Is God Really Calling Me to Be a Submissive Wife?
I have a confession: I really struggle with being a submissive wife. I have a feeling most wives share my plight in one form or another, so I wanted to let you in on some of my journey, because I know there is power in bringing our struggles into the light and realizing we aren’t alone.
My submission issues wouldn’t be visible to most people. On the surface I seem like a pretty compliant, eager-to-please wife. But have you heard the sermon illustration about the child who is told to sit down in her chair? She reluctantly sits down, but then mutters sullenly, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.” Yep, that’s me. The toddler trapped inside the 40-year-old body.
When we come to an impasse in a disagreement, I may defer to my husband, but deep down I still feel like I’m right and he is wrong. When he fails to meet my expectations, I complain about him in my mind (or worse yet to others), or whisper disrespectful comments under my breath. I think the word for grown-ups exhibiting this toddler-like behavior is “passive-aggressive.” God just calls it sin.The word for grown-ups exhibiting this toddler-like behavior is “passive-aggressive.” God just calls it sin. Click To Tweet
I couldn’t possibly exhaustively define Biblical submission in this post. But I can offer you some simple truths that God has placed on my heart as I have prayerfully sought His guidance to become a better wife, support, and helpmate to my husband. I hope some of it will resonate with you.
The answer to my prayers about my role as a wife came in the form of the acronym Y.E.S. It stands for Yield, Elevate, and Supplicate.
While this was God’s specific answer to my prayer asking for insight into my own marriage, I think it could apply to others as well. This is actually the first in a three-part series titled “Y.E.S. Honey,” so today I’m just going to talk about the first word: Yield.
Yield: to surrender, submit, or give way.
There’s that word again: submit.
The first part of becoming the wife God calls me to be is to yield, or submit to my husband. But what on earth does that really look like?
A Picture of a Submissive Wife
When I think of the word “yield,” I picture a two-way stop. To yield to the car facing me means I don’t just give an obligatory pause and then bulldoze forward. Yielding means the other car has the right to make the first move.Yielding doesn't mean giving up your rights, it means acknowledging that he has rights, too. Click To Tweet
So I need to wait, giving the car lots of room and plenty of time to move forward. I need to assume the car is going to move, and even if the driver is distracted or changing radio stations or checking his phone, I wait until I see the driver look up. I may have to honk the horn as a wake-up call if all else fails, but I need to know that the driver is aware that he has the right of way. The driver may wave me on, letting me go first, in which case I don’t have any problems moving forward, but that’s his call.
Can you relate this analogy to your own marriage?
I recently wrote a book about family discipleship. In my case, yielding means that after writing the book and getting excited about implementing a plan of family discipleship in our home, I don’t immediately start calling the shots and setting up family meetings where I read the Bible to my husband and kids. Maybe I present the general idea to my husband, letting him know that I would love to start thinking and praying about ways to be more intentional about family discipleship (honking the horn a little), and then pray and wait. Maybe I even just start out by praying without taking any action at all; an important element of submission needs to be seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, as well as assessing practically what works and what doesn’t in your marriage.
What Being a Submissive Wife Doesn’t Mean
Yielding means leaving room for him to take the lead. Yielding doesn’t mean I sit around twiddling my thumbs, refraining from any kind of discipleship with my kids; our kids have been entrusted into my care as well, and my job is important! I can still read them Bible stories, help them memorize verses, or lead them in prayer.
Women are not less; submission doesn’t mean resigning yourself to being less valuable than your husband. It’s simply recognizing and operating within the unique, God-given role you were designed to play in your family. Satan would love for us to believe that submission is an insulting concept, or that yielding to our husbands is going to squash our freedom or deprive us of something good. Sound familiar? Eve fell for those lies in the Garden of Eden, and things didn’t work out so well for her! The truth that I’m coming to realize is that we will uncover so many more unexpected gifts when we walk the (often harder) road of obedience to God than we ever would if we just did things the way we’d like to.
The Biblical model of submission was ultimately designed to be a beautiful picture of the union of Christ and the church:
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 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.
– Ephesians 5:22-23 (NIV)
Hurdles & Blessings
My prayer for us today is that the Lord would gently guide us into a deeper understanding of what it means to yield to our husbands in each of our unique situations.
What is your biggest hurdle in the area of submission? Do you have an encouraging story to share about a time when you yielded to your husband and were ultimately blessed? We would love to hear in the comments!
I have put together “The Truth about Submission” – A PDF with 7 days of praying through scripture to help you uncover what the Bible says about submission, and to encourage you in your marriage.
Important: Domestic violence is never okay. If your husband is hurting you in any way (including emotional abuse) please, please seek help. Here are some resources that may point you in the right direction.
Great post, Jaime! Submission is often hard for me, usually when we don’t see eye to eye or he asks me to do something I don’t already want to do. LOL.
Thanks so much, Heather! I think one of the hardest things about submission is that it looks different in every marriage so there’s no cookie-cutter mold we can squeeze ourselves into. I am really looking forward to hearing from & learning from others in our discussion here!
I think God is calling all wives to Biblical holiness and submission – not submission the way the world sees it
I agree, Andrea. I really hope to keep asking God to reveal more and more of what that looks like in my own marriage. It can be hard to tease truth out of cultural ideas, even Christian culture!
My hubs and I married in our ’40’s, so having been independent for 20 years made submission kind of a bad word. It took a patient husband and a patient Lord to help guide me into a proper understanding. Not perfect yet, but getting there! 🙂
I know God uses our marriages to sharpen us and to refine us, but it can be a painful process sometimes, can’t it?! So glad God is at work in you and in your marriage, Peggy. I will be praying for the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13) and bless your marriage, and bless you as you seek to honor God in your role as wife!
Jamie, I could have used this 30 years ago when I first got married. I have had to learn many of these ideals by trial and error so I am thrilled for other young wives to read this. I love that you said, yielding doesn’t make us less. God created both men and women as a vital part of His creation and Satan has turned that into some sort of competition where women are deceived into thinking they have to compete with men for value and position. God’s plan was perfect. We are the ones who messed it up, so while it is difficult to do things the way God intended, it is so much better! Thanks for posting this! – Amy
Thanks so much, blessings to you Amy!
Hundreds of Christian women are being harmed in the bedroom, even though God commands men to protect, nurture, and cherish their wives’ bodies. I used to teach about unconditional submission on my blog, but now I realize the deep depravity of men’s hearts to do evil. As women we must submit to God first, and submission in this day and age means that the man treats his wife with honor and dignity as a weaker vessel. If this basic treatment is not in place, the woman needs to ask God exactly what to do in each situation to make sure she does not fuel an evil power dominance on the part of the man.
Susan, you bring up a very, very important point. Marriage was intended to be a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church – but our husbands are not Christ. Real life is messy, and that’s why we included the disclaimer at the end – no woman should ever see the call to be submissive as a call to be abused in any way, shape or form. I love how you put it: we must submit to God first, and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in each and every unique situation, seeking godly counsel or professional help if necessary. Thank you so much for your wise words. God bless you!
The scenario you give about implementing bible study as a family is something I have been wanting to do for a couple of years. I’ve mentioned it to my husband, prayed on it and waited. Needless to say, two years later and I now plan out my own monthly lesson plan that I do with the kids and if my husband is not working on the evenings we do it then he jumps in too, but eventually I just had to initiate it and get it started myself. At the end of the day I think he isn’t confident in his ability to lead us, nor does he have as much practice as I do since he works about three weeks a month and doesn’t see the kids very much during that time. I do like the advice about yeilding though and I am going to apply that theory from now on, I have a hard time yeilding lol so I’m excited to find good advice on doing that!
Heather, every situation is unique, so be sure to give yourself lots of grace and don’t try to fit yourself or your family into any certain type of mold. Your situation with your husband being gone for so long is one of many special circumstances where you need to ask God for wisdom (which you obviously have been doing!) and something I think we as women need to be talking & praying for each other about. I’m so glad you shared with us! God bless you in your efforts to bring God’s Word to your kids. I will be praying for God to give you clarity as you navigate how yielding looks in your individual situation, and also for your husband to grow in confidence and involvement during the times he can be there.
I feel you on this post. I am not rebellious, just a bit of a free spirit. I have to stop and really focus on what my husband is asking for because it is so easy for me to just go blithely my own way without checking in!
Being a submissive wife is definitely something God has been working on me over the years. I’ve made huge strides but still have a bit to go. I really like that acronym – Y.E.S.
God is the only one who can soften our hearts and help us understand this. God is good and his commands are good for us too!
I’m teaching through I Peter right now, and this post has been great in reinforcing his teaching in chapter 3. All believers are called to a life of submission, so the teaching is not unique to women, but the directives to husbands and wives are simply a specific arena in which we are called to die to ourselves for the glory of God. As aliens and strangers, citizens of another world, we have been sent back in to demonstrate the power of God in our beautiful living.
Great minds think alike. I just posted an article today on almost the same thing, the woman’s role in the church. 😀
This is such a hard topic! I think what makes it so hard is that submission means and looks like different things to different people. My husband had one expectation of my submission, and I had another. And we see so few leaders handling authority well, that it’s hard for us to submit to them. I think that’s the hardest for me, with any authority, is when the authority is lording it over me, or when I don’t think they’re doing something the right way. If they don’t accept my “suggestions,” then it’s hard to let them have the last word without harboring resentment, especially if I feel my opinions aren’t really valued (like they’re going to make the decision they want to make no matter how logical or practical my arguments against it are). That’s hard. That’s when I just have to give it to God, and say, “Lord, I don’t agree with this decision, but that’s not my responsibility. Use it to Your glory and do Your will anyway.”