For wives who have a history of being controlling, sometimes we latch on to God’s commands to us to respect our husbands and to honor their headship and spiritual authority in the marriage and assume that if we do these things for God, then “God owes us,” as if it is a business transaction. I do this for God, then He gives me what I paid for. We may think, maybe subconsciously, that we can manipulate God and our husbands to do what we want them to do or that we can force them to do our will and submit to us. We may think we are entitled to be in control if we obey God outwardly.
Sometimes women will think:
If I respect my husband, honor his headship and if I obey God in my life, then God HAS to give me what I want – a godly, loving, attentive, affectionate, romantic husband (by my definition, of course).
There are many promises of various kinds in Scripture.
1. Some of God’s promises are unconditional:
- The promise God made to never destroy the earth again by a flood was an unconditional promise of God for all mankind that does not depend on us whatsoever. Genesis 9:13.
2. Some of God’s promises are conditional. We must fulfill God’s requirements in order to receive that promise – these promises often begin with “if” and conclude with a “then”:
- If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14
- If we confess our sins, (then) he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9
- So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, (then) you are not under the law.The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.But the fruit of the Spirit (from PW – this is a promise of God that we will have these things if we allow His Spirit to fill us and be in control) is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:16-24
3. Some things in Scripture are principles, not promises. They are not guarantees of a particular outcome. And some of these principles are commands that God gives us that He requires us to obey regardless of the outcome in this lifetime.
That is what I believe the commands for wives and husbands are in marriage. God commands us to do these things to bless our spouses, marriages, children, the church and unbelievers and to bring honor and glory to Him. We have the best possible chance at a godly outcome and we open the door for God to pour healing into our lives when we walk in the power of God’s Spirit in obedience to His Word. We certainly cannot expect to receive answers to our prayers if we walk in sin, rebellion and disobedience. If we refuse to obey God, and we disrespect our husbands and cut them down and usurp their authority, we will put a big stumbling block in their way that may help to repel them from us and from God. And, if we walk in sin like this, we forfeit being filled with God’s Spirit because our sin has grieved His Spirit and we forfeit the fruit of His Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
When we obey God, we show that we honor and love Him as LORD. We also allow His power to flood our lives. And He will reward us for our obedience in heaven when He judges what we have built here on earth in His kingdom.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. II Corinthians 3:10-15
Also, Jesus counts whatever we do for other people, including our husbands, as if we are doing those things for or to Him (Matthew 24:31-46 is the parable of the sheep and the goats).
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 24:40
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” Matthew 25:45
When God commands us to:
– respect our husbands and submit to them as head of the marriage/family (Ephesians 5:22-33, I Peter 3:1-6, Colossians 3:18, I Corinthians 11:3, Titus 2:5) and love others with the love of God (Matthew 22:38, I Corinthians 13:4-7)…
There is no “if” and “then.”
God does not say, “If a wife respects her husband and submits to him, then her husband will always come to know Christ or will always respond to her in love right away or will never sin against her ever again.”
I Peter 3:1-2 says:
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
It does not say “they WILL be won over.”
This is the best approach we have, the most powerful approach, the only God-honoring approach. If a wife desires for her husband to come to Christ, it will be as she obeys God for the rest of her life in this if necessary – until God opens her husband’s eyes, he repents and turns to Christ. But this is not a guarantee. I have seen God work through a godly wife many, many times and use her as part of the way He draws a wayward husband to Himself. I don’t want any wife to ever give up on her husband, but to continue to seek to set a Spirit-filled, godly example and to pray for God to draw him to Himself. We pray for God’s will and we know it is His will that all repent and be saved and that none should perish (I Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9)
- When God says, “Wives must respect their husbands” in Ephesians 5:33, He does not say, “If wives respect their husbands, then their husbands will always love their wives and wives will always feel loved and they will always have all the romance and emotional/spiritual connection they want.”
- When God says for husbands to “love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it” in Ephesians 5, He does not say, “Husbands, if you love your wives as Christ loved the church, then your wives will always treat you with the utmost respect and honor and they will cooperate with your God-given headship every moment of every day and you will never feel disrespected in your own home.”
It is simply a command. There is no attached promise of earthly outcomes.
Sometimes, commands do have promises attached.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3
Sometimes commands are just given by themselves without any specific promise attached to our obedience. He is Lord. He knows best. He has all wisdom. We do not. He knows what is right and what is sinful. God is revealing biblical principles to us for how marriage works best and how He might be most glorified in our lives, marriages and families. But this is not a guarantee that IF I obey God’s commands, THEN my husband will change the way I want him to when I want him to. My job is to obey God and then I trust Him with the results.
How I long for us to guard our hearts against testing God, making demands that He fulfill our desires the way we want Him to before we are willing to trust Him. May we never do this!
God will change ME as I seek Him with all my heart. That is a guarantee. That is the process of sanctification. But I must leave my husband in God’s hands, trusting Him to work in his life for His will and His glory, praying for God’s greatest purposes to be accomplished in his life.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30
I am able to be content in whatever circumstances I may find myself because I have Christ. He is the key. Not my husband or my situation. I can be overflowing with the love, joy, peace and abundant life of Christ and the power of His Spirit even in very trying, difficult circumstances. Even if I feel unloved by my husband. Even if my husband is not meeting my needs and I am emotionally hungry. Jesus is enough. He is sufficient for me.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13
If my motives are, “God, I will obey you IF you change my husband and make him love me more and make sure I feel loved all the time by him” – I am asking with wrong and selfish motives (James 4:1-10) and I should not think that I will receive what I am asking from the Lord in that case.
God does not owe me anything.
He gave me salvation through Christ, when I deserved condemnation and hell, which is more than enough cause for me to praise, thank, love and serve Him every moment of the rest of my life even if He gave me nothing else! God does give me certain unconditional promises that I can trust and cling to. He also gives me conditional promises and I am welcome to fulfill my part of the conditions, then I can trust Him to fulfill His promises in His wisdom and His timing.
- But when it comes to my obedience to Him as Lord, He does not owe me anything for my obedience to Him. Jesus describes a proper, humble attitude for me to have as God’s servant in Luke 17:
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” Luke 17:7-10
My motives in obeying God must be simply, “I love God. He is my Lord. I long to please Him more than anything in this world. I am fully available to You. I am Yours. Use me however You will for Your glory.”
Yes, I will receive rewards in heaven for my obedience. But I may experience difficulties, suffering, persecution and trials here on this earth. Some people will hate me because I love Jesus, possibly even my husband or my family members. Jesus calls me to die to my own will, my desires, my dreams, my expectations, my purposes, my plans and my self. Then I live only for His will, His desires, His dreams, His plans, His purposes and His greatest glory.
– “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” John 14:23-24
– “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10:37-42
–Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. Matthew 16:24-27
How I pray You might expose any sinful, selfish or hidden motives in our hearts by the power of Your Word. Convict us of any sinful thoughts. Empower us to turn from our selfishness and let us seek to love, honor and obey You just because we love You and want to please You more than anything. Refine our faith and purify our motives. Make our lives honoring, holy and pleasing in Your sight.
We trust our husbands to You, Lord. We cannot change them. And we do not seek to obey You so that they will change and be what we want them to be. Let Your will be done. Let Your Name be glorified in our lives and in our husbands’ lives. Draw us and our husbands to Yourself. Let each of us know You deeply and experience the spiritual abundant Life You offer to each of us.
In the Name and power of Christ,
DAVID PLATT “Triumph Through Temptation”
If you have severe issues in your marriage – if either you or your husband are violent or extremely emotionally/spiritually hurtful/abusive, if there are addictions to drugs/alcohol or infidelity going on or if there are mental health issues, please seek in-person, experienced, appropriate, godly counseling. Involve the police if necessary if you are seriously in danger. Don’t stay in a dangerous place. Get somewhere safe if you are not safe. I do not condone abuse of any kind against anyone. Yes, as we obey God ourselves, God may heal marriages. But a wife’s respect and biblical submission cannot “fix” a violent man, or an extremely controlling man (i.e.: who monitors your every phone call and keyboard stroke and who tracks you every moment of the day with a GPS tracking device). If a man is not in his right mind, it may not be safe for a wife to submit to him. I am not writing for these severe situations. God is able to heal and His Word is sufficient for all of us, but I don’t personally have experience with any of these issues and I don’t want to give any advice that might be harmful to wives in such situations.