see his deep-rooted character flaws, and he will see yours. Just because those truths are found does not give you permission to speak of them publicly. If you need to vent, I encourage you to go to the Lord before anybody else. He is an amazing listener. There have been countless days where He has completely satisfied my need to talk about some struggle in my marriage.
- I put effort into my appearance out of love and respect for my husband. I dress in a beautiful, modest way when in public. I dress sexy for him at home. I show interest in sex with my husband, and even initiate intimacy. I try to keep my eyes and thoughts for him and him alone.
How do you submit to the Lord? Write it out and use that as a guideline for some tangible ways on how to submit to your husband!
Notice that all of the ways one can submit to the Lord (see above) are closely tied to an act of obedience. Which brings me to…
TWO: Be obedient to the Lord and you will be a submissive wife.
Scary or difficult though it may be at times to be obedient to the Lord, it always bears fruit. Whether the Lord is telling me to drop the subject, not say anything at all (because it’s not a big deal), do the dishes, or put more effort into my appearance, if you are obedient to the Lord, your actions will honor your husband.
“God, do I keep fighting for my way or let him make the choice?”“God, I don’t feel like he’s listening to me, do I keep pushing or back off?” “God, how can I submit to him when I think he’s making the wrong choice?” “God, what do you want me to do, right now, in this moment, to be a submissive wife?”
Don’t be afraid to be honest with the Lord about how you’re feeling. There have been many moments where I feel intensely upset, because I feel like my feelings are being swept under the rug. I told God exactly how I felt in that moment, how frustrated I was, how I felt like I had to stick up for myself to be heard, then asked the Lord what He thinks. In most cases, he told me I was the one not listening, that I was actually being selfish, to trust Him with it and let it go, etc. Then I would find out later on that the Lord was working on my husbands heart in amazing ways behind the scenes the whole time.
Sometimes, your husband will make mistakes. Sometimes, if you are being obedient and prayerful in those moments of do-i-submit-or-do-I-fight, God will ask you to let him make those mistakes. I know I certainly learn from my mistakes! Remember – he is on his own journey with the Lord, too!
If, however, your husband is asking you to do something that is morally wrong or something that the Lord is pressing on your heart as wrong, remember that you are to submit to the Lord first, before your husband. That means that you choose to please the Lord before your husband. Always.
THREE: Have a servant’s heart.
You need to be ready and willing to serve the Lord to serve your husband (see scripture above). A lot of days, there aren’t any family decisions that need to be made, so how best do I show that love and respect to my husband then?
A lot of the time, the Lord will put tasks on my heart. A lot of times, they’re menial – tasks that can wait till tomorrow and tasks that I don’t often feel like taking care of. Sometimes they are tasks that are cumbersome, highly inconvenient, or force me out of my comfort zone. That’s where obedience comes back into play.
Selfishness is my greatest enemy in my quest to be a servant and a submissive wife. Oh, how many times I think “later” or “tomorrow” or “wow, I really don’t feel like doing that right now… I’d rather just blah blah blah.” So we have to choose whether we are going to obey the Lord or obey our flesh.
Also, these “menial” tasks mean so much to our family. My husband has texted me multiple times in the last month saying how much he appreciates that when he gets home, he doesn’t have to worry about dishes or picking up, and that he loves that I take care of the home for our family. (Granted, I am working part time, so I can’t speak into this too much for full-time workers, but that is all the more reason to explore this with the Lord, and what serving looks like for you in your home!)
Don’t get me wrong, there have been tasks that I’ve completed that I never got verbal appreciation for – that’s okay! I was obedient and submissive to the Lord. He saw and He appreciates it.
FOUR: Keep your husband’s role in perspective.
God’s design for marriage is for the husband to be the head of the household. He is responsible for the well-being of the family.
It is his job to lead with a servant’s heart, to make decisions out of love and consideration for his family over himself, to be deferential to his family, to protect with his life, to raise his family in the Lord, to show his wife that she is loved and cherished and beautiful, and more, as is explained in the rest of Ephesians 5.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are all members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” – Ephesians 5: 25-33
As one of my mentors told me: “At the end of the day, it’s his head on the chopping block. Everybody will hold him responsible for a lot of what happens to your family. That’s a lot of pressure!” It is a truly noble and difficult role – one God designed men to shoulder for His perfect reasons.
Ask God to renew your mind about what your husband’s role truly looks like.
FIVE: The only part of your marriage you can work on is you. SUBMIT the rest to God.
If you feel your husband is not doing one or any of those jobs listed in the previous strategy correctly/whole-heartedly/at all, that is something you need to submit to the Lord. Give it to Him to work on, pray for your husband, and then do your part. Just because your husband is not leading the way you would like does not give you the go-ahead to not be a submissive wife.
In “Captivating” by Stasi Elderedge, it talks about how the sin tendency of women is to control, and the sin tendency of men is to become passive. You don’t want to live a life being deceived by the enemy that you have to run the home for it to be done well or correctly. Dig into that with the Lord.
The more I’ve submitted to the Lord, and therefore my husband, the healthier our relationship has been, and the more my husband’s leadership role has developed and strengthened. Trust that whatever steps God asks you to take, He knows your heart, He hears your needs, and He is working on it in ways that you cannot see. So focus on your part and what God is asking you to do, give your husband grace, pray for him, and watch God work!
SIX: Work on unconditionally respecting your husband.
Whoa, wait. What?
In the book “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs, it talks about how a woman’s greatest desire is to be loved, and a man’s greatest desire is to be respected. It also talks about how women expect their husbands to love them unconditionally, but laughed when asked if they could unconditionally respect their husbands. They said that respect was something to be earned by them, and that they often did not earn it.
Ironic, isn’t it? When I read this, my jaw dropped. I had never thought about how unbalanced I was in my expectations from my husband vs. my output to my husband.
We expect our husbands to speak to us in a loving way during disagreements – even when they think we are wrong or when they are upset or hurt. They deserve to be spoken to with respect in that same situation.
We expect our husbands to love us after a heated fight. They deserve to be treated with respect and honor after a heated fight.
We expect our husbands to talk about us to others with love in his words and voice. Our husbands deserve for us to talk about them with respect and honor to others. That means you speak life over each other or you hold your tongue.
We should try to unconditionally respect our husbands, just like we want them to try to unconditionally love us.
It’s been about a month now, and the Lord has already begun to change my heart and behaviors in major ways. He has shed light on my tone of voice, my argumentative attitude that would flare up, my struggle with procrastination, our sex life, letting my anger get to the point of a digging comment, being slow to anger in general, trying to protect my husband by asking him to not do dangerous things, where I struggle most with selfishness, and on, and on, and on… It has been truly an amazing transformation already. Because of all these things, my relationship with my husband has drastically improved, and he has noticed and thanked me for it. We argue far less, he feels more loved, respected, and appreciated, there is less stress in our home, our marriage is healthier than ever, I am feeling closer to and more in love with him, I am bringing glory to the Lord and strengthening my relationship with Jesus, I am becoming more and more the woman he designed me to be, and on, and on, and on… The benefits are endless!
Though embarking on this journey was intimidating, scary at times, and occasionally overwhelming, I am overcome with excitement about it. I am seeing God’s transformative and redemptive power in a whole new way! I am witnessing Him working daily in my relationship with my husband and in our family dynamic. And, I’m overjoyed to say, because my mother found Christ and because she did the work to get healing from her past through Jesus, I can now explore this new concept with her, and I get to witness the fruit of this labor in a marriage outside of my own, that I have observed my whole life. This journey has greatly strengthened my faith and brought me closer to the Lord! I’m so thankful to serve a God that cares so deeply about every one of us, our husbands, our marriages, and the legacies we are creating for our families. Praise God, who gives wisdom generously and freely to those that seek Him!!